The Entrepreneur Podcast
The Entrepreneur Podcast

Episode · 2 years ago

6. Taking Risks in Entrepreneurship w/ Rami Helali

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

This week’s Ivey Entrepreneur podcast features a New Yorker who quit his corporate job and moved to Egypt--all for the sake of the perfect t-shirt.

Guest, Rami Helali shares his experience starting KOTN--an ethically sourced t-shirt company that specializes in using a transparent manufacturing process that meets the highest standards in both ethics and quality. 

He chronicles the hustle, drive, and determination that it took to grow a brand from a backpack and a dream four years ago, to having a strong online presence in addition to several retail stores in multiple countries today.

His insights are applicable to anyone looking to make the jump from employee to entrepreneur and pull it off successfully.

 

You're listening to the IVYENTPRENORpodcast from the Pierre L, Moriset Institute, Foronto crenership at theIvy Business School. In this series I ve entrepreneur, an IV faculty member,Eric Canson will anchor the session. You quit your dream job to launch acompany and an industry that you have no experience in. You work the hardest.You've ever worked in your life to source the product, build the brand andlaunch the website and guess what you actually get sales rolling in on dayone. But then, of course, you do but they're all from your family andfriends and then day to comes around and crickets. This is how cotton started.Cottons founder, Romi Hellali worked in the finance industry. It was crushingit, but ew was true calling was to be an entrepreneur. This podcast is hisstory of starting a Renowne Fashione brand selling, Egyptian cotton teas andpartnering with family on farms and charities in Egypt to do it. Ethicallycotton has, since grown exponentially in open flagship stores in Toronto andQueen West and in Manhattan. In T, part of Soho Rami shares the story of how heleft his job, with no formal plan for how to start the business, how to quitthe right way, how to hire your first employees, and even the exact emailword for word, that he used to get covered by top media outlets likeForbes Vogue, the New York Times, the Huppington Post in Jq, this story ofHustle Learning and growth is inspiring for any ANCHIPRUDEUR, whether you'rejust starting out, and need some motivation or trying to break throughthat next level of growth enjoy this conversation with my good friend, RoiHelali, the cofounder of cotton, I'm here with Rommi Hillali from cottonand Rami, it's good to finally, have you back yeah got to ve excited to haveyou so for those that may not be as familiar with cotton. I thought itwould be helpful if we start off with what is it that you do yeah so conasedirect to consumer apparel company. We started online a little over threeyears ago. Now we start of a simple idea that we felt that the every dayEssentialis kind of the things that we come in contact with in our warddrobeevery day the te Shirs, the underwear, the kind of repeat items you eitherhave to go designer and pay a lot of money and and sometimes the ethicsmatched or you have to go kind of CHNM and kind of throw away clothing. So wejust sensed that there was a gap there in the market that needed to beaddressed. So we started online with a couple of these products and since then,we've grown to have four retail locations across Canada. In the U S-and you know it' still, the majority of ourbusinesses online nd and we've been very fortunate to kind of grow in thatway. But a big part of what we do is actually how we source it. We are acompletely transparent ethical supply, Chan from the second, the cotton leavesthe ground Tel, the final products we actually work directly with t e farm,small holder farms in the Nile Delta in Egypt. Everything we make is made outof Egyptian con. We provide direct subsidies and guaranteed prices andkind of work our way through the supply chain, with ethical facilities. Untilwe have the the final garment, we KINDOF call it like mid market priceluxury at a mid market price. Awesome. You've done a a really good job oftelling the story O afe cotton. I mean when you look at it on the surface. Iremember when you first launched the company you're thinking tshirt companyH. How many do we need? How do you differentiate that? But the story inwhat you actually stand for as a company is a huge difference. Eateryeah, I mean, I think, listen one of the biggest Frenciators for us. I thinkthat the way we approached solving this problem, we are a product of ourcurrent generation. I think a D and tous. It inherently meant that itneeded to be what people call ethical, but for us it was kind of the default,so my background's Egyptian, so I kind of quit my job in New York, a D andspent six months in Egypt. Four of those months. I was living with thefarms to kind of understand what their struggle was and all that type of thing,and- and I really think that kind of time spent in that effort spent, Ithink customars really appreciate the...

