North points new way for funding athletes

Debora Van Brenk // Western News

North Strong Collective is a fitness clothing line that also supports high-performance athletes. Founders Matt Boswick, Tanya Moryoussef and Karly Campbell are Ivey Business School MBA students who are also part of the Western Accelerator program.

A trio of Western entrepreneurs, determined to reduce the financial sacrifices Canada’s elite athletes make in pursuit of excellence, has built a fitness clothing line predicated on supporting them.

North Strong Collective is the brainchild of three Ivey Business School MBA students, who designate 25 per cent of their company’s proceeds to high-performance Canadian athletes.

“We were chatting with athletes we know and realized there’s really a lack of funding for high-performance athletes,” said Tanya Moryoussef, co-founder of North Strong, along with Matt Boswick and Karly Campbell.

She noted national sports funding tends to go towards elite athletes, while athletes who might become world-class often go without much support. Some need to make the difficult financial choice to train full-time or have a job; to go to school or pay a coach; to travel to a competition or buy world-standard gear.

Their business plan for a patriotic clothing line includes partnerships with five athletes, two of whom are in Pyeongchang competing in the Winter Olympics –  Kristen Bujnowski, a Western alumna, varsity athlete and Olympic bobsledder alternate, and Kasandra Bradette, a Quebec short-track speedskater.

“For every item we sell, 25 per cent of gross margin goes to the athletes,” Moryoussef said. Online buyers can designate whether they would like to support all five athletes equally or support a specific athlete. Additionally, the website – northstrongcollective.ca – includes descriptions of the journeys of each athlete in the company’s fold, with an option to donate directly to any or all of them without buying merchandise.

“Our vision is to bring together the best of what crowd-sourcing and retail can offer,” Moryoussef said.

North Strong operates from the Western Accelerator, which offers an intense, immersive education in cultivating businesses, from ideas to the marketplace. “Ivey does a really great job of encouraging entrepreneurship,” she said.

The product line – which includes shirts, hats and wrist-straps – is Canadian-sourced as much as possible. The wrist straps, suitable for weightlifting and gymnastics, are made in Richmond Hill.

The founders bill the company as a way hard-competing Canadians can represent the backyard they play in. In addition to being sold online, the clothing is available at some local independent gyms and fitness centres, as well as in some pop-ups.

In the year since they launched the company, they have sold $15,000 in product.

Meanwhile, the trio is eagerly anticipating watching their favourite athletes during the Olympics. “I’ll try to wear a piece of Canadiana at all times,” Moryoussef said.

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Read about Western’s connections to the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, Korea: