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Jul 15, 2024
(Updated on
Jul 15, 2024
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From Local to Global: Toronto Small Businesses' Viral Success Stories

In recent years, Toronto has become a thriving hub for small businesses that have managed to achieve global prominence. This remarkable rise is a testament to the power of innovation, strategic marketing, and deep-rooted community engagement. From swimwear brands redefining body positivity to fashion lines that combine modern aesthetics with social responsibility, Toronto's entrepreneurial scene is bursting with dynamic companies making waves worldwide. This blog explores the stories of a few standout brands, shedding light on the strategies and values that propelled them from local startups to international sensations.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

437

437, a swimwear and apparel company founded by Hyla Nayeri and Adrien Bettio, gained viral success through a strategic combination of factors. Initially, they recognized a significant gap in the market: the lack of swimwear options for women of all body shapes and sizes. In response, they created 437 to provide flattering and functional swimwear that appeals to a diverse audience, emphasizing inclusivity from the start.

The founders' authentic connection to their Toronto roots and community further resonated with customers. Their commitment to inclusivity and staying true to their vision, even during challenging times, played a crucial role in their gradual growth. Despite facing slow sales initially, their persistence paid off by late 2018 when they established an office and expanded their team. Influencers like Kylie Jenner, Halsey, and Winnie Harlow have since worn their swimwear, significantly boosting the brand's visibility.

One of the key steps to their success was leveraging influencer partnerships. By gifting swimwear to influencers and celebrities who resonated with their target audience, 437 capitalized on their large followings to gain credibility. Additionally, they encouraged user-generated content by prompting customers to share photos of themselves in 437 swimwear, creating a sense of community and authenticity. This strategy acted as free advertising, showcasing real people enjoying the products.

Consistently posting high-quality, visually appealing content featuring diverse models also played a significant role in their success. This content promoted body positivity and inclusivity, striking a chord with a broad audience. Interactive campaigns, such as giveaways and contests, further boosted engagement and encouraged followers to share their posts, increasing their reach.

The brand's responsive engagement with its audience, including replying to comments and messages, fostered a strong sense of community and customer loyalty. Moreover, their swimwear designs followed current fashion trends, making their products highly desirable and shareable among fashion-forward social media users.

Through these strategic and authentic efforts, 437 transformed from a small startup to a viral sensation, demonstrating the power of inclusivity, community engagement, and persistence in building a successful brand.

Photo by 437

Peace Collective 

Peace Collective, a Toronto-based fashion brand founded by Yanal Dhailieh in 2014, has become one of the city’s most recognized local brands. They broke away from Canada’s traditional fashion identity to create a unique, modern Canadian aesthetic, notably with their Toronto Vs. Everybody collection, which gained significant traction during pivotal moments in Toronto sports history, like the Blue Jays' World Series run and the Raptors' Eastern Conference Final appearance.

The brand's success is partly due to its active and engaging social media presence, showcasing models in Peace Collective attire against local backdrops. This approach provides a real-time glimpse into the brand's culture and lifestyle.

Moreover, Peace Collective's commitment to social responsibility through the Peace Foundation, which donates a portion of every sale to feed children in need, adds a layer of ethical appeal that resonates with consumers.

They achieved viral success through a blend of innovative strategies and authentic engagement. They carved out a niche by focusing on sustainable and ethically produced fashion, appealing to eco-conscious consumers. Collaborations with influencers and celebrities who share their values amplified their reach, while user-generated content created a sense of community and authenticity around the brand.

High-quality, visually appealing content on social media and interactive campaigns, including giveaways and contests, significantly boosted engagement and visibility. Peace Collective's designs often align with current fashion trends, making their products both desirable and shareable.

Additionally, Peace Collective's active engagement with its audience through responsive communication fostered loyalty and community, while strategic PR efforts and media coverage in popular fashion magazines and blogs further enhanced its profile.

Through these strategic efforts, Peace Collective has built a strong online presence and loyal customer bases, all while staying true to its values and redefining Canadian fashion.

Photo by Toronto Union 

Nudestix 

NUDESTIX has successfully spread its love to 34 countries by combining innovation, social media savvy, and a clear vision for the future. The journey began with Jenny Frankel, a veteran chemical engineer and mother of two teenage daughters, Taylor and Ally. Observing the beauty needs of Millennials and Gen-Z, Jenny identified a gap in the market for minimalist, multi-tasking beauty products. Thus, NUDESTIX was born, offering easy-to-apply, nude-shaded makeup that emphasizes a "less is more" philosophy.