...authenticity of our story. The otherthing is, we have a brilliant and incredible. I mean my Li e one of my cofounders is incredibly brilliant, creative and and has a really great wayof telling that story and and her entire crative team has been reallygreat at that, but I think the core of it of kind of like it being true and it being. I actuallythink that we kind of understate what we do, but it is part of the DNA of thecompany and I think that's what people are ggravitate toars and kind of areinterested in part of this story. Success Cool so part of what we like todo on these pocasses get into some of the details here. So you you know grazeover. I left my job and we started this company and Wen lived on the faresbefore m six months. So how talk me through what you were doing before and how did you get this to a point whereyou were comfortable actually leaving your job? Jost start this thing, so wehad nothing thene. When I left my job so e, we didn't get it to no. His splan really honestly, like Kinda, just H, looking back now, quite a naive idea.So I don't know if I'd recommend that for everyone listening, but it workedout for us and I it was kind of our story and I'm very thankful that itworked out that way BU. So what did you have in the beginning when you firstleft honestly, like Ben My cofanter called me and said: Hey, you know likehow t shirts are either really expensive and unaccessible or Kindolike like not made well and with shoddy ethics, and I as like yeah. This seemslike enough to quit my job more and and that and looking back ow I I reallyobjectively see how how little that is, but maybe reflecting now. What I didhave is a trust in us as a team's ability and a conviction that I think my Gutt told us that kind ofthe way things are made isn't okay and can't be the way things are made in thefuture in terms of the ethics and and the impact on the environment. I thinkour gut said it even if we at the time, if you'd ask me, I probably couldn'thave put it in words. I think I got told us that there was a an opportunityto do something: different and kind of innovate on a supply chain in thetransparency, ind kind of ethics there and the way that our busmo kind ofgives back without us having to kind of have a CSR team or whatever, maybe, andat the same time again it was a trust in our my own ability and my partner'sability, N and kind of that thing. So when you, how did that conversation gobecause you'd been working in your previous rule for how long five Yorfour in bet years, four an o et years? So you were in good role. Kind of youmix of you said private equity and entertainment, yeah yeah, it's a reallycool role. Yeah, your friend calls you with an idea andyou at the drop of a Ha deside. You want to be an entrepredeur listen. Ialways knew that. I want to start my own business. It was always a thing Imean when I was here at I v, I I I took as many of those courses as possibleand- and I always you know like one of my cofinders Ben and I always just kindof baunced ideas off o each other and they're all terrible like looking backnow. You know, like I remember one of US Mkens, your third cofinder and Ben'swife like makes fun of us like we're, like oh we're, Gonta start like anonline laundry business like you go like whatever you drop it off and likeit exists now like do. I want to be doing laundry. My whole life, likeprobably not so I always knew I want to start my own business. I think for awhile n kind of, like my gut something was boiling that like Hey. This is adream job. It really was like. I had a co at the company I worked at. That waslike she's, one of the most inspirational kind of people that havebeen around. She was like so smart and so direct and I respected how sheconducted herself and she really like it fell like took me under her wing andkind of really taught me and Ike had a path to. I think a lot of success and Iwas having a lot of success at a young age at the company, but just my Gudtold me, like you're, going to get comfortable and like this feels niceand like likely at a certain point, it's going to feel too nice to Kindof,give it up so for a while. It kindo was like in my gut that you know t the timemight be coming. If I was going to do it, and it just happened to me thatthat was the idea, maybe that was...

