Who Am I?
How did I get started in business?
What motivates me?
I get these questions a lot – hence I decided to create a single page here at RMRS where I can share with you my best interviews from across the web.
These interviews represent my years of experience as an online entrepreneur.
Some are specifically fashion-oriented, while others pertain to any sort of web-based business.
I hope you find them useful!
This was an interview I conducted for the website Entrepreneur on Fire in March of 2013.
We looked at the journey that led to the Real Men Real Style website, and at the entrepreneurial vision that drives me now: making good information available for the people that need it.
Story Summary – I got out of the Marines and went to business school, then promptly got fired from my first job after that. That gave me the chance to start A Tailored Suit, my online tailoring business, which at the time was one of only a handful of sites that took a person’s detailed measurements and created custom clothing with them. Now there are a couple hundred sites like that, and ATS hasn’t grown as fast as some of them, but it provided the base for a new business: style information.
When I realized that most people were coming to the A Tailored Suit website for the short style guide I’d put on it, rather than for the clothing itself, I saw the demand for a site like Real Men Real Style. Now information is my primary business!
The first experiment with selling style information was called “Style Boot Camp” at the time, and has evolved into the “Style System” that’s currently available. It initially paid for itself, and now it’s going great — out of about 300 people that have tried it, we’ve given one refund, and that was to a guy who was in the system when his house got robbed (he still used the course; I just wanted to give him a break).
A couple quotes from the interview that really get to the heart of the matter:
- “What do you hate doing? Solution: Systemize it, and give it away.”
- “Always evaluate, is this project worth time I could be spending with my family?”
- “People will pay real money for you to bring them information that they can get for free at a public library.”
- “You can’t be afraid to put a price on a good product. People value things they’ve paid for, and forget things they got for free.”
- “Take action and fail quickly. A good decision now is better than a great decision too late.”
I talked with Caleb of Pocket Changed’s Cubicle Renegade podcast about the evolution of the Real Men Real Style YouTube channel and how it’s helped the business out.
The YouTube channel was originally a side project. I just wanted to see how people liked getting their information in that format, as opposed to in written articles.
What ended up happening was that YouTube made it so easy for people to comment, “like,” and share the information that it reached a much wider audience. People who wouldn’t necessarily come to the Real Men Real Style blog and spend a lot of time there were able to get good information without leaving the comfort zone of their own YouTube browsing, and that made it more accessible.
The YouTube channel gives a me way to make a lot of the lessons I talk about visual, and even though it’s offered for free, it brings in value by expanding the audience and adding to my e-mail list. It also guides a lot of people to the free ebook, which has the effect of making people think “Okay, wow, if he’s giving this away for free, what are the products he’s charging for going to be like?”
Here are some of the best quotes from the interview:
- “In a comment thread on Mixergy.com , Tim B (now a friend) called me an idiot in a comment thread for giving all my information away for free. It made me angry at the time, but it also made me rethink my belief that you could only sell physical products, and that the information was just advertising.”
- “People take more interest in something they’re paying for. It gives them some skin in the game, and they take action on it.”
- “If someone knocks on your door and you look through the peephole, and they look like a gangster, you’re not going to open that door. But if they’re wearing a UPS uniform you probably are. Appearances always matter, even if we say they don’t or shouldn’t.”
- “Guys who say they can’t afford to dress well are making excuses. Look at projects like Thrift Store Runway — these guys are making professional business wardrobes for under $50.”
- “Every man needs a suit. Someone’s going to get married, someone’s going to die; you’re going to win an award or get invited to an event. You can get away running an internet business in your pajamas 24/7, but you can’t get away with going out to something important without a suit.”
- “The most expensive clothing you’ll buy is clothing you never wear.”
- “Don’t take forever editing and re-editing. Get out an imperfect product and improve it over time.”
In this video interview I gave quite a few solid video tips to James Wedmore of Video Traffic Academy. I had met James earlier that year at Infusioncon but I’ve know of him and his teaching since 2011. In fact I have used quite a few of his tips and tricks to grow my channel – so I was more than happy to repay the favor by explaining how I took his lessons and applied them to Real Men Real Style.
Although you don’t see me at all in the interview – you can hear me discuss tactics as James records his screen and displays a few of the ins and outs behind my marketing machine!
