Alex MacLean

Austin Ermes

Building Success

How old do you have to be to become an entrepreneur? Alex MacLean proves there is no such thing as an age limit. Rather, the trick is to have a good entrepreneurial idea and to get it out into the world; then work hard and cleverly to make it a success.

By now Alex's story is well known. Three years ago, he was a student at Acadia University, an undergraduate in business. One of his courses was called Venture Exchange, with a requirement that each student come up with a project. In Alex's case, he envisioned a new clothing line, one he called East Coast Lifestyle. He borrowed $800 from his father and with it developed a line of T-shirts and hoodies. It was a small production run, sold to friends.

However, the initial products generated a lot of buzz on the Wolfville campus and beyond. The quickly growing demand was not something Alex ignored. As an entrepreneur, he understood the importance of timing. So, he responded, coming up with more of his distinctive product. Yes, there was a bit of luck, when celebrities were photographed wearing the brand, but Alex recognized the value that publicity had and made sure his supply kept up with the surging demand.

Within a year, Alex had sold more than $1 million worth of his clothing. Not long after, he was the only Canadian in a group of about thirty young entrepreneurs invited to the White House to meet President Barack Obama. Since then, East Coast Lifestyle has enjoyed even more growth. The latest news is that Alex is steering his brand carefully into the vast market that is in the United States, and he has his eyes on Asia, Australia and Europe. Now at the three-year mark, Alex's company has already sold more than 500,000 clothing items. It has annual revenues in excess of $3 million and employs nineteen. The projected future growth will see all numbers climb. It's quite a leap from the initial class project, but then that's what a skilled entrepreneur can do.