When the Toronto Raptors needed 20,000 custom printed T-shirts (in less than 48 hours) during the playoffs, Entripy Custom Clothing confidently accepted the challenge. The Official Partner of Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment (MSLE) Entripy is Canada’s leader for custom printed T-shirts.
Jas Brar, Founder and CEO is the visionary behind the ‘Entripy Way’. In 1999, as a student at the University of Toronto, Jas identified a gap in the custom apparel market. Tired of relying on a middleman, Jas revolutionized the printing process through utilizing new technology and improving turnaround time for customers. Today, Entripy operates out of a state-of-the-art 30,000 square foot facility in Oakville, Ontario. With speed still top of mind, Jas shares his experience growing a successful business.
Jas, you identified that Entripy was created to fill a gap in the custom apparel market. What was the opportunity that you saw? Where did you think other industry leaders were failing consumers (i.e. customer service, product quality, etc.)?
Ultimately, it was the process — the way in which products were delivered to the consumer. Traditionally, the industry had a broker or middle man who purchased apparel from a vendor, decorated/printed from another, then finally, sold the product back to the client. What I did was close the gap. Essentially, I cut out the middle man. By simplifying the process, a client buying from us would have the printing and fulfillment of their product completed in one step.
Technology was the second major component that was missing. We utilized technology to make the process more efficient. Back in 1999, the internet was relatively new, especially if you think of it today. Why? Well, the two key factors were; one, there were not many people online or doing things electronically. The second part was the whole work flow and the way the industry was set-up. It just didn’t make sense to me. There was no need for a middle man. Our whole concept was to sell directly.
Did you face any challenges operating a start-up business as a university student? What advice would you offer to someone wanting to start a business today?
The number one challenge that students face is money. There is never enough and it’s very difficult to find funding because few people trust your business acumen. Since you don’t have established credit, banks will usually turn you down. Most often, you are working with pennies to try and grow your business and you have to be creative! It’s no different than it is for anyone else. But when you are young, it’s just that much harder. That was definitely the toughest part.
My advice to future entrepreneurs is you have to grind and do it yourself! Cut out any unnecessary overhead. Ultimately you need to keep extremely lean to preserve as much cash flow as possible. Be cognitive that you might have to use your own resources for financing and raising capital. Whether it’s going deep into your pockets or that of your family and friends, you will have to find the money yourself. At the start, banks are simply not interested. When you establish yourself for a couple years there are resources available such as the BDC. The BDC is great because they consider you and your business plan rather than just looking at your financing.
What characteristics do you believe have been key to your success?
It’s hard to say. From day one, the biggest differentiator for me was speed. Get everything done now. Don’t waste any time. Make quick decisions. Be decisive. Take action. I’m the type of person that would rather be ninety percent accurate and first than try to be one hundred percent accurate all the time. Personally, I think speed has been the biggest factor in our success. As a result, we are more agile, faster and flexible then our competitors.
Entripy was Profit Magazine’s 100 Fastest Growing Companies in 2008 and 2009. As a CEO of a rapidly growing company, husband and father of three, how do you maintain balance?
I started the business when I was young and I had all the time in the world. As the business grew, I was able to layer on additional responsibilities but at the same time delegate and add a good team behind me. As the company continues to grow, hiring key people and passing off responsibilities allows me to take on more.
From my experience, family and work are tied together. Some of our first employees are actually friends and family. Why? They are the people you trust most. Realistically, you have to take work home because it doesn’t just disappear. As a result, family becomes integrated with work. It’s a fun challenge but you manage. Ultimately, you will find success if you build a solid team around you that encompasses both family and staff.
Where did the name ‘Entripy’ come from?
To be perfectly honest, it was random. I was in first-year university and a friend mentioned the word ‘entropy’. Entropy is defined by a lack of order or predictability. I changed the ‘O’ to an ‘I’ and Entripy was born. It has stuck with us ever since.
What was the best piece of advice you ever got? The worst?
Pay yourself first. The reason — when you start out this is usually the last thing you do. YOU put in all the hours and all the sweat. You will never get credit for that time later. From a business and finance perspective, pay yourself first and then pay your company back. If you don’t pay yourself, then you’re building an artificial business because you are not paying anybody. If the company needs the money then you lend it back so, you might still have zero dollars in your pocket but at least then someone owes you something.
That is a piece of advice that still sticks to me today. As a company grows, it requires more financing and will still have constant cash-flow crunches. I make sure that I am getting paid first. Obviously I lend it back to the business but at least then I know my work isn’t going without getting paid.
I can’t say I ever received a bad piece of advice. Every piece of advice is based on another person’s experience. It would only be bad if I took someone else’s experience and tried to integrate it into my own — especially, where it doesn’t fit. Thankfully, I am good judge of what works in my environment and what doesn’t.
Instead, I created the Entripy way. I try not to follow in anyone’s footsteps but pave my own path. This philosophy has stuck with the company and helped us grow. We are never impacted by what others are doing because we are not looking at anyone else. When I hired my team, most had zero industry experience or experience dealing with textiles. Everyone was taught from the ground up the ‘Entripy way’ of doing things. Of course, we focused first on speed. I was reluctant to hire people with experience because they would naturally bring their habits (good or bad) into the business. It’s all about being innovative and being different. Sometimes uncertainty produces more creativity because it is not limited by past experience.
In one word characterize your life as an entrepreneur.
Besides busy (laughs), exciting!
What does someone need most of all to be a successful employee at your company?
You must be able to think outside the straight and narrow box. As well, you need to be adaptable. Needless to say, you are successful, if you are looking for opportunity. Our company has been growing every year and new opportunities come available all the time. It might take six months or it could take two years but it will come. Any individual who seeks a challenge will be very successful.
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