Canadian Cool: Illbury and Goose putting the hip back in the Great White North

by Jason Winders

Everybody has that story – that time at a cottage, that time at the beach, that time where waves lapped at your toes while a bonfire warmed your back. Meghan Kraft and Daniel Phillips want you to remember those times every time you think of their brand.

 “We want to be a Canadian heritage brand, a lifestyle brand meant for every Canadian,” Kraft said. “People want to be proud to be Canadian, but they don’t want a tacky T-shirt to do it in. We have given them that opportunity to be cool and hip and trendy and socially responsible – all things Canadians are.”

Kraft, BSc’14 (Animal Behaviour), along with Phillips, a Fanshawe College graphic design graduate, are the creators of Illbury and Goose, a Canadian clothing and lifestyle company.

Today, the company is gaining attention not only for its style, but for its commitment to produce clothing, accessories and apothecary items for Canadian in Canada, all toward a mission of taking the definition of Canadian beyond “campfires and dogsleds.”

And it all started a handful of years ago with a couple of T-shirts.

In 2012, a gap in the “cool, unique products for guys” space led Phillips to design their first handful of shirts – one design showing a skull among geometric shapes, another bombers dropping wasps from their bays. They were cool, but perhaps not as deep as some thought.

“People thought we were sending this huge, huge political message,” Phillips laughed. “Honestly, we just thought they looked cool. I really just wanted a shirt with a skeleton on it.”

And so did a lot of other people.

The company – then known as dpms (Dan Phillips Media Studio) – was a face-to-face business from the start. It grew thanks to hustle and chutzpa.

Customers connected with them over a rented table at the Western Fair Farmers and Crafts Market or countless summer festivals across the region. Strangers came by the pair’s apartment to pick up orders. They sold beaded bracelets straight off their wrists in bars around town.

“We pretty much traveled anywhere where we could influence people in short time spurts. It was such a cool thing. We got to test market our product in this really organic way,” Kraft said. “We never forced it; there was no plan. We did something, people liked it and we decided to keep doing that.”

As the company grew in popularity, so did the product line – hats, leather goods, even personal care and apothecary items.

The breakthrough came when they were recruited into Biz Inc. (now Propel), Western’s business accelerator, and opened a popup store in the basement of the University Community Centre in November 2012. “That was the most inspirational, most important thing that ever happened to me at Western,” Kraft said.

The following academic year, she deepened her connection to Biz Inc. She lived there in many ways, using the space to study and work on the business. Today, Kraft credits John Pollock, former Director of Biz Inc., for the company’s biggest push.

“Our business would not be the same without him. He really started pushing us to figure out who we were, what we wanted to do,” she said of the man she still calls “one of my greatest mentors.” “We were forced to write our business plan, create some goals and really figure out our company’s values. We didn’t know any of that going in because it was an experiment until then.

“All of the pieces started connecting together at that point.”

In 2014, Kraft and Phillips won the Seed Your Startup competition and used the prize money to incorporate the business. With incorporation came a name change as the dpms name was shared with an American gun manufacturer.

Enter Illbury and Goose, a name honouring businesses run by their grandparents, Illbury Furs in Woodstock, Ont., and The Country Goose in Strathroy, Ont.

“We feel it is a really, strong Canadian heritage name. I feel like it could be comparable to Abercrombie and Fitch. It sounds so Canadian; the history behind the brand is unbelievable. That has led us to what Illbury and Goose is,” Kraft said.

Today, the company continues to sell via its website, illburyandgoose.com, and now boasts two physical locations, one opened at 884 Dundas Street in London in August 2015, a second on Queen Street West in Toronto in August 2016.

The signature product is its logo, a maple leaf fused to the top of an anchor. Not only is it the top-selling item, but it ‘anchors’ the company’s brand story better than any other single item.

“We get to hear these amazing stories from our customers wearing the brand around the world,” Kraft said. “It is absolutely crazy. We were selling T-shirts in a park and from our house, and four years later, we have all this.”

This article appeared in the Fall2016 edition of Western University’s Alumni Gazette. Reprinted with permission.

Marketing Assistant Makes it in Music Industry

By Annette Dawm, WorkStory Ambassador

Kendra Sauder is a Marketing Assistant for Audio Blood, an artist and brand development company based out of Toronto, Ontario. With the Audio Blood team, Kendra is able to work in her “dream field”, which is the Music Industry. Kendra has worked very hard to be where she is today. Coming from the small town of St. Jacobs, she moved to the big city of London, Ontario where she spent seven years. She currently lives in St. Catharine’s and commutes to the even bigger city of Toronto. She says it’s been difficult, but “hands down, [it was] worth it!” Something that has helped Kendra on her journey is the support she receives from the people she works with:

“My co-workers and the Audio Blood team are all amazing individuals and work together amazingly! They are always supportive of each other and willing to help anyone else out on the team in any way they can. I love that the Audio Blood team is more like a family!” (She even has a furry co-worker, “Dug the Pug” and he gives out advice to bands on the Audio Blood blog!)

Sauder is not only enthusiastic about her immediate “family” of co-workers, but she also loves helping the entertainers that Audio Blood promotes: “I get to work with artists and musicians and help them accomplish their goals.”  Kendra is also “making it easier and more accessible for music fans to reach amazing artists like HIGHS, Amos the Transparent, Royal Tusk and Jeremy Fisher (just to name a few.)” Audio Blood has also worked with Pat Maloney as well as big-name brands/events like The Juno Awards.

It’s clear that Kendra loves her team but she also loves the job itself: “I love so many things about my job! It’s hard to fit it all into one answer…. I also love the fact that my job is different every day, and that no matter what I am working on, I’m contributing to a larger goal and bigger picture. No two days are the same, and I am constantly learning. It keeps me on my toes and I couldn’t be happier about it.”

Kendra Sauder’s path to the music industry began at Fanshawe College in London, where she was enrolled in the Music Industry Arts Program. While she was in school, she was heavily involved in Student Government and event planning, among other things in order to succeed in her career: “I took part in as many music, branding and industry conferences as I could (which is where I first heard about Audio Blood) and was constantly trying to improve my craft while at school. I took time to learn about different companies and positions within the music industry to hone my skills.”

Once she graduated from the program, Kendra had planned to start her own company with some friends in St. Catharine’s, however she was offered a position with Audio Blood and she “couldn’t turn it down!” Sauder was able to assist them with their work at the events for Canadian Music Week. This opportunity proved to be valuable work experience for Kendra as it lead her to her current position as a Marketing Assistant for the company: “During my one-month contract, I pushed myself to go in early, stay late and do whatever was needed to get the job done. After my contract was up, I was asked to stay on. I guess the short version is, ‘I fought for it.’”

Finally, when asked what advice she had for those interested in working in this field, Kendra Sauder answered, “Play hard. Work harder! The music industry is an amazing place, but it takes determination, drive and a lot of gusto to make it. Work your connections, and fight for your goals.”

If you would like to learn more about Audio Blood, you can visit their website at www.audioblood.com