What Do You Have to Do to Launch Your Own Clothing Line? Whatever It Takes.
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
In this ongoing series, we are sharing advice, tips and insights from real entrepreneurs who are out there doing business battle on a daily basis. (Answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Who are you, and what’s your business?
My name is Zach, and I started Public Rec, a leisure apparel brand.
What inspired you to create this product? What was your "aha moment"?
I started Public Rec in 2015, but I had the idea while I was in college, about six years before the launch. I'd often find myself wearing baggy sweatpants and sweatshirts with my college logo, and it dawned on me that no company had focused on updating this type of clothing for men for the last 30 to 40 years. I started to have the idea that if you could transfer this type of comfort into more stylish clothing, with better fits and performance fabrics, you could confidently wear these garments out of the house.
What led you to actually launch?
I graduated from college and took a job in finance. After spending the whole day in uncomfortable business casual attire, I'd come home from work and immediately change into my sweats. Again, the thought about making nicer sweats was amplified. So after working in finance for about six years, I decided to give it a shot and quit my job. I started with just a nicer fitting, looking pair of sweatpants we call the All Day Every Day Pant. We launched on Kickstarter in May 2015 and since then, we've sold over 100,000 pairs of these pants.
What has been the biggest lesson you've learned in producing and marketing this product?
Every day is a new challenge and new problem to solve. I've tried to be conservative in both our financial projections and the time it would take to get things done. But even then, things always take longer and cost more than I've allotted for. So I'm always recalculating how much I think something will cost or how long it will be until something is ready.
What does the word “entrepreneur” mean to you?
A scrappy problem-solver. At least for my type of business, a lot of it has come down to hustle and not accepting "no." I'm fortunate that many have come before me who have offered insight and a path to success, outlining a playbook of dos and don'ts. To me, being an entrepreneur means being able to find a solution for whatever new problem presents itself, no matter what.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs about their first attempt at fundraising?
I'd try to raise as little as necessary and start with people who trust you. I personally stayed away from family and most friends because I wasn't comfortable with that, but I was fortunate to be able to raise our initial capital from ex-bosses and work colleagues. Come dialed in with what the money is going toward, the traction to date and the plan going forward.
What trait do you depend on most when making decisions, and why is that useful for you?
For most of my decisions, it's a cost analysis. How much value do I assess we'll realize from going a certain route versus what are the associated costs. If the perceived value outweighs the costs, usually I'll move forward with whatever the decision is at hand. And of course, sometimes there aren't numbers involved, so it's the perceived value to our brand or the long-term benefit of building a relationship with our customer. And also assessing what is scalable, what makes sense for the business to survive today, but also what makes sense for the business to be sustainable long-term.
Is there a particular quote or saying that you use as personal motivation?
"Whatever it takes." Whenever something is really hard, challenging mentally or physically related to the business, I like to think of this saying. It's not super deep. I learned at some point that Walter Payton liked saying it, although I'm not a huge sports fan, so Google could be misleading me! But it's a way for me to just shut out how hard something might be at a certain point and power through to get it done.