...kind o thrown out there during thatperiod. The one thing I will say, though, is like I've always known that,like the opportunity I was afforded because my parents coming over here andimmigrating years, you know and all that kind of thing I always knew that,like I wanted to take the things that I've learned, whether or not ivy- oryou know kind of my community here and and do what I can to help in where myheritage is from. So I always also had that. But you know this surprisingly,an kind of fashion or retail was the way to kindo bridge all those differentthings, but it's funny how life shakes out. I mean it's interesting. Icouldn't have kind of written this out, yeah previously, so spending a lot oftime on the quitting part, but because people care what the Deda, how did thatquit conversation go? I think I've had people quit on me. We've had aterminypeople, there's there's a good way and a bad way to do it. So how did you doit and did you do it the right way? I I'm not sure I think again, I'd give abias answer, I'm sure, but looking back now, I remember feeling sick to my stomach.For about a month before KANALICI was making that decision Kinda I wasleaning more and more towards like it happening. I think they had a lot oftrust in me and as kind of someone at a company now that has team members ihavea few people. You know like I get it like if they left they would feel likealmost a betrayal. I don't know if they felt that way. I can't speak for them.I told them I'd work for as long as they needed me to. I kinda gave himthat option. I talked through it. I didn't end up working hat lo like they,you know c, the transition happened relatively quickly. I remember like notsleeping for a couple of days before having to do it. I remember likeRelatie, like I I'm fortunate to not have to like. I don't get nervous inthose situations. I I remember being extremely nervous 'cause I felt like Iwas letting down kind of like an older sister, an older brother, like kind ofa parent figure o whatever. Maybe- and you know I still- I catch up with themevery once in a while, both the c CEO, an coo of that company- and you knownot as much you know in last ear, probably as it as but right after Imean we still talk for quite a bit cool. That's yeah helpful to know, I thinkthe details matter, so you it easy Parto glaze over the or had this joband I quit and we moved ooand. The other Thang I want to add here is like I in my head was like: If this doesn'twork, I'll go travel it and, like I remember, going to Egypt and notknowing how long I was going to stay and had a family wedding at the timeand that kind of thing- and I remember going like actually a friend of minehad booked me and a friend of mine, who was the ivy classmate of mine, hadbooks six months in South America and I was like okay, maybe when I'm back I'lldo this and within a week it just kindof like the hooks were in, and Ijust called him and I was like dude sorry, I'm not coming on this trip andhew's like so I'm going away for six months by myself. I guess so. I'm sorry and I never got arefund for that trip to Argentina, actually man. So so you gave up thattrip in order to start yeah yeah. It was like Al like it wasn't like. I needto do this. I quit my job and it's like this romantic thing. It really wasn'tlike that's a lot messier than that. You know, like I think, human emotionand how weare wired as the species a lot less clear cut than that I mean youknow, there's there's so many considerations when you're making thesedecisions, so I mean I would say to my like self and I try to remind myselfall the time it's like you know like when you Zomout it all looks like Ohthis happened and then this happened and obviously yot worked. Look at allthose things that happened, but when you're in it very often not that clear and- and andyou know it just happened- you know and ID itsticking to it and kind of like having that belief is kind of the reason Ithink white happenlthat's helpful, so so shifting gears. Now you you quityour job you're in Egypt. If you can go into the details, what did you do tostart it because often there's this big intimidating? What do I do? Next? How do I prioritizelike? How did you figure out what needed to Hev done next yeah? So it'sreally funny. Actually, I I remember thinking of my head and now it's kindof funny, but I remember think bout it...

