Local Love Blog Series –
This Local Love Blog Series feature is one that we’ve been so excited to share! Grab your preferred drink of choice and buckle in because this feature is a bit of a longer one, but I promise it’s worth it!
Jim Kwan – AKA Tee Ninja, Asian Sensation, Kwanton – is the mastermind behind Defending Awesome, currently based in Banff at the Bear St. Mall.
His amazing work throughout the Bow Valley made him the perfect collaborator for this series and I’m so excited to show off all the great work he’s been doing!
First off though, if you’ve ever thought, “That would make a great t-shirt!” you need to go see Jim!
Defending Awesome can customize just about anything you can think of, from t-shirts to vehicle magnets, storefront decals to camping mugs, and so much more! The possibilities are endless to create a unique gift for any occasion, or to get your business name out there and seen!
Defending Awesome started with a stand at the Banff Farmers Market selling hand-crafted tie dye tees.
Soon enough, they transitioned to their own branded clothing, and then started small with printing year-end garments for ski hills. Jim has now worked his way up to printing just about anything for small businesses, artist merchandise, and personal occasions. Jim also loves the opportunity to use his creativity in the items his customers are looking for. The reactions of customers when they see their finished product for the first time is priceless.
Seeing the business grow and being an active part of the community is what keeps Jim going.
He’s also doing great work in giving back to the community by working with all sorts of non-profit organizations and fundraisers in the Bow Valley. Jim has been a loud-and-proud supporter of local businesses – you will surely have seen “Support Local” stickers, pins, and bags around the Bow Valley recently! As restrictions have eased and local businesses have started re-opening, Jim went to all the small independent restaurants, retail and service clients who support Defending Awesome with Support Local stickers in tow for the businesses to hand out to their best local customers as a little “thank you”!
Now you can see why Jim and Defending Awesome is such a good fit for our Local Love Blog Series!
But for Jim, Supporting Local is more than just financial support from customers or clients. Which is why he’s encouraged 5 things that everyone can do to support local without spending money!
- Like their social media accounts
- Write a positive review/feedback
- Engage in their posts by liking, commenting, and sharing
- Post your own photos to social media, making sure to tag them
- Make referrals and recommendations to friends and family
Jim believes that supporting local also includes a responsibility for local businesses to rise to the occasion.
Jim believes that businesses need to demonstrate their willingness to actively help the communities in which they operate and serve. He’s amazed to see that while COVID impacted small local businesses more than anyone could have imagined, they were still helping, donating, and giving back to the community! For example, Banff Roasting Company has donated free coffee to essential workers/hospital staff, and Domino’s Banff has hosted a day where funds from pizza’s sold that day went to the Banff Food Bank. If you’re looking to get involved, Jim recommends connecting with Alanna from Banff Food Rescue for volunteer opportunities with a great local initiative.
Jim has so many ideas for Defending Awesome to grow…
But to do that, they need a bigger space so if anyone has any leads, make sure they touch base with him! He first showed up in Banff in 2000 expecting to stay for one winter but 21 years later we’re happy to still have him around! He’s always known he had an entrepreneurial spirit, which really kicked off 8 years ago with the first market booth. Despite having explored buying an existing t-shirt shop at the time, the financial requirements were unreasonable, and Jim figured he could do it better, and with less!
Even though Jim supports all things local, we still asked him for a few of his favourite businesses and people to shout out here!
He wanted to make sure that Nikki Goodwin at Nak.Creative got some attention for her use of ink, watercolours, and real foliage in her original artwork, as well as Michelle Brown from Root and Revive who is making hand-rolled protein balls with gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, and naturally sweetened options. Ryan De Alwis from Curry’s Curries is also getting a shout out for his new line of hot sauces (we at LDF can confirm that they’re awesome)!
As much as Jim supports local in everything he does, the best thing to happen for Defending Awesome is the community support they’ve also received!
With so much of their business being word-of-mouth, it’s really what drives Jim to keep being involved with so many of the community initiatives that they do! He is beyond grateful for anyone who has recommended them or given them a social shout out! He’s also got some really great help from Jay and Dan, who are an essential part of the Ninja family! With a rise in the urge to support local businesses through COVID, Jim is thankful to have a great community and wouldn’t be where they are without it!
We also asked Jim what he would like to see improve or change in the Bow Valley.
He is definitely concerned with the cost of living and seeing so many people leave town due to the lack of affordable housing is disappointing. He hopes to see more availability of affordable housing and the potential for tiny home communities in the Bow Valley. Jim also wanted to point out the lack of green-initiative programming in the Bow Valley, considering being in or around national and provincial parks! He wishes everyone, from businesses to individuals, would do a better job at recycling, especially when blue bins are almost always right beside the garbage.
So, where can we find Jim and Defending Awesome?
As mentioned, Defending Awesome is currently located in the Bear St. Mall in Banff. He will be doing Canada Day-themed live t-shirt printing at the Banff Farmers Market on Wednesday, June 30 and Thursday, July 1! You can choose your own design, t-shirt style, and colours, then watch it get printed in front of your eyes! If you prefer to avoid the line-up, you can pre-order on their Facebook or Instagram Page.
So, next time you think your inside joke needs to be immortalized in print, don’t dismiss the idea – pick up your phone and get in touch with Defending Awesome to see what awesome product Jim and his team can come up with to capture that memory!
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