By Melissa Heald
Oct. 14, 2014
Martin Manning and Tyrell Hughes decided to follow their dream about starting a new clothing line company, they knew they wanted to create a company with a social conscience.
The two young Charlottetown men, both 28, came up with a 50/50 model. They will reinvest 50 per cent of their profits in community projects involving music, art and culture for young people.
“We kind of see a space for businesses to step up and play a big role in community development and community projects. (It) is an avenue for us to be involved in that space,” said Manning, a graduate of the business program at St. Francis Xavier University.
Friends since junior high, Manning and Hughes have long had an interest in clothing.
“For as long as I’ve known Martin, we have always talked about clothing and how one piece looks a little different than the other,” said Hughes.
They started working on their business informally last year before going full time in January.
They launched their new online clothing company Kioha in August, selling designer T-shirts, sweaters and hats.
“We wanted to piece together a collection that people would have access to,” said Hughes. “Usually a T-shirt, a sweater and the hat are very accessible garments for people.”
There are plans to branch out into other designs and pieces of clothing eventually, said Manning.
The venture has been a learning experience and both agree they have been taking lots of baby steps as they grow their company.
“Even with a business background, a lot of it was just jumping in and just learning by doing,” said Manning, adding investing is also a part of the learning experience.
“If we don’t turn a profit, then we don’t have profits to invest in projects. We have to be financially responsible in the way we run our business in order to make money to both continue the business and have the money to invest in community projects.”
Asked how to pronounce Kioha, both laughed saying there has been some confusion over it, explaining the “h” is silent.
Kioha is an acronym for Keep It One Hundred Always, another way to express the idea of being true and real.
That’s what they set out to do with the clothing company, finding a way to be true and real to the community around them, said Manning.
“We knew we wanted to do the 50/50 model because we wanted it to be just as much about community projects as is about beautiful clothing,” said Hughes.
They are working up with two organizations – one in Toronto and another in Montreal – that are both active in engaging youth through music, arts and culture.
They are talking with a n organization in Charlottetown to develop grassroots programming as well.
They are still figuring out how the program will work, but they hope to have it launched by the New Year.
For their first engagement with the community, Kioha plans to host a block party at the Charlottetown skate park.
“We wanted to engage with people and see exactly what kind of programming is relevant to youth in Charlottetown,” said Manning.
For Hughes – who has a bachelor of education from UPEI – working with youth is a passion because they are incredible vectors for change.
“When I teach in a classroom, I see youth with their whole lives ahead of them. I see youth with incredible, incredible potential.”
Kioha has been an excellent way for him to exercise that passion, he said.
They also feel music, art and culture has a capacity to bridge an understanding amongst vastly different backgrounds, said Manning.
The logo on their clothing is a bear. Both men see the bear as a symbol of strength and a stable creature in the environment.
“We kind of see Kioha of being something like that. Something that will be strong and reliable and a part of society and the community,” said Manning.
To learn more about their clothing line, visit http://www.kioha.com.