...as like. How do you ship a thing like?How do you generate a label like? I remember that being a question like howdo you create a label like on a for on a commercial level and like stick 'emon packages, and how does that envol happen to have to enter it m? Iremember that being a sticking point for whatever reason like looking backnow, it's like a two second thing, but a I spent four months of those sixmonths on the ground with the farms. What I did there as like literally Ididn't really N, I knew no farmers. I knew no one who owned a farm. Iliterally drove it's about a three and a half hour drive from Tairo and tothis first place where we started in the Niledelta, it's kind of like wherethe Nile splits in te two in the north of the country and Itcredis like thiscredibly. Fertile Delta, which is hundred per cent of Regyptian Cottons,are grown, and it's it's Kindof like how KONAC can only come from conacerchampagne from champagne. It's like the salinity in the air mixed with thefertility of the soil because of the nutrients that come from Central Africathrough the Nile create this place where, like the best cot in the world,can be grown, and I was like, I think I've heard of Egyptian cons go fir ELT.What this is- and I literally like this is an Exagteris like park. The carwalked onto a farm like Hay, who wans this place and like I'd, get like weird,looks and like get off my property and that kind of thing until like afterdoing this a few times, someone was like O, come and I'll talk to you andtalk me through kind of their experience and that person introduce Moone more person and that kind of thing there's no like easy way to do thesethings. From my experience, it's just like it's Kindaf just hard you justkindo have to do it and just Kinda, like most of the days, are Kindo bad, andyou know there's like that good day. That gives you that energy that youfelt like at the beginning that, like you know, makes you withstand the nexttwenty thirty bad days, and then you know another good day so yeah I went tothe farms, understood kind of their struggle and then from there I was likeI guess what comes after the cotton, I guess yarn. So I went and like linkedin like who owns yoarn companies. No one on I lingthen ony arn companies.Surprise Yea. Ask One person who introduce me to another person or, likeyou, know, forty terrible meetings and then you meet one kind of like personyou're like Oh. I feel like this person's honest and is going to providegood quality, and then you do a little sample and when ver and then from Yoarn,I went to fabric same thing and then cut and so same thing and all of thisI'm trying to conmisce them to do like two hundred t shirts, which is like that's like sample room stuff like theylike you're asking me. Do all this ethical stuff like that I've neverheard about at's two hundred teashirts. So that was a real big thing. Iremember I remember taking a weekend, my parentsat time lived or living debi so like I went over there and as like this reallyisn't working blah blah blah and but as like, Hey listeninng, I'm having lunchwith some friends. I'd love to introduce you and you know her parentslike just proud of their kids and whatever- and I remember thing in myhead an like. I really don't want to go and I was like whatever I'll just goand at that lunch- and I don't know whatever you call this, but aftertrying for like months to find a manufacturer like a cut and sow one ofhis new friends, Hehad just moved there et was like. Oh, I heard you re doingthis like a family friend of mine owns e factor, and I was like in my ha likethis is another one of those things call the person the person the CAMacthually come ing to o by in a day I'll bring you all the samples you wantand I'll do hit exactly h. You want and that's how kind of we found the finaland kind of one of the more important pieces of that puzzle. L Mix, what doyou call it luckmeats opportunity or race whatever it is nice, so early days, you're getting your butkkicked. You know is this going to work? Is this idea bad? Am I tad he almostthoug? How did you push through that? Like? Did you have a when you started?Did you have a vision for what you wanted it to be like? Did you have a anidea of what once you got on the other side of it, woulnt e lookd forward tohow did you I always like? I think we have this habit of going like if I justget there everything's going to be amazing, and then you get there like?No, it's just it's hard, but it's different kind, O hard right. So Ithink the thing that I've learned is like man, I'm so like. I feel sofortunate to have the problems that we have, that I tel I say thes star team.All the time like we get to wake up and solve really hard problems. They'rereally difficult, but, like that's really exciting like would you ratherjust be going Ta do the same thing over and over again every day, some peopledo and that's fine, that's really great like, and I don't mean that acondescending way but, like we all understand what makes us tick and likemyself and the people on the team and...

