well, the end is upon us. yes, the conclusion to the NxLevel business education course for creative entrepreneurs is here - and our last guest speaker was matt hessler, co-founder of the denver-based clothing company elc mens.
a cool, rugged line of men's threads, elc mens is a product of two colorado guys with their sights set on ruffling feathers on the national men's fashion scene... especially on the country's coasts where colorado is more synonymous with skiing and beef than hip masculine apparel. hessler says he and his tattoo artist partner patrick king have planted some seeds in retail outlets in both NYC and LA all while tapping a uniquely colorado feel with the brand's designs and marketing.
now, many of the hurdles hessler and king face while trying to launch a successful national clothing line may be unique to their industry and goals, but there are some lessons that any creative entrepreneur can learn from listening to the elc story.
hessler says choosing the right suppliers was key to building the elc foundation. "what do your suppliers say about your company?" he says. depending on who you're doing business with, hessler stresses vetting your suppliers to learn about their attributes and the materials they use. what are their projections of current and near-term volumes? where are your suppliers located and how does your industry perceive them?
"can suppliers lend credibility to your brand?" he asks. "use the proper suppliers and their products to add to your own story."
hessler humorously says building supplier relationships is like modern-day dating. "find out as much as possible about them and always make a good first impression," he says. "be direct and honest, and always present the best version of yourself."
with regards to supplier relations, hessler says make sure EVERYTHING is handled via email. first, written emails document everything that goes down during important negotiations. he also suggests email as a more efficient way to eliminate interpretation during communications and negotiations as well.
"don't be afraid to communicate all of your thoughts, feelings and desires," he says. "you have power as the customer."
speaking on supply and inventory management, hessler says to know the lead times for your goods and drop-ship to vendors with delivery confirmation. don't forget to account for the possibility of late deliveries, he says, because "nothing ever ships on time."
hessler says it's important to maintain a lean inventory, especially with regards to a start-up company. "don't sit on product because it's bad money management," he says. "but running too lean can be costly too." what's helped him find balance with his inventory is understanding the value in volume pricing and for which designs buying in bulk will be cost effective.