“Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t.”
Warren G. Tracy’s student.
I hate this quote. There is so much of me that hates this quote. I am saddened that there are people I know that love this quote. It’s just so much of what is wrong with entrepreneurs these days in my opinion. When I read this quote I get the feeling that this is the equation that most people expect once they become an entrepreneur.
A couple of years + Entrepreneurship = Riches
People think that they can be an entrepreneur for a few years and take the short track to riches so they don’t have to work anymore. That is what I feel quotes like this reinforce.
When I think of most entrepreneurs I think of my hometown in Michigan. I think of the downtown of that sleepy escape. There is a Chinese restaurant, a hardware store, and a travel agency. All not wildly successful. This is what I think of entrepreneurship. My Dad always says that most people just trade their own business for a job. It hasn’t put you any further ahead. You will probably be just the same financially (Generally worse off) than if you just worked for someone else for the rest of your life. You do it however because you feel called to. You trade the extra stress and complications for the passion of doing something you believe in whether that’s opening a Chinese restaurant, a hot tech company, or a clothing brand. That is why you do these things. Not for the success that you think it will bring. To be able to envision your life to whittle away at this effort and possibly not get anywhere with it. The confidence to know that this could be what you are entering into, and being ok with that.
“No enterprise can exist for itself alone. It ministers to some great need, it performs some great service, not for itself, but for others; or failing therein, it ceases to be profitable and ceases to exist.”
This quote is the opposite of the first. This is why business exists. This is why businesses go on. It is easy to get caught up in the hype of what having your own business may enable you to do. So many people want the supposed lifestyle of an entrepreneur. I have a friend that always tells me he wants to start his own business. He says, “I wish I knew what kind of business to start. I’m jealous of you.” I respond, “You’re jealous of this? You’re one of the few who sees how much I actually stress and how unglamorous a lot of the work I do is.” Despite all of that he still wants the entrepreneur life. I think even though he could see most of what I was doing day in and day out it still couldn’t shake the perfect entrepreneur life image that he had. He still had this picture of how entrepreneurship could lead him to riches and freedom.
At this point I view entrepreneurship as servanthood. You are a servant to the need that you are fulfilling. You make sacrifices for that need. You could be doing something else. You could possibly making more money, or you could have a more stable future. However, you are devoted to that need. You are the knight, and the need is your Lord. You defend serve that need at your cost. To me, that is entrepreneurship.September 23, 2014
I recently watch this Interview of Ray Mate of Mighty Healthy from The Hundreds. I felt like there was a lot of honesty in this interview. Yeah it sounds cool to have a brand, release product, have fans, get into boutiques but when other lives are dependent on the success of the brand, I feel like the game changes.
In the interview Ray says, “Some of the misconceptions of owning and operating a brand is that you don’t work, you just chill.” I feel like this is a common delusion about the world of branding. Most videos of brand owners don’t show or talk about the struggles daily. He talks about putting out fires. I have experienced this, mostly with my website. Sometimes I’ll just be browsing my site and realize something is awry and I Have to drop everything else I was going to do to fix it. It just happens. It is very understandable how when you add more and more pieces to your business, it can be. If you have a store front, a warehouse, dozens of store accounts you are just increasing the amount of places a fire can arise. Introducing new links where the chain can be broken.
The most telling part of the interview is when he talks about the decision he made right before his son was born. He was trying to decide if he should leave his company behind to work for another more established company. This is where the rubber meets the road. This is when you have to put away your cool guy ambitions and think about the lives that are depending on your success. The dreams of internet fame, and obscure Japanese blog write ups start to fade behind these realities. For Ray it worked out by going straight for Mighty Healthy. If you would have asked me a couple years ago what I would have thought if Ray had gone the more stable route to work for someone else instead of continue his brand I would have said that Ray failed. Today I would say that Ray made a choice. To me things were very black and white in this business. Either make your brand a success and live off of it, or know that you were a failure. I don’t think that way anymore. There are choices to be made in this life. Sometimes a brand can just be a stepping stone to something else. Hugh Prather said, “To live for results would be to sentence myself to continuous frustration. My only sure reward is in my actions and not from them.” Sometimes you have to find reward in that you are doing something, not necessarily how that something it is doing. I have to be ok that my brand might just be a transition to to something else.September 16, 2014
The separation of talent and skill is one of the greatest misunderstood concepts for people who are trying to excel, who have dreams, who want to do things. Talent you have naturally. Skill is only developed by hours and hours and hours of beating on your craft.
