"BB Branded Boutique" published 2014
"BB Branded Commercial" publish 2015
ABOUT US & OUR HISTORY:
The BB Branded Legend
BB Branded Sneaker Boutique has worked tirelessly for over a decade to better its surrounding community, and grow to be a business that inspires others and gives back. In the dog-eat-dog world that we call retail, BB Branded - being a local retailer in the border city – was forced to overcome countless roadblocks and adapt to changing times. It was through true passion and dedication that BB Branded held strong in order to survive and thrive for 12 years in the business. And those years will continue to count on.
It was in 2003 that BB Branded was established in the historical streets of downtown Windsor, Ontario. However, it was not under the title “BB Branded” that this retail store earned a place on the map. Two brothers came together in this year to combine their skills and passion to open Le Cadeux, a jewellery store that sold gold, silver, and diamonds. The store itself was a small, narrow “ally” in a building on Ouellette Avenue, the main street of Windsor’s downtown atmosphere. Le Cadeux came to be known as the “Gold Shop Ally”, and was barely making ends-meat in a slipping economy. Small, local stores tend to face a challenge racing with the big dogs, and with a recession on the frontier, Le Cadeux was already threatened by the option of having to close shop.
In 2004, as the brothers stressed over the potential collapse of their business, an investor by the name of Nasser visited the store and saw an opportunity. Nasser presented the idea of a partnership to the brothers, which would utilize his existing million-dollar businesses in the Niagara area as a cornerstone. His two areas of expertise were hip-hop apparel stores and silver jewellers. He appreciated the enthusiasm that the brothers showed regarding his idea to team up, and they began building a partnership while simultaneously developing a strong, personal friendship.After brainstorming, it became clear to Nasser and the brothers that two very different options offered a solution to Le Cadeux’s struggle. The first option was to turn Le Cadeux into a strictly-silver retailer. The second option was to turn the store into a hip-hop clothing retailer, with a small selection of Stirling silver jewellery pieces. Having grown up in the hip-hop era, the brothers jumped at the opportunity to transform Le Cadeux into a hip-hop clothing store. On March 14th, 2004, Le Cadeux officially became incorporated under the new name “Capish? Bling Bling”, and began to sell brands such as Phat Farm, Ecko, Shaddy, G-Unit, LRG and Timberland. “Capish?” was the official franchise name of Nasser’s other businesses, and “Bling Bling” was humorous, catchy, and a popular term in thehip-hop culture. Capish? Bling Bling’s original store sign was a colourful one, derived from Canadian graffiti art. Two years later, the sign was changed to a custom, handcrafted Cleopatra-wood sign designed by Christian Aldo.
CAPISH? BLING BLING:
The first two years for Capish? Bling Bling were strong, as the brands were popular and the stores new look was appealing to many. The recession of 2004 did not have detrimental effects on Capish? Bling Bling for these first two years. However, a combination of factors proved to the brothers that their success would be short lived because another struggle was underway. In the year 2006, multiple influences threatened retailers everywhere. The fall of GM, Ford, and other vehicle companies damaged the local economy, as Windsor and Detroit are motor cities with numerous factories. A great number of people were laid-off and left jobless during this crisis, only lending aid to the intensifying recession. The value of the Canadian dollar fell well below the American dollar, so Canadians who could afford to shop were more and more frequently spending their money in the US. It was also at this time that the new passport laws were passed, requiring citizens of both Canada and the US to have passports in order to cross the border. This new law cost Capish? Bling Bling many American customers, and caused the brothers to cut-backin order to stay in business. As if all these factors weren’t enough, the city of Windsor began to undertake a complete renovation of downtown streets, such as Pelisser and Ouellette (the street of Capish? Bling Bling). The mess, traffic, and inconvenience of the construction made many consumers avoid downtown altogether, costing Capish? Bling Bling even more customers. During this renovation phase, many local retailers were forced to close shop after having been open for decades. Most fur shops closed, and Dacks – which had been around for 70 years – went out of business. At one point, downtown faced a 40-50% vacancy rate. Capish? Bling Bling stood watching as neighbours were forced to shut their doors.It truly was a struggle to stay alive.
BIGGER AND STRONGER:
In the years of 2009-2010, the city was on its way to recovering. The big 3 crisis was starting to look more promising, as the companies refocused their attention on the motor cities. Most citizens had obtained passports, the dollar value was finding its way back to familiar territory, and the construction of Windsor’s downtown center was complete. Crowds began returning, and Capish? Bling Bling exhaled a sigh of relief for having survived a cruel recession. In 2009, Capish? Bling Bling began to rent the bigger location next door to their cozy little ally. They opened both units and began to span from 345 Ouellette to 347 Ouellette, where they are still situated today. Months after renting the bigger location, the decision was madeto purchase the entire building. This building included both of the units they were currently utilizing, and the third unit known to many as “Treehouse” (which the brothers still rent out). It was also in the year 2009 that the brothers spotted yet another business opportunity. Mixed-martial arts was a booming form of sport and entertainment at this time, and its popularity was only accelerating. Capish? Bling Bling decided to expand their horizon and open the door to new types of customers, and began to sell MMA brands. These brands included Affliction, Silver Star, Tapout, and Bad Boy. Business for the brothers took off again.
