Spotlight: Stuff

Stuff is a lifestyle shop in Calgary. We talk with owner Spencer Schmick in this Pride In Business Community Spotlight, in partnership with TD.


Q: Tell me about yourself?

I grew up in Carstairs then moved to Calgary when I was 19. My background is in interior design. I took the degree at Mount Royal College (it has since evolved into the university). I worked for a company in interior design for about 5 years and then worked on my own for another four. I went into the retail sector after that. I spent time in management and it eventually evolved into this.


Q: Tell me about your hobbies and how you spend your time?

I spend my time here (in the store) Haha. I do a lot of movies and dinners out… I'm typical that way. I like to travel when I can, but I am generally tied down with the store. Travel is linked with work these days it seems. For example, I travel to trade shows all over North America.


Q: Tell me about your business?

Essentially my business is a men's lifestyle store. I carry everything from apparel, home decor and furniture, to skin care, gift ware, and personal audio. What sets my business apart from others is that it is everything "lifestyle" under one roof and it's very male focused.



Q: How did you get the business started?

I was working in a lifestyle retail-based store for about 7 years. I was a General Manager of a life style store then I ended up as a Sales Representative for gift, and home décor products. As I traveled around to many stores throughout the west, I kept thinking that I can do this, and I can do it better. I also saw that there was a void and opportunity in Calgary. All the gift stores here were really "gifty", there was nothing creative about them, nothing classy. It was all very generic. Their products were just a step up from a novelty product. I wanted to bring together better quality and classic products. As I bought merchandise it started to evolve. I found that everything I was picking had a masculine vibe to it. I ended up with a men's lifestyle store.



Q: Why lifestyle?

I wanted to do lifestyle because I thought women had lifestyle all over the place. I wanted to shrink the store "Anthropology" and make it for men. Now that I've done it, I realize there's reasons why it's geared towards women. Women are easier to market to and sell to than men. I find that the men who come in here like it because its unique in Calgary. Other places you may have the furniture and the giftware but it’s missing the apparel. Or you may have the apparel and skin care but it's missing the furniture. My store is the complete home and lifestyle concept. 


Q: How do you feel your business contributes to the LGBT community?

I try to support community organizations and events when I can. I am open to trying to support it more in more ways. I usually get involved with about 3-4 events a year.


Q: What is it like to be in business in Calgary and be a member of the LGBT community.

My customer base comprises of about ~5-10% LGBT. All the rest is coming from the straight community. There doesn't seem to be a problem, especially for a men's store. If you think about it I am trying to sell to straight men… and of course their wives and girlfriends. There could be a bit of a disconnect, or a bit of a hesitation for these men but there doesn’t seem to be an issue. It is probably seen as a cliché that I am doing this because I am gay, but it works for the customer base because "you should have style if you're gay". The direction seems to work. Bottom line is that I haven't had any negative issues with being gay in the Calgary business community at all. Everyone has been very supportive and helpful.


Q: How can you and your business serve as a hub for connecting people in our community?

I am very open to hosting events if somebody needs events space, from photoshoots to networking events. It's also about me getting out there more to support other events.


Q: Do you have any advice for LGBT community members that want to get into business for themselves?

What's the advice… don't do it. Haha. It's a roller coaster, it’s a lot of work. It's a lot of uncertainty, so you need to be prepared for that. You need to leverage people in the community with more experience than yourself. You can't think that you know everything and that you are going to forge your own way. You don't know everything and there is nothing wrong with asking somebody for help. It may save you a step if you can talk to someone who has already done it or save you a failure and learn from other’s mistakes. I find younger people will tend to make that mistake. Don't get me wrong you can learn it all, but it's better to not learn the hard way.


Q: Have you faced a time where you had to pivot or come across an obstacle and you need to stay the course?

For sure, every day. Haha. When I first started, the apparel was insignificant and my selection was basic, but it has turned out to be the most successful revenue generator out of everything. Apparel was a challenge because it wasn't what I was familiar with. So I've had to really learn it over the past 2.5 years. This fall I had a larger apparel section and more clothing. It takes a long time to order apparel in. You must have more foresight with your inventory and budget because you are ordering a season ahead. I've sort of shrunk the furniture to make room for apparel.



Q: Are you open to being approached from members of the community to discuss entrepreneurship and topics in this article?

Absolutely, the best way to contact me is through my website:


Fernando VargasStuff