Socially Conscious Companies – Local Laundry
Connor Curran grew up in Calgary, the son of Irish immigrants, Gerard and Anne Curran. The Currans opened The James Joyce in 1997 in the Old Molson Bank Building on Stephen Ave. Created as an authentic Irish Pub, the James Joyce honours all things Irish; food, drink, music, and decor. Everyone in the family worked in the pub, and the community created became like family.
Despite being busy entrepreneurs, his parents always found time to give back. In addition to being active church volunteers, they also used the business as a vehicle for good by providing job opportunities and assistance for new other Canadians who had immigrated here with very little. Also active with the Calgary United Way, the Currans stayed true to their goal to create a company that cared.
Connor completed his Bachelor of Business Administration in 2012 from St. Francis Xavier University. Upon completion, he worked in a contracts role in the energy industry but was part of layoffs in 2014.
The ultimate dream was to start a socially conscious business that gave back to the community. In 2014 Connor and his wife moved to Sweden for Connor to complete his Master of Business Administration at the University of Gávle. It was there when doing laundry one afternoon with a temperamental machine when a joke about sourcing our clothes locally sparked a question:
Why can’t most of our laundry be made locally?
A few hours and several YouTube videos later, an online t-shirt company, Local Laundry (“LL”), was formed. In the early days, LL sourced shirts from American Apparel to sell in Sweden, Canada, and the United States.
Upon returning to Calgary, Connor accepted a role at Benevity, while continuing to build LL as a side project. It was then that Connor met Dustin Paisley.
Co-Founder, Dustin Paisley, is a graduate of Mount Royal University’s Bachelor of Business Administration. As a student, entrepreneurship and social good motivated Dustin. At Mount Royal, Dustin served as a Student Social Entrepreneur in Residence through the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. This work led to a role as the Social Innovation Animator at Mount Royal, leading to the creation of the Trico Changemaker Studio.
Joining ATB in 2016, Dustin became an advisor and strategist working with Albertan entrepreneurs to help them realize or expand their business dreams. Providing support throughout the life cycle of a new business venture, Dustin became a passionate advocate and champion for Alberta’s new ventures, becoming one of the top 5 Managers of Entrepreneurship at ATB.
Local Laundry’s Evolution
Working together with a combined passion for entrepreneurship and social innovation, Dustin and Connor built Local Laundry on five pillars of community:
- Producing only Canadian-made clothing
- Representing where you come from
- Collaborating with the socially-and environmentally-minded
- Sharing stories from the community
- Giving back through local charities
When Dustin and Connor became partners, Dustin was instrumental in taking Local Laundry from a purely internet-based business to product placement in 25 retail stores across Canada.
In 2020, the movement to support local grew as small businesses struggled to survive during the COVID-19 pandemic. While LL had never offered custom apparel, they pivoted in 2020 in response to growing demand from businesses looking to provide Canadian-made custom apparel. An initial order of 7,000 from Shaw was the catalyst that led to a custom apparel business that doubled revenue in 2020.
Today, LL has made over 50,000 custom garments for many prominent Canadian businesses that want locally-made and ethically sourced high-quality products.
Before 1989, 70% of clothes sold in Canada were made in Canada. From 2000 onward, only 6% of clothes sold in Canada were made in Canada. From the early days of sourcing clothing from an external supplier outside of Canada, in 2017, LL announced a major shift to transition to exclusively Made in Canada Clothing.
The switch to Canadian-made clothing was a challenging transition. Increased costs offset the noticeable quality improvement. By ensuring a fair living wage for labourers plus increased materials costs, the selling cost of an average hoodie increased by 50%. LL started questioning whether customers cared enough about locally-made clothing to support the price. By 2017 LL had pulled out of most retail stores and returned to an online model, recognizing that while people do care, the concept did not work well in retail.
Today, all LL products are made entirely in Canada and most apparel starts with the raw cotton imported into Canada. By cultivating a network of suppliers and manufacturers across Canada LL has sourced other like-minded, socially conscious companies to partner with and support. LL employs three full-time employees in Calgary and an additional 100 across Canada through the complete value chain.
LL’s first donation was to the Calgary Drop-in Center. They donated $100 to celebrate the first 100 t-shirts sold. When it comes to deciding on who to support, LL is cause-agnostic. They prefer to support as many causes as possible and focus on giving locally in Calgary and areas where their products are manufactured. LL is on a mission to donate $1,000,000 to local charities by 2030. They have raised over $175,000, including $8,000 for victims of the recent Alberta wildfires.
Early in the company’s history, it adopted a giving garments program. The same item is donated locally for every toque, pair of socks, or blanket purchased from LL. To date, LL has gifted 5,000 toques, 2,000 pairs of socks, and 500 blankets.
In addition to donations, LL has established itself as a connector of like-minded entrepreneurs in Calgary. They started with a Start-ups and Beers club to connect entrepreneurs, where ticket sales go directly to a charity. On the success of that, a Business Book Club was also formed. A very active Business and Basketball club now has over 90 participants. Connor’s next group will be a Buying Business Club. Through groups like these, LL has cultivated and connected groups of people who want to help other Calgarians achieve their entrepreneurial goals and share their experiences.
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333, 11th St. SW
Calgary, Alberta, T2R 1L9
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