East Coast AF: Meet P.E.I.'s salty new T-shirt company
'I buy T-shirts with funny and witty sayings on them all the time, so why not create my own?'
The idea for the new T-shirt company, East Coast AF, popped into Megan McDonald's head just two weeks ago — now, the company has more than three dozen designs and has already shipped its first order.
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McDonald is a chiropractor and fitness instructor who moved back home to Summerside, P.E.I., last year after living in Toronto for eight years.
"My mind never really stops, it's always coming up with ideas and ventures," said the bubbly, energetic 30-year-old.
"It seems the whole new fad now is to what I call rep your roots, advertising where you're from on your clothing," McDonald said "I buy T-shirts with funny and witty sayings on them all the time, so why not create my own?"
She was inspired by Peace Collective, known for its Toronto-centric designs including "Toronto vs. Everybody," — an edgy attitude she likes.
"And I thought as Islanders, as East Coasters, we totally take pride in being very friendly and very humble and very kind people — and we are, and we rock that — but what people don't often see I think … is we also have some edge, we also have some attitude, we also have some swag that maybe we would like to showcase."
'I was instantly laughing'
McDonald pitched her idea to her friend Luke Walker, 35, who had also recently returned to Summerside after more than a decade living in Toronto, whom she knew is a whiz with anything related to web design, IT and online marketing.
"I was instantly laughing as soon as she started spitting out the ideas, I just thought they were great," Walker said.
"I love buying T-shirts online because it's hard to find the witty, funny shirts I like in stores," he said, adding he liked the East Coast spin, and knew they were something he'd buy to wear himself.
"And we just got to work. We started doing the designs, we set up a little [online] store — just wanted to get something out the door as quick as we could to test the markets and get some shirts for ourselves," Walker said.
'Giving people what they want'
So far, East Coast AF has two collections. The Islander Collection includes T-shirts printed with "We're Probs Related," "Chillin With the Buoys," and "Anne is My Homegirl."
McDonald also dreamed up the slogans "In Boomer We Trust," referencing the forecasts of former CBC P.E.I. weatherman Kevin "Boomer" Gallant, and "Rainnie is My Compass," referring to the former anchor of CBC P.E.I.'s 6 p.m. television newscast, Compass.
"Kind of a tribute to some P.E.I. legends," McDonald said. "Every day at 6 p.m., the Island shuts down and we watch Compass."
There's also the "Who's your Fadder?" design. "Probably the number one conversation-starter here on P.E.I. and the East Coast in general," McDonald laughs.
The From Across collection features "Bae of Fundy," "Conception Bae," and "Halifornia," slogans.
More designs are on the way soon, McDonald said. "We're always creating more ideas, more shirts, giving people what they want."
"I think our particular line of clothing showcases something very different than maybe even the other East Coast or P.E.I. lines of clothing do," McDonald said.
The company has already shipped at least one order.
"That felt great when I saw that," said Walker. "I'm really excited to find out how she likes them."
'Some room for our product'
East Coast AF has plenty of competition, most notably East Coast Lifestyle, a 2013 college startup that blew up, has won several awards, and is now in dozens of stores across Canada.
Local Legends is another T-shirt company that helps Islanders wear their P.E.I. pride, with slogans including "Peakes. Combo A. Sleep. Repeat." and "Pump Up the Haywire."
"We love seeing others express their love for P.E.I. in creative ways," said Local Legends's Aidan Northcott and Ashley Paynter in an email to CBC. "This small community of Island apparel companies is continuously growing, and we're happy to be a part of it."
What does East Coast AF mean? "Whatever you want it to," smiles Walker.
If you have teenagers in your house, you know how they'd fill out the acronym.
"AF for me, and for the East Coast in my opinion, stands for Always Friendly — because that is our reputation — and Always Fun, because I believe East Coasters know how to have a great time no matter where they're going or what they're doing," said McDonald.
'Who knows how far it could go?'
Will the venture be a money maker? So far, the partners have invested several dozen hours but only a few hundred dollars. But, as millennials, they're all about the side hustle.
"Who knows how far it could go? I know East Coast Lifestyle started off in a university classroom with just one T-shirt," McDonald said. "If not, we have out own line of cool clothes that we get to rock!"
McDonald and Walker have already placed orders for themselves and their families.
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They've had local merchants inquire whether they can carry the T-shirts in stores — which the partners are considering. Moving from on-demand printing to carrying thousands of dollars in inventory and creating infrastructure for shipping to stores is definitely far more risky, Walker noted.
"We have to see how the market reacts to what we're selling," said Walker. "Neither of us has ever done anything like this before."
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