I met John Corcoran of Smart Business Revolution at the New Media Expo in Las Vegas this year. He noticed me (he claims) because I was the best-dressed man in the room! Maybe he’s just being nice to me, but it’s a testimony to the importance of making a good first impression.
This was a great interview that had a lot of practical discussion of business and entrepreneurship in it. I walked John step-by-step through the launch of my first business, A Tailored Suit, both the successes and the failures. I did a great job traveling to some of the best tailoring cities in the world (places like Bangkok, Hong Kong, and London) and talking to hundreds of custom tailors, looking for the right partner for my business — but then I also sank $10,000 into a website that didn’t work, and ended up teaching myself Dreamweaver and scavenging a little of that overpriced code to make my own site with.
John wanted to know how I came from my background growing up in a trailer park in west Texas to business school, and I told him that it was really about freedom for me. When I was a kid I saw all the adults in my life working wage jobs that they hated, and I didn’t want that to be me. I actually got a job as a CFO at a factory right after I graduated business school, and within a few months I’d lost it and decided to launch A Tailored Suit instead.
A lot of entrepreneur businesses rely on start-up funds and investment, but I mostly started with my own cash and some back-up from a friend who’d be there to help me out if things went badly. I used a strategy of funding things with the customer’s money — by having people buy the cloth for their suit up front, I was generating enough money to build the business without taking out big loans.
The vision I talked about with John is still what’s driving Real Men Real Style. I realized when I was in business school that a lot of men just don’t have the information they need to dress themselves presentably — I would see guys with six-figure educations going off to high-powered interviews looking like a mess. Getting that information out there proved to be something that interested people more than custom suits. I still sell the suits, and that business is good, but the information is the product that’s really going places.
Some quotes from the interview:
- “I don’t look at not having money as being poor; I look at being poor as being unable to get out there and learn.”
- “I can always declare bankruptcy with my business. One of the hardest things to do is be a father, because you can’t just declare bankruptcy and walk away from that. That’s someone else’s life right there.”
- “When you land and you burn the ships, you’re going to keep going forward.”
- “Use the customer’s money to fund your business.”
- “I don’t care if a guy is wearing a suit or not. I care if he’s looking good and he can own the look he’s wearing.”
- “Fashion runways don’t make sense to a lot of guys. I try to break things down to classic, timeless styles that everyone can understand.”
- “No one has on their tombstone ‘I wish I’d spent less time with my family and more working on my business.’”
The longest of the video interviews, this was again about the YouTube channel and how I did it, but the focus here was much more technical. We talk a lot about how I filmed the videos and got them edited and uploaded, as well as about how that turned into customers for the information we sell on Real Men Real Style and for my online clothier A Tailored Suit.
If you want to know about my studio (the basement of my house), my filming schedule (early mornings — before my wife and kids wake up and the pipes in the basement start rattling!), or the equipment I used (an old Canon VIXIA with a mic mount and a dark green backdrop), this is the one to check out.
The whole YouTube channel got started on a total budget of about $2000, for the whole 200 videos I launched with. Of course, the costume budget was already covered — part of the reason I wanted to do these videos was because I already had the clothes we were talking about in written articles, and wanted a way to share them visually with people.
Here’s a few of the lines from the interview that I think stood out:
- “I look at the style industry, and I think a lot of these style bloggers — they’re in their underwear! They’re not actually dressing anything like what they say on their blogs. They’re doing that from home where no one can see them.”
- “YouTube is huge. It’s its own ecosystem. People live there.”
- “The numbers are all verifiable. If I say I have so many subscribers; so many viewers, people can check that. They know if I’m full of shit.”
- “Accept the fact that your first 10-20 videos are going to suck. That’s not a problem. Accept it.”
- “You’re never going to find time. You have to make it. People are going to want your time, and you have to cut some of them off. Look at what’s most important to you.”
Tim Francis interviewed me at InfusionCon in Arizona this year. He wanted to ask about YouTube marketing specifically — how I drive traffic from YouTube to my website.
He raised what I think was a great point: a lot of the guys who talk about YouTube marketing are in the business of selling advice on marketing! He wanted my insight as someone who’s selling non-business, non-marketing information, and selling a physical product as well (over at my custom clothier website A Tailored Suit).
Here’s the short version of what YouTube did for my business, as I explain in the audio: It’s given me a broader audience, and it’s given that audience more trust in my expertise and my authority, both as a provider of style advice and of actual clothes.
