How To Collaborate with Influencers, Brands, and Manufacturers

Looking to bring a little authentic fire to your brand and open up the doors to a whole new devoted and loyal audience?  A collaboration might be right up your alley.

As a brand you’re always looking to broaden your audience, develop new products, and keep things interesting.  One of the things we do is identify brands, shops, or lifestyle groups to team up with who are just killing it in their space and don’t currently offer any products that would cannibalize our existing business. Sometimes we already know these people and sometimes it’s a complete cold call; either way, we need to have something to put on the table that benefits their current situation.

In our latest collaboration we partnered with an iconic motorcycle shop in our neighborhood that specializes in wrenching on some of the fastest hellfire racing machines on the planet. Their focus is on keeping their freedom-seeking moto maniac’s bikes on the road and roaring, not on making apparel or creating content. That’s where we came in.


Moto Club had been looking to step up their apparel game along with their photo and video content and we were interested in creating some authentic, vintage racing-inspired apparel with a partner that lived and breathed motorcycles every day.  With this collaborative product launch, each party was able to benefit without making the other company’s business obsolete.

So, we reached an agreement: Cohen & Sons offered to design all of the apparel, shoot the product/lifestyle photos, and video content in exchange for access to all of the Moto Club awesomeness, motorcycles, and loyal client base.

Check out what happened when Cohen & Sons Apparel and Moto Club di Santa Monica teamed up!

Alright; you’re ready to collab. What should you look out for? From my experience, there are four things you really need to nail down before you dive in.

Related Reading:  Four Must-Have Items In Your Brand's Toolkit

Negotiate the deal right off the bat.

Make sure both parties are in agreement on what each is going to provide or have access to before either of you does anything – and I mean ANYTHING. Once you’re in agreement, write it down. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy; just writing it down forces both parties to be clear on what the deal is instead of “you said, he said”. Putting things in writing also ensures next-level sincerity, because everything sounds like a great plan over beers.


Make sure both parties have the same ethos and core messaging. Take the time to chat about it.

C&S and Moto Club both believe quality comes first, and we’d rather get it done right then done fast. As simple as it sounds, this has the power to be a deal breaker. Many decisions were made throughout our product development, where we chose to invest more time and money into higher quality materials. If one of us would have rather got it done fast with cheaper materials to produce more attractive margins we would have run into core problems early on.  


Discuss realistic timelines.

Quality design & manufacturing typically takes more time than people outside of your industry would expect.  Discussing realistic deadlines from the start will ease the stress level throughout the process. It’s best to under promise and over deliver.


Iron out the budget.

Talking numbers can be stressful, but it’s always less complicated to have the conversation before the cash is spent rather than after. If this collaboration becomes a joint venture, make sure to iron out all the numbers before things get started and ensure to communicate where additional costs may pop up. This transparency builds trust and creates a solid foundation for the partnership early on.

I hope that by writing down a few playbook tips you can skip over some of the mistakes I made in the past. I wish you best of luck with all of your future collaborations!

Picked up some trade secrets, and ready to start producing your own line? Take our free Production 101 e-course for more info:

Related Reading:  Top 10 Books in Design, Creativity, & Entrepreneurship