MANITOULIN – When it comes to giving back and paying it forward a couple of Canadian soldiers have launched a pair of business ventures aimed at improving the lives of our veterans.
Jamie and Nathan Farquhar-Kay are both currently-serving members of the Canadian Armed Forces, Ms. Farquhar-Kay as a reservist clerk with the 2nd Battalion Irish Regiment for six years and Mr. Farquhar-Kay as an infantryman with the 1st Battalion of the famed Royal Canadian Regiment for 12 years. Mr. Farquhar-Kay is from Manitoulin and the couple hope to soon relocate to the Island.
The couple sat down with The Expositor over a cup of brew at the Anchor Inn in Little Current to talk about what they have been up to and how it all came about.
“We were at a barbecue for Bill Kerr, the only surviving triple amputee from Afghanistan, helping to raise money for a new van to help him get around and we realized that we wanted to do more for vets,” said Ms. Farquhar-Kay. (Famed Island artist Ivan Wheale had donated one of his large format Georgian Bay paintings as part of the same effort, as documented in The Expositor last year.) “It was about two or three months later that we came up with the idea. There are homeless veterans, guys without proper clothing,” said Mr. Farquhar-Kay. “We thought if we were to set up a clothing business, we could eventually help supply those veterans with clothing.” H-Hour Apparel was born.
The couple donated almost $550 to Wounded Warriors in support of Highway of Heroes Bike Ride (this money stays local in Sudbury) last year. “We have also worked and donated to Adopt-A-Vet and Guitars for Vets,” said Ms. Farquhar-Kay. “Lastly, we continue to sponsor veteran athletes by donating apparel directly to them.”
With the nucleolus of an idea in mind, the couple set about building their clothing line but there were plenty of hurdles to overcome on the road to success. “We knew absolutely nothing about business,” laughed Ms. Farquhar-Kay. But if there is one thing you learn while serving in the Canadian Armed Forces, it is organizational skills, and a great deal of business is really about logistics and organization.
“We originally started out with a fitness-oriented business,” said Ms. Farquhar-Kay. “Then we decided to re-direct our business model.”
“No plan survives contact with the enemy” goes the old Prussian military adage, the same can be said of business, but the couple are proven quick studies and very attentive to their market.
Much of the mainstream fitness market can come across as a bit elitist—the spandex uber-focussed world of kelp smoothies and protein shakes.
“That’s not us,” laughed Mr. Farquhar-Kay. “We are more of the work out and then kick back and have a beer and some wings in front of the television crowd. It’s okay. We are more about promoting being happy with what you are and how you do things. Basically, fitness but taking all of the elitism out of it. Makes it more about leading a balanced lifestyle and being happy.”
From a pure fitness clothing line they moved over to focus on a demographic that likes to “work hard and play hard.”
Following that philosophy, H-Hour Apparel has become something of a success and has led to the couple devise a second, complementary “side hustle:” Lakelife Co., a subscription box company inspired by Manitoulin Island and the cottage lifestyle.
“I grew up in Providence Bay,” shared Mr. Farquhar-Kay. “We moved away when I was about eight, but then I moved back again when I was around 15 and I went to Manitoulin Secondary School for about four years.” His family still lives on Manitoulin Island. Ms. Farquhar-Kay has fallen in love with the Island as well. “We hope to move back to the Island permanently sometime in the next couple of years,” she said.
The concept for the subscription box company is to supply a box of items that are geared to people who live on lakes. “Lake-life essentials, basically,” shared Ms. Farquhar-Kay.
The couple built their first box and are planning to officially launch the service on February 15. “We have created a starter box stocked with items like bath bombs, cup coolers and soap bars,” she said, explaining that while the subscription service will ship a box quarterly, folks can jump in anytime and begin with the starter box.
“It’s kind of a dip your toes in box as well,” said Mr. Farquhar-Kay.
Each quarterly box will focus on that corresponding season, with items of use aimed at the lake dweller lifestyle.
The couple have also ventured into the business consulting world, taking what they have learned by starting up their own businesses and sharing that with others.
“These days you can start a business from just about anywhere,” said Ms. Farquhar-Kay. “We found starting the first one very challenging, but it is definitely a lot easier the second time around. Find a niche and go for it.”
“We wished we had known a lot of the things we learned in starting H-Hour at the beginning,” agreed Mr. Farquhar-Kay.
The couple were on Manitoulin over the weekend doing promotional photo shoots and Mr. Farquhar-Kay was sporting one of their company’s potential new products. “We have had a lot of success with hoodies at this time of year, T-shirts, tanktops and ball caps,” he said, pointing to the shirt he was wearing. “This is something we are currently testing.”
The couple’s online presence and product lines can be explored online at www.HHourApparel.com and LakeBox.ca and by exploring those hashtags on Facebook and Instagram.