For a small percentage of my viewers, that translates into the sale of a physical project. It’s a very small percentage. Only a few people who follow my YouTube channel actually come and buy clothes from me. But when you’re talking about $5000+ wardrobe purchases — several custom suits and shirts at a time — that’s significant. That’s all you need.
More broadly, it brings people in to the Real Men Real Style blog and to the ebooks and courses I sell.
In terms of cost, I put out about 200 videos in 200 days, for around $2000. I already had hundreds of articles on men’s style, so it was easy to generate the videos quickly. The first ones sucked, frankly, but I didn’t mind — it was more important to get the product out there, rather than spending a lot of time and money in advance on a product I wasn’t certain would make money.
At this point the YouTube channel is at around three and a half million views, with about 50,000 subscribers. At the start of every video I’m telling people to subscribe, like, and comment — some people complain about it, but lots more people do it! There are a few star videos — one on rolling your sleeves up generated almost 300,000 views — but the average ones are getting ten or fifteen thousand views in their first month.
Here’s some quotes that highlight our talk:
- “People love information. More people were coming to my custom clothing site for the information than for the suits.”
- “As a custom clothier, I have the clothes I’m talking about. I can get up in front of a video and show people how to walk the walk.”
- “I’m all about efficiency. Instead of taking thirty minutes to answer a question in an e-mail, I can point people straight to the video that answers their question.”
- “Anyone could put together ten to twenty videos by just answering the top, burning questions in their field. Most guys can push that up to more like fifty to a hundred.”
- “If you get a good, solid answer out there on video, you own the answer to that question forever. It’s out there and people are going to keep coming to it.”
- “If video is the only thing you’re doing, you’re going to stunt your growth. I try to wrap every video with an article, and sometimes a podcast as well. It could be an average article, but it’s going to beat the better article that has just text, because people like to consume information in different ways.”
- “Find your voice. Just because I’m doing video doesn’t mean it’s good for everyone. Maybe you’ll do best on Twitter, or Facebook, or Pinterest. You have to find what works for you and then do it like crazy.”
I did this interview very soon after the YouTube channel really began to take off. The numbers are now obsolete — we have over 60,000 subscribers (in the video I say 11,000), and more than four million unique hits.
It’s still a good interview, though, and we really worked on bringing out some of the keys to success in YouTube marketing: namely, getting content out there regularly and perfecting things as you go along. I attribute a lot of my success to the first push of 200 videos in 200 days — one a day for the better part of a year. Up to 250 videos it remained close to that one a day rate, after which I started to slow the pacing down a little bit.
By that time we had the beginnings of the subscriber base, the 11,000 or so people that I reference in this video. Continuing to grow that has just been a matter of the same approach: putting out short videos on very specific questions or style points, as often as possible, so that there’s always something new.
A couple quotes from the interview:
- “I truly believe that a man can learn anything.”
- “Don’t edit! If you worry about it being perfect you’re never going to get it out there.”
- “I have a personal connection with everyone. Any new client for my style system or my suits — they’ve probably seen me in a hundred videos. They know me better than some of their friends.”
- “I started with one. My first video is still out there.”
- “You do have to have a thicker skin. I think that keeps a lot of people out of video, that you’ve got to put up with that.”
I did this 2nd interview with Jonathan one year after the one above.
I like how you can see the difference a year makes when you create strong evergreen content, as the interviewee clearly points out that although I only created 20% as many videos as I did the year before, my traffic still grew by 400% (from 1 to 4 million views).
Very powerful case study for investing the time upfront to create a sustainable marketing plan of attack!
There’s no video associated with this interview — it’s a text Q&A over at The Art of Manliness
This was one of the first blogs I started writing for, back when my only style writing on the web was the Style Guide at A Tailored Suit.
The interview was for their “So You Want My Job” series of pieces on men with great jobs, and they asked me to talk about being an entrepreneur.
It’s an older interview, from back when A Tailored Suit was still my primary business, and doesn’t reference Real Men Real Style or the information-based projects that came after it. So things have changed a bit — but that makes it a good look at what I was thinking when I was really focused on selling a physical product, which is not without use.
Since the interview is text-based (and not that long), I’ll let you read it over there, but here are a few highlights from it:
- “I like the idea of waking up in the morning and knowing that the success of my company depends directly on the decisions I make.”
