By Richard Bell
Betting on the Eastern Shore has paid off handsomely for Bruce and Stephanie Murphy of Musquodoboit Harbour. In just over three years, they’ve gone from a start-up to The Shore Clothing Company, a small business that has thrived while the pandemic was claiming so many other small businesses across the country. We sat down for an interview in their old barn that they converted into a production studio.
Neither Murphy had much experience with clothing or silk-screening when they decided to start the business. In 2017 on a military posting back to Halifax, the couple decided that they wanted to put their roots down in Nova Scotia, specifically the Eastern Shore. Bruce is currently serving as the Chief Logistical Coordinator onboard HMCS FREDERICTON, where he is responsible for all logistical requirements on the ship. Stephanie started a new career at RCMP Headquarters as a Procurement Officer for the Atlantic region.
“We got here and found our home in this little town, and we started noticing how much our neighbors love The Shore,” Stephanie said. “People here are more passionate about the Eastern Shore than any other place I’ve ever lived.” Once moved here Stephanie noticed some of the East Coast clothing brands and remembers thinking, “Why can’t we do something that’s dedicated to the Eastern Shore?” So, Stephanie sat down one evening and designed what has now become the company’s familiar logo.
“When we decided to start the company, our vision wasn't about making money,” Stephanie said. “Our vision was to provide support and give back to our community.” Since their inception they have donated funds to the local food bank, the Gender Sexuality Alliance at Eastern Shore District High School, and the RCMP Benefit Trust Fund. They’ve also sponsored the Eastern Shore Thunder hockey team for the past two years. Each year at Christmas they take pride in sponsoring local families, providing them with gifts for kids and food for a wonderful Christmas celebration. As Stephanie said, “It’s very humbling and it feels good to give back to our community.”
They started with a simple business plan and a visit to the Canadian Business Development Corporation (CBDC) office in Porters Lake, where they got a start-up loan for $3,000. They started by using a company in Dartmouth to purchase the clothing and complete the printing of their designs. They turned a small 12-foot trailer into a mobile clothing store and went from show to show marketing their clothing line.
The company grew much faster than they expected, so they re-worked their business plan and went back to CBDC to purchase a much larger trailer and their own printing equipment. With two four-color printers and other print screening equipment, they have since been printing all their own clothing, as well as taking on outside printing jobs through their new business, The Shore Print Shop. “We pride ourselves in the quality of our workmanship in all our products,” Bruce said.
Stephanie has also coordinated quite a few craft shows at the Community Center in Musquodoboit Harbour, with the next one scheduled for November 27. “We enjoy putting on a craft show that people in our community can attend,” Stephanie said. “People know that our shows are well-organized, well-priced, and they sell out fast.” She said that for the upcoming show, they have requested all vendors to be double-vaxxinated. “This is not a provincial requirement for vendors attending shows. But I’m going to have my son Finn with me, and I want all families to feel safe attending the show”.
“I would say for anybody starting out, create a solid business plan that works for your type of business,” Stephanie said. “If you're able to do it yourself, that's great. If not, talk to an expert who can help you out.” Their fundamental advice for anyone looking to start a small business is to follow your dream.