This week I have the pleasure of introducing you to one of the most creative, intelligent and lovely gals out there, my friend Jayne Cooke. Born and raised in Missisauga, Ontario (just outside of Toronto), Jayne is completing her 4th year as a McGill Management student with a double concentration in International Business and Human Resources and a minor in Law, Politics, and Society. As you can imagine, she has a lot of work on her plate, yet somehow Jayne found the time to start up her own company with her boyfriend Alex.
When asked to explain the idea behind starting her company, Cotty Bound, Jayne tells me that she and Alex have always been very interested in entrepreneurial work. Although both have taken management classes and done tons of reading about the business world, they wanted to get some first-hand, practical knowledge in owning and running a business.
She explains that, “learning business in a classroom is worlds different from actually running one.” It certainly comes with its challenges, and over the years many of their ideas have been shut down. Despite the challenges faced, Jayne jokes about mapping out plans for iPhone apps and tech products, and getting to a point where their family and friends (kindly) asked them to stop pitching products to them 24/7.
Of course, this all changed when they stumbled across the idea of Cotty Bound. “All of a sudden, people were interested in what we were doing. Strangers were sending us Instagram messages and liking our Facebook page. It then kind of snowballed into what it is now.”
I asked Jayne to explain the process of starting up your own business. I know I was particularly interested in where to even begin with such a process! They came to develop this amazing business and brand that offers casual and comfortable apparel that aims to truly embody the Canadian experience of cottage living. Whether you are going to a cottage, camping, or just relaxing at home – the Cotty Bound logo indicates that you are off the clock.
They run their business through an online platform called Shopify. Jayne explains that Shopify makes integrating your suppliers and customers a seamless process. Once they made the logo, they started brainstorming what they wanted their brand image to be. She explains that words likes “Canadian, outdoorsy, casual…” were the words that shaped their company.
Without any experience in web design, they learnt as they went through the process. However, they were able to use their personal experience with social media to develop a captivating Instagram feed and an interactive Facebook page. Further, they ran tailored Facebook ads and registered Cotty Bound Snapchat geo-filters at cottage “hot-spots” in Ontario.“The most fun part about running a business is constantly adapting it as we grow. We take all the feedback we get from our customers and use it to improve our website and products.”
It only gets cooler from here. Jayne tells me how she and Alex have a strong interest in philanthropy, so they decided to integrate this into their business by donating 100% of their proceeds. Taking this venture as a learning experience, they felt as though the profits weren’t what was important to them for this project. “We wanted it to feel like a fun creative outlet instead of “work,” so we found a small and local animal rescue shelter in Toronto, Speaking of Dogs, and felt like it was the perfect place for our profits to go.”
Of course, starting your own business comes with its success and challenges. I asked Jayne to speak to some of these moments, and she explained that it certainly isn’t easy to secure strong supply chain networks and know how to optimize pricing strategies – especially as a young entrepreneur. Also, there are times where people haven’t taken them seriously because they’re young and inexperienced.
Despite these drawbacks, “it is probably the coolest feeling to actually have a product out there that is completely yours.” She explains that a lot of people have been incredibly eager to give them help and advice, and “it’s been pretty amazing to have been contacted by local news outlets who want to know more about what we’re doing. The magnitude of what we’re doing didn’t really hit me until I actually saw a stranger out in public wearing a Cotty Bound shirt. That was a pretty surreal moment.“
Finally, I asked Jayne to offer some advice to those out there who are also thinking of starting their own businesses. Here is what she said:
“I think that there is this very common misconception that you can’t start a business without an MBA or an incredible amount of start-up capital or time, which is simply untrue. I promise you that if I can do it, you can too! The next time you have an idea – whether it’s a completely revolutionary tech product or something as simple as a cool logo you think would look good on a t-shirt – write it down somewhere. Before you know it, you’ll have a huge list of ideas. Most of them will be crazy or implausible or unrealistic, but I can guarantee one or two of them will resonate with you. Talk with people that you trust about your idea, and be prepared that sometimes the feedback you get won’t be what you want to hear. That’s okay – build up a thick skin and use the criticism to tweak your product while ensuring that it still stays something that’s inherently yours. The market moves fast, so if you see a gap or a need that you can fill, go for it. All in all, don’t be scared to pursue an idea and be excited and open to see where it leads you.”
Be sure to check out Cotty Bound or reach out to them on Instagram (@cottybound)!
“We’re always on the look out for brand ambassadors that embody our image, and we love interacting with our customers online. If you have an idea or a product that you wish we offered – don’t hesitate to reach out to us!”
Images provided by interviewee.