My First Year Operating A Mens Apparel Brand

When Barack Obama was thirty-nine year’s old, he lost his first congressional race to incumbent Bobby Rush. Frustrated and feeling limited in his role as a state Senator in Illinois he took a moment to reflect and re-committed himself to the process of working to make the lives of everyday Americans better. Eight years later his commitment paid off, and he was elected the 44th President of the United States of America.

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The path to success has to start at some point, and for me, the beginning is always the most stressful. The reason being is that when you are creating something, there is no guide or roadmap only a vision and a loose checklist for what you need to get done and what you would like to accomplish. As an entrepreneur, there will be highs and lows as you go forth on your journey to build your company. When you are on a high, you’ll want to sustain it for as long as you can, and when you are having a low moment, you’ll want to get through it as quickly as possible. As you go through these times, remember this is where your determination, patience, persistence and focus muscles develop and carry you onward to success. As Obama said: “Just stay committed to the process, and everything will be fine.”

One year is a long time, in fact, it’s, 12 months, 365 days, or 8,760 hours. A lot can happen in one year. The vision for Rockridge is to build a forward thinking company that aims to challenge the status quo. Everything we do from product design to marketing is anchored in the commitment to empower people to be their best and move to take the world forward.  2016 marked our first step in realizing this vision and started with graduating from the premier startup accelerator, The Founder Institute. Led by mentors Ben Larson and Carter Laren, in sixteen weeks I learned how to develop my business pitch, refine my business model, conduct customer development and create a detailed go-to-market strategy. The lessons, as well as the relationships that I’ve made with fellow entrepreneurs, have been invaluable for my first year in business.

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The second accomplishment we completed was having our first collection of shirts ready for the general public and partnering with DonorsChoose.org to help teachers and students in Oakland public school find more engaging ways to learn. Making shirts is no easy task, and we admittedly underestimated this process. We spent over 18 months developing our shirts. In that span of time, we worked in two different factories, tried different fabrics, and made many samples until we go the fit, construction, and style right. And we’ve been able to do all of this while remaining committed to our values of producing our clothes in the U.S. and making a difference in our community. We also had some great press and some sales as well.

Though the first year was a success, there were also some lessons and insights learned as well.

  • >People do business with people not with businesses. Go out and meet people face-to-face.
  • >Equally important to having a go-to-market strategy is a budget to support the execution.
  • >Despite what you read online there is no such thing as overnight success. There is no short cut to success
  • >Manage your finances tightly. Only spend money in areas that drive traffic to your site.
  • >Don’t be an island. Get to know people in your industry, make friends, and build partnerships.

Start Your Year in Business with Maker’s Row!

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