Why American Eagle’s New Teen Brand is Doomed to Fail

No one likes a copycat.

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With the Brandy Melville teen takeover, American Eagle won’t win back their teen customers by being a copycat.

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Image source: American Eagle ae.com

According to the most recent research by Piper Jaffray in teen brands and spending, it looks like the #1 hot spot for teen apparel has been filled by none other than Brandy Melville. For many years, Forever 21 and American Eagle were the top. But like all things, what goes up, must come down. Nowadays, everything is fast and attentions are short. It’s not even enough for brands to stay abreast of trends. Sometimes, generations stick with brands they grew up on and often times, new brands are adopted by the next generation. It’s a cycle, like everything else. And I think Big Corp needs to accept they just can’t stay on top forever.

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Source: Piper Jaffray

Brandy Melville seemed to emerge almost overnight (although it’s been in USA since 2012). The beloved teen brand went viral thanks to Instagram and swooped in to take center stage of American Eagle’s teen audience.

So how did AE react to the competition? By creating Don’t Ask Why, a collection initially launched as the ‘Made in Italy’ collection in August 2013, and re-branded September ’14.

The motivation was to shift the collection to a brand to compete with Brandy Melville – and in doing so, they created some of the exact same styles, with the exact ‘one size’ sizing model, also made in Italy, and with similar pricing.

On the Left: Brandy Melville styles, on the Right: AE’s Don’t Ask Why styles

Don’t get me wrong, I like a lot of the styles from this collection. And I love AE jeans a lot – which is what Brandy doesn’t have. There’s the weakness the execs missed.

So why do I think this new brand strategy is not going to work?  Because of several factors:

  1. The name is bad. ‘Don’t ask why’ What does that even mean?  Don’t ask why –what? Don’t ask why you’re knocking off a teen brand? Who came up with this? Using a negative or sarcasm in your brand name probably isn’t a good idea. I know, teens are sarcastic. But unless you are trying to hang with Nasty Gal, Local Heroes or Dolls Kill, I don’t suggest it. ‘Don’t Ask Why’ does not suggest: Made in Italy, sophisticated soft basics.
  2. Teens are not dumb. They can see what’s going on. Some will care, some will not. But for those who do, it’s kind of an insult to their intelligence.
  3. Brand Loyalty, Respect, Trust, Authenticity. Teens like Brandy because it is something to call their own, within a network that’s all their own. And it feels authentic to them. Teens like American Eagle for what it is. Awesome jeans and shorts. They may not be keen on a mainstream big box brand taking on an indie vibe for the masses. Just like Snapchat, teens like things where adults aren’t. 
  4. Collabs and social media works pretty well. Working out an underground collab with teens and teen models on IG with Brandy and AE jeans and shorts would have been a much better strategy to win back teen audience and gain influence as one of America’s #1 denim brands. Perhaps a strong social media strategy including hundreds – no, thousands of awesome shots of top influencers wearing your AE brand with the Brandy Melville brand. Brandy doesn’t do denim. But a lot of their shots on IG are girls in denim. The question you should have asked is, “why aren’t they wearing AE denim, and how can we fill that gap?”
  5. Unique is important for teens. Teens like finding clothes that set them apart from the others, mixing and matching styles they like. Teens like vintage, new, obscure, different and trendy. Jumping on a bandwagon, creating almost the exact same styles and competing with their favorite brand (and in some cases, charging more) may not win them over. It’s not original. It looks like a desperate attempt. If they want a mainstream brand to wear that emulates Brandy, they will head to Forever21, who is the queen of cheap, knock-off styles.
  6. Leader or Follower? Again, everyone expects F21 to knock off everyone, and it’s pretty much OK because they are a fast fashion company whose schtick is to offer whatever is trendy. But coming from AEO, the biggest American brand, it’s surprising, and may raise doubts.
  7. The brand message is confusing. I don’t understand how the one brand “Don’t Ask Why” can be a testing ground for your main brand “American Eagle”, with two separate labels. In an interview with Racked, Chad Kessler, AE Global Brand President states, “We use ‘Don’t Ask Why’ as a kind of testing lab for the American Eagle brand. For example, the team came back from Coachella with new silhouettes we hadn’t incorporated into the American Eagle collection yet, and now we have those in the works with ‘Don’t Ask Why’. We’ll bring those into ‘Don’t Ask Why’ stores in the next month or so, and if they work, we’ll roll them out for American Eagle.”  Man, WTF?
  8. Stick to What you Know. Denim is the key AE product and their kryptonite; not many big box retailers do it quite as good as AE in fit, quality, variety and price. Girls, teens and adults LOVE American Eagle denim. They just need to stick with that and not be something they’re not in an attempt to gain customers by “chasing” what’s already being done well. Teens love vintage high waist jeans. Don’t believe me, check out these vintage AEO shorts.  AE should do more of that.
  9. Many may not be OK with the ‘one size fits most’ strategy. In fact. Brandy has faced a lot of backlash from news, bloggers, customers and moms with it’s ‘one size’ (which is Small) strategy. A petition was launched at Change.org against American Eagle and Brandy with a “Stop the misrepresentation of women by the “One Size Fits All” label in clothing stores”

