BY JEREMY WARREN, THE STARPHOENIX
The Winnipeg man behind the "Got Land? Thank an Indian!" apparel wants to sell a stake in his company.
Jeff Menard sold thousands of T-shirts and sweaters with the slogan after a Saskatchewan school told a First Nations teen she couldn't wear her "Got Land?" hoodie in class. The publicity helped sales, but the good news didn't last long.
Menard says he is broke, living and working from his car for the past month after a five-year relationship dissolved in the media spotlight last month.
"My address is 2007 Nissan Maxima SE," Menard, 37, quipped in a recent phone interview. "I would trade all of this for a house."
Menard wants to sell a 49 per cent stake in his operation, which includes the domain name www.thankanindian.com. He is taking offers and hopes to sell by Friday. A bid to trademark the slogan should soon be approved, he said.
"All offers will be considered," Menard said. "I do want to remain a part of it. It's like a baby to me ... If it's only for a dollar, then at least I have a business partner."
He's a self-described entrepreneur who remains in good spirits despite some setbacks. He wants to do good in a world where being bad is too easy.
"It's the name you leave behind," Menard said. "You can't take anything with you when it's done."
Family, friends and a promotions company are helping Menard maintain his business during a difficult time. When he's not staying in his car, he's couch surfing. He said he lost his house in a breakup caused by the "media spotlight" last month.
Menard didn't create the slogan - he saw it on a shirt in the U.S. - but he did create a business around it. He started selling apparel in 2012.
The apparel made headlines across Canada in January after a Saskatchewan school told a 13-year-old First Nations student she couldn't wear one of Menard's shirts. The school told the student the slogan offended others, but relented after the girl spoke out to media.
The publicity boosted sales and Menard launched a website to help meet demand. Menard said he's sold about 4,500 items since January.
"Tell those five (on Dragon's Den) to give me a call," Menard said.
Menard said some of what he makes from selling a slice of his company will go to homelessness, a cause he supported with proceeds from apparel sales. He plans to pay for homeless people to stay in a hotel.
"Even if it's just one night, it could change their life," he said.
Menard is mulling his future in advance of the sale. He might finish his business management education or get out of Winnipeg for a while. He'd like to start a family and wants to run for chief of Pine Creek First Nation in 2015. He also needs to save money for an expected legal battle.
Recently, Menard went to Stony Mountain Institution, a medium-security prison near Winnipeg, to deliver some apparel to inmates. Driving through the institution's gates toward security, Menard remembered a friend left a small amount of marijuana in his car. He says he immediately told the guards.
They tore apart his car and called RCMP, who then charged him with possession, Menard said. He plans to hire a lawyer to fight the charge when it goes to court in April.
"Everything crashes down," Menard said. "You have to pick it up and keep moving."