2015 Outstanding Young Alumna
Sarah Erasmus (GCPT '10) knew she was on to something before she strode across SAIT's graduation stage in 2010 — with an order for 174 T-shirts for National Aboriginal Day festivities.
Today, the small business owner has sold more than 60,000 items through her Yellowknife-based shop, creating everything from shirts to hats to company memorabilia with her crew of eight employees. As a native female entrepreneur, Erasmus, 29, is held in high regard by her Yellowknives Dene home community of N'dilo. She's received two People's Choice Awards — in 2012 by Up Here magazine's Frozen Globe Awards, and again in 2014 from the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce — as well as an Economic Developer of the Year honour in 2013 from the Council for the Advancement of Native Development Officers.
Erasmus is always quick to give back. In four years, Erasmus Apparel has given more than $8,000 to KidSport, the Stanton Territorial Hospital Foundation and local athletes; and donated clothing and merchandise to myriad non-profit groups for fundraisers. She also personally sponsors the Student of the Year award for her hometown K'alemi Dene School.
Sarah Erasmus, founder and co-owner of Erasmus Apparel | Economic Developer of the Year 2013 from the Council for the Advancement of Native Development Officers
"I've been keeping busy growing Erasmus Apparel. We're trying to get more exposure in the north because we want to branch out to that audience first, being based in Yellowknife. We went to Atlin, B.C. and Dawson City for music festivals last summer. The reception was good. It's funny, when northerners don't know where you're from and you're selling northern merchandise, they can be a bit protective. Once they know you're legit, they're really receptive.
We're always trying new items. I don't like having huge amounts of one thing, though. What people really like about us is that each print is a little different than the next. We're small and we're unique in terms of what we offer. Sometimes we'll come in and say, 'Let's do this design with this colour,' and that's it. We do a lot of wholesale custom jobs as well, so that sometimes takes away from our own designs. It's a very fine balance that I haven't quite mastered yet, but it's a good problem to have.
We're at a point where we don't want to get too far ahead of ourselves. The goal is always to succeed and to grow, but you really have to do it at a pace that works for you, to have a life and keep control of your company. I created the company because I love creating cool stuff and if I'm not doing that, what am I doing it for? As long as I love coming in to the shop every morning, I'm on the right track."