That’s my two cents. We all understand that imitation is the best form of flattery, but..no one likes a copycat.

 

Image sources: Brandy Melville, AE.com

The Anatomy of a Bubble in Fashion #FastFashion

Everything that goes up must come down.

Let’s take a classic Bubble pattern (mind you, this is schematic of a financial bubble):

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Bubbles happen when the price of (fill in the blank) rises to an extreme level – way beyond its fair market value. So what causes a product’s price to rise so high?  The simplified reason is strong demand and, of course, investors and businesses capitalizing on that demand.

Generally bubbles are used in relation to Housing or Financial, but I see the same ebb and flow in our Fashion and Fast Fashion industry.

As explained by John Mauldin, Bubbles generally operate on 5-part phases: 

1. Displacement (All bubbles start with some basis in reality. Often, it is a new disruptive technology that gets everyone excited, although Kindleberger says it doesn’t need to involve technological progress.)

2. Boom (Once a bubble starts, a convincing narrative gains traction and the narrative becomes self-reinforcing.)

3. Euphoria (In the euphoria phase, everyone becomes aware that they can make money by buying stocks in, creating and/or selling Widget X)

4. Crisis (The momentum is disrupted. In the case with retail, it’s generally by a flooded market of competition and lowered price points. The only way to sell is to offer prices at a much lower level. The bubble bursts, and euphoric buying (producing) is replaced by panic selling. The panic selling in a bubble is like the Roadrunner cartoons. The coyote runs over a cliff, keeps running, and suddenly finds that there is nothing under his feet.)

5. Revulsion (Just as prices became wildly out of line during the early stages of a bubble, in the final stage of revulsion, prices overshoot their fundamental values. In other words, consumers discover the ugly truths of marketing, inflated pricing and the products themselves)

The first recorded bubble occurred in the Netherlands during the early 1600’s and involved tulips (yes, the flower). Tulips became so popular that their price soared, even to the point where some bulbs allegedly cost more than 10 x the annual wage of a skilled worker.

Sounds silly, right?  There are similarities, however. 

The average cost to manufacture a yoga legging in China = $6

Retail Cost = $90

Demand upon entering market: High

Why?  New. Different. Comfy

Worker’s wage to manufacture that legging = $1.78/hr.

I can see this Bubble in our entire fast fashion industry, but for the sake of simplicity, I will narrow it down to say, jeans and activewear.

Denim hit quite a boom for several years and the premium denim market was soaring to great heights.  Premium denim was king and everyone started producing with Italian, US and Japanese fabrics. LAs garment district for denim was crazy.  Big brands emerged from nowhere and exclusive boutique brands popped up all the time before burning out. Denim’s bubble definitely burst when companies started creating premium fitting denim without the premium price.  As a result, consumers found value in brands such as Uniqlo and American Eagle. A lot of companies either went under, lowered prices considerably or sold their brand to dept. stores like Kohls (Rock & Republic). The premium denim companies who are still alive after the bubble are struggling to climb and compete with: Yoga Pants. 

