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HomeNewsGravenhurst author writes about 'iconic Canadian entrepreneur'

Gravenhurst author writes about ‘iconic Canadian entrepreneur’

Nancy Beal has written “The Endurable Alex Tilley” which dives into the history of the man who founded apparel company Tilley Endurables. 

“He actually invented the hat just for his own use,” says Beal about the piece of headware that would eventually lead Tilley to create his company in 1980. She explains he was frustrated with the poor-quality hats he was forced to wear while sailing so, with help from friends, he created a prototype. “He just thought he would sell a few to his buddies at the yacht club,” continues Beal. 

However, it led to people asking Tilley to create comfortable shorts and pants. That was when Beal says he had the “light bulb” moment and turned his hobby into a “travel clothing empire” that is still around today. 

Tilley sold the company in 2015. 

For decades, all apparel was created at Tilley’s factory in Don Mills, Ont. because of his desire not to lay any of his employees off. Beal says Tilley spoke candidly about how he believed moving manufacturing overseas would lead him to having to lay people off. 

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“My admiration grew more deeply as the interviews and research ensued,” says Beal about the man she calls an “iconic Canadian entrepreneur.” 

The book also delves into the difficult parts of Tilley’s life including the brain injury he suffered and having to wrestle control of his company back from a business partner. 

“He felt very foolish for having given away half his company to a man who he was so impressed with he thought had saved his company from bankruptcy,” explains Beal. 

She says he won the subsequent court case and was able to retain his company, although Beal notes he had to pay for the other half. 

“It’s a fascinating part of his life,” says Beal. “It was terribly stressful for him, of course, and financially draining.” 

Beal, who wrote about Tilley a few times before authoring the book, says you must include “the good, the bad, and the ugly” for a biography to be authentic. 

“I just became fascinated with this entrepreneur who was kind of quirky and obsessed with certain things like quality and customer service,” says Beal about the 12-year process of writing the book. 

Tilley and Beal will be at the Gravenhurst Opera House at 1:30 p.m. on April 13 to sign copies of the book. 

I didn’t realize my life was so interesting until I read the book,” says Tilley. “It helped me remember all my steps and missteps.” 

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