Sooke home-based business puts the ‘Tee’ in Tactical retirement plan

Tactical74 owners Aviator Isabelle Fortin and her husband Master Sailor Pierre Lacombe (bottom) work on a sportswear design. Working from their home in Sooke, B.C., the couple sell ready-made items such as tank tops sold on their website and small-run custom-designed screen-printed apparel for units of the Canadian Armed Forces. Photo credit MS Pierre Lacombe.

Peter Mallett 
Staff Writer

A military husband-and-wife team are charting a path to small business success, which, they say, fits their retirement plans to a “tee”.

MS Pierre Lacombe, an instructor at Naval Fleet School Pacific, and his wife Aviator Isabelle Fortin, an Aviation Technician at 443 Maritime Helicopter Squadron, are the sole proprietors of Tactical74. It is a screen printing and custom-design sportswear apparel business they run from their home in Sooke, which they started in 2015. 

Their small business began as a way to provide custom-made jersey’s for their son Antoine’s Motocross racing team and his competitors, says MS Lacombe.

Today, it focuses on making spirit wear, workout gear, and custom-designed products for military personnel and units of the Canadian Armed Forces. Items sold include t-shirts, shorts, hoodies, ‘civie-Friday’ polo shirts, stickers, and morale patches. They also sell their spirit products to sports clubs and school teams, but MS Lacombe has designs to grow this market going forward.

“We are hoping Tactical74 gives us a plan for the future and a source of income during our retirement,” says MS Lacombe. “We are definitely not to that point yet, still going strong with our careers, and still trying to figure out and learn about the world of small business ownership.”

Inside Track

Military members looking for something notable, unique, and comfortable are their main customer. Their spirit t-shirts and hoodies feature military-specific slogans, barbs, and jokes. A quick glance at some of the more popular items on their website shows sportswear with naval specific phrases such as ‘Dammit Bloggins’ and ‘Military Brat’ or “I got 99 problems but Sea Days ain’t one’. Other designs are geared towards veterans, other branches of the military, or are trade-specific.

In the sportswear department, one of their hottest selling items is their Ranger panties, short-fitting shorts for men and women that are trendy and hard to find online. 

Small custom design runs and jobs that other shops won’t do are an important part of their operation.

Recipients of past custom-designed products include the Naval Tactical Operations Group (NTOG) that Tactical74 supplies with their own branded apparel. The couple has also worked on deployment shirts for HMCS Winnipeg and HMCS Ottawa, and they recently made a morale patch and t-shirt for HMCS Whitehorse. Last year, they did a fund raiser and provided the crew of HMCS Fredericton with a shirt and morale patch to commemorate the Cyclone Helicopter Stalker 22 tragedy.

They also support veteran’s charities whenever possible. Ten percent of sales goes to support Veteran Voices of Canada, a group that tells veteran’s stories through video.

MS Lacombe says his knowledge of the military and its many organizations has been a definite asset when fielding queries or specific requests for specialized designs.

“These would all be very hard details to express to a civilian supplier, but because we know the teams, their traditions, and what they want to achieve we are able to get them what they want with only a few text messages and emails.”

Almost 100 per cent of their sales are made online at

“Because there is no middle person between us and the customer, I can keep the price low,” he says. “Since we do the design, printing, and marketing ourselves there are lots of costs that I can save on.”

They are both self-taught screen printers and learned to do all of the procedures online through YouTube videos, Facebook, social media groups, and trial and error.

Their son Antoine, who is now a private with 39 Service Battalion, helps maintain and clean the equipment and workspace in the garage. They also have three daughters ages 15, 21, and 23, and another son aged 10 who all help out with the family business.

For most of their lives, they have focussed their efforts on their service to the military and raising a family, with their business on the side.

“Our story isn’t unique and we are simple people really,” says MS Lacombe. “We are hard working and passionate about what we do. We have five children and it goes without saying we know how to handle stress and the demands of the business world.”


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