Activewear has been around for a long time, and it was gaining popularity in 2005, followed by a slight decline before it began to rise again in 2011 (1. Displacement). But Activewear really begin to soar around 2015 (namely yoga pants), outselling Jeans.  Leggings became the new jeans and the price and numbers reflected as such. (2. Boom)

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Leggings followed the premium denim market, and it wasn’t unusual to see leggings retailing for $90, although in reality, the true cost of manufacturing spandex or nylon leggings in large scale production in China is only about $6-$8 per piece (far less than the average $15-$35 manufacturing of better to premium quality jeans). The machines involved with manufacturing a legging are roughly 3, whereas jeans require about 8 different sewing machines and also require more skilled labor as well as washing and finishing machines, techniques and processes.

So it stands to reason that what we are seeing in Activewear is also trend and a Bubble created not only by consumer demand for new, fresh and comfortable, but the capitalization (over-capitalization) of this demand.  The hot trend of activewear has allowed brands, manufacturers and investors to do what they do best: jump on a bandwagon and run it into the ground and saturate the market.

What we saw in 2014-2015 was new yoga wear brands and existing brands expanding to activewear (3. Euphoria)

Rebrand, New Brands, New Collections, Sell, sell, sell – at whatever cost it takes.  Make up fancy fabric names for what is really just nylon or spandex. Increase the prices to make it appear more interesting. Create expensive marketing campaigns to increase the demand.

But consumers get smart. When they see brands like American Eagle and Forever21 offering the same $85-$90 pants for $20, they begin to question everything. The illusion is shattered and there is no turning back.

The market is now totally flooded. Sales (and perhaps interest) will begin to decline. Investment will become limited, brands will scale back their SKUs. (4. Crisis)

I’d presume where we are right now in the Activewear bubble is right around the Delusion and New Paradigm (or on the cusp of Euphoria and Crisis) area.

Brands are scrambling to market the same product with fancy names or reinvent the yoga pant and what we see are innovative fabrics that promise to melt your fat and eliminate cellulite while you wear the leggings. Or better yet, they’ll step up their game with even more expensive leggings and target a luxury market.  (5. Revulsion)

Consumers are aware of the true value and product availability now exceeds the demand.

The Bubble has burst.

The same happened with denim.  There was a premium denim bubble. And it happened much in the way I’m seeing the activewear market. It rose, hit hard and then the market was flooded.  The prices declined, the lower fruit bearers shut their doors and the strongest brands who were the first and best players survived.

The bubble is bursting with Junior brands also. PacSun, Aeropostale, etc. Same clothes, different stores.  Homogenized.

The fashion industry is totally flooded.

The active wear market is absolutely flooded at this point, with a big range of price points. And the bubble will burst within the next year or so, leaving tons of brands in the red with tons of inventory to be sold on sites such as Overstock, 6PM and Zulily. In fact, I am already seeing this.  While new companies and brands are jumping on bandwagons, they are missing the silent Stealth phase of what’s to come.

So what creates a demand or drives a trend?

Truthfully, I think the biggest portion of the activewear market right now is in women’s yoga and fitness.  It’s strong not because Lululemon introduced it to us.  Activewear has been worn since the 1980s. Activewear is a reflection of where women’s interests are right now.  Women want to be healthier, live healthier, more soulful lives. They want to run, be active, do yoga, feel beautiful and be comfortable.  Women are tired of wearing shit that isn’t flattering or comfy.  Women are becoming more self aware, more empowered and either starting their own companies, or taking jobs that allow them to just be themselves.

“A report from the Institute of Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) shows that women are steadily increasing their presence in the world of small-business ownership. About 29 percent of America’s business owners are women, that’s up from 26 percent in 1997. The number of women-owned firms has grown 68 percent since 2007, compared with 47 percent for all businesses.” – Gillian White, The Atlantic

In order to see what trends are ahead, it’s important to see who your target customers are and where they’re heading.  What are their interests and who do they want to be?

So what’s next? 

As with any bubble, there is a burst and a return to normal.

My guess is: Minimal.  

Comfort and quality over quantity.

Comfortable, classic. Leisure loungewear that plays double duty as day to active wear? Perhaps.

Less is more? Probably.  

Where is our focus these days?

The basic little black dress of casual wear (black yoga leggings) will probably never leave our closet, but athleisure trend will fade.