...my partner is like I know what makes ustick is like this is really hard and it's like basically impossible, t'stakea shot. You know like in that kind of the mentality. So to answer yourquestion: Do I there wasn't like a thing like or astatus where I thought like? If we got there like everything would be fine,but I did have a vision that, like I think that we can have profound impacton the ground to these. People who I felt like were let down by the system,and I don't need to get into politics, but whatever may be didn't haveopportunity. You had a really high literacy rate in the area. You had likea lot more girls than boys that were illiterate and- and you know goingaround around, like my mother and sister, incredibly brilliant women andmotivated and driven and ambitious- and you know taught me so much and seeing that as like. Oh that literally,could have been me a generation ago was a strong motivator. I think all of usat cotton on the entire team, like that's kind of the thing that keeps usgoing when it gets bad. Like you go visit these schools and you're. Likeyou know, some of these girls, like we pioatize two to one in the schools thatwe built girls to boys and some of these girls, like literally I met Li ayear ago when we opened the school, didn't, could not read a word and likewe were there a month ago, and I was like they were doing likemultiplication on the board, and I had to kind of like think about some of theproblems and they were going so quick. I was like. Oh Damn like. This is athing like, so you w that that helps a lot s. So now you mention the schools,it has to be explicit. So now you are a part of educating the youth in thatregion, so e Chare a little bit about some of those goals yeah. So we what we do is like. We have completetransparency and ethics in our supply chain with everytinglon the partners wework with right and we make sure of that and hold theirselves accountableby having third party people ottered us like. We don't even take our own wordfor it like we make sure that other people are experts come in and makesure that we are doing what we say, we're doing right and that's reallyimportant, and we give back to these farmers through subsidies andguaranteed prices right. We say to them: Okay, we're Goin at the end of theseason by it. This much so you have a guaranteed revenue and we're going todecrease your expenses by providing whatever agricultural consultantsfertilize or whatever it. Maybe so that all goes into our calks. I mean, Idon't think most people put that into their coss o get sold, but we bake thatinto our actual marchs. Over and above that, for us, our belief is for us to aexist and have an ecosystem in which people are thriving and businesses arethriving and people are treated with respect. We need to invest now insomething that's going to creat change in the next generation, one after thatand through the work with the communities. We understood prettyquickly, that, like a lack of education, is a really big problem. Access toearly kind of elementary school and early education is a problem. You knowsometimes e closet, school's, eight clomers away, no C car. The kids haveto walk two or three hour dangerous walk, so we determine okay. This iswhat we're doing now and we're going to start building these community schoolsin the places in which were source are Cuttin and, and we think of it as not like it'll pat us, on the backwe're doing such a great thing, but for us to really have anything left, probably in a hundredyears. I think these are the type of investments that we need to be makingas private businesses and not just ng Os and whatever government agencies orwhatever they. Maybe. So. How does that investment that you make? You said theinvestment in the schools is part of cogs, no, so subsidies of the farms andthe guarantee prices port of Te cogsoutside of all that two percent ofour revenue minimum is goest to these pcot it. So you decided two percent.Your Business model is including a two percent of your revenue goes Directlyd,Wi, H, those Mormim, and we haven't. We haven't even gotten close to. It'soften been more than that. You know we. We work with an NG o there that helpsus like we fund the build the KAPEC and the operational expenses, so everythingteachers' salariesn, all that kind of thing, but then there's an o that, likespecializes with education, to run the schools and train the teachers and thatkind of thing, so we work and work on, needs assessments of the community andwe paratize which community needs it and, like we prioritize like there's alot of work that goes into that, but that all comes from that two percentwere a BCORP which co one of those not...

