When I moved to Ottawa in 2000, it was a sleepy town that most considered the predictable, boring cousin of Montreal. Fast forward to 2015 and everywhere you look, entrepreneurs are putting their stamp on this city: opening restaurants, launching labels, doing their thing.
Today I'll introduce you to an entrepreneur doing exactly that: meet Billy Altidor of Over the Top Lifestyle (affectionately known simply as "Ott"). Billy and his crew made the black Ott snapback I proudly wear all over town (AND in Montreal, thank you very much), and this week I caught up with him to find out how Ott got started and where it's headed.
AMYIN613: Tell me about yourself, Billy. Are you from Ottawa originally or like so many of us (myself included), did you move to our fair city from somewhere else?
BILLY: I was born in Les Cayes, Haiti. When I was 5 years old, my parents moved our family to Ottawa to give me and my siblings better access to opportunities and resources than we had in Haiti. We settled in the east end of the city, which is where I grew up. I moved away after high school but I always had the desire to come back home and start a new wave here in the capital. Timing is everything I think right now is a great time for Ott not just as a brand but as a city and a people.
AMYIN613: What led you to start your business?
BILLY: I’m a fan of the culture and wearing a baseball cap is part of my outfit 80 percent of the time. I’ve always purchased and sported a cap ever since I can remember. I used to buy hats based on the team and cool colours, but as I grew older I got tired of wearing hats that didn't represent my city. Wearing a hat became more personal and took on a sentimental value.
The idea for Ott had been simmering in my mind for over 2 years until the summer of 2015, when I decided to put together a small team of talented, like-minded individuals (Rita Carter, Cassie Even-Hen, and Susan Marie Potts-Halpin) to help launch the brand. We initially started off making snapback caps and the response we received was overwhelming.
AMYIN613: You know I’m a huge fan of your Ott hat and I wear mine everywhere. Are there any other Ott products in the works? What’s next for you?
BILLY: First and foremost, on behalf of everyone at Ott, we would like to thank you for your genuine love and support of the brand. We sincerely appreciate you and your love for the city.
AMYIN613: Honestly, guys, it's my pleasure. You're making a fantastic product and I'm happy to spread the word. It would be unbelievably cool to see it pop up on heads all over town! So what's next?
BILLY: We plan on introducing Ott apparel in the near future and we currently have sketches in the works. As a brand, our goal is to not only be recognized but respected. Since the brand started, the city hasn't been the same and we've sent a tremendous amount of electricity through the air in here in Ottawa. People around us can feel it and we can too. Our official launch party is October 3rd from 7:00pm-1:00am at Backdrop, which will include a fashion show to give you a preview of future products from Ott. What’s next for us is developing even more fashion forward, stylish products, expanding outside the city, and solidifying ourselves as a real competitive brand in the fashion industry.
AMYIN613: I bought my hat directly from you but do you have plans to set up an e-store? Any brick-and-mortar shops in town carrying your line?
BILLY: Currently, the hats can be found at Levels (273 McArthur Ave.). Also, our website (www.overthetopthelifestyle.com) will go live on the same day of the launch party. We have built many new relationships with various business owners and entrepreneurs in the city. It won’t be too long until the brand spreads itself across every city in every province in the country and abroad.
Ott officially launches this Saturday, October 3, 2015, 7:00pm-1:00am at Backdrop. Tickets are $20 and include food, champagne, the preview fashion show, live music, door prizes, and other giveaways. They're selling fast so grab yours either online at Eventbrite or in-store at Levels.
All images provided by Over the Top Lifestyle and used with permission.