The next phase, or our Return to Normal is not another sport bra and yoga legging.  It’s simplicity. The only way to see where we are going is to see where our focus, as a whole, lies.

Sources: Forbes, The Atlantic, Google Trends, Jean-Paul Rodrigue, Mauldin Economics.

7 Awesome Twitter Ads That Are Killing It

Here are a few recent ads I found that speak louder than any red lettering could, and why I think they rock

The secret to a successful ad creative online is to bring something interesting, memorable, entertaining and/or useful to the platform audience without making people feel like they are being ‘sold’ to.  Marketing has evolved. We (consumers) are no longer moved to respond to big red SALE letters (unless it’s already at a brand website we go to, and it says 70-90% off).

Remember these kinds of ads? Bleh.

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Yeah. We are tuned out to this.

Here are a few recent ads I found that speak louder than any red lettering could, and why I think they rock:

This ad creative from Starbucks is quick, interesting, fresh, entertaining and informative. It’s also very memorable. After a few loops, I will never forget the image of that drink jumping out of the phone.

This one is just flat out entertaining. As a Photoshop gal, I immediately went to the thought of, “How’d they do this?” It’s entertaining, first and foremost. It grabbed my attention. Secondly, I discover their cool app which allows me to earn free drinks. Double stars for Starbucks for entertainment and information.

I am not a fan of McDonald’s food, or their company much. But they nailed it with this ad creative. It combines the current event of Coachella with the star power of Kylie Jenner, wrapped in a Selfie/Instagram style photo. The breakfast sandwich is part of the mood and landscape, and it honestly makes fans of Kylie or Coachella want to either jump into the photo or grab a McDs Egg McMuffin. In fact, if you scroll through McD’s Twitter feed, you will see that this ad creative by and FAR outperformed ALL of their other posts. Well played guys.

This one is great because it’s simple and cute. Target took a moment to join in on the fun of a national hashtag as well as throw in brand awareness with their bullseye pup. The result is a friendly brand reminder with a puppy. It’s not intrusive, it’s just cute.

I love so many things about this photo ad. It’s posted from Caitlyn Jenner’s Twitter account with one of her new MAC lipstick colors. The awesomeness of this photo as an ad creative is: it’s multi-faceted. It combines an image that is quick to process, her name on the cup (could be a Starbucks collab ad, too) with the lip print. This photo says SO much in a simple way that is again, not intrusive.

This is one (of many ads) that killed it so much that the Bagel Store in New York now has a waiting list for their rainbow bagels. It’s bright, colorful, tells the story and includes the bagel store signage in the background. The first thing they give you is the colorful photo, though.

This one is probably one of my favorites (and I’m not even a fan of Chevy). I am a fan of Price Ea, so when I saw him collaborating with Chevy, I had to click on it.  The content and his words are so inspiring that I literally was almost moved to misty.  Who cares if it’s pushing Chevy.  It was brilliant.

Got an interesting ad creative to share?  Send it my way, or leave a link in the comments section below.

Why Social Influencers Need to STOP Thinking Small

If you think that social influencers aren’t the next Beyonce’s and Biebers (oh wait.) Then you’re dead wrong. Companies like Target, PacSun and Abercrombie need to start paying attention. FAST.

You’re a big influencer in the social space. You’ve put in your time, built your fan following, built your personal brand, now what?

Beyonce + Ivy Park with TopShop, Kate Moss with H&M, the list goes on when it comes to celebrity brands. But don’t you think top influencer branded products are next?

I certainly do.

We are already beginning to see it with makeup companies and beauty bloggers.

Influencers, up to this point, have largely relied on teaming with established companies to collaborate on, for example, clothing or beauty lines…That’s changing.

– Women’s Wear Daily

If you are a successful Vlogger or Instagrammer, where are you in your branding stage? Have you even thought about it?  I look at a lot of top influencers and I see where they are winning and I see a lot of others who could definitely be doing more.  I wonder if they are limiting themselves purposely, or if they are just kind of lost about the next steps to take.

