Hey Guelph! Are you looking for that unique article of clothing that you won’t see anyone else wearing? Are you a fan of ‘80s and ‘90s fashion, original clothing designs or one-of-a-kind vintage pieces? Vintage Instincts may have just what you are looking for and entrepreneur Alex Rogers is opening a new location in Guelph in addition to his online store.

The Entrepreneur

Vintage Instincts’ owner Alexander Rogers knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur long before he went to university for business. As a business student and aspiring entrepreneur, he learned there is no one single cookie-cutter approach to business startup.  In 2013, he decided to combine his passion for vintage items with his passion for fashion and urban culture – specifically hip-hop and street wear. He launched his first collection of pocket t-shirts repurposing the vintage fabrics to construct unique pockets on the shirts. Each pocket was different as it was taken from a separate piece of the vintage material.

The Business

Alex’s company, Vintage Instincts, began as a home-based startup selling vintage-inspired clothing. His inventory includes original designs created with vintage fabrics and iconic brands from the ‘80s and ‘90s. Vintage Instincts’ uniqueness is their diverse selection of rare, premium clothing offered online and in their new location opening soon.

“Selling online is powerful because shoppers aren’t limited by hours or location,” Alex said. “We restock our website every single day with new items; our selection is a cut above!”

Help from IG

With limited funds to invest in inventory and marketing, Alex looked for available support including working with Innovation Guelph (IG). He said IG provided a sense of accountability with regular meetings that encouraged him to meet goals and move forward. “I wanted to have positive reports for my mentor Niel Palmer who continues to be a great support for me through the Startup Program,” he said. “I always wanted to have some good news to share with him. Innovation Guelph supported my vision and validated my ideas and it made me want to show them I could succeed,” he said.

IG Mentor Niel Palmer said Alex developed and executed a business model and strategy that incorporated customer feedback, key performance indicators and continuous improvement.

“Alex has worked diligently at developing a strong network of effective business contacts and market niche players,” Niel said. “Conversations with Alex are engaging. He is always ‘switched on,’ ready to learn. He is receptive to coaching and pushes back when he’s confident about decisions.”

Niel assisted by introducing Alex to customer acquisition statistics helping him learn about customers and trends. Niel said Alex is meticulous and driven by principled actions that can be measured, analyzed for success, and improved upon with time and experience.

“If he chose to, Alex could effectively teach his methods to startups that will face similar challenges as he did in the early days,” Niel said.

Customer Service

Niel said, “Alex realized early on that he could not continue to grow and provide service unless his business is sustainable. He works hard every day to provide value to customers while creating a stable business.”

Customers appreciate the broad selection of quality clothing available through Vintage Instincts. Alex takes the time to measure each item in a way that is meaningful to online shoppers. He said they understand one of the challenges with online shopping is not being able to try items on. “We include relevant measurements like armpit to armpit so the online item can be compared to a piece of clothing the customer currently wears,” Alex said. He also takes care when describing clothing to ensure descriptions include notes about flaws, wear, or marks that could be decades old. He ensures each piece meets his standards by validating the authenticity of the vintage clothing through methods that that include checking wear marks, the type of tag and fabric, and checking labels as some even have the date on them.

Fueled by his phenomenal online sales growth in recent months, he is excited about the new store opening later this year at 16 Essex St in Guelph to better serve his growing local market. He hopes the new store will provide a nostalgic experience with memorabilia on display. Leveraging the power of word-of-mouth marketing, the new retail location will be more accessible, with larger space and a more diverse selection of premium vintage clothing on the racks.

BeforeAfter

Scaling up

Alex said he always sets ambitious goals for his business that he operated part-time for the first four years. During the first few months of the pandemic when his retail store was forced to close, he saw online sales accelerate beyond his projections. “To continue gaining momentum during the worst economic conditions imaginable, is a dream come true,” he said.

Fueled by his phenomenal online sales growth in recent months, he is excited about the new store opening later this year at 16 Essex St in Guelph to better serve his growing local market. He hopes the new store will provide a nostalgic experience with memorabilia on display. Leveraging the power of word-of-mouth marketing, the new retail location will be more accessible, with larger space and a more diverse selection of premium vintage clothing on the racks.

The Why!

Whether shopping for themselves or someone else, Vintage Instincts has unique styles that shoppers are unlikely to find elsewhere! Alex said he is happy that there has been a cultural shift toward sustainability in fashion and it has been exciting to see it become more mainstream. “With fashion being one of the highest polluting industries, we are proud that our business repurposes hundreds of pounds of clothing each week,” he said.

Alex said during the first few years he experienced challenges getting noticed, securing a supply chain and increasing responsiveness to customers. “I stuck with it because of my personal passion before it was a business. I had a vision of what I wanted my business to be and I knew it would take time to achieve. I made sure I was making slow and steady progress day after day,” he said.

Niel said Alex is the kind of enthusiastic entrepreneur that personifies the ‘never give up’ mantra.

Lessons Learned

As an entrepreneur, Alex said he has learned to accept that things rarely go as expected and that progress is not always easy to identify when you are in the middle of it. He advises other entrepreneurs to be prepared for changes and hurdles that aren’t possible to anticipate.

“Being able to adapt to, and accept, curve balls will help you successfully manage them with your long-term goal remaining clear,” he advised.