How do you make your brand have a mass effect by having mass appeal? Today my brand was sent out in an email along with other products to over 600,000 email subscribers. I’ve been able to manage marketing efforts like this a few times during the history of my brand. I remember the first time it happened, “My products are going to be sent to hundreds of thousands of people?” I waited with baited breath. You see I’d thought like most people I imagine that what my brand lacked was exposure. If only I could get my products in front of more people’s eyes. Surely they would want it. If only 2% of the people who received the email opened it, of those few individuals some would purchase my product and I would see a large uptick in sales for that week. It didn’t happen leaving me to scratch my head as to why.
Consumer behavior isn’t that simple. It’s not simply enough that the product that they see is good. It isn’t enough for them to see something they like on the internet. How many times have I seen cool things on the net and not purchased them? Isn’t that the whole purpose of Tumblr and Pinterest? Their very existence is for you post all of these pictures of things you like, without actually buying any of it. The ultimate poser move, “These are all of the things I would buy if I were actually into buying things.” People don’t just buy things they like, the formula is so much more complex than that, it is so much more complex than I want it to be.
The hardest question that experiences like this make me ask myself is, “If I get my brand in front of a few thousands eyes and nothing significant happens where do I go from there?” It is a very defeating question. What’s the point? Just stop now. The world doesn’t care about these products. They have their loyalties already, how exactly will you steal theirs? There are no shortcuts I’ve found. I haven’t been able to go from 0 to 100 like the success stories of a lot of other brands. However nothing in my life happens that way. What did I expect? I didn’t get to where I am overnight and it is going to take more than a few mass emails to get me where I want to be. Despite the fact that I feel my pictures are better, my collection more cohesive, my website more appealing. It’s time to put my head down and just try to be incrementally better next time. To quote Big Willie, (Will Smith) “You don’t set out to build a wall. You don’t say ‘I’m going to build the biggest, baddest, greatest wall that’s ever been built.’ You don’t start there. You say, ‘I’m going to lay this brick as perfectly as a brick can be laid. You do that every single day. And soon you have a wall.” Tomorrow it’s time to get my head out of the clouds and lay another brick.September 10, 2014
History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.
This is what I like about fashion. The storytelling. Reebok is behind this one in particular. They teamed up with The Rig Out which is a creative agency that has a biannual publication as well. I am not a large fan of Reebok. When I was a kid there was the big three. Nike, Adidas, and Reebok for athletics. Then sometime during my childhood Reebok disappeared. Not sure what happened to them, and then out of nowhere one day, they returned. However during their absence I lost all fondness for the brand. When people in my high school started wearing the all white Reebok classics lows I wanted no part of them. Like an estranged father they abandoned me during my time of need, and when they returned I wanted no part of them. My affections were no more. I do really like this video from my once absent parental. From the title I knew it was going to be good. A play on words of their staple collection Reebok Classics, ‘Give Me Your Classics And I’ll Show You The Future.’
The are telling the history of the UK. How things used to be. How it used to be a nation of industry, and a nation of music frontrunners. It is a great parallel. Showing how things have changed, how times have changed in the nation. The youth are different, their ways are different however no matter how divergent the youth’s product is, it has to be built on the foundation of the classics. Whether they run from their history or imitate it, it is characterized by what once was.