Perhaps they don’t want to do more, and that’s OK, too.  Personally, if I had millions of followers and subscribers to my YouTube channel, I would be hustling the shit out of that. (I mean that in a good way, of course)

One YouTube girl in particular (I won’t mention her name) has a huge influence and what is she selling?  Stuff that looks like she created it on Zazzle.  If that’s what she wants for her brand, that’s totally OK.  I am not going to say what she’s doing is all wrong if it’s working for her and if that is what she is aiming for.  However, I will say that what she’s doing and what Chiara Ferragni are doing are what separates the right now influencers from the ‘it girl’ brand builders and future company CEOs with staying power.

Cheap tees from Zazzle are not going to cut it for long term branding strategy.  Do what Beyonce would do.  Think you can’t?  Think again.

Think bigger.

If you think that social influencers aren’t the next Beyonce’s and Biebers (oh wait.) Then you’re dead wrong.  Companies like Target, PacSun and Abercrombie need to start paying attention.  FAST.  Don’t you think that PacSun should have been keen on a  Justin Beiber capsule collection?  Uh, yeah.

Know who Cameron Dallas is?  If you’re a clothing company or any big brand, you should.  If you don’t, I’m going to say, you need to wake the fuck up.

California native Cameron Dallas has gained over 15 million combined followers on social media in less than a year.  He’s the 7th most followed Viner and, since starting to post on YouTube a few months back, has already added over 3 million subscribers to his channel.

As a social influencer, what you do now is going to set the stage for whatever career you wish to create, or residual income you plan to make in your future. Riding the hot social media train right now is awesome.  You are creating content, building your brand-but you have to think of where you’ll be 2 or 4 years from now. How will you stay relevant in your current space, and what are the next steps for you or your brand?  Are you working toward what you have already planned and are you reverse engineering that vision?

For some, they got into YouTubing because it was fun, and the next thing they realize is their channel has blown up and they don’t know what the hell to do with it next.  So they stay on that current flow and focus, never really thinking about what’s coming ahead in the pipeline.

Remember this guy?

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Chris Crocker, 2007-08

His name is Chris Crocker and once upon a time he had millions of YT Followers, even before his ‘Leave Britney Alone’ video that went viral. In fact, his video was one of the most watched YouTube videos of all time. He literally became a founder of ‘viral videos’.

Where is he now?

He is still active on social media, and has a good fanbase on Instagram but has since deleted his YouTube account and the infamous Brit video because of well, “toxic troll haters”. And you can’t blame him, his brand was himself and his past was part of that brand. Now in 2016,  we see him reinventing himself to leave the old persona behind.

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Chris Crocker, now

 

The beginnings of his brand and YouTube career were in the early stages of  YouTube in general, so many of us had no idea how the current Tube world would evolve.

And that is the lesson I am talking about right here and now.  We don’t know what 2 or 4 years from now will look like, but if you have a solid plan and an audience right now, you can be harnessing that in the most positive way.

In the case of Chris, he just did what everyone else was doing, vlogging. He shared a very personal part of his life with the world because that’s just who he is.  He realizes now he made a few poor choices with his fame then (i.e. the Maverick Men porn videos). But if he had known all of this would blow up, perhaps he may have made more strategic plans. If I could have talked to him back then, I would have suggested a super funky or soft androgynous underwear line, named Crocker.  Why the hell not? 

And this is where all of you who may be (or probably aren’t) reading can make a difference.

Stop thinking so small.

Stop thinking within these invisible parameters, they don’t exist.

If you have half a million or even 200K followers, be ready. Be thinking ahead, reverse engineer your brand and your strategy. Don’t assume this is all going to be here 4 years from now. If you have an idea, I urge you to go for it while you have the attention of your audience. If you LOVE writing, vlogging and creating videos then keep doing that. Chances are, you will excel and evolve with the social media trends. But if you see something bigger ahead for yourself, such as the case was with Jessica Alba or Chiara Ferragni, plan your strategy now.  Your current career is your skill honing, your brand building, your research.  Your future career is going to be supported by whatever work you are putting in now.

Jessica Alba started The Honest Company in 2011, and it has been wildly successful, to the tune of $1.7Billion. She leveraged her celebrity status to launch the brand and company, but she stepped back and allowed the quality of the products and the message to speak for itself. You see, it isn’t quite enough for a celeb to just build a brand and reap insta-rewards.  You have to create something pretty worthwhile with a worthwhile agency, or it might blow up in your face.

