THUNDER BAY -- Entrepreneurship runs in the Mallon family. Kelly Mallon was a teenager when he started working at the ad agency his father had. “I knew right from high school that I wanted to be an entrepreneur,” he says.
He applied for the business program at Lakehead University, and before starting his undergrad, he got a summer job at his father’s company selling promotional materials. He enjoyed the work, and continued working through his student days. “One of my largest accounts back then was the university. And we still deal with LU today,” he says.
After graduation, Mallon decided to branch out on his own and founded Mallon’s Promotional Clothing and Products in 1991. Since then, the company has grown to 22 employees and a 6000 square foot store and production facility on Copper Crescent. The company serves a large geographical area from Fort Frances to Marathon and has an office in Dryden as well.
All of the embroidery and printing on clothing is done in-house in Thunder Bay, while other products, such as mugs and pens, are outsourced, usually to other companies in Ontario and Canada. Mallon tries to order from Canadian manufacturers and suppliers as much as possible, because he is a staunch believer in supporting local, and he hopes that his customers will, too.
Mallon says his competitors are online companies, but says he can match pricing. A big advantage of using a local company is that customers can check out products before they buy. “People want to come in and touch and feel,” he explains. “Does it feel cheap? Is it heavy or light? How does it fit? We have samples of everything so there is no guessing.”
When COVID-19 restrictions hit, Mallon’s was down to only two or three employees, but now they are back in business. They have hired back most of their employees, and are trying to navigate the next few months as many of their clients, tourism businesses in particular, are suffering major setbacks.
Fortunately, Mallon’s already had a robust online ordering system in place before the pandemic. The main focus now, says Mallon, is “how do I service everybody even better?”
Mallon’s is the largest and longest-running promotional material company in the region. Last year, they won the medium-sized business category of the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce’s Business Excellence Award.
Mallon says he owes his success to his employees. “Everybody here is like family,” he says.