Edited by Jasmine Ryu Won Kang
If you go to the University of Toronto, or any Canadian university for that matter, you may have heard of Megan Chong, a second-year Rotman Commerce student who started her clothing label, U of Meg during the COVID-19 lockdown. She takes authentic university branded merchandise and reworks it, creating trendy and unique designs that students have been dying to get their hands on.
Here, I interview Megan about how she started U of Meg, her advice for female entrepreneurs, and her favourite piece she’s created so far.
1. What is the best part of starting your own business? And on the flip side, what’s the most difficult thing about it?
The best part about starting U of Meg is seeing so much interest in my clothes and designs! Students are proud to wear their school logo and are willing to support my brand. I have also been receiving a lot of requests from students at other universities outside of U of T, which has been very exciting and overwhelming.
The most difficult part has been financing my initial purchase orders as I have had to self-fund from my part-time and summer jobs.
2. Why did you decide to start U of Meg and how do you find inspiration for your pieces?
I started U of Meg in quarantine because I wanted to create a sense of U of T community when everyone was at home. I missed walking around campus and seeing my friends and wanted us to all feel connected while we were in different parts of the world.
In terms of inspiration, I do a lot of market research where I analyze fashion trends and consumers’ shopping habits. Then, I try to make merch that reflects those trends.
My favourite tools for inspiration are Pinterest and Instagram! I save everything into folders and always refer to them.
3. Starting U of Meg during a pandemic couldn’t have been easy – how have you been coping with the restrictions on your business that COVID has created that wouldn’t normally be there?
It has definitely been challenging as all my customer interactions have been through my Instagram page. Because of COVID restrictions, I have been unable to meet potential customers in person and let them touch and feel the clothes themselves.
However, most of my sales have been through word of mouth (i.e. through friends, classmates, or even parents) and all on social media!
4. How do you balance running a business while being a full-time student, especially in such a demanding program?
Time management! Every day, I plan each hour of my schedule to make sure I have time to complete all my tasks. To-do lists and the calendar on my laptop/phone are my favourite ways to stay organized.
A huge part of my business is providing the highest level of customer service possible. I try to respond to customers’ questions, comments, and feedback in a very timely manner, so I am learning how to best manage my time as an entrepreneur and a second-year full-time student.
At night, after I have finished all my schoolwork for the day, I work on U of Meg (i.e. planning future drops, tie-dying, sewing, packaging orders, creating social media content, hosting photoshoots with friends, etc.). More recently, I have been spending a lot of time filming and editing Tik Toks, which have been time-consuming but allows me to engage with a whole new audience!
With all that being said, the best part about running a clothing brand and being a full-time Rotman Commerce student is that everything that I am currently learning is very applicable to what I am doing for U of Meg. In RSM222: Managerial Accounting with Prof. Catherine Barrette, I am learning in-depth about the different costing methods, and how to manage and improve my cost structure. In RSM350: Marketing Management with Prof. Luciano Volpe, I am analyzing a new case every week and learning about various marketing strategies in diverse industries.
5. What advice would you give to another young woman who wants to start her own business but isn’t quite sure how to go about it?
Once you have an idea, it is important to get feedback from family and friends. Market research can start from your existing network so do not be afraid to reach out!
Be ready to work hard. If you are truly passionate about something, you will succeed.
Always keep the customer in mind. For me, I make sure the customer has the best possible shopping experience with U of Meg.
Lastly, be creative and utilize technology and social media to amplify your business. This will expand your reach and take your business to the next level.
6. What does the future of U of Meg look like?
I will create more eco-friendly and sustainable garments in the near future. My second drop was 100% sustainable fashion because I wanted to do my part to make this planet a little greener. The pandemic has taught me to reassess how much clothing we consume, in comparison with how much we really need. One of my goals for U of Meg is to encourage university students to buy less but wear more; this means buying garments for the long-term and investing in quality pieces that are versatile yet fashionable.
7. And finally, since everyone is going crazy about your amazing creations, what’s your favourite piece that you’ve made so far?
It is so hard to choose! But I would have to go with my Champion twin crewneck (in blue and red). It is very comfortable and goes with everything. This crewneck also seems to be a fan favourite; the original drop sold out in pre-orders and the restock sold out in 30 minutes!
If you want to connect with Megan, follow @UofMeg on Instagram. We could all learn something from this incredible, ambitious, and hardworking young woman. Keep your eye out for the next U of Meg drop, and be sure to act fast if you want one of her eye-catching pieces!