Just ask Kate Hudson how Fabletics (owned by JustFab) is doing amidst the thousands of complaints from disgruntled customers.

When you strip back all the marketing hype, the core of every good celebrity endorsed, celebrity branded product or collaboration should be the product. Quality product and quality marketing is key to long term success.  

Your audience is tuned in, it’s time to start thinking of taking your brand to the next level. If it is your desire to take this as far as you can, you need to know when to strike and start creating a foundation for long-term growth by creating quality products that will become an extension of your brand and eventually a COMPANY.

All of this-this crazy cool internet madness that allows any one of us to write a post or create a channel with videos and succeed like we never have before, this is a gift.  You and I are in the midst of an evolution that is incredible and intriguing.

Understand where you are and harness your fanbase.  There has never been a better time than NOW to reach out and grab the limitless opportunities. 

Why ‘Intuitive Entrepreneurship’ is Crucial

Sometimes it means moving rapidly on an idea that sparks almost out of nowhere.

Lately the phrase “intuitive entrepreneurship” has been popping into my head.  Perhaps these are buzzwords which are being used more often. Or perhaps, the need to employ this way of thinking is more crucial than it has been before. Letting go of old paradigms is really hard, but I guess it’s much harder when you find yourself left behind because you were afraid of change and taking a risk.

“Entrepreneurs are different. They have the ability to deal with uncertainty, to take risks and tolerate ambiguity. They usually have a personality that is mercurial, and they have highs that are really high and lows that are really low. There’s good evidence that they have strong self-confidence but also tend to be overoptimistic. They rely extensively on their own intuition.”  -James V. Koch
Old Dominion University

As natural-born entrepreneurs, we are kind of wired to take risks and be rebellious.  We learn really early in life what interests us and what doesn’t.  This is probably why I sucked so much in school.  I never understood the point.  I was incredibly bored. I saw myself, my life and my future in a space that had nothing to do with anything going on in those classrooms.  Life was more interesting, more intelligent and grander than the education I was getting there. I couldn’t wait to get out of school to actually create my life the way I saw it. 

I think this is one trait of an entrepreneur that really stands out. If you are a natural born entrepreneur, you probably know you are a bit of a stubborn individual. You live in a bubble of your own ideas, often times feeling like you speak a different language than others.  You are totally driven and would rather stay up all night planning and doing research than sleeping.  And for anyone who tries to sway you from your vision, your hustle and gut instincts -well, that’s all but impossible.

I have been exercising my intuition and trend forecasting skills for a long time now. So the methods and skills I use are pretty natural to me.  My career as a fashion designer has meant that using intuition, and awareness with research is vital to creating collections or pieces that are relevant. I was told in my career that, “If it didn’t scare me, I wasn’t thinking big enough”. A design manager at a company I worked for wanted us to “make him a little uncomfortable” with our designs.  So taking risks has been a huge part of my life in my career and in my own entrepreneurship.  And I embrace it wholeheartedly.

What exactly does it mean to be an intuitive entrepreneur? Sometimes it means taking a little time to think over and research an idea, and sometimes it means moving rapidly on an idea that sparks almost out of nowhere.  With so much information being served to us on a daily basis, sometimes all we have is our intuition to go on. Taking your time on an idea just for the sake of pragmatism isn’t the wisest choice, even if it sounds wise to everyone else.  If you feel deep in your gut that an idea is a hot one, I encourage you to go for it.  This, in my opinion, is the purest form of intuitive business strategy, and the nature of an entrepreneur.

