A simple dichotomy exists in entrepreneurship: those who talk about it and those who be about it.
Given the stark contrast in skills and styles between the fashion and trade vocations, I never fathomed that owning a fashion brand would cultivate such a tremendous sense of admiration for repair professionals.
Despite being immersed in the seemingly always-sexy world of fashion, I have finally realized after nine years of shaking hands at fashion weeks and attending runway shows that there is so much more entrepreneurial acumen to ascertain from those unsung self-starters whose pursuits are far less gaudy than revolutionizing ‘the couture game’. From contractors and electricians to plumbers and janitors, they epitomize rugged individualism and self-determination, the same sentiments I rely on to keep my business bourgeoning.
Meet Dwayne Garrett, the man responsible for keeping the lights on at ROYCE, quite literally. A bona fide jack-of-all-trades, Dwayne is an entrepreneur in the most rudimentary sense, having started his general contracting business with the sole mission of putting food on the table for his family of five. Instead of aiming for a triumphant acquisition by LVMH or having CFDA awards dedicated to him, Dwayne simply believes in putting his family -- the ultimate form of stakeholders -- in the best position to succeed.
While “who wore what” may dominate the headlines, our world is actually comprised predominantly of Dwayne’s, not Georgina Chapman’s nor Stella McCartney’s. The argument can be made that Dwayne is a bigger risk taker than those in the high fashion circle, as there is no external funding upon which he can depend. Every day, Dwayne puts his hard-earned life savings on the line, given the dearth of financing for a construction professional.
Recently, while installing a new ventilation system, Dwayne explained to me that he has grown his business into a veritable five-man crew by surrounding himself with people who truly had his business’ best interests at heart. These were diligent professionals who he had mentored, not just as apprentices but also as young men looking for a father figure.
Recruiting proficient and qualified professionals was a daunting challenge, given that Dwayne could not afford to pay top-market value. He was more concerned about mounting equipment costs and merely being able to afford gas for his Dodge Ram, his vital vehicle for moving machinery. However, in light of his limited budget, he understood what his employees’ aspirations were and did his best to make a work-life balance conducive to them achieving those goals. From barbeques and matching sweatshirts to holiday cards and, most notably, sharing his wife’s famous peach cobbler, Dwayne created a culture of family for his employees, even if they were not.
As Dwayne’s business scaled, with the occasional inevitable setbacks, he rewarded their sweat equity with real equity. After all, they had gambled on him, a man who initially was wishful thinking at best and actual naïveté at worst. Now it was his turn to put the common good in his employees’ hands. By sharing equity in the company, he put not just his reputation on the line with each job, but their collective reputations. In fact, Dwayne fervently refused to spend a dime on marketing, instead premising his market share acquisition solely on the word-of-mouth referrals and thus, the content of his character.
Actually, his employees’ character.
I admire entrepreneurs like Dwayne because he doesn’t talk about, he is about it.