I was born in Washington, DC and raised on a farm in the suburbs of Maryland! I’m a Nat’s fan through and through, but understand the necessity of yelling “O” louder than the rest of the parts when singing the National Anthem! I’m a lover of picking Maryland crabs while drinking a cold beer on a hot summer afternoon. I carry hot sauce and Old Bay in my purse at all times. Also, I can absolutely promise you square pizza does exist!! As a native Marylander, I will always be a southern girl at heart regardless of where that Mason Dixon line falls, but I have called myself a true Yankee for the past 6 years where Connecticut has been my home! After I married Jon, I never thought we would end up living in his home state of Connecticut …. but here we are with two kids who were both born in the city of Hartford! Together with pride, we are raising our children in this small, but great state!
Connecticut may be known as the insurance capitol, but really it has an incredible niche of small and innovative businesses! Recently, I had the pleasure of connecting with Paul O’Connor the CEO and founder of clothing brand ‘Pride of Connecticut’ A few years ago Paul set out on a mission to give Nutmeggers a true sense of local identity through CT-inspired apparel, events, and content that speaks to the greatness of the state we hail from. Situated between two of the country’s major metropolitan hubs (NYC + Boston), Connecticut is often overlooked as a state with its own unique identity. I had a chance to connect with Paul over a quick interview to understand how his passion began and how it has evolved in the first few years of launching this business.
Sarah: Where did it all start? – What inspired you to start Pride of Connecticut (POC)?
Paul: It all started while I was stuck in traffic driving on the Merritt! Well let me back up, I had the thought that led to the idea while I was attending college in Ohio. Being raised in Connecticut and going out of state for college, I was immersed by a new culture. If you lived in Cincinnati, Cleveland, or Columbus you had pride for living in ‘O-H-I-O.’ Living in this state, among others, after high school I was absorbed by areas of people that have a sense of passion for the state in which they live and I was seeing most of this pride through apparel. So let’s go back to the merit traffic, the thought was Connecticut has a very distinct perception across the country and I wanted to create a brand that helped to share all of what CT has to offer, not just what other people think about it. Connecticut is such a tiny state with so much to offer, why don’t we have state represented apparel like (I heart NY tees or script Ohio tees… or do we??? Wait, UCONN husky hoodies don’t count!! With this idea in my head, I started to conduct some market research only to find some small pockets of Connecticut had branded merchandise, but it was localized to a specific school or city. Overall, I was not finding an inclusive brand representing ALL of Connecticut!
Sarah: What has been the most rewarding part of running
Paul: The most rewarding part has been the overwhelmingly positive response we have received from everyone we come across. People are so happy to have the chance to represent their state in a unique and creative way with a brand new lifestyle company.
Sarah: What has been the most unexpected part of running POC?
Paul: The hardest part was figuring out my voice and messaging to break through the noise of social media in launching my idea. We have continued to grow organically in Connecticut showcasing the great diversity our tiny state has to offer. The most unexpected part of all of this was having artists and creators reach out to me for collaborations. To have an idea and a vision, but limited resources was certainly a little intimidating to start, but we’ve been able to bootstrap our way to this point which has been a great learning experience.
Sarah: What future plans do you have for the business?
Paul: Working to host a steady stream of stores to hold our brand. Also, more content around Connecticut showcasing our pride for the State.
Sarah: As a Connecticut native, what is first thing that comes to mind when you think of our tiny state?
Paul: Pizza!!! We have the best pizza in the country that no one knows about!!!! Also, diversity of our Location!!! We are close to skiing, the beach, lakes; we have great cities like Mystic, New Haven, Hartford, and great state schools – all at our fingertips. As kids, we used to take a lot of day trips on the weekends because you can access all of these amenities in around 45 minutes.
Sarah: Everybody loves food and it’s one of my favorite things to talk about – so I have to ask, what is your favorite CT home cooked meal?
Paul: Ha! I am not much of a chef, besides burgers and dogs on the grill I am not much use. But growing up we always had tons of seafood due to our location and the amazing local seafood spots. My Mom makes the best seafood dishes with veggies and brown rice. It that a really cliché Connecticut meal?? – that sounds like a pretty Connecticut meal doesn’t it, ha. When I am back in the area my favorite restaurant to eat at (because I can’t cook) is, Merritt Canteen in Bridgeport, CT – “it’s the best burger in CT.”
Paul O’Connor founded Pride of Connecticut in Spring 2017 after realizing the astounding lack of local pride throughout his home state. He was born and raised in Trumbull, CT – home of the 1989 Little League World Champions. Although he has lived in 5 states throughout his life, Paul’s passion for the great state of Connecticut has been strong since childhood, and only continues to grow. POC aims to represent all areas of Connecticut, beyond any one zip code; we encourage you to rep your CT Pride loud & proud for all corners of the state to see.
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