YPDaily: Kathy Cheng

As the Director of Sales & Marketing for Redwood Classics Apparel, 37-year-old Kathy Cheng is a crusader for Canadian garment manufacturing. What was the inspiration for her career route? Find out in today’s YPDaily…

Elevator Pitch: Describe your job in a nutshell.
I’m a crusader for Canadian garment manufacturing. As Director of Sales & Marketing for Redwood Classics Apparel, the in-house brand of WS & Co., my days are dedicated to sustaining the production of retail-quality apparel that’s made by our country’s skilled artisans for The Great White North’s end user. 

Why did you start working at your company? What was the inspiration for this career route?
WS & Co. is a family business that’s been Canada’s one-stop shop for handcrafted, premium-quality garments for more than 25 years. When my father’s previous partners retired, I became his business partner and was given the opportunity of a lifetime: to take ownership and explore a new revenue stream for the factory, which ultimately resulted in the creation and development of Redwood Classics Apparel, our in-stock apparel line. I’m inspired every day by the exceptionally skilled local craftsmen who have joined me on this journey to keep production on Canadian soil.

What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis?
Hands down, our people, which includes staff and clients across North America and most recently, internationally. The most rewarding part of being an owner of this business is knowing that we are providing a livelihood for not only ONE Canadian, but, by extension, the lives of many Canadians – and an industry as a whole. 

Our people are the core of our business; they are responsible for helping us achieve the level of success we’ve achieved to date. They are not just clients and employees, but an extension of our family. 

The most challenging part?
Being one of the few full-serviced garment manufacturers still producing on Canadian soil, we are faced with fierce competition in the way of lower prices on offshore produced products. 

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Here, but on an even larger scale. We are seeing a gradual shift in the purchasing paradigm with the new generation. People are becoming more conscious of where the products they purchase are coming from and how their decisions might impact their communities, the environment, the economy… The more people buy Canadian, the larger our workforce grows. It is for this reason that we have plans for expansion in the near future. Stay tuned! 

What does success look like to you?
Knowing that our family is giving back to the country that has given us so much. Also, continuing to provide a platform for local craftsmen and artisans to continue honing a dying skilled trade of quality apparel manufacturing.  

What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
The day I realized that people are the core of every business. Each of our employees and customers are responsible for helping my family achieve the success we have here in Canada. In doing so, they are not just clients and employees, but an extension of our family as well.  

Thanks to the support of my team, I was recently recognized as a leader in my industry with the first-ever Momentum Award from the Promotional Product Professionals of Canada (PPPC). Every day, our company works to improve and streamline traditional methods of apparel manufacturing. To be recognized with such a prestigious award is truly an honour. 

Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
Be resilient; no matter how bad things may appear, always look for the silver lining. Also, never stop learning; the more you learn, the more you will realize you need to learn more. Finally, don’t forget your roots and always be thankful to those who have helped you along the way.

Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is that important to you?
Redwood Classics recently joined forces with the international Pay it Forward movement to help prove that every person, group and organization has the potential to positively affect the lives of others with simple and thoughtful actions. With every PIF x RW Kangaroo Hoody purchased comes a white bracelet, a physical reminder to the wearer do good.

By contributing to organizations like Toronto Fashion Incubator, Fashion Group International, and numerous fashion schools, WS & Co. is directly supporting emerging and promising talent in hopes that our country’s youth will continue to view the manufacturing industry as a promising and opportunity-rich sector of the workforce.

What to you is notable?
Taking risks. WS & Co. started 25 years ago as a small-scale sewing contractor with five seamstresses and 10 sewing machines. At the peak of our operations, we directly employed close to 500 people. None of this would have existed if it weren’t for my father taking a chance. Likewise, Redwood Classics Apparel wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for a couple risks along the way. 

Recently, I took a giant leap of faith by agreeing to appear on an episode of CBC’s The BIG Decision. Although the portrait painted of us was somewhat unexpected, this was quickly overshadowed by a flood of positive feedback from our team, our clients and new customers, making the entire experience worthwhile. 

Being faced with the unexpected is simply a reminder that although our company increases in size and profit year over year, not every experience is going to be a comfortable one.

Blackberry, iPhone, Android, or Other?
iPhone, a toddler and another one on the way.