Tell us about yourself.
My name is Christopher Cheong. During the day I am a graphic designer for Adidas, and at night I try to run a small business/side project called Bearkid, a lifestyle apparel brand. I always had a passion for creating things, whether it be my own cartoon characters, or outfitting remote control cars with "weapons", like masking tape and chop sticks. I studied design at York University and Sheridan College for 4 years, where I learned living was very expensive. I interned with Roots Canada for a couple months, then moved on to freelancing with Corus Entertainment and Nickelodeon, then worked at Disney as a graphic designer, until I found myself at Adidas designing national marketing campaigns. While working at these places, I was creating Bearkid behind the scenes.
What inspired you to start bearkid?
I've always liked street wear fashion, and growing up skateboarding and listening to hip-hop, I've always been exposed to it. At the end of university, I had to make a portfolio website for myself. All my classmates used their full name as their domain, but I didn't like "christophercheong.com" and how that sounded, so I created the artist alias "BEARKID" for myself. And then, as any designer would do, I created a logo for my new moniker and silk screened it onto a shirt. I wore it around and got a lot of compliments from other people asking "Hey where did you get that shirt? Where can I buy it?". That was what really got me thinking "What if I made Bearkid a clothing brand instead?". Because Bearkid was my own project, I was able to experiment and brand it however I wanted. I've always loved the freedom to express myself, without any rules.
How does your company generate revenue?
I've always told myself that I would never run Bearkid for the purpose of making money. It's a passion and I didn't want to taint it with the evil side of business. As long as I break even from selling Bearkid merchandise, I am more than happy to continue making new products. I generate most of my sales from word of mouth, and through a store called Mindzai. Mindzai has been an integral part in helping Bearkid grow, as they have two store locations; one in the Toronto Downtown core, and one in Markham. They have my clothing on display where anyone can go in and pick it up. I've also donated a lot of my products to various fundraisers who used Bearkid as prizes for their guests. This also helped spread the word about my company.
Tell us your worst entrepreneurial moment.
I'd have to say my most entrepreneurial horror story was the first time that I tried to order overseas. I realized that producing locally was just too expensive for what I was trying to get done and tried to save a buck. My cousin found this rather sketchy contact located in Mississauga, who had a factory in Bangladesh. We went to his condo to see what he had to offer, and I couldn't say I was super impressed but I gave him the benefit of the doubt since he ensured me that he would produce the highest quality he could. I ordered 4 different t-shirt designs and one style of jean pants. Naivety got the better of me and 2 months later I was shipped product that was abysmal. The pants felt like they were made out of wax, and the details were very poorly done. The t-shirts were something else. As I unfolded the women's t-shirt from the packaging, I realized that the only thing that would fit into them was a baby or my mom's 12 pound Maltese. The men's t-shirts looked like they were made for a 4'6" person, weighing 200 pounds. Moral of the story is that you get what you pay for. As the saying goes, "I'm not rich enough to buy cheap things."
What is something exciting that you are doing you'd like to share?
I am currently making a new "dad hat". It's cool because they work with me via WhatsApp, and send me progress shots of the production. I've never experienced such a patient company before with all of my requests and changes. I can be picky, but I just want my product to be up to standards. I'm really excited to see how they turn out!