The brand I co-founded, Stock Mfg. Co., is officially 3 years old this month. Prior to Stock, I co-founded and ran a startup that was, by all measurable metrics, an abject failure. For the first 18 months or so of running Stock, it was unclear whether we would have any meaningful level of success either. It’s been a very long 5 years for me.
In Stock’s 3 years, we’ve done collaborations and projects with big name brands like Miller High Life, Bloomingdale’s and Soho House, been featured everywhere from Entrepreneur to Esquire, and seen our revenue double each year. We’ve built a legitimate business that supports 5 employees, has healthy growth, and the potential for a very bright future. We’re still a very small company, with a lot of work to do to get to a level that I would consider “successful” for the amount of time and effort we’ve put in, but we’ve achieved something beyond just starting a business.
Believe in What You’re Doing
For anyone reading this that is currently going through the struggle of trying to get something off the ground, let me give you a taste of what our reality was very recently. 18 months ago, I was 31 years old, nearly 3 ½ years into my entrepreneurial life, and we still weren’t taking home paychecks. In order to take some financial burden off my wife, I was driving for Uber in the mornings before work, and bartending nights and weekends as well. Our Creative Director was stocking shelves at a grocery store overnight, and another one of our partners was doing odd jobs and flipping vintage furniture and old clothing on craigslist to make rent.
We stuck it out because we believed in what we were doing, and every once in awhile would have just enough success to keep ourselves motivated. We fed off those little victories, and used them as fuel to keep going.
We’ve made it farther than most startup brands ever make it, and while there has definitely been some luck along the way, we’ve had more than our fair share of setbacks, frustrations, and near-catastrophic issues. The main reason I believe we’re where we are now is because of the ability of our team to take a solid shot to the chin (sometimes it’s been more like a 3 punch combo) and keep pushing forward. That perseverance can really be attributed to two main things; the fact that we believe in our abilities, and that we’ve never been of a mindset that we’re owed anything.
Make Your Own Luck
Making it in the clothing game is kind of like making it as an actor or a musician. The industry is looked at as glamorous, there are way more people that think they have the talent needed to make it than actually do, and the amount of hard work and perseverance required is often wildly overlooked. In both entertainment and clothing, the incomparable talents will very often find success, and perhaps even have a slightly easier time getting there (but they’ll still need to work damn hard). Conversely, the least talented will quickly find out they don’t have what it takes, and have a much shorter shelf life. It’s the vast majority of us that fall somewhere in the middle.
Most people that choose to go into acting, singing or designing aren’t generational talents, nor are they hopeless hacks. What separates those that win vs. those that lose in that indistinguishable middle are the ones that grind away, incrementally improving while seizing every opportunity they can, and making as much of their own luck as possible. For every Adele or Leo DiCaprio, there are 1,000 James Murphys or Morgan Freemans, who worked tirelessly at their craft for years before seeing breakthrough success.
Being able to stand strong during the torrent of hardship that can last months or even years to get through demands a mindset that is both self-confident and absent of ego. If you believe that success is owed to you, then it will likely never come. But if you believe you have what it takes to reach success, and understand it will take a lot of hard work to get there, then you’ll have a much better chance of achieving it.
Feel Confident About Growth
And then, once you do weather the storm and make it to a place where the little wins start turning into something more tangible, the tricky thing is accepting that success when it comes. After years of abuse at the hands of your business, will you be able to recognize that your hard work is starting to pay off? And will you be able to enjoy it, at least a little bit? After seeing nothing but incremental wins, can you accept that your business is now primed to take off, and feel confident making the necessary investments to accelerate growth? And most importantly, can you keep that fire burning inside when you’re not clawing for every dollar?
Over the last few years, I’ve found there are no shortcuts to growing a business. There’s no magic bullet or secret sauce, and wins don’t just happen. You just need to be willing to put in the work to get there, grit your teeth when things get tough, and have the confidence that you’ll be able to get out the other side of it intact. Anyone can do it if they’re willing.
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