I love using fashion and media as a medium to tell stories like this. Don’t make it about the clothes, make it about something more. In this video they made the shoes, the culture to be the story of England. Engrained in it’s roots. Whether the brand or the products are or not is irrelevant. The are bridging the gap between the company, and the consumer. There are so many lines of this video that resonate with me and I am not British, nor have I ever owned a pair of Reebok classics. They were able to capture a mindset. The rebellious youth who have always been told how things were. How things were better, how they should have been there. Then they give the challenge that we can make things better, we can make our own story.
This is what I try to do myself with every collection. Make it about more than the clothes, more than product, I feel inspired.September 8, 2014
If there’s a bright center to the universe, you’re on the planet that it’s farthest from.
Luke Skywalker, A New Hope
The man, the myth, the legend. Foster Huntington. I first learned of him from this article feature on The Hundreds (Basically where I hear about everything). Foster is the man behind such blogs as A Restless Transplant and The Burning House. Foster is a male in his mid twenties who figured out how to get paid for documenting his dream life. As the story goes he want to college in Maine and afterward he landed a job at Polo. While there he started the blog The Burning House and landed a book deal for the blog that paid him more money than an entire years salary at Polo. He quit his job, bought a van and started traveling around the country surfing, and living out of his van. He also started documenting other vans and release a Kickstarter funded book called Home is Where you Park it. Currently he is working for Patagonia which makes perfect sense. He travels around the coast surfing and camping wherever he can which is exactly the Patagonia lifestyle.
I can’t recall another individual who is able to wield the power of the internet so effectively. To begin all of these projects organically and have them be successful is no small feat. It’s crazy to me how some people can use that formula so well and leave the rest of us scratching our heads. When I hear his story I start to think, “Oh, I can do that too.” But, I’ve tried. He is the Luke Skywalker of the internet and the force is with him, it has been proven more than once. If you have ever tried to market anything using the internet you will know. I’ve gotten blog posts, a Kickstarter, videos, none of them were anything close to reaching the scale of his projects.
So what can we learn from him?. It reminds me of how when the United States was being founded people would move out west just to explore and the chart their own course. They wanted the freedom, the unknown. How many of us would love to be able to do the same. Maybe some of the people reading this right now will. This is the goal, this is what modern culture has taught us to do. If you do choose to step out and create the life that you want, it may just be so different from everyone else’s life that they will want to pay attention. Make your job, don’t find it.September 3, 2014
You buy furniture. You tell yourself, this is the last sofa I will ever need in my life. Buy the sofa, then for a couple years you’re satisfied that no matter what goes wrong, at least you’ve got your sofa issue handled.
Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club
I sent in my submission to The Burning House blog. The burning house is a blog began by Foster Huntington where people send in submissions to answer this question, “If your house was burning, what would you take with you?” This was a very interesting question to answer. Basically how I tried to answer the question was to show the few possessions that I own he tell the most about myself. It was an interesting exercise. The majority of the things that I show in the picture are things that are actually replaceable, however the stories behind them aren’t.
I am not the biggest proponent of owning things. Possessions have not always been that important to me (Haha, I moved to Los Angeles over 3 months ago and my apartment is still mainly unfurnished). Up until January of this year everything I owned could fit in my car. What is the purpose of owning lots of things? The purpose of this has been mainly lost on me. I lived the life of a college student a while after I finished college, maybe too long. I thought, “I want to be mobile. I don’t want all of this stuff weighing me down, trapping me, consuming me.” So I traveled light.
Then in December of last year (Christmas time is when I always reflect on the state of my life) I was like. How much of my life am I going to live without sleeping on an actual bed. Not that you can’t have a fulfilling life without owning a bed, but I started to wonder what was the purpose of this. I have reached a place in my life where I can enjoy some comforts. A bed should probably be one of them. Do I really want to have had not owned a bed for over a third of my life for no reason? It started to sound a little absurd.
