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Meet Billy Stevenson of iCandee Marketing in Uptown

Today we’d like to introduce you to Billy Stevenson.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
The company started as a fun idea on a rainy day in 2011 as a way to make extra money. We started by designing shirts to sell at street festivals to the LGBT community. Not long after we launched, someone asked if we did custom work, which we could as we had started acquiring our own equipment. Within a year we had abandoned retail altogether and became a fully integrated custom apparel and merchandising firm. In 2014 we opened our first physical location in order to add room for more production equipment and office space, and are anticipating an third expansion before the year’s end.

Has it been a smooth road?
Nothing about entrepreneurship is smooth! Funding is always a factor, especially at the beginning and until you have a steady and ultimately growing client base. Also, myself and one of the other two founders had no background in the industry, so there was a significant “learn as you go” component that really made things stressful- but fun- in the early years. We started the company with nothing but 3 of us and a fun idea…. and just built it order by order, day by day.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with iCandee Marketing – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
We print and manufacture all forms of custom apparel, merchandise, league and corporate apparel and incentives. If it needs to have a logo on it, we do it! As we grew, we constantly reinvested in the business… which allowed us to become completely integrated, performing most of our own production in-house. This means we can control the cost, the quality, and the turn time, which is extremely important in this industry. That fact alone sets us apart from more than 90% of the other folks in this business around the country. It also has been an important factor in bringing new business in. One of our clients is a booming tech firm, and as they have grown they have had to challenge us to get more inventive about branding merchandise for them– things that never have taken branding before, we have had to logo. And I’m proud to say we have not had a challenge we haven’t been able to meet! We are also one of only a few certified LGBT Business Enterprises in our industry in the US, and that certification has set us apart in that it enables us to compete for business in supply chains that include the certification.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
There’s very little about Chicago I complain about; construction would have to be at the top of my list if I were to make one. As to what I like best, there is far too much to list…. but, the one thing I have always appreciated about Chicago is that it is a city that appreciates hard work and building a dream. Maybe it’s the Midwestern location, or the fact that most of the folks here grew up outside of the city, but I have always felt that Chicago takes care of those that take care of her, and work their butts off to make the city a little better.

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