HERE COMES THE SWOOSH:
After a steady year of enjoying the success brought on by MMA brands, the brothers decided to venture into yet another endeavour. This decision initiated the transformation of Capish? Bling Bling to the modern store Windsor knows and loves today. It was in 2010 that the sneaker-head nation was on the rise, and Nike presented the brothers an opportunity like no other. The brothers signed a huge contract with Nike/Jordan that gave Capish? Bling Bling the rights to sell all Jordan releases – most importantly, Retro Jordan releases. The contract also gave the brothers territorial rights on all specialty accounts and limited edition releases. It was by signing this contract that the brothers put Capish? Bling Bling in the swimming tank with big sharks, such as Footlocker and Champs. Bringing Nike brands into the store sent business through the roof, and allowed the brothers to sign other big contracts with big-name, long-time-standing brands such as Puma, Adidas, Converse, and Levi’s. It was this move that helped revive the sneaker-head revolution in Windsor, causing line-ups of more than 40 people down Ouellette Avenue for Retro Jordan releases. It was at this point that Nasser and the brothers mutually decided to break off from their partnership so that Nasser could pursue other investments; this allowed the brothers to absorb full ownership of Capish? Bling Bling. This long-term partnership was foundational to the company, but the brothers and Nasser agreed that this was the most suitable next step. Despite the end of their partnership, Nasser and the brothers are still friends to this day.
NEW NAME, NEW FACE: BB BRANDED:
In the years of 2011-2012, Capish? Bling Bling decided to match the face of the store to the new lifestyle that their business served. They began renovating and repainting the ally, bringing in local spray-painting artists to design an edgy and unique look. The largerhalf of the shop was gutted completely, and was designed to look like a modern, high-end boutique. To match the new look, the brothers decided to reveal the boutique under a new name. In 2012, “BB Branded” was finally completed and unveiled officially, with the “BB” paying respect to the “Bling Bling” title of the original business. This new look caused sales to double, and brought new customers into the store. Social media, YouTubecommercials, billboards, and other strong forms of marketing ensured that BB Branded became a well-known name throughout the border city. And as if this wasn’t enough, Nike declared BB Branded to be one of their top five independent accounts in Canada!
In 2013, Devonshire Mall approached the brothers. A long-standing dream of the brothers was to expand the business by having multiple locations within the area. Keeping the first official expansion of BB Branded secret for quite a few months, the brothers entered a vacant spot in Devonshire mall and began designing a second and much larger BB Branded within Windsor’s mall. On June 20th, 2013, BB Branded held its grand opening,featuring giveaways, as well as live beats and break-dancers.
In 2014, BB Branded’s own brand of clothing, called “Rep Ur City”, was developed out of what was arguably necessity. After overseeing the deterioration of Windsor/Detroit pride during the recession and the lengthy, exhausting recuperation that followed, BB Branded wanted to find a way to re-inspire their community’s sense of pride. After brainstorming ideas and filtering through possible logos, the BB Branded family settled on designs that paid tribute to the border cities. The brand released a few different lines; the two most popular being Wincity and 519er. The Wincity logo quickly grew bigger than BB Branded had anticipated, as it began to be adopted as part of the city’s identity. A monumental moment for the brand came when Howie Mandel performed at Caesars Windsor. While in town, Mandel ventured into the BB Branded downtown Windsor location one afternoon and showed interest in the Wincity shirts. After leaving the store with one of his own, a few days went by before Howie Mandel appeared on the today show wearing his new Wincity shirt. This came as an incredibly pleasant surprise to BB Branded, as they were completely unaware of Howie’s intention to bring Wincity on national television.The story of a big-name celebrity representing a local business in a small Canadian city went viral. The resulting increase of interest in and awareness of Wincity inspired BB Branded to expand their horizons with the brand and seek new avenues.
The first major Wincity collaboration was with the University of Windsor Lancers. Students, alumni, and others in the Windsor community hurried to grab their own Wincity/Lancers products to sport pride in their home-team. The popularity of this first collaboration was exactly what BB Branded had been working towards; pride for the city.
The hype surrounding Wincity allowed BB Branded to continue to seek collaborations and sponsorships with other sources. Next up was Windsor’s Finest Football Academy, where Windsor-derived football stars (and members of WFFA) Luke Wilson, Tyrone Crawford, and Daryl Townsend made an appearance at the BB Branded Devonshire Mall location to sign shirts for fans and supporters. BB Branded then worked with Catholic Central High School to create Wincity/CCH shirts that would give back to the students. BB Branded wanted the students to have something to wear proudly and confidently during practices and games, as well asduring their day-to-day. And that they did.
