Rouben and Vicky Edgar opened Atlantic Safety Wear Inc. in Lower Montague in 2017. Rouben is the CEO and Vicky is the Vice President. It’s full-time, year-round work for this husband and wife business team.
Atlantic Safety Wear Inc. is North America’s first and exclusive distributor of Grisport safety footwear. The brand specializes in Italian handcrafted boots and shoes for trekking, safety and leisure. As well, Atlantic Safety Wear Inc. sells a clothing line of Snickers Work Wear products.
Atlantic Safety Wear Inc. will be selling to wholesale companies and corporations, through e-commerce, by attending tradeshows and trade missions, through their website, and directly to the public from their distribution centre at 13 Wood Islands Road, Route 315, Montague.
“We come from average working backgrounds so we keep the prices as competitive as we can,” says Vicky. “It’s so important for people to have good safety footwear and gear. We are not looking to overprice.”
The couple’s journey to self-employment
Rouben and Vicky left Northern Ireland nine years ago to farm on PEI. Rouben wore Grisport safety footwear while he was employed in the farming and the construction trade in Ireland for about 15 years.
“Many of our families and friends in Ireland wear Grisport boots,” says Rouben. “When we immigrated to PEI, we discovered the boots were not available for sale in Canada.
“I purchased a pair of work boots in Charlottetown, but they did not compare to the Grisport brand. I had my family ship Grisport boots from Ireland to our new home on PEI.
“I recognized a huge opportunity to import this amazing safety footwear line and deliver it into the North American market.”
Starting a business
The business plan was put into action about five years ago when Rouben and Vicky contacted the Italian-based Grisport company seeking distribution rights for the North American market.
It took about three years before the company was successful in achieving the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) and American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) certifications for 39 styles from the Grisport safety line. The company now has exclusive distribution rights for these products for all of North America.
As well, the couple researched the safety and demand for Grisport footwear in Canada, the competition, what brands of safety footwear were available and what people were looking for when purchasing safety footwear.
“We were very surprised by the resources available on PEI for starting a business,” says Vicky. “We took advantage of the services and programs through Innovation PEI and SkillsPEI, which have been very helpful in starting the company. PEI is very focussed on start-up businesses.”
Atlantic Safety Wear Inc. was one of the first of eight Island companies to be awarded support through the Innovation PEI Ignition Fund in 2014/2015. The Ignition Fund is a competition for entrepreneurs seeking start-up capital for a business venture.
“We had to pitch our business idea to a panel of judges,” says Rouben. “We were awarded a $25,000, which helped with start-up costs.”
Rouben and Vicky are in the process of applying to the SkillsPEI Graduate Mentorship program (GMP) in order to hire a full-time office administrator.
The Graduate Mentorship Program helps unemployed recent post-secondary graduates develop new skills and gain work experience in their field of study through on-the-job training. The funding in whole or in part is through the Canada/PEI labour market agreements.
“We plan to hire a part-time bookkeeper as well,” says Vicky. “It would be a good position for a person who is retired and wants to work a day or two a week.”
Future hiring needs
“As we grow the business, we will be hiring a full-time salesperson with experience in export sales and a full-time warehouse manager,” says Rouben. “When hiring, we look for people who will be reliable and are able to multi-task.
“We plan to expand the line to include personal protective equipment and storefront local products for the fishing industry.
“As we bring on more lines and more distribution, we will be requiring more hires.”
Business advice from Rouben and Vicky
- Do the research to know if the product and/or services will be viable.
- Take advantage of business programs and resources that could assist with start-up costs.
- Try not to get discouraged. Stay focussed on why you are starting a business.
For more information about Atlantic Safety Wear Inc., contact Vicky Edgar at 902-846-9277 or 902-213-5445 or email [email protected].
For more information about The Ignition Fund, visit www.princeedwardisland.ca/en/information/innovation-pei/ignition-fund.
For more information about resources to start and maintain small business, visit www.employmentjourney.com/resources-to-start-maintain-a-small-business.
Visit www.atlanticsafetywear.com or search Facebook.
For more about SkillsPEI, visit www.skillspei.com.