Doing this exercise let me take things a step further. What this exercise taught me is that is the most important thing I think about the things that you own is not the item itself, it is the story behind it. It isn’t what you own, it is why you own it. What you did with it. I am kicking myself that I didn’t put in a different hockey stick that I own. It is one that my teammate bought. When I was in one of my beer league championship games (Silver south Championship at Icetown in Riverside California). We were the Ducks vs the dastardly Canadiens. We rallied at our bench before the game like we were straight out of an Emilio Estevez film. I scored two goals then broke my stick on the side of the net while diving towards the goal. I immediately dropped the pieces of my shattered Excalibur and rushed to the bench (It’s a penalty if you don’t drop your broken stick in hockey. Found that out the hard way in a previous game that season). Just then one of my teammates John (Half my team was named John) handed me his backup stick in a gesture of ultimate kinship. I felt like we were the Knights of the Round table when I brandished his blue blade. John was a lot shorter than me, but we were both right handed. I went on to score two more goals (Shorthanded as well) with this stick that was too short for me. We defended our homes and our realm. I ate, they drank. We hoisted the trophy and the rest is history.
That is what I want. I want to own items like those. The ones that got me out of a bind. Lead me to greatness. Thwarted evil. I would rather have my brand new top of the line Warrior Dt1 hockey stick shown in the picture above burn in a blaze than John’s short blue stick with the wrong curve. I don’t want to impress people with how expensive my things are. I want to be able to know what my things mean to me. I want them to know that I use them, and that I use them well. Now I’m off to my hockey game tonight to hopefully make a legend of another stick.September 3, 2014
“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.”
Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture
The Rise of Brixton. A company that I never really understood. I never understood how Fedora’s and old style headwear fit in the world of skateboarding. Maybe it’s because I’m not a skateboarder (Despite that I still own a couple pairs of OG Chad Muska Supra Skytops). What I do understand is progression and an entrepreneurial spirit, and that’s what I appreciated most about this feature from The Hundreds on the brand Brixton. I never really understood what the brand was about. Out of all of the startup skate/independent brands that have come up over the years I wouldn’t have chosen them to have made it to this much success. The formula makes sense however. The founder David Stoddard was working for the Transworld magazine when he conceptualized the idea for Brixton. Then he left the company with 2 other partners who also had worked for the magazine and started Brixton. They pooled together $10,000 from each of them and formed the brand. This interview gave me much more respect for them. The article touched on something that I have been wondering about. To be successful in startup fashion, do you have to have had prior experience in the fashion industry?
Should I quit my day job to pick up another one working for another brand so that I can learn what it takes, and make connections with the right people to further my own brand? Should I shoot off a resume to Bobby Hundreds to see if I can intern for them. If I have some skill that they could use? It seems like a good formula for success. You get yourself in the trenches and you gleam all you can from your position until you can spread your own wings and fly. It worked for Brixon. Although he was mainly more in advertising it connected him with the right people who also had similar passions and they combined their dream into something. Why am I not taking this path
Why am I afraid to do this? Why don’t I want to take this step. Ideally I would love to make a clean jump from working my current full time job straight into working for myself. No, not ideally, in my mind that’s the only way it will happen. I don’t want to have to deal with the middle ground. I don’t want to have to give up the traction I have made in my current industry (Which isn’t fashion) to work for someone else again. I want to give this job up only to go work for myself. The day I hopefully leave my day job I want to step out into the abyss only to be caught by the loving embrace of my own pursuits. It may be my pride, it might be my stubbornness, but that’s how I want to do it. This also could be why I never make it.August 29, 2014
I’m still the law around, clean it up… and brush your teeth.
Carter, Rush Hour
This afternoon my friend Google Analytics informed me that apparently the La Mer Collection was featured on the Chinese blog Kidulty today. As a startup clothing brand, after you release a collection there is always the waiting. You’ve been sitting on the product for weeks. The designs you’ve probably been sitting on for months. You post everything and then you wait. You wait for the world to come to you. The world to herald you in your accomplishments. During the wait time you conjure up visions of greatness. How the world will just burst into tears of joy at the gift of your imagination interpreted through plush garments for all to enjoy. It doesn’t always happen that way. You check your Google Analytics and your bounce rate is still over 50%. Half of the bloggers you wrote to show your collection haven’t posted about it, and you didn’t get a bunch of reblogs on Tumblr You wonder why more people haven’t taken just a little more out of their day to view what you made for them. What you poured out for them.
