For Abu Sayed, success isn’t measured by money. It’s measured by how he makes other people feel.
At his new Water Street storefront for Wildhood Clothing, a brand of his own creation, the Bangladeshi immigrant explains that he isn’t selling a product; he’s selling an experience.
“When I started the business I thought I was in the clothing business, but as I’m digging deep I’m realizing I’m not in the clothing business, I’m in a business of positivity, spreading love, spreading diversity to the masses,” says the 29-year-old entrepreneur.
“I believe we are all going to die someday, no matter if you believe in something or if you believe in nothing, and money is not the one thing you’re going to take with you, it’s what legacy you’re leaving behind or what example you're creating for someone else.”
Sayed, while likely to give you the shirt of his back (or his rack), is securing his own legacy by dipping into his fledgling company’s margins to support children and charities that do the same.
He’s already helped with some fundraising efforts for the provincial chapter of Young Adult Cancer Canada, and recently teamed up with Jack Axes to lend support to a Candelighters Newfoundland and Labrador fundraiser.
He’s taken his support for the non-profit organization that helps families affected by childhood cancer to a new level by donating $5 for every individual product sold from now until Dec. 31.
But the altruism doesn’t end there. Sayed is also sending a portion of his proceeds back to Bangladesh to support the children of the workers at the clothing factory where his high-end, fair trade and ethically sourced line of Tshirts, tank tops and hoodies are made from scratch.
“I came from Asia and I know what real poverty is so here, if I even try hard to be a poor, I will never be poor. There’s supports, government supports or other supports, people just helping each other,” he contends.
“Here poverty means you can afford an iPhone X, but there you can’t eat twice a day.”
Moreover, it won’t be the customer who ends up paying for Sayed’s charitable efforts by paying an added premium on his products.
“I hate that model,” he says. “We’re giving it from our pocket, from our margins as a way of giving back to the community here and at home.”
Part of the reason Sayed feels it important to give back to his adoptive home is the tremendous support he’s received since arriving in Canada in March of 2013 with little more than the clothes on his back and dreams of building a life in Canada.
“I couldn’t do it by myself if I didn’t get the help from the local community and the local people. I came from away and I was welcomed here, they made me feel like it’s home and they helped me with the skill sets which I lack,” he says rattling off a long list of locals who have helped him along the way.
Before launching Wildhood as an online clothing store last October, Sayed worked 16 to 18 hour days at a local pizza place for more than 2 1/2 years trying to save money. In the meantime, he occasionally travelled back to Bangladesh to research products and factories, bringing what he could back to Canada and selling it via online classified pages as a way of market research.
Oh, and he also taught himself how to speak English.
“I learned from Newfoundlanders, which is amazing,” he says with a grin.
Once he obtained permanent Canadian citizenship, he was able to quit his job and secure some funding through Metro Business Opportunities and Futurpreneur Canada.
Moving into a retail location in the downtown core — an area where the survival of any business is far from certain — represents a risk, but Sayed feels the brand will benefit from a bricks and mortar operation simply because it creates a human connection between him and his clients.
“This is something where people can come, feel the fabrics, give me feedback, tell me what I’m doing wrong, even if they’re not buying something,” he says.
Sayed feels he has two advantages; the first being that he’s cut out the middleman and works directly with the factory, going so far as to source all materials himself, right down to the thread ink being used.
The other advantage is patience.
“No matter what, I’m trying to build a brand and I know that it takes time, five years, 10 years, 20 years. I’m not in a hurry. I can take it day to day, brick by brick.”
In the long run, Sayed hopes to move production to Canada.
“We want to make it here so we can employ people from here.
“It’s very much possible if we get the right support from people, which we’re getting. It’s tremendous.”