Vancouver Entrepreneur Masters Retail And Ecommerce Start-Up

Master's graduate Brandon Segal used business school to grow his family's sprawling retail and e-commerce venture across Canada.

Dr Segal’s, a fast-growing consumer goods group, has greatly benefited from business school. Brandon Segal, who four years ago joined the family venture that was founded by his father, is a big advocate of education as a tool for entrepreneurship.

A graduate of the Master of Management at Sauder School of Business' Robert H. Lee Graduate School in Vancouver, he has been able to utilize the program’s generalist curriculum to master a wide array of functions – needed for managing a business.

He illustrates the way entrepreneurs can benefit from both learning at business school and implementing that knowledge in a notoriously risky start-up setting.

Dr Segal’s, based in Vancouver in Canada, makes compression socks, appealing to a younger audience by keeping a close eye on both fashion and technology.

The company has grown to have seven full-time employees and 35 sales representatives, and is sold in 850 retail stores across the country. It does not disclose revenue figures but Brandon says it is seeing “consistent, strong growth” year-on-year.

Approximately 85% of sales are through bricks-and-mortar stores but he understands the “power of e-commerce”.

Ambitious international expansion is on the agenda but utilizing online sales channels will be crucial to the company’s global growth plans.

Brandon believes he can expand the medical fashion brand into new products, and spends much of his time flying to conferences and tradeshows to drive innovation.

The business has not received investment from outside of the family but Brandon has just finished pitching on popular TV series Dragon’s Den, due to air in 2015.

Why did you decide to begin a MM at Sauder?

In 2009, I was graduating from the school of Human Kinetics at UBC and wasn’t sure what I was going to do next. I had always known that I had an interest in business, but didn’t really know what area of business I might like, or if the business world was even the right fit for me.

A few friends of mine were enrolled in the inaugural MM program at Sauder. After doing some research and hearing how much my friends were enjoying the program, I decided to apply.

The company was founded by your father. How and when did you first become involved with the business?

In 2010 when I graduated from Sauder, my family saw an opportunity to begin Dr Segal’s Compression Socks. I came into the business when the company was still in the conceptual phase and was able to utilize many of the skills that I learned at Sauder to help form the business.

I worked daily with my father, mother and sister to develop the many aspects of the business.

Who are your target customers?

Everyone. Compression socks have so many wonderful health benefits that many people don’t know about.

Traditionally compression socks have only been marketed toward elderly people. Uncomfortable fibres, [an] ugly appearance and the stigma associated with sick people wearing compression socks has prevented people from truly understanding the benefits.

We are changing the perception that compression socks are only for the elderly and those who have medical conditions.

We are opening up the market to also include a younger, more health conscious demographic who are interested in wellness and [the] prevention of conditions such as varicose and spider veins, blood clots, and [the] daily swelling associated with standing or sitting for long periods.

One of my favourite areas has been the maternity segment. Young women [previously] wouldn’t feel comfortable wearing compression socks because of their appearance. This meant that they would suffer through swollen feet and ankles during their pregnancy – an ailment that is easily remedied with compression therapy.

Do you hope to expand your sales beyond Canada?

Yes. We understand the opportunity that exists on a global scale… Continued growth and expansion is on the top of our list for 2015.

How many of your sales are through stores, and how much is sold online?

Currently we see approximately 85% of our sales from brick[s] and mortar [in-store sales] and the remaining 15% coming from online [channels].

Which will be the focus of your growth strategy, and how important has e-commerce been to the company so far?

I think everyone understands the power of e-commerce. That being said, we have worked hard to develop our B&M [bricks and mortar] partners and will continue to develop these relationships moving forward.

Can the business branch out into other products or areas of retail?

We are always looking to develop new products and be the first to market with new ideas. In order to do this, our team attends conferences and tradeshows around the world to source new products and ideas. Last year, I flew about 120,000 kilometres.

In which ways have you been able to use your MM at Dr Segal's?

I think the MM program provides its students with a wide array of courses that really broaden their knowledge base.

You are never going to know everything about business, but the MM program gives you a good foundation. I think the basic accounting background, entrepreneurial courses and intro to finance and economics have helped me the most so far.

How can entrepreneurs benefit from MM programs?

Entrepreneurship is probably the most multi-faceted thing I’ve done in my life. It truly utilizes every skill you can learn.

Because you are responsible for every aspect of the business, you need to be able to think critically and build, maintain and alter the framework in order to guide the business.

I think the MM program does a good job of introducing you to a wide range of topics… Understanding the basics of each of these elements is extremely beneficial when being part of a start-up. 

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