Reader questions

PRMBA Reader questions Vol 1: apparel, careers in branding, and more

By January 26, 2016 One Comment

C asks:

This is a question out of nowhere but you seem very business savvy and to have a lot of contacts in a wide range of fields. I’m trying to pursue my dream of starting a clothing line but I really don’t know where to start. I was wondering if you had any advice or could put me in contact with someone who has some. I can read articles online about it all day but that’s not the same. I read your article on how small teams work well and that kind of inspired me to actually look into this and pursue the dream.

I did design and marketing for Hollister/Abercrombie & Fitch for several years and a close friend of mine was the design director for Homage, so I’ve seen a couple versions of the apparel business. The first thing you need to know is that THIS BUSINESS IS TOUGH. You should be prepared to work your ass off and lose money for a couple years before you start to see much traction. There are a zillion little “Instagram t-shirt brands” out there with more and more popping up every day, so you’ll have your work cut out for you.

As far as what you need to get started, here’s a rough list:

  • Money to produce the product. Assume that you will lose all of this money. In reality you’ll probably make some of it back when you sell product, but for now assume it will all be a writeoff.
  • Money to promote the product/brand via advertising, sponsorships, etc.
  • Someone who can design the product. Note that good designers are actually REALLY hard to find so expect this to be a tough challenge.
  • Someone to be the face of the brand. They should be charismatic, have a good sized social media audience, and be willing to go to lots of shows, parties, etc and rep the brand at every opportunity. This person will have a lot of leverage over you, because you can’t really do it without them.
  • Someone who can run operations: the webstore, order fulfillment, customer service, set up the LLC, handle accounting, etc.

The main question you should ask yourself is, what value will YOU add? The reason you see a lot of musicians, athletes, and other public figures get into the apparel business is because they can do at least two of those things (provide the capital and be the face of the brand). Sometimes they are also the designer and send out orders too. You should try to partner with a “face” and tell them that you will do literally everything else– so all they need to do is help promote it. But again, I really have to stress this is going to be TOUGH. Tougher than you think it will be.

career in mktg

Kyle asks:

I am reaching out to you to hopefully pick your brain about how I could go about transitioning myself into a more brand centric / marketing data related career field. I stupidly went to college for pre-law, graduating in 2013, only to get out and have my godfather (a seven figure lawyer) explain to me that it is a dead industry and even if he hooked it up I would be on a lifelong path of misery.

I have found my exposure to the business world addicting. I want to get ahead as much as I can in this industry and put myself on a path where I have vertical and horizontal options I would never have had before this. Our relatively small company recently acquired a new marketing / branding guru with near a decade of experience at Goodby Silverstein, and a few years at Widen + Kennedy heading strategy for Nike North America, and in our first initial meeting we hit it off well and he seemed very impressed by my ideas for changing our philosophy to on-boarding and branding ourselves in regards to future users and customers. Coincidentally he grew up in my neighborhood a decade before me and is a veteran of Richmond’s 90’s basement hardcore scene. I would like to hopefully mentor under this person but I feel as though my academic background and lack of formal business / marketing knowledge could be holding me back.

What steps would you recommend I take (books, courses, academic programs, etc.) to give myself a crash course in this field to try to catch up as much as possible with peers my age who have a formal background in this field? I am tech savy and know basics of html, css, adobe cs, final cut, as well as fairly good at SQL and data platforms.

You definitely don’t need any more hard skills, so reading books and taking classes isn’t going to help. In fact, I think you need to focus on the one or two things that you want to get REALLY good at, and drop everything else. There is no way that you can possibly be exceptional at all the things you listed. I made a conscious choice to focus on brand and content marketing years ago, because that’s what I’m interested in and naturally good at.

What you need to do is just get some experience under your belt, and it sounds like this mentor can help you with that. Offer to help him with literally anything. If you do a good job, you’ll earn his trust and hopefully get the chance to take on bigger projects. Your focus should be on slowly building a portfolio of projects that you can use to prove that you know what you’re doing.

Also out my article over on Party Smasher Inc, “How to climb the ladder as a creative professional,” which covers a lot of the basics!


Max asks:

Hey Finn! I was just wondering what your long term goals with the PRMBA are? What do you want it to look like in 1 or 2 years?

My big crazy dream is for PRMBA to be the #1 online community for people of “non-traditional” backgrounds who want to talk about business, career and school challenges with other likeminded people. I think it’s really important to hear information and advice from people who get where you are coming from, and it’s safe to say that most people reading this didn’t grow up the same way that most business students did. I want to create a community with the same vibe and closeness of a hardcore show, but instead of stagediving we make business plans!

Got a business, school, or career question? Ask it here and we’ll answer it next time!

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