...only for profit businesse. I it'scalled the benefit corporation, like benefit for all that, and it's likewe're, actually quite a rigorous audit process to get a Beecorp Patagoniaislike the most famous bcorp and all that that was more. Like a you know. Thosethings are good for consumers, who don't want to spend the timeresearching. That kind of stamp means that someone else has done. Theresearch they've done the work they've audited. They know that this is true,so that provides that which has been really helpful for us, but Um yeah. Wekind of honestly we hold ourselves o a pretty high standard on that front. Anit's really hat motivates me n a D and I think the whole team cool so you'vegone. You come quite a long way. You Lanch a business when twenty yeah,almost four years ago now n od, her yeah fourteen fifteen and sixteen wow,okay, so so twentyrfifteen. Sixteen yea, you went from strictly online to yousaid how many physical retails o we just we just finished up our one yearand so o in New York and we're moving out to Brooklyn. Now, but right now wehave Tronto Vancouver an Montreal and probably another five coming in thenext eighteen months. Awesome. So I picked up a few things that you doreally well is in brand. If you just search cotton, Ktn, you've done aphenomenal job of storytelling and of press coverage. So how did you get like?Where did that start? How did you first start to get coverage for con? We weretalking about this earlier, but I remember we launched and we like postedon. I puzzled on my facebook. My cofounders did the same like go by andlike my mom and Dad Bon my uncle's and Ben's mom and McKenzie's mom, andeveryone bought, and it was all great and like Oh, I six thousand in thefirst day, I'm like. Oh, it's only up from yere and the next tone. It's liketwo and like thirty day Iwas like a couple hundred bucks and then the ThirdFourth Fifth Sixth Day was just zero dollars like no one is googling and atthe time it was Kot and dot C, O like no one's Gogling. That and like nooneon knows what that is, and I was like. Oh so. What now and I rememberhaving like a moment of panic like I don't even know what to do like whatcomes next and I kinda like broke it down. I'm like okay. Well, I need morepeople to know about this and the people who are gatekeepers the thousepeople ar press, so I don't get Presse and then I googled and I found alist that had like I don't know, thousand five hundred editors orsomething like that ore. A journalists from like every walk of life like everytype of publication D, it was like fifteen bucks or something like thatand I like buy that and I sent an individual emaol was not a blast. Iremember ECAUSE, it said like whatever was the same subject line and then Itailored each one n d: It's like. I really enjoyed this article that youwrote and it showed that I like actually thought about it, a littlewbit and I did a thousand five hundred of those, and I still have it in myscent and I go back to those every once and a while and I'm having a bad dayand being like, at least you don't Sen, a thousand five hundred bress emailstoday, and I remember I think I got six or seven responses and the first thingthat wrote about a r publication that wrote of US wit a thing called Mikeshouts. I don't know if it still exists thanks Mike Yeah Hanks cover the shotowMike and then I'd follow up to every whatever one thousand four hundred andninety four that unresponded and then got like a couple. More and I think oneof the first ones was maybe incer, you know what was high snobiity at the time.I can't really remember, but it was one of those and then that got another one,and that was the early days and I literally just like honesty to thetprobably unanannoying point was carassing these editors and guy. Iwouldn't recommend doing that, but it worked on a few of them and I rememberTEC crunch- and I won't mention the editor's name- B'cause HEU'd probablySol around- but I remember said, like Hey. The article goes out tomorrow andI remember being like. Oh my God, like at the time TEC crunch. I was like thething: everyone red right. I was like. Oh my God, we're about to be so richright and then the next day t comes and Yo didn't post it and I email he lakay.Sorry just got caught up article s already written hating published aanthrepm again, nothing and the guy just disappeared and never wrote thearticles. I remember like those ere such insane highs and Los, but that washow it was done at the beginning and then eventually we hired a PR agency.That's like really really great in the: U S, ND and does this, but I think...

...you can like have bad products with nostory and no need for that product didn't expect coverage. I think youeither not need to innovate with like the type of product or service, or youhave to defrentiate if it's a space that is already quite you know busy.You have to have a deferenciation and a reason for these people to speak aboutit and stepping in the editor or the journalist shoes, as really has beeneffective for me and all of us, I think, as a team, as we think about like. Whywould they talk about this like it's a bunch of new colors like do you want toread about that? I don't really want to read about that. Okay, so t the productis a bunch of new colors right. You know they don't care how hard it was toget those colors like they're. Not In that, but actually like I mean this, wecan speak to like this upcoming R, releasing like kind o like Chinos andwoven pants, and that's a huge produc release for us. I was like: Does anyonecare that there's Marginos, probably not, and then we thought about it werelike? Oh, but W we are one of one probably in the world is like I cantell you, were each individual fibr came from and every single person thattouched it and what condition they live in and how much they make and is thatenough and how we're helping like we have complete transparency to theactual natural material which I think is is very unique and that's what therhetoric's going to be about, and I mean we'll see how much press we getabout it. But historically, that's you know compelling. I story T to Kindotell so that's these are simple lessons, but not easyto grasp fully but like if you want to get coverage, have something worthcovering heae and do I work for them and do the work yeah a lot of thesenews outlets, especially local news, are gutted, there's very few peopleleft and if you can make their work easy, have something worth writingabout and make it copy paste if possible. Yes, have a higher, like. Iliterally have like an early press release that I touched that email and Ithink, like the first five articles, were iterally that release like an. Iwas a bad press release like looking back now like that was bad, and I waslike Oh man, these huge publications like really basically Ranthis, I meanthey put in their own flair, each journalist. You know they put in theirlike you know, Lens or whatever, maybe but the heart of it, the content, the hardpart is done for them right make it easy. Would you mind sharing what thatemail subject line? Was I have it here somewhere, um 'cause, that's a bigthere's! A The book on advertising by Ogilvy talks about, if you don't sellit in your headline, then you've basically wasted your money. So ninetypercent of people will read the headline a sorry. Now, ien en of peopleonly read the headline and will not read the body copy. So when it comes toemail, subjectslet's assume the same ratio that nine of the ten people arenever going to read the body unless the Co. Unless the N, I got it here. Thislooks like it went to the senior producer, a CTV. I guessthey were on the list and the subject of the email. Is I quit my jobin New York and lived on cotton farms in Egypt all for the perfect tea and Io Yeah? I remember thinking like if Igot that email I'd be like what is this about. You know at least Goin to skimit yeah exactly and then right away. I just said Cknowledge that they're busy,like Hey ilkeep, this brief 'cause, I know you're super busy and you getlowns of these. Our story includes three New Yorkers all originally fromTronto quitting their jobs and a six amonth F journey to each oblivion,cotton farms and factories, altocrate the perfect tshirt and save theEgyptian coon industry from ex extinction. That's a story, though youknow yeah like and yeah. I I guess early on the instinct said like. Would I openthis email with the question? I would ask myself and I'm sure this is versionfive, I'm sure I've sent a few- and I remember downloading, like one of thosethings where you could see if they opened he email or not and like usingthat ias like Oh, these are getting open more. I should use this. I didn'tknow what the time that was called a B testing and all the start up jarging,but I remember just inherently understanding like Oh, like just puthem against each other and see which onments cool so you've been covered invogue, forbs, Globandmail, New York Times, Helfington Post Gq, lot of localstuff blong to you. How much of that?...

