Thomas Wall has always had a passion for health and fitness and as he got older he discovered a lust for entrepreneurism and marketing.
By the time he reached Grade 12, he’d decided to pursue a career that would that combine the two.
Two years into his bachelor of business administration degree at Memorial University, Wall came up with the idea for a clothing company called Engage Fitness Apparel.
“I wanted to do something where I could manage school and also have my own side business, and clothing was the perfect fit for that at the time,” says Wall.
“From there, it’s grown a lot more than I thought it would. It was going to be something to go with school, but now I’ve been doing it full time.”
The company launched online in July 2017 and the 20-year-old Wall has since generated roughly $20,000 in revenue from the sale of Engage’s line of active-wear hoodies, sweaters, T-shirts and tank tops for men and women.
Sales have received a shot in the arm lately thanks to endorsements by members of the St. John’s Edge, the National Basketball League of Canada team taking up residence at Mile One Centre.
Grandy Glaze, who has also suited up for Team Canada, has promoted Engage to his nearly 50,000 Instagram followers, and Charles Hinkle has done the same through his YouTube vlog HinkleHoops.
“Since they’ve come here, they’ve grown their influence a lot in the province, so with them doing that it’s really increased my sales in the province,” says Wall, who has also partnered with local companies such as Body Quest, Eat Clean and Freshii for giveaways.
But Engage is about more than turning a tidy profit and lining his post-secondary pockets while he finishes his degree.
Through his brand, Wall wants to build a community of like-minded individuals who understand and endorse the importance and benefits — both physical and mental — of living a healthy lifestyle.
Engage also has a degree of social entrepreneurism at its core, with 10 per cent of all revenue being donated to School Sports Newfoundland and Labrador (SSNL).
“I played sports all through junior high and high school, so to give back in that way was really nice,” he says.
SSNL, for its part as healthy lifestyle advocates for the province, is proud to partner with Wall.
“His donation helps provide quality varsity programming for young student athletes throughout our province,” SSNL wrote in a statement.
“Engage Fitness Apparel is a perfect example of what student athletes can achieve when given the right skillset early on. We hope he inspires other student athletes throughout his career.”
The partnership also affords Engage the unique opportunity to set up trade booths at many of SSNL’s regional and provincial tournaments. With a spate of basketball and volleyball events over the coming weeks, Wall figures he will generate anywhere between $10,000 and $20,000 in sales.
“By the end of this month, I think every major school and town throughout Newfoundland should have someone wearing our product. That’s pretty cool to get that kind of reach.”
This semester, Wall and Engage received a special exception to complete a work term in the Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship, an opportunity normally only afforded to bachelor of commerce co-op education students.
The program supplied him with $4,500 in funding to invest in the company and an additional $500 that he has used on Facebook ads and other sponsored ads in an effort to test the markets outside the province’s borders.
“Right now it’s just been to target people across the province to get ready for this month, but with the additional money, I’m going to start using that to try and validate the Atlantic and the Canadian market as a whole.”
He’s also looking for more influencers across Canada in the form of varsity athletes at other post-secondary institutions.
There are no plans to expand the product line just yet, but he is in talks with a manufacturer in Bangladesh to bring in new and higher-quality products.
Wall is also working toward obtaining his personal trainer certification and, in the long run, hopes to package that component with the clothing line to make Engage Fitness a globally recognized brand.
If nothing else, Wall hopes he at least inspires other youth to follow their entrepreneurial dreams now, when there’s little risk and the potential for plenty of reward.
“I want to inspire youth entrepreneurs in the province to take their passion —whether it be fitness, music, art or whatever it may be — and motivate them and get them to understand that there is no loss in just going for it.”