Athletes Collective’s goal is to put a shirt on...
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Jan 28, 2016  |  Vote 0    0

Athletes Collective’s goal is to put a shirt on your back

Toronto entrepreneur Adam Mintz has launched a company that makes logo free sportswear. The next 18 months will be crucial

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Adam Mintz’s playbook

1. Make a plan: With a Masters in global marketing communications, Mintz knew how to write a business plan, but first wanted to see if Athletes Collective had something worth selling. When it came time to draft a formal proposal to entice investors “we realized we’d spent a decent ratio on marketing; we’d made 2.5-to-3 times more money than we’d spent on marketing. Imagine what we could do if we built it out properly.”

2. Find mentors: Mintz parlayed a supportive tweet from Dave Hopkinson, Chief Commercial Officer at MLSE, into a 15-minute appointment. That spun into a 90-minute meeting at the conclusion of which Hopkinson agreed to be on his advisory board. “He has real insight into what the biggest brands in the world do and why they’re successful; he told me to think bigger picture,” Mintz recalled.

3. Staff up smartly: Mintz wears several hats — product manager, publicist, designer, even stylist at a recent photo shoot. He has a graphic designer and accountant on retainer, and contracts with a web developer and digital media buyers. “Everyone I hire is smarter than me in what they know,” said Mintz.

4. Make marketing matter: Contrary to his erstwhile career as a brand consultant, working on Pepsi and Canada Post accounts, Mintz doesn’t spend much on building Athletes Collective’s brand equity. That means instead of sponsoring events, he does “marketing that makes money,” such as, online media buys, attending trade shows and sending product to tastemakers. “Younger companies have to make sure their marketing yields some kind of return,” he explained.

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By obvious measure Athletes Collective’s Kickstarter campaign should be considered a failure. The start-up’s 30-day drive last fall, undertaken to expand and promote the logo-free sportswear line, realized only $12,467 of its $30,000 goal.

However, despite its poor yield, the campaign still managed to boost the fledgling company’s fortunes, leading to heavyweight advisors, a streamlined vision and $150,000 in seed money.

“Although we didn’t reach our goal on Kickstarter, the company garnered enough notoriety to grab the attention of people who wanted to invest in our company,” said Adam Mintz, president of the company which has just launched a new line.

“The business is poised to grow in a big way this year because of the new collection and the marketing activities we now have the funds to spend money on. We’ll be able to now go in directions we never thought possible.”

He should probably stop saying “we” since the company founded in 2014 with childhood pal Charlie Friedmann is now a solo operation. The Montreal natives, who invested about $20,000 of personal savings in the business, still meet for their weekly tennis match. But Mintz recently bought out former corporate lawyer Friedmann, who handled operations, when his buddy realized he wasn’t as passionate about athletic wear.

The venture is now a full time gig for Mintz, but still a home-based one. Packages of t-shirts — which he mails out himself — line shelves in the spare room and den of his 1000-square foot condo in the Bathurst-St.Clair area. Chalkboard walls are filled with his brainstorming and to-do-lists. Mintz moves between the condo and the King-Portland outlet of Jimmy’s Coffee which is a popular hangout for like minded creatives.

“This is about as bootstrapped as you can get, but I couldn’t be happier not to go to an office,” he said. For critical decisions, such as, whether to sell at retail, or take manufacturing overseas, he turns to his new advisors, which include a veteran publicist and MLSE executive.

They pushed him to broaden the company’s rudimentary marketing plan with a “stronger focus on who my market is, what my brand is all about.”

Mintz determined that his target customer for the shirts, priced from $22.50 to $30, is a slightly older, amateur athlete.

“Nobody takes sports more seriously than 35-to-45-year-old men playing in rec league sports,” he said. “And I’m not saying you shouldn’t wear logos; I’m just saying here’s an alternative for athletes who don’t want to wear brands anymore and don’t want to pay a lot.”

Mintz has decided to stick with online selling and his Scarborough manufacturer.

“To keep the price point less than bigger brands, I couldn’t sell to retailers and manufacture in Canada,” the entrepreneur explained.

He is also accountable to a not-so-silent partner — the private investor who expects monthly reports on a $150,000 investment which is doled out incrementally. “It’s a very make-or-break 18 months,” said Mintz of his investor’s timelines. “Every activity I’m doing is calculated.”

The collection is comprised of long sleeve, short sleeve and sleeveless shirts and wristbands with plans for shorts and other accessories to debut by the spring.

“I don’t want this to be a t-shirt company,” said Mintz. “This is going to be a sportswear line.”

Toronto Star

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