Business advice for a custom jersey designer

In a business advice column May 5, The Globe and Mail sought the expert opinion of York marketing Prof. Detlev Zwick on how Toronto-based Sultan Apparel Inc., which makes custom jerseys mostly for basketball teams, could expand.  

Sultan co-owner Fergy Neves started making jerseys out of necessity 20 years ago. Most of his clients are high school and university basketball teams, but the list also includes the Toronto Argonauts.

Big names aside, the profits still aren’t enough to support Neves’s own dream – making his passion a viable full-time pursuit. He works as a civil servant in Peel Region, while his partner, a former basketball player named Colin Poponne, is a real estate agent. "If there was an opportunity to make a living at this, would I take it? Absolutely," says Neves. But vastly increasing sales would require a "lot of coin." He’s not willing to crank out uniforms assembly line style.

Zwick is optimistic about Sultan’s chances, should the partners want to expand. Neves "has a different message than other manufacturers in the market. I say that because a lot of orders are coming from teams that simply see his uniforms on the court,” says Zwick. “He’s also done this with little marketing or selling efforts, so that’s a pretty decent start." What Neves needs to figure out, if he wants to expand, is who the key decision makers are, and how to access them. "He should consider hiring one or two reps in the US who are present at the tournaments. That or incentivizing coaches and athletic directors at large universities to push his product as proxy sales reps. He’s already selling his product without pushing, and he’s too small to consider a large advertising campaign, so this seems like the best way."

On air

  • In the wake of Robert Baltovich’s exoneration, Alan Young, professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, talked about wrongful convictions, what’s wrong with the justice system and how to fix it, on CBC Radio’s “Sunday Edition” May 4.
  • Some of the best hockey players to ever play in the NHL were back on the ice Friday for the Baycrest International Pro Am charity fundraiser played at York University, reported “CTV News At Noon” May 2. The tournament included Doug Gilmour and Lanny McDonald.  
  • David Dewitt, York associate vice-president research, Ellen Gutterman and Willem Maas, political science professors at York’s Glendon campus, discussed Canada’s role in promoting multilateralism abroad, on an April 3 panel rebroadcast May 2 on CPAC TV.