The internal struggle of an entrepreneur. To stay even keeled. To anticipate, but not to over anticipate. To leave yourself room for growth. Room to do it again. Room to do it better. You have to manage your expectations. To be just real enough with yourself to identify where you could have done better and improve upon them, but not too real. To be optimistic, but not so optimistic as to ignore the pitfalls of business. You don’t want to be so depressed that things didn’t go exactly the way that you planned that you give up, but not so overly optimistic that you forgo your data and keep making products that won’t stubbornly keep making the same products without adapting to the market. You consciously manage your outlook to control how you feel coming out of things. It’s like you survey the scene. You learn the path ahead, and then you cover your eyes and immediately try to walk through it. You know what you are covering your eyes to avoid seeing.
Years ago I would’ve been ecstatic about this blog post, but now I’ve been around for a while. I know that it is going to take more than a few blog posts overseas to take my brand where I want to go. I won’t get overly excited. I’m going to do what all of us entrepreneurs are used to doing. I’ll put it in my cap and get back to my daily business, my daily grind. Hopefully one day all of these little events will build upon themselves and transpire into one big event. Until then, it’s just about the daily.August 26, 2014
In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.
I sit here writing to you in the warm California sunshine. Ahhh California as I write to you now sitting at round table of a outdoor patio as college youth pass by. A white Lamborghini is accelerating at, “Hey look at me” speeds as I listen to Electric Guests song Waves on my laptop. An article caught my attention today. It was an interview of Bobby Hundreds done by Tom Kirby of Breaks Magazine. There is a Part 1 and a Part 2. It was Part 2 that caught my attention. In this section of the interview Bobby discusses The Hundreds Footwear.
One of the things that first impressed me about The Hundreds brand is that they made footwear. I learned that they were making shoes back in 2009. The fact that they would even attempt to dethrone the kings of footwear, to make their own lane in an industry that was (and still is) so dominated by the big names really spoke to me. Fast forward to today. The Hundreds Footwear is discontinued. I didn’t even know they weren’t making shoes anymore! When did that happen? Maybe I don’t pay as much attention as I like to give myself credit.
In the interview Bobby states, “In our immediate market, Nike takes like 97% of the space. How can a brand like The Hundreds compete with that? Nike’s marketing budget alone is over 100 times our company’s value. Let’s be real, if a guy’s got a hundred bucks to spend, is he gonna drop it on some canvas vulc sneakers by a brand no one’s heard of, or a pair of limited Lebrons constructed of spacesuit material from the future and buttressed with a global advertising campaign? I can’t blame them.” This line of the interview was so bizarre for me to read. Mainly because thoughts like this are the kind that make you not get into clothing at all. I feel this same argument could have been said about The Hundreds making t shirts. Yes t shirts are a different market, but you are going up against strong competition and monstrous sized advertising budgets as well. In this interview Bobby talks about things that he is not able to do. The best thing I’ve found about reading their blog over the years (There’s a picture of me on it as well, but it’s terrible, don’t click it) is that Bobby manned up to fight the giants. I thought we all got in this game because we believed we could do anything? He always had a reason why he could beat the corporations at their own game. It was very different hearing him talk in a defeated voice. It’s like listening to Batman saying why he couldn’t beat the joker, or Superman saying why he couldn’t save Metropolis. We are not used to our heroes talking about defeat. We want them to be invincible.
