Duffy Simon thought his uncle was yanking his chain. “I was taking business marketing in college and an uncle of mine said there was a need for embroidery in the area,” Duffy recalls. “I chuckled because at that point only my grandma did embroidery. But it turns out he was being serious. We went to Toronto to look at the machines and when I saw how high-tech they were, I said, ‘Yeah, this is cool. We can do this.’ With my sports background, it just flowed into doing work with hockey teams and all sports teams in the area.”And so in 2006, Planet Stitch, which is located on the Aamjiwnaang First Nation Reserve, was born. “Planet Stitch is a marketing company,” Duffy says. “We basically do a company’s logo or we do sports uniforms. We have all the machinery, so we do all the embroidery and the printing as well as stickers and signage.” Duffy grew up dreaming of becoming a professional hockey player and even played a bit in the low minors in the southern United States. “I grew up playing mostly hockey, but I played lacrosse and soccer, too,” Duffy says. “I played sports every single day. I was in a car accident in Florida and had to come home to do rehab. When I came home, my mom signed me up for college and I figured, why not? This job is perfect for me because I am so passionate about sports and I try to run my business like a sports team. You can’t win a championship with one superstar; you need to have a team effort to be successful.”Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Planet Stitch was operating with a staff of 12. During the height of the pandemic, they had to reduce their staff numbers but as things have opened up they are once again growing their team. “Because of COVID we only did about 25 percent of our normal business for a year and a half,” says the 42-year-old Duffy. “The biggest challenge we faced – and I would say it will continue to be a challenge for another year or so – is getting inventory. Before if someone came in looking for 300 hats, I could literally have them ready for the next day simply by working a few hours late at night. Now, I had a new company in town that I really want to do business with come in and say they needed 300 hats and I had to say we couldn’t do it. We are searching for inventory daily and there is nothing available. It is very frustrating.”

Duffy takes pride in Planet Stitch being 100 percent native-operated. He stresses that he and the other employees have great relationships with the customers, too. “When we are doing a young child’s hockey sweater or hockey bag, we want it to look like NHL quality,” Duffy says. “We know when a kid puts on his sweater or carries his bag, it makes his day.”