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Passion project leads to 'something bigger' for two entrepreneurs

This is the latest entry in a series called Who Owns That? We've asked readers on our LinkedIn group to identify their favourite small businesses from across Canada, and we track down the owners so they can tell us their stories. Their answers are edited.

Introducing Anne Pringle, co-founder of Local Buttons (since rebranded to LB Designs), an eco-friendly ethical clothing line with a mission to mainstream refurbished clothing in North America

1. Let's start with the basics. Can you briefly describe your business, including when it was founded, what it does, and where you operate?

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For us it's about beautiful clothing serving people and planet. LB Designs is an ethical and sustainable clothing and accessories line for professionals. We create fashion that embodies style and quality while creating sustainable jobs in Haiti allowing customers to feel stylish and good. We design in Toronto and manufacture solely in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where we source high quality secondhand garments to create into new fashions that transcend seasons.

Woven into each garment is the compelling history of Haiti's clothing industry and how it ties in to the global fashion market. LB brings you an inside view on the manufacturing process and sustainable design.

LB Designs was founded in 2010, incorporated in 2012 and has begun to expand distribution channels this year with plans to vamp up sales in 2014.

2. What inspired you to be an entrepreneur and to branch out on your own with this idea?

I was inspired to branch out as an entrepreneur with my best friend and business partner, Consuelo McAlister, because we wanted to find a way to merge our academic background in International Development Studies with our love of fashion and art. After graduating from York, the two of us were looking for jobs and realized there was a gap in the market for sustainable and stylish professional wear. We decided that rather waiting for the industry to change or shift we could address the problem ourselves, we could create our own dream job. What started out as a passion project has led to something bigger. Eight trips to Haiti later, we are so engaged and so passionate about creating beautiful, sustainable clothing and creating sustainable and ethical job opportunities in Haiti. Starting a business has allowed me to gain invaluable experience and meet incredible people.

3. Who are your typical customers, and how do they find you?

Our typical customer is the professional aged 25 to 49. We have both male and female customers, though our market is skewed slightly female. Our customers are looking for quality garments that are unique and stylish with a value added component. We are in boutiques in Toronto and GTA. Our garments and jewellery can be found at Grey Rock in Guelph, Cabin Fever on Bloor West, Made You Look on Queen West and the FTA showroom in the Distillery. We are also on Etsy and host various pop-up shops throughout the year and offer private fittings at our showroom on Bloor West.

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4. What are the roles of you and your co-founder in the business? Do you have any employees?

Consuelo takes care of sales and operations and I look after marketing and business management. As a team we decide on design, branding and hiring. We have a great team of advisers here in Toronto and business partner in Haiti. In Haiti there are 8 full time tailors working at our facility. We are looking to expand to have the capacity to create 25 full time jobs for men and women by the end of 2014.

5. You've been identified by one of our readers as a standout business. What do you consider the key element of your success?

The key element to our success has been creating partnerships both in Haiti and Canada. We know that by working with others we will see greater success. By remaining transparent in our decision making and our production process we have created trust in our brand really allowing us to move forward.

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