Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in clothing line but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Cheryl LeBarr, co-founder of Made Apparel Inc., located in Vancouver, BC, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
MADE offers Fully custom Made to Measure outerwear. Our vision is to help create a world where everyone feels comfortable and welcome in the outdoors. Create a lasting and positive impact on the outdoor experience of every individual user with the smallest possible environmental footprint. We do this by creating the perfect outerwear for every individual user. Not market segments.
Tell us about yourself
I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, hiking and camping every weekend. My very first job was at a little outdoor shop when I was 15. While there, I fell absolutely in love with technical clothing. I also am sort of nerdy and have always loved crafting and figuring out how things go together. I'm the person who, instead of buying something for $45, will absolutely spend $400 and 3 weeks of labour to figure out how to make it myself. I went to design school knowing very specifically that I wanted to be a product developer for outdoor technical apparel. I'm incredibly lucky to have known what I wanted to do with my career from a very early age.
I spent years working for a big-name outerwear brand. Eventually, I became disenchanted, realizing that I wasn't making gear for myself. At 5'9" and a size 12-14, I could barely fit into any of the clothes I was spending all my time making. They either didn't even make the ski pants I wanted in size 12, or if they did, they were only in size 12, short, not a tall. I spent a few uncomfortable years wearing skin-tight skiing pants just so I could wear products from the brand I worked at. It just astounded me that I was spending all of my energy making clothes for a company that didn't even think I could do the sports I loved. Eventually, I just gave up and ended up making my own pants. I started with the biggest size of the pant I liked, added 10 cm to the hip, 6 cm to the length, and I sewed them after hours and on weekends.
In 2020, when I was first introduced to my business partner, who pitched the idea to me, I knew I wanted ALL in on this idea. We're a team of 3. Dustin Butcher, based in Salt Lake City, was the one who brought us all together with the idea. Capri Philip, Vancouver, is a long-time friend and colleague of mine. We're on totally opposite ends of the fit spectrum. Dustin was actually introduced to both of us by our former manager. So he was kind of testing out both of us to see who would be the best person to make this a reality. I think we all sort of simultaneously realized we really needed all 3 of us to make it happen. We each bring something special to the brand. Dustin has tons of marketing experience and runs his own marketing agency. Capri is all things design, but she also is an expert Pattern maker and grader. And I handle all the logistics and operations on the factory end, sort of tying everything together. I really think we're a very special combination that only comes together once in a lifetime to make something wonderful happen.
Having been in the position of being under-serviced by the traditional apparel industry, I get so excited about being able to offer every person exactly the product that they need to get outside, no matter their size, shape, ethnicity, or gender. I have been brought to tears more times than I can count by emails or comments from people who have never felt like they belonged because there just isn't clothing made for them.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
This spring, we are taking on two practicum students from my Alma Mater. My practicum experience during university had a deep and profound affect on my career to date. I still reach out to my supervisor when I have questions or need help. I cannot wait to have that same kind of impact on our practicum students.
We were also featured in an article in Backcountry Magazine, which I've been reading since I was 15. It was really amazing to see my picture right next to outdoor industry legends like Yvon Chouinard that I've admired for many years.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
There's a huge learning curve. We all have years of experience in the outdoor industry working for larger brands. When you work for a large brand, you've got entire departments that are incredibly specialized at what they do. Materials developers, purchasing teams, logistics teams, shipping departments, everything. I had an awareness of all those moving pieces, but as a business owner, that's all us. I spend a lot of time learning, googling, taking online courses in each individual area so that I know what's happening. If something needs to be done, it is down to the 3 of us to make it happen, and we all want to make sure it gets done to a premium standard.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email firstname.lastname@example.org; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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