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Kathy Cheng

Founder & President of Redwood Classics Apparel


What inspired you to start your business?

My family came to Canada from Hong Kong in the late seventies. My father founded the business that would go on to eventually become Redwood Classics with his brother and sister—a sewing contracting company based in Toronto called Wing Son Garments. When the recession hit in 2008, we knew we had to do something to keep our factory – and our talented craftspeople – in business. That's when I became my father's business partner and focused on building the Redwood Classics brand, concentrating on making ethical clothing and paying a living wage.

What challenges have you faced as a woman entrepreneur and how did you overcome them?

In the manufacturing industry, there is a very traditional status-quo. Unfortunately, this is the case in many industries that have been around for a long time. Women are not often taken seriously when in a position of authority. You do have to work a little harder to prove that you belong; to show that you know what you are talking about.

What advice would you give to other women entrepreneurs?

Network, network, network! Connect with other women entrepreneurs. Swap stories, share advice, obtain feedback. These are all critical to validating your business. But the most important advice I can give is to not be afraid of failure. If we don't take chances, if we don't dream boldly, we will never know what we are capable of. With every setback comes knowledge and wisdom, so leap into your dreams with everything you've got.

What three traits define you?

Commitment, bravery, and resilience!

What women inspire you?

Creative, fiercely intelligent women. I love women who take bold risks, because they know that they can change the world if they just push themselves out of their comfort zone.

How has being a WEConnect Certified WBE helped your business?

It allows me to be surrounded by empowering and inspiring women who support each other’s achievements and growth, in both professional and personal aspects.

What do you see as the coolest or most important trend in your industry?

Diversity, Sustainability, Tech and fashion colliding

As a business owner, what keeps you up at night?

Uneasiness and oblivion.

What are the biggest obstacles you see for young female entrepreneurs?

Lack of opportunity for advocacy and impact.

What do you love about being a business owner?

Being an advocate, making an impact and challenging the status-quo in the traditional manufacturing industry. I love being able to share why diversity in this industry matters.

What’s the hardest part about being a business owner?

Work-life balance.

How do you define success?

Being able to keep production in Canada, creating jobs that give back to the community and our incredibly skilled employees - many of whom are also immigrants. We are in the position now to give the same opportunities we had to our team. We want to help them promote their own skills and help them to live the North American dream.

What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?

There're many pieces of advice that I've received over the years that I love, but one of my favourites is that perfection is the killer of progress. If you keep waiting until conditions are "perfect" to do something, you will never get anywhere. Start before you think you are ready - otherwise, you'll always find an excuse to not do something.

What’s your favorite career moment?

My a-ha! moment when I decided to restructure our family business with my father.

What’s the best way to start your day?

A positive mindset to give yourself an energy boost. And, if that doesn't work, lots of coffee!

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I really wanted to be a journalist.

How do you unwind after a long workday?

I like to drink red wine -- especially ones from Italy.

What do you like about your workspace?

The diversity of thoughts and experiences that comes with the multiple generations of craftspeople.

Fill in the blank:

When I face a challenge, I... think of the resilience and strength of everyone who has come before me to make our business what it is.

If I could go back in time, I would tell myself everything you need to succeed already exists within you.

The one thing I couldn’t live without is… my family.

By this time next year, I will be… older and (hopefully) wiser!

To get my creative juices flowing, I… talk it out — sometimes just saying things out loud makes them tangible.

redwood classics apparel

Backed by over three decades of experience, Redwood Classics Apparel is one of Canada’s leading boutique manufacturer of premium retail and designer apparel programs, and a Tier 2 supplier of premium branded merchandise. With a focus on people, planet and profit, Redwood Classics is steadfastly committed to combating offshoring, putting Canada on the map as a leading destination for premium apparel manufacturing. Their clothing can be found through global retailers and branded agencies across North America, Japan, and Europe.

Learn more.

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