How many of those came from just yourolling up your sleeves, our biggest revenue generator from press to thisday is a g q article I o month three and it's the articles titled. These arelike the white t. These are the best white teachirts ar like White Tshirt GQ, staff or Swearby, or something like that S. every time people google bestwhite tea. That comes up right at the top and we're like the second one inthat article and that I actually remember very very specifically howthat happened. I the journalist, was at I want to say, ink and when I emailedhim the first blast, he was like Hey, I'm actually leaving next week andmoving to Gq like this, actually might be a really great thing I was like Ey.Can I send you a sample right away? Respond like within two seconds he's aGash Er he's my address and I sent it, and I guess this guy moved before itgot to him and like three months later, this guy wentback 'cause. He figured that there might be packages waiting, fror it as aold building, and this was one of them and he opened it and sayd. Oh my God,this thing emailed music, hey like there's a jkeething coming out tomorrow,and I remember just seeing like a revenue just like really really go. Idon't know how much we've made off that article like that specific mention, butit's like it could be. Six figures like I don'tknow, but it's it's one of our top refers, and this islike four years. This is from old school was Lik te months and AH, likejust blasting and kind of like going back and circling back and like tryingto be like empathetic in saying, like I know, I'm being annoying like I reem,really sorry and like ut. I I really care about this, and this is somethingthat's like really important. 'Ornot, sorry yeah, that the Nice Canadian,we're alway so you've had some pretty notablesuccesses. I mean you've got four retail locations. The online businessstaking off there's a other project that you folks are working on a differentspace. It's very interesting Um. What of your keys to success been so fartough to boil it down, but I is there anything that, like you can say thesefew things we did really well. I think we're really quick learners. I think,like the team like that wee put together, islike super quick, like we'll make a mistake, but we won't make it again andlike we're quite good at that at pinpointing what went wrong and making sure that's ingrain and alost that thatmystake can't happen and that's one thing. The other thing is like honestly,and- and I don't know if this sounds cheesy I can't tell but like the teamthat we have is the reason for the company's success, and- and I mean thatin the founding team, but also like the first kind of like five to tenemployees like honesty, I they all treat the company like owners 'cause,they are, and you know like I. I just feel incredibly fortunate to have likethese driven motivated, much smarter than I am people kind of all workingtowards the same thing. So fine those people early on and our very firstemployee applied for an internship, and I remember glancing over theresimenthing. No, this won't work and kind of like passing it off, and mycofound Er looked at it and I was well. I was away in Egypt hired her and to this day, she's like she was inplaying number one and to this day you know a huge huge part of our success and andsame thing with our first crative hire same thing with like thelist goes on,so fine those people be like Frusky. Success was learning quickly and then Ithink, just generally, you just got Ta stick with it. Just hard like it. Justis hard and like we kept thinking like this is thesilver bullet. We just turn this corner and then, like all of a sudden, likethe millions come in with no additional effort, and this is it likeyour problemis just change like the current challenge. Just goes from likeokay, I used to literally there used to be a storagelalker where we like hadthe t, shirts and I'd go from my house like it was kind of depressing to be onin some days like just with a backpack N. it's like raining, and I just likeput like two t shirts that were ordered and the backpack and go and like mailnow like that, can be depressing and, like I still KINDOF, remember how thestore's Wolker smelt like that sticks...

