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.'”