Halifax-based entrepreneur tours China’s largest tech companies

August 27, 2019
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An undergraduate student at Dalhousie, Trevor Silver, founder of tREv Clothing, believes that his purpose is to build a brand that will help instill strong values in people. He recently traveled to China, where he visited some of the world’s leading technology and retail companies. Not only is the street wear company named after its founder, tREv is an acronym for Trust, Respect, Education, and Value. “The brand is all about strong values for success”, says Silver. In 2017, Silver attended one year of law school and began working with a firm over the summer months when he first began designing what he calls the balance success design. This became a hit within his community and inspired him to launch the brand. “I want my brand to be a symbol for success. I want it to be a mantra for people who wear street wear and people in general so that when they see it, they’re reminded of their values.”

Silver says the trip to China came to him at a surprising time. The program, Opportunity East, organized by the Saint Mary’s University Entrepreneurship Centre in partnership with the Saint Mary’s University Confucius Institute, was seeking entrepreneurs in Nova Scotia who would benefit from spending 15 days in China on a guided tour learning about conducting business with China-based entities. Silver was joined by Tracey Brown, another Halifax-based entrepreneur participating in the same program.

Silver says he was nervous about visiting a new country but once he arrived he felt very safe and welcome. The two arrived in Shanghai and met up with the rest of the group, students from around the world also participating in the program. Silver says he made friends with people from New Zealand, Australia, the U.S., and Malaysia. Some of these students were also entrepreneurs, with one woman developing a new form of currency that would help the homeless access basic necessities.

For the last two years, Silver has been sourcing his materials from suppliers that he found through Alibaba, the world’s largest eCommerce platform. While in China, the group had the opportunity to visit Alibaba’s headquarters and get a glimpse into the technology side of the company. “Alibaba is where I found a lot of my suppliers from China. Just being in China, being able to talk to my suppliers and say “Hey, I’m here in China”, I think they appreciated that I went there,” said Silver. Not only did the group have the chance to meet with top executives from Alibaba, Baidu, Xiaomi, and other large organizations, they also learned about Chinese culture and Chinese history.

“What I wanted to get out of it was just, go to China, get the experience, meet business people… do everything that I did do, but I ended up getting so much more out of it!” said Silver. “It felt like we were living in the future. Some stores we couldn’t even buy stuff because we didn’t have Alipay set up. Some places we visited you could pay with your face through facial recognition.”

While in China, Silver says he was inspired by the people he met and the places he visited. One of his greatest takeaways was learning that he needed to start dreaming even bigger. “Going on the trip was one hundred percent worth it. It takes you out of your comfort zone.” Silver spent a lot of time observing fashion trends, talking to locals, and building lasting connections by adding the people he met on WeChat. Through these interactions, Silver learned about popular trends in China and how they compare to North American trends. “Whatever’s popular here is popular there too”. For him, this was validation that his street wear brand could one day become a hit in China.

Since returning from China, tREv Clothing organized a pop-up booth on the Halifax waterfront during the Buskers festival. There, they made more than 150 sales, more than triple what they sold last year.  Silver already has long-term plans for the future. “I am going to continue to build. I want to open up a store here and eventually open up a store in Toronto and New York. Someday I want to have a store in Japan and one in Dubai,” Silver tells us. He also plans to focus his efforts on increasing the percentage of products sold online.

“Anyone can be an entrepreneur – even if you don’t love business. There are so many different ways to become an entrepreneur and you don’t need to know everything in order to start a business.” Silver believes that everyone should work hard to find their purpose in life.

Silver says he’s eager to go back. “Although I would love to live in China, I need to stay in North America and build my brand here first”. When asked what his advice would be to future students who are interested in participating in the program he replied, “I think the trip is for everybody, even if you don’t have a business idea. Going to China added so much value to me because I got to experience the culture, meet new people, and actually being there to understand it, for me I feel like China is the best country in the world”.

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