When Spotlight on Business Magazine sat down with James Weir, founder of Large Lads, a Canadian owned and operated clothing company in Halifax – Nova Scotia, we found out that this brand is more than just about clothing, it’s an invitation to belong to a club: the brotherhood of Large Lads which was founded in 2015, when Weir created an online clothing store exclusively for big and tall men offering stylish and affordable clothing in sizes XL-8XL. We talk with Weir about his journey and how the brand has changed not only his life but the lives of his customers.
There were times when James Weir would sit in his basement, head in hands, wondering how to save Large Lads, his clothing company for men of robust statures.
Yet, with perseverance, and a lot of encouragement from his family, he now sits with a successful small business steeped in values he can be proud of.
“If you want the short version of how this came to be, it’s two words: My wife,” said Weir. He was ripe for a career change when he moved from B.C. to N.S. in 2014.
The youth counsellor yearned for something new and wanted to get into business and sales.
“I’m a big guy. I’m a 4XL, and I always had difficulty finding clothes. So, one day, I’m running around town trying to find a shirt, and I was getting defeated and upset,” he said.
“I came out of a store so frustrated, and my wife just asked why I wouldn’t start my own big & tall clothing label. It was the best and craziest thing I ever followed through on.”
He initially wanted to open a storefront and bring in existing labels, but after 24 hours looking at rental spaces, he knew online was the route.
“E-commerce was it, and I was going to do my own label and products. I had the idea in the fall of 2014,” he said.
“I joined the CEED program, pitched it, and it was accepted. I did that for nine months, and through that I was introduced to grants from Export Nova Scotia. We officially launched in January 2016.”
Now, in 2019, he has his own label, business, and sells 14 other labels selling through Large Lads’ site as well.
“But it’s been difficult. Our first year, we made literally $8,000 in revenue. There were times I’d wait six weeks for an order to come in,” he said.
“Any big guy I saw, I’d flip him my business card. I drove two-hours once to give a shirt to a guy to get the word-of-mouth promotion. I went to Digby, N.S. and back to sell a polo. But that’s the kind of service we stand for.”
He’s sold clothes behind stores, at the Halifax Harbour, in parking lots out of his trunk and out of his house. His entrepreneurial spirit, while battered, never faltered. If he came close, his wife and cousin were there to push him forward.
“We aren’t in that spot anymore, but my family helped me so much and that was our roots. We approach this work with branding that promotes positive body image, self-esteem, empowerment and confidence,” he said.
“Our brand motto is ‘Xlarge fully in charge” and it was a mind-frame before it was a motto.”
He says his business hasn’t only gotten people the clothes they need, but it’s changed attitudes as well.
“We have people emailing saying we’ve changed sons’ and husbands’ lives. They’re comfortable, confident and happy. We offer to 8XL in shirts and size 70 waists. We are really helping the big guy,” he said.
From Weir’s own personal experience he knew that this brand was needed. “Look at big guys, they are generally dressed the same, unfashionable. Good clothes are so hard to find, and so many wear the same few unstylish pieces they found at Wal-Mart. This was something big and tall people needed.”
There were times Weir was scared, worried they’d fold and was terrified for the future. But he says the end goal overrode the daily anxiety, and his passion for the business trumped his worries.
“What we’ve done in revenue since last September is more than we did in the first two-and-a-half years. We’re nailing Google, Facebook and direct marketing,” he said.
“We have customers in every province, in Yukon, NWT, Nunavut, and in 75 per cent of the United States.”
They ship overseas to Greenland, Italy, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and more. They have wholesale accounts in Austin, Texas and Adelaide, Australia.
“The power of the Internet has pushed us forward and brought us together, but I remember my roots. I drove a hoodie over to a guy who was four kilometres away last night. We need to remember the early days and stay true to the company we wanted to be,” he said.
One distinguishing factor is Large Lads does all work in-house, a hard stance Weir had from the beginning.
“I wouldn’t outsource. It’s been an expensive learning experience through trial and error, but we don’t rely on anyone. My Instagram for the company was started by my cousin Tyler, and three years later he’s my digital and creative director,” he said. “He is my right-hand man. With his critical thinking and creative nature, he has helped bring Large Lads to the next level.”
“Even though this cost money to learn all these things, we don’t need to rely on others. We built our website, and if there’s a problem, we can fix it.”
He is adamant his family deserves the brunt of the credit for helping him keep Large Lads going.
“If not for my wife, family and cousin, I wouldn’t be here. We are doing so well, and I owe this to my wife and my family. They have contributed so much to this success,” he said.
“Since day one,
we’ve said when you receive a package from us, it’s an invitation to belong to
our tribe, a community, a brotherhood of Large Lads. We have a personal
connection to our customers and we like it that way.”
By Jordan Parker