The brand's rise to fame is rooted in its innovative product design and strong online presence. NUDESTIX revolutionized the makeup industry with its stick-based format, making makeup application quick and effortless. This approach resonated with busy women and makeup enthusiasts who sought simplicity and efficiency in their beauty routines. Social media played a pivotal role in the brand's success. Taylor and Ally, as the faces of NUDESTIX, spread the word through engaging content on platforms like Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok. Their tutorials and user-generated content demonstrated the ease and effectiveness of the products, building a loyal community of followers.

Collaborations with influencers and beauty bloggers further amplified NUDESTIX's reach. By partnering with influential figures in the beauty industry, the brand gained exposure to a broader audience. These influencers provided authentic reviews and tutorials, adding credibility and desirability to NUDESTIX products. High-profile endorsements from celebrities also boosted the brand's appeal.

NUDESTIX's strategic international expansion through partnerships with global retailers like Sephora, Ulta, and Cult Beauty made their products accessible worldwide. Participation in international beauty trade shows and events increased brand visibility and attracted new customers. Engaging marketing campaigns, such as "Go Nude but Better," highlighted real-life scenarios and diverse models, promoting inclusivity and authenticity. This resonated with a global audience and reinforced the brand's core philosophy of natural beauty.

Community building has been central to NUDESTIX's success. The brand actively engages with its audience on social media, responding to comments, sharing user-generated content, and creating interactive campaigns. This engagement fosters a strong sense of loyalty and connection among customers, encouraging word-of-mouth marketing and organic growth.

The quality of NUDESTIX products has also contributed to their global appeal. Positive reviews and testimonials from customers and beauty experts, along with the brand's commitment to cruelty-free and vegan formulations, attract a conscientious consumer base.

NUDESTIX's journey from a niche Canadian brand to a global beauty sensation is a testament to its innovative approach, authenticity, and strong community engagement. By staying true to its minimalist roots and continually evolving, NUDESTIX has established itself as a beloved brand in the international beauty industry.

Knix

Joanna Griffiths began her career in media relations and marketing but had a groundbreaking vision a decade ago: to revolutionize the underwear industry. She launched Knix, a brand focused on size-inclusive, leak-proof underwear, as a direct challenge to major lingerie companies that emphasized sexiness for the male gaze. Over the years, Knix has experienced explosive growth, expanding its product line to include bras, sleepwear, shapewear, swimwear, and maternity items, and establishing seven physical stores across Canada and California.

A pivotal moment in Knix's journey was its 2015 crowdfunding campaign. By transitioning from a wholesaler to a direct-to-consumer brand, Knix raised over $1 million through this campaign, breaking every Kickstarter record for a fashion project at the time.

Knix's rise to popularity can be attributed to several key factors. First, its innovative product design addressed a significant market gap by offering comfortable, leak-proof underwear. The brand continued to innovate by expanding its product line to include a wide range of items, all designed with comfort and functionality in mind.

A strong online presence played a crucial role in Knix's success. By focusing on e-commerce, Knix reached a broad audience without the overhead costs associated with physical stores. The direct-to-consumer model allowed the company to maintain control over branding, customer experience, and pricing, resulting in higher profit margins and strong customer loyalty.

Knix's active engagement on social media helped build a robust community through user-generated content and authentic, relatable promotions. Collaborations with influencers and celebrities further enhanced the brand's visibility and credibility, often featuring honest reviews and endorsements.

Knix's commitment to inclusivity and body positivity set it apart from competitors. The brand's marketing campaigns featured women of all shapes, sizes, and ages, promoting a message of body positivity and inclusivity. By listening to customer feedback and continuously improving its products based on real user experiences, Knix fostered a strong, customer-centric approach.

Strategic retail partnerships and a physical presence also played a role in Knix's expansion. Temporary pop-up shops and showrooms allowed customers to experience the products firsthand, while collaborations with major retailers increased brand awareness.

Global expansion was another critical factor. By offering international shipping and tailoring marketing efforts to resonate with international audiences, Knix successfully broadened its reach beyond Canada.

Finally, community engagement and corporate social responsibility initiatives further solidified Knix's reputation. The brand actively engaged with its community through surveys and social media, using feedback to refine and develop new products. Philanthropic efforts, such as donating products to women in need and supporting various charities, resonated with customers who value corporate social responsibility.

By combining innovative product design, effective marketing, a commitment to inclusivity, and strategic expansion efforts, Knix successfully transformed from a Canadian startup into a popular international brand.

Photo by Knix 

The stories of 437, Peace Collective, and NUDESTIX highlight how Toronto-based small businesses can achieve viral success and global recognition through a combination of innovative product design, strategic marketing, and authentic community engagement. Each brand's unique approach to inclusivity, social responsibility, and customer connection has played a crucial role in its growth. By leveraging these strategies, small businesses in Toronto and beyond can aspire to similar achievements, demonstrating that with the right vision and persistence, local startups can indeed make a significant global impact.

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