It was at this time that BB Branded decided to seek charity involvement through the success of the Wincity line. They partnered up with the Windsor/Essex County Cancer Foundation in October of 2015 to develop “Breast Cancer Awareness” shirts. A percentage of profit from these shirts was given to the Windsor/Essex County Cancer Foundation in order to keep the level of support local.
More recently, BB Branded has worked on collaborations with La Jeunesse High School, Border City Boxing Club, and Herman High School to continue the building momentum of pride in the Windsor/Detroit community. BB Branded will continue to find inspiring collaboration/sponsorship efforts well into the future to help the community hold onto their well-earned pride in and appreciation for home.
As BB Branded grew to be more of a familiar name to Windsor and Detroit shoppers, the
opportunity to focus on internal company growth and development presented itself.
Due to expansion, inventory escalation, and the resulting demand for sales-associates, BB Branded was able to increase the number of employees from 4 to nearly 20 within a few short years. They also began working with schools for co-operative education, and the college/university to bring in interns. With more potential avenues opening up, BB Branded was able to create new job positions within the company, and hire on a team to approach new ventures.Visual merchandising, event coordinating, social media/public relations/marketing, inventory/stock management, Wincity representative, and policy development became differentiated positions within the company. Now - as opposed to having one employee oversee multiple areas of business – each position was able to focus solely on their job description. This allowed for a more wholesome completion of tasks, as well as clearer expectations for work. It was also during this period of time that the brothers were able to step back from small company procedures to focus on larger BB Branded endeavours; both locations were appointed store managers to take care of in-store responsibilities.
With newly appointed members for social media and public relations, the reach of BB Branded improved and the number of supporters grew. Social media quickly became a platform to communicate easily and effectively with BB Branded’s customer and supporter base. BB Branded began to make better use of Instagram and Facebook for sharing photos and updating followers on incoming/releasing product. Twitter followed, but became more of a conversational platform, used to engage with the targeted lifestyle market. Then, a YouTube channel for sneaker release reviews and discussing product-knowledge was developed. While increased social media participation began to serve as a better internal-marketing technique, BB Branded also invested in external-marketing endeavours, such as Google Ads, Facebook ads, YouTube commercials, billboards, and amplified journalist attention.
As a local company, BB Branded was faced with developing their own unique company structures and policies. Through adaptations of Ontario Labour Board standards and other sources of common company policy, BB Branded began to develop store manuals, standards/procedures, policies, strategic sales approaches, human resources tools, and the “Wincity Laws” and “Family Structure”. The Wincity laws are a list of both moral and ideal ways of behaving that are in line with the goals and beliefs of the company. “The Family Structure” policy overviews the relationships between employees, customers, and stores. Employees interact similarly to how family members typically treat one-another; customers are treated as guests; and each store location is perceived of as a home. This policy was initially developed to promote strong, trusting relationships between employees, who are now more commonly known as the “BB Branded Family”. Another important policy that was introduced during this time was developed as a tool for human resources; “I-Statements” were implemented as a non-blameful and proactive problem-solving method for internal company issues. With the growth of company policy and standards, BB Branded became more uniform between locations and employees, and members of the company grew closer to one-another and more involved with company matters.
NEW SCALE: BB BRANDED ONLINE:
The next venture on BB Branded’s list was to tap into the online market. Having always been a local shop, BB Branded wanted to expand their reach with hopes to become a familiar sneaker shop in North America. However, opening an online shop poses a whole new set of challenges and obstacles. Receiving brand approvals to sell products online; determining methods and policies for shipping, exchanging, and returning online orders; designing an appealing and easy-to-navigate website; maintaining universality between in-store and online stores; and bringing in a team to manage the online sales and website were all – to name a few – aspects that needed to be considered before the website could open to the public.
It was finally in May of 2015 that BB Branded received the call from Nike and was given authorization to sell online. BB Branded was officially an “authorized online dealer”, and was thereby allowed to distribute Nike products through an online platform. Only a handful of other stores were given this same authorization from Nike to have the “buy from cart” option on Nike products.
With the go-ahead from Nike, BB Branded launched their website through a soft opening in the late spring of 2015. The first few months served as an informative trial run, as it helped the company locate areas that needed improvement, and to find effective solutions to problemsunforeseen. As enhancements were made, and the marketing for the online store began to intensify, more and more customers ventured to BB Branded online to do their shopping. In under a year, the online store grew to act like a third BB Branded location, with its own customer base, management team, and competitive edge.
“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is a process. Working together is success.” – Henry Ford.
Since opening, BB Brandedwent head-to-head with a devastating recession, continuously looked for innovative solutions, and never dismissed an option before it had been thoroughly considered. Persistence, resiliency and passion could have played a role in the company’s endurance. However, the thing about local businesses is that success cannot be tasted unless the community bands together to create a greater force. BB Branded believes that the support they received from their surrounding communityis the same force responsible for the company’s perseverance. Unity, pride, and belief are what kept BB Branded moving forward.
The future holds endless possibilities. But one thing is for certain: BB Branded was born and grew in the border city; Windsor will always be home.
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