The ability to be creative, think on the fly and make key business decisions with little time amidst the tsunami of external information is vital. Intuition is the natural intelligence that allows us to see ahead of the curve, to generate innovative ideas, to communicate powerfully and to do so without having to study spreadsheets or gather piles of data.  -Simone Wright

On more than a few occasions, I was designing 3-6 years ahead of the game.  And because of that, I either hit it out of the park or swung too quickly and struck out.  In 2008, a collection I worked on wasn’t market relevant, yet. Prospect Denim, a denim collection I helped create and launch in 2008, become relevant – 5 years later.  In fact, every denim company launching in 2013 offered that ‘homespun, made in USA the old fashioned way’ branding message that I created for Prospect in 2008. My partner at the time had the foresight to predict the laser technologies in denim finishing long before any other mainstream denim companies were doing it.  In 2007-08 I foresaw the return to the small batch, USA-made apparel roots happening before it did. Collectively, we saw the direct-to-consumer selling approach. Unfortunately for Prospect Denim in 2008, the rest of the denim world needed more time to “catch up”.  We made our dent in the fashion industry with our innovative thinking and award winning website but it wasn’t enough to translate that into multi-million dollar conversions.  Had we launched two years later, we would have completely crushed our competition.

Being too far ahead isn’t aways a bad thing, but timing is important.

I struck at the right time in 2009 with my first real apparel company, Berry Jane.  At the time, the ‘leggings as pants’ movement was still really new.  It was Berry Jane and Black Milk who were paving the way.  It was hugely successful in it’s first 6 months, and by month 7, we were already on our way to multi-million dollar revenues by year 2. My only kiss of death with that brand was allowing three of the four devils of branding and the wrong partnerships to enter into the picture.

They were:

COMMITTEES (water down inspiration)
BUREAUCRACY (rules override initiative and the ability to think)
RED TAPE (not being nimble and adding layers just because we think moving slowly is somehow smarter than moving swiftly)

As a creative entrepreneur, you simply can NOT let other people into your sandbox or business before the vision (or business) is fully realized.  I can’t stress that enough. Your brand and vision cannot afford to be compromised before it is fully realized. As an intuitive entrepreneur, you can seen how this will play out. Chances are, you have visualized the success of your project like no one else can. You can’t let other people change that. Most importantly, if you are going to change anything, it needs to be because you saw the areas that needed improvements or changes and you did it.  Use your intuition.

Be brutally honest with yourself. This is lesson #1 in intuitive entrepreneurship.

Be OPEN to seeing, hearing and feeling when something isn’t right and quickly adjusting or tweaking areas where you feel it needs to change.  If you discover that your idea simply sucks, or there is just not enough white space for your brand or business, it’s OK to adjust the sails or just fucking scrap it.  Spending time beating a dead horse or living in the past keeps you in that present state: beating a dead horse that will never rise and living in the past that will not propel you forward.  If you see something changing, or if the old ways of doing things aren’t working anymore, you owe it to yourself and your company to figure out why. Spend some time observing and taking it all in.  Pay attention to what is going on around your space.

Ask yourself: What does this project feel like?  Am I doing everything I can with it? What are the successful people doing?  Where is all of this headed?  As a consumer, what do I want? What does all of this feel like?

When you tune in more, you will get better at it.  Take time to be alone with your thoughts and meditate. Analyze your questions and answers.

In my past experiences, I learned to strike when it felt right and to avoid big decisions if I felt hesitant.  I also learned to avoid too many naysayers or partners who tried to change or complicate my flow of things. I learned how to walk away quickly from a person who felt “off”, or a project that just didn’t have the legs I thought it would have. Nor did I partner up with a person because I was desperate for funding or creative collaboration.  I was not attached to the projects or brands simply because I had invested so much into them.  That’s not a good enough reason to continue investing your time, your life, energy and money.  If it’s a project that needs changing in order to be successful, do the necessary changes that it needs, otherwise, be OK growing it slowly or toss it.  There has to be a return.  If it isn’t paying you back financially or emotionally, it’s not worth it. This is another area where your intuition will not lead you astray.  If it feels sucky, let it go and move on.

You have to be willing to hear and see what’s going on around you and predict what’s coming next. Where do you want to be in that game?  In 2008, Tony Robbins hosted a seminar on entrepreneurship. He talked about the economy in the USA, starting a business, and how it was going to challenge all of us.  He also spoke about the power of giving back and truly connecting with our clients and customers in a very personal way (through social media). If you have 30 minutes to spare, I highly recommend this video.

Anticipating is the ultimate advantage in business and in life.  Be ahead of the game, don’t wait to react.  Play the game. KNOW the road ahead.