Havre Daily News
The name may sound like it's spelled - funny - but co-owner Richard Jarvis says siQ duQ clothing is no joke. And it may be succeeding because some of those involved have worked hard to take it seriously.
The company started back in 1999 with six entrepreneurial Havre boys sitting in an apartment, watching TV and talking about money - and, more specifically, how to make it.
"Everybody has their own clothing line" was the prevailing notion of that conversation, Jarvis said. Throw a rock, and you'll hit a musician or movie star whose name is used to hock apparel, and not one of those celebs has a special talent for designing cool clothes, he said.
"We're just as talented as these people" was the general consensus around the room that night, Jarvis said. "We thought, if they can do it, we can do it.
"There's some style up here, and some good ideas," he said. "We want to show that Montana has talent, too."
That night, and many over the next several weeks, went late. They were spent drawing designs, thinking, scheming, and laboring over the all-important brand name. siQ duQ, a two-syllable, nonsensical tag whose origins were lost over time, was picked to be the company's official name - and a Havre-based brand was born.
They started out simple. Colored T-shirts with siQ duQ written in black on the chest infiltrated their wardrobes and those of their friends. The more those shirts were seen, the more comments people made.
Not all of them were good.
"Everybody laughed and kind of shrugged it off as a joke," Jarvis said.
Some people really liked the idea and thought the clothes were cool, he said. When the occasional person asked how he could purchase siQ duQ clothes, those big ambitions didn't seem so big anymore.
At the time, they were having their logo printed on shirts at shops around town, but were occasionally losing customers because of delays. So they purchased a heat press for $80 to do the job themselves. They started to expand their product line, even allowing customers to choose which logo they want and where on the shirt they want it. They kept wearing the clothes around town, selling them out of their homes, their cars, and their friends' homes and cars. Then, the entire Havre High School track team expressed interest in having sweats and long-sleeve T-shirts printed, which, of course, they did for free and chocked it up to another exposure investment.
"We gave away a lot of freebies to get our name out," he said. "The more you push your name, the more people hear it, the more people want to buy it."
Over time, some people started to invest less energy in the project, for a number of reasons, Jarvis said. The original six were attending three different colleges around Montana, and were all working regular day jobs.
"It was so hectic. It was tough to get all six people on the same page," Jarvis said.
As people moved back to school and did less with the business, Jarvis kept at it, trying to make better clothes and promote siQ duQ as best he could. He and others put on a siQ duQ mini-golf tournament at Pro Putt on Fifth Avenue, where they gave away more than $700 worth of products as well as three cash prizes, he said. Aside from that, not much was happening in the way of siQ duQ.
That is until last year when Jared Smith, one of the original six, came back from school in Missoula. They decided the idea they and their friends had so many years ago was too good to let die.
"It started from a lot of friends with the same goals and ideas," Jarvis said. "Jared and I are keeping it alive."
Since re-energizing the brand full force, they've gotten loans from "very nice, very generous" local investors who are interested in their idea and excited by the prospect of some Havre kids succeeding in a venture like this, Jarvis said. They've used the funds to register and trademark the brand, purchase computers for use in the business, and expand the product line considerably, Jarvis said. The clothing line now has much more definition and color in its designs and many more products in its catalog, with hats, beanies, bookbags, women's clothing and other wares now in the siQ duQ line. And they are tossing around the idea of putting out a line for children, siQ li'l duQ.
"And we only want to do more," Jarvis said.
The most recent business expansion may be their most important. Located next to Orange Julius in the Holiday Village Shopping Center, the siQ duQ store opened in June, bringing more exposure to the brand and making it much, much easier for potential customers to purchase their clothes.
Smith is back in Missoula now, student teaching to finish an education degree from Montana State University-Northern, and is helping spread the siQ duQ name further. He's talking with businesses there, handing out the latest catalog and trying to get the line in stores. siQ duQ is sponsoring athletes around the state, including some skateboarders in Missoula, and Smith said they have plans to sponsor competitions there.
Smith said he also plans to be at the Pearl Jam concert on Monday, "passing out fliers and passing on the word" to rock fans. Monday also marks the first day of school for University of Montana students, a potential customer base that he plans to reach out to.
"There's a lot of people who come here from out of state and have never heard (of siQ duQ)," Smith said, "and we want to make them aware.
"Havre's kind of the home base for siQ duQ, because that's where it started. Now, with me being (in Missoula), it's a really good spot to branch out."
With all this activity happening, the people behind siQ duQ are getting closer to making those people who initially laughed off their business know just how serious they are.
"Our goal is to make the haters wrong," Jarvis said. "Now here we are, six years later, only growing."