- “A company that sells clothing should have representatives who have a deep understanding of fabrics, style, and proper fit; unfortunately most menswear salespeople do not.”
- “People want to be able to call a company toll free, talk with a live person who attentively listens, and have their needs immediately handled by a capable and educated decision maker. Sounds simple, but when was the last time you received this type of service?”
- “We’re not saving lives, but a well-fitted suit can change them.”
- “Do not wait for the perfect moment, because the perfect moment to start a business will never come. People in their teens/twenties are too young, in their thirties they have to be safe for the kids, in their forties they are used to having money, and beyond fifty they are told it’s too late.”
This was another Q&A session that we did in text, this time for the BlackSocks.com website.
In October of 2012, when this interview happened, I’d really started looking to expand and improve Real Men Real Style as my main business, while keeping A Tailored Suit running as well, and the interview reflects that. We talk a lot about good information and how to get it to younger men especially”, and how much demand there is out there for it.
Again, it’s all right there in text, so I’ll let you click through and read the interview (it’s fairly short) if you want the full details, but here are a few quotes from it:
- “Style in itself doesn’t hold my attention – what I love is the power and psychology behind dressing sharp.”
- “To differentiate myself from the 100s of other men’s style blogs out there, I focus on business and classic style for the regular guy. No fashion models!”
- “Nothing I teach is high fashion; in fact my most popular video on YouTube (with over 100,000 views) is simply how to fold your shirt sleeves.”
This one is a video interview I did for Viewsline about my custom clothier, A Tailored Suit. It’s shorter than the podcasts above — only about ten minutes long. The visuals are a little jerky (I think there must have been some connection lag), but the audio works great, and it takes a look at a few things that the other interviews haven’t.
Just for example, when I started my business, the name “Tailored Suit” was already taken, so I just tacked an “A” onto the start and became “A Tailored Suit.” I didn’t realize at the time what a boost it would give me — any time people are making a list of clothing sites, they generally alphabetize it, and that puts me at the top!
We also looked more at social media outside of the YouTube channel that I discussed in the other interviews. Mike had me talking a bit about our Facebook page, which I adopted for A Tailored Suit almost as soon as possible. I’d always been an early Facebook user, and creating a business page and getting those “Like” buttons on all of my webpages was a big boost. (You’ll notice if you go through the style guide on A Tailored Suit that every article has a “Like” button of its own, so that people don’t have to “Like” the whole A Tailored Suit page — just whatever article they stumbled across.)
Here are a few quotes from our discussion about SEO (search engine optimization) and online marketing:
- “It’s all changing fast. Fifteen years ago, if you’d asked someone to buy an airline ticket online — that never would have happened.”
- “It’s a double-edged sword having an SEO-driven name. It’s hard to create a brand with something that’s entirely keyword-based.”
- “There’s a reason why Ralph Lauren and Louis Vuitoon and all these guys use their own names. It’s easy to start a brand with an SEO name, but it’s hard to knock it up into that luxury name. It doesn’t sound as exclusive.”
12. Inspiring Innovation with Meron Bareket – From USA Marines to World Leading Style Expert for Men
This was a recent interview that took a look at the history of my business (and the history is a little more up to date than in some of these other articles — we made this recording in August 2013, after I’d launched some of my newest projects).
We also dive a lot into method and process on this one. It has a lot of my best tips for business owners of all sorts, not just men’s fashion entrepreneurs. I expressed my philosophy regarding companies in the same field as me: I don’t see them as competitors, but rather as people who share my interest in growing our field and our market. When more people get interested in what we’re doing, we all benefit from it!
I’ll finish off with this short little article & interview of sorts I did for Dappered.
It’s not an interview, really. They wanted to know what five of my favorite physical products were. I told them about my sunglasses, my cowboy boots, my power tools, and a few other things — check the list out for all the details.
And that’s it for the history and experiences that have gone into Real Men Real Style, as retold in various interviews all over the internet…for now! There’s always more to come later as I continue with my business and my mission to bring great style to as many guys as possible.
Want a video summary of this post? Here you go!
OK – so you’ve made it this far and you still want more?
Well – if you’re an entrepreneur, business owner, or sales professional in need of coaching & consulting – let’s talk about how I can hep you take it to the next level!