RADVILLE — An offhand remark a year ago led three Saskatchewan siblings down a business path they never imagined.
Kacy-Jae McLean wasn’t even there when her husband Chris joked he was tired of being her “arm candy.”
But her sister, Emma-Leigh Pirio, was, and she immediately responded with, “you mean her farm candy.”
And that’s how their clothing and accessories business, Farm Candy, was born.
By the next month they were taking pre-orders, going through prototypes and setting up a website.
“Everything happened so quickly,” said McLean, sitting at her sister’s kitchen table along with their brother, Jon Slobodzian.
The siblings grew up in Melfort, but the McLeans farm near Choiceland and the Pirios at Radville. Slobodzian also moved to Radville during the pandemic slowdown.
Although the two sisters are the formal business partners, their brother and husbands are all involved. The Pirio garage is the stock room and where orders are packaged. Slobodzian describes himself as an expert folder, but he connected his sisters with a friend who does their screen printing and has been involved in decisions such as logo design.
Farm Candy products include bunnyhugs, T-shirts, hats and sweatpants, and feature a wheat stalk and its root system to portray the foundation of so much of Saskatchewan. Some have an elevator on them, and they’re looking into how to incorporate the livestock side of agriculture.
They are also in the process of developing a children’s line, called Farm Candy Sprouts. That logo will have a flag leaf.
Their marketing efforts have been directed to Facebook and Instagram pages, but in the first year they also attended a few events.
Canadian Western Agribition last fall was a momentum-builder and they plan to attend again this fall. This summer, they will be at Canada’s Farm Show and some farmers markets.
“We all have kids,” said Pirio, who is also a teacher, was just accepted into graduate studies, and is expecting her third baby. “We find our time is really stretched.”
The McLeans have three children; she works from home and Chris is a boilermaker in addition to farming, which means he is often away. Slobodzian has two children.
All of the kids have been involved in the business in some way, which allows extra bonding time.
“Our idea is to show our kids what you can do with an idea,” said McLean.
They also want to give back to the agricultural community and are in the process of setting up a scholarship for post-secondary agriculture students through a percentage of their sales. Details aren’t yet finalized but will be available on their website.
Farm Candy also sponsored two high school rodeo athletes.
They’ve been thrilled to run into people wearing their brand or to hear from people who have spotted the clothes elsewhere. And they love the giggles when customers hear how the company began.
Seeing so many Agribition exhibitors in the barns wearing Farm Candy gave them the confidence to keep at it amid a marketplace that’s full of clothing brands. They establish their prices on cost of production and what they would be willing to spend on the item.
They are considering whether to find stores interested in stocking the brand. If they go that route, they intend to choose small-town stores where rural people can support their local economies.
The siblings said their parents have backed them through moral support and helping on occasion.
“They like the thought of us going into business together,” said Slobodzian.
You can find the company online at farmcandy.ca.