This past June marked the 25th year Red Scarf Gift Co (formerly Red Scarf Promotions) has been in business. Our little Mohawk Man wearing the Red Scarf decided it was time to hang up his hat, or should I say his red scarf?
Looking back it has been a wild and exciting ride!
I started my business at 38 years of age (which was already considered old) and it was NOT my world. I was working at Opera Belt Co on Spadina Ave designing ladies’ belts and leather accessories for Retail Private Label.
The belt business was slowly declining as the retail chains were all going to China and our wonderful company simply could not afford to stay in business.
That was a very sad time. Great quality in exchange for cheap, landfill products. What can I say? Luckily, I already had my foot in the promo business part time.
After the doors closed, I went home, went downstairs to my basement, sat at my desk and called one of my belt clients at Canada’s Wonderland and received an order for 2000 Hanna Barbera buttons. Gotta love Fred Flintstone!
I had to keep it going to ward off depression and sadness. One of the worst things in business is when the momentum stalls out. That, to me, spells disaster.
I made a few appointments and after meeting a few corporate clients, I thought I was going to sell pencils on the street!
I asked myself, how the heck am I going to sell a white C handled mug and a pen? This is so boring! What have I done? I really ought to go back to the fashion business.
It was amazing to me that clients in the corporate world did not have the gift of visualization or a shred of imagination. They couldn’t visualize red, purple, orange or any colour for that matter!
This was going to be a long and hard journey. No one laughs! There must be an opportunity somewhere…
Good Lord! Where do I go from here?
As I sat in my chair, depressed and unmotivated, I asked myself: what do I do best? What do I love? How am I going to change and differentiate myself from the crispy jackets and calendars of the world?
I realized that if I was going to make any money at all, I would have to change the way business was done, at least between Red Scarf and Mr. or Ms. Client.
I mentioned opportunity… there was a gap that needed be filled. It was staring at me right in the face. The first thing I did was pick up a phone and reached out to my fashion world for some washed denim shirts that were colourful and beautiful! Comfortable, easy to wear, they were corporately acceptable and certainly a refreshing change from the crispy, slippery textiles that were currently available that I couldn’t stand touching.
The gap that needed to be filled was an injection of colour. No one was showing any colour except for: black, navy, green and burgundy….yikes! Clients needed to see there were other possibilities and that they were not restricted to those boring colours or apparel!
A “shake up” was in order.
I called Bell Canada, spoke to a VP of Marketing (I think), and asked for an appointment. The name of my company was intriguing and had something to do with the fact that appointments were easy to get, however, it’s fair to say that the phone was the only way to reach out to new clients and cold calling was perfectly acceptable.
That was 1995! Bell Canada clients jumped at these beautiful shirts and not only was the phone ringing off the hook, Red Scarf Promotions received preferred vendorship status from Bell that lasted a magnificent 15 years. As I previously mentioned, it was an exciting and wild ride!
How did Red Scarf get its name? Only a few bold clients asked me this question during the 25 years and it is a big secret!
Until next week...