SBJ/February 11-17, 2013/Marketing and Sponsorship

Today’s goal: Build lifestyle apparel brand

Kevin Weekes was an NHL goaltender for more than a decade before becoming a TV analyst immediately after his retirement in 2009. He now is an entrepreneur, as well.

Weekes’ sports lifestyle apparel company, No 5 Hole, started last May on the strength of social media and personal networking: Weekes has more than 70,000 Twitter followers, along with a large contact base of athletes, broadcasters and influencers. As sales have increased, so too has No 5 Hole’s line of products, which are manufactured by three companies near Weekes’ home in Toronto. He is the sole investor in the company, which Weekes said has sold more than 8,000 pieces, and he has retailers in Raleigh, where he played with the NHL Hurricanes, and in the Toronto area.

Retired NHL goaltender Kevin Weekes (above) is the sole investor in No 5 Hole apparel. Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (below) and other athletes have used social media to tout the brand.
Photos: NO 5 HOLE (2)
Hockey writer Christopher Botta spoke with the 37-year-old Weekes, a studio analyst for the NHL Network and CBC’s “Hockey Night in Canada,” about his new day job.

Why did you get into retail?

WEEKES:
It’s something I wanted to do back when I was playing, but coaches don’t like their athletes having distractions, so once I felt my broadcasting career was established, it was time. It’s a startup operation, no doubt. I work from home and I stock product in my house. My wife helps out with the little time she has away from work. It’s mostly me, social media and making connections in the retail world.
Having all the manufacturers, printers and designers within a 15-minute drive from my house helps.

How would you rate your success so far?

WEEKES:
Not bad, considering I started last May with just two T-shirts that said “I Have No 5 Hole.” Now we have a half-dozen styles of shirts, four kinds of hoodies and four hockey jerseys. We have a women’s line. I’m the sole investor, but I keep everything local and my costs are reasonable, so my overhead is low.

Do you have a role model in business?

WEEKES:
Kevin Plank of Under Armour. He started the same way in 1996, basically creating product out of his home in Georgetown and developing it into a giant. In 2001, I was one of the first NHL players wearing Under Armour. Selling 8,000 units may not seem like much, but from my reading, I know it’s more than Under Armour did in its first year. Kevin’s story is a big influence on me and will continue to be. I’ve had some advantages: Goalies like Jonathan Quick, Cam Ward and Marc-Andre Fleury have worn my stuff and tweeted about it. [NFLers] Justin Tuck and Michael Strahan have been big supporters. Twitter has been a godsend.

Is finding retail distribution your biggest challenge?

WEEKES:
It’s not easy, but we’re making progress while we make the product available online at my site, weekesmedia.com. I want retail partners that interface well with customers. Anybody can make T-shirts and jerseys, but making a connection with customers is key.

With little time to balance your broadcasting schedule while running a growing business, is it in the plans to add more full-time staff, maybe even someone to hand the reins to this year?

WEEKES:
This year? How about tomorrow? With the way we’re trending now, I will need people to run this with me. That said, I’m always going to be very hands-on with the business and engaging with the customers.

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