We guess wrong. I guess wrong all the time. I posted my first ever true blog post over to my brothers at Mintees and have gotten no response. I thought other creators and designers in the industry would embrace what I am saying, but they haven’t. According to Bobby The Hundreds guessed wrong with footwear. I don’t think he did. Through the trial and error of the whole process I gained the courage to try new things with my brand. Through their ad campaigns (like the one I show at the top of this article), and through their fight to make a stance in footwear I found my own courage to try to push past my limits. Am I childish? Too idealistic? Maybe I’m just a kid in his room, walls clad with illustrated heroes of fiction, clutching his battered box of comics normally stored under the bed. I still want to believe in my heroes. If my heroes can’t defeat any villain, thwart any scheme, conquer their adversity. What chance do I have?August 22, 2014
“Goodbye my love.” He doesn’t say it. There’s no room for softness… not in Sparta. No place for weakness. Only the hard and strong may call themselves Spartans. Only the hard, only the strong.
Following the wake of the La Mer release I traversed the net posting my pictures to all who will have them. First to the T shirt crowd over at Mintees. Then to my designer friends over at Behance. I’m currently trying to figure out Dribbble. Basically when you’re a startup like me you try and find all of the places you can to show your work so that someone might just stumble on by and make you internet famous. That’s the goal, more or less. The biggest and most dangerous place to go looking for glory is the Hypebeast Forums. I just finished posting the La Mer Collection on their wall of fashion brands. For the last 3 years I have prostrated myself before this community. What I have gotten for those 3 years is ignored. Which isn’t the worst response. Hypebeast is known for the most vicious attacks on the internet. The nature of these comments has sparked articles discussing their content. This is Sparta! If you are not born fit to be a warrior, your infant tenement is smashed on the rocks. If you wish to reach the courts of the castle, you must first begin in the dungeon.
I paroosed the comments on the 2014 HUF Fall Delivery lookbook 2. It is a hand drawn lookbook that illustrates the clothing of the release. Something that I’ve hardly seen done and is very unique. Here are the comments I found. It starts off positive, and then….
“the most unique lookbook ive seen all summer” -SlowDays
“cool concept, but i really dont have a good idea what the clothes look like so…” – G A L A X Y
“this cool and all but” -drae
“Is this a guide on how to look broke?” -The Real
“Dope illustrations. Basic clothes.” -Mobilephile
“I understand the necessity to stand out in an saturated clothing market, but this lookbook is useless lol” -chief
This is actually a more mild version I found. I wanted to avoid examples with cursing, which there are plenty of examples of.
What these forums house is the most desired of consumers. The individuals who populate this peoples court are the most sought after customers the world over. They are the most picky, and judgmental. You would think that the whole world existed just to please them based on their comments. That all throughout their lives all anyone should do is appease their cravings. However their buying power is second to none. If you can land their attention for a year, maybe even a few months they will give wholeheartedly to your brand. They are the ultra consumers. They know every detail, every subtle nuance in your production runs. Forums dedicated to spotting fakes. They are the reason for the whole resellers market. Their existence has changed the way companies market their product. Products marketed to them will have smaller production runs, less release locations. All to peak their interest.
Jon Hundreds of The Hundreds. has an apartment that boasts 2,500 pairs of shoes, Jose Hustle will buy any random product, even condoms as long as it has a polo horse, and sneakers have become the most sought after fashion accessory. The buying power of this demographic is powerful. Where can you find them? They are in the forums. They said that in the heyday of the forums you could find Kanye West, Lupe Fiasco, and others on the forums. Hypebeast even did an article about this time period.
The forums function in a way that seems to level the playing field for everyone. The thread that is the most recently updated appears at the top of the forum. That’s it. Your brand doesn’t need to have a any sort of credibility. As long as you are the most recent to post something, your brand will appear higher than all of the other brands with thousands, or millions of dollars behind them. I have fervently updated my thread over and over to push it to the top wishing that the right people would see it. However I don’t get that many views. Even as I write this I posted my new thread an hour ago and I have only received 21 views. Why do we think it’s that easy. Somehow the internet, or my generation makes me think that one day we’ll post here and the right person will see it and things will really start moving. I think it’s going to take a lot more than a well timed post on this forum. Success is more derived than that.August 19, 2014