When it comes to changing the world through the way you do business, for Byron Peart and Dexter Peart sustainability is only the start.
The 48-year-old twins live in the same building in Montreal’s Habitat 67 community and say they’ve never been apart for more than a week in their lives. They have been entrepreneurs together since creating and selling T-shirts and lip balm to their high school classmates.
Now they run Goodee, which offers over 500 products ranging from hand soap to apparel to decor to furniture, selling goods that are “carefully selected and vetted by our in-house sustainability team.” In other words, their artisan partners’ materials, supply chain, labour standards, ecological footprint and business practices are checked to ensure products are ethically made.
But in the disruptive times marked by the COVID-19 pandemic and calls for criminal justice reform in the wake of George Floyd’s death in police custody in Minnesota, the Peart brothers want to promote environmental sustainability and other values, as well.
Much stems from previously working in the fashion industry, where they saw a lot of waste and obsolescence.
“We wanted to create an environment for that conscious consumer who was already there, or close to understanding how their products were made, where they were made, the impact that they were having on people and communities and the planet. That was the starting point for Goodee,” explained Byron, BA’95 (Economics). “We were looking for that kind of retail destination ourselves and we couldn’t find it.”
The brothers are seeking to sell products that uphold other values, such as empowering women and other marginalized communities.
“We’ve seen a straight line between performance — sales, traffic engagement — where there is an audience that’s out there, and it’s not just a young millennial audience, who are simply looking to make better choices,” said Dexter, BA’95 (Economics). “And they’re looking for companies that are putting purpose and mission — not just as a marketing tool, but as a core and intentional and foundational part of their business strategy.”
The timing of online-based and home-focused Goodee, launched in 2019, turned out to be fortuitous as more consumers looked for ethical choices and then found themselves spending more time at home amid the pandemic.
But the brothers say more important is their bond, with Byron being more of the dreamer and Dexter the pragmatist.
We can’t underestimate the power of the twinship in the sense of having a partner in that entrepreneurial journey. In a lot of cases, when we think of strong entrepreneurs, it’s because someone alongside them helped enable that.
“Doing this as twins, without a question, has been a very formidable part of how we found success, but also how we just manage the fear of starting something new and not thinking that you’re crazy, because someone else is there to sort of hold your hand and be crazy with you.”
The brothers noted, as America is roiled by demonstrations calling for racial justice in the wake of Floyd’s death, that they emphasize choosing partner-businesses owned by Indigenous people and people of colour.
“We want to see ourselves as leaders in this conversation, whether it’s through business or through our ability to communicate in our private lives,” Dexter said. “This is a challenging and trying time and upsetting in a lot of ways, but hopefully change is going to bring some better ways to look at life and how we consume, but also how we live together.”
Byron also noted that the moment is right for much-needed change.
“We’re really seeing a sustained change in the conversation and the narrative around racial injustice, not only in the United States, but in Canada, as well, and globally. We’re very excited that this will be, in our estimation, a sustained new reset, which, in a large way, society was needing and demanding,” he said.
“We’re excited to play a role in that and help share not only stories, but products, and be active citizens in rewriting what the future looks like. It’s a very exciting time.”