...out in my mind. But you know thatseemed like the hardest thing ever and then now, like we have teams acrossmultiple countries, continent, cities and like managing that and likerealizing that, like no like, they ntrust you to help lead and help kindof guide the course, and that trust is like it's Kindof scary like to becompletely frank. Like some days. You know things might not be going well orlike the banking. Hou might be looking a little light and whatever it may be,and fundrasing's going a little difficult and you're like, and I reallyhope I'm never put in that position. where I like feel like you've, failedthose people, so just knowing that it's going to be hard, and I wish like Icould go back in JBEC, it's always going to be kindo difficult, one way oranother and just getting better a kind of reacting or not reacting. Oftento these things really is kind of a key success thing it's like. If you canjust get better like a you know you put in the work, you can try to mitigatethe risks. You can try to do all these things, but things happen in the waythat they happen and it's your job to react and and look at it and be able tozoom out and go okay. What does this mean for us? That kind of thing I mean, fortunately,we haven't had to kind of call Equitz or anything like that, but just theability to to Kinda reflect and kind of the interpersonal growth cool. How doyou find those people? So, no doubt you need to find great people and a lot ofpeople who have had measure of success for saying it's, it's the team, quickto give credit to the team. How did instead of generally, how can you? Howdid you? How did you find those people? I don't know? I honestly don't have ananswer for that. I think about this because we're at the point now we'rehiring more and more people mike. How do I make this a repeatable process? Iguess this is where this is where I'm at now in this journey. For that answer,I think doing things in the way that you want to want it to be done willattract the same kind of people. So if you are doing things terribly and notbeing honest and all those types, ofthings you're, probably going TAtrack those types of people and, on the other hand, if, if it's truly what youcare about and it's it's baked in the DNA of the company- and I think peoplecan sense that I think we have attracted those teps of people so yeahwe put out job postings and those types of things, and you know universitywebsites for recent grads or you know a little more active recruiting fornonres like more senior positions, d, a d that kind of thing, but I don't knowthat weve figured it out perfectly. I think we micofonder band's quite good at theinterview process like setting AP process that Kindof like weeds out andyou get the right. People Tho have the right attitude and aptitude, and thenit becomes kind of like a gut thing and kind of asking the right questions. Imean in my roles Zo. I I kind o come in if it's not directly under one of myteams like I'll come in at the end, and when there's a couple candidates andkind of have just a conversation, often not about anything technical I've hadyou know, I have an instinct where I feel comfortable. I see like Oh this.This person, I think, is aligned in values in our lined and kind of whattheir north star is and that's kind of what we look for Co, something Ihaven't tried yet, but since a lot of the people that we have on the show arestill in the middle of their journeys. You've had by many accounts some goodsuccesses, but you're still working on growing the company. So what are yourpriorities right now? What are you working on what's top of mind? So wehave you alluded to this, but we have a new business division kind of A. Ithink you call it a plan B, a business. That's come out of our originalbusiness that we're quite excited about, and I can you know quickly touch onthat. We had a bunch of these kind of companies that had similar mindsets orthe people runting. Those companis had similar minds that, to our kind of belike business B, D, c kind of consumer and they went Oh, you know like wereally like the quality of these t, shirts, the ethics behind it and theprice point can we use it to like print our logos and whatever it is, and wehad to say no a lot at the beginning. ECAUSE we're like okay. Well, like it,doesn't help the brand and all that and then we're like. Oh wait. This is,might be a big business. We look into it. It's Acually, a twenty eightbillion dollar business and T' All this stuff and we're quite excited about andwe're going ofter the opportunity Tou know. So I'm spending a lot of time nowand we were having a chat before this,...

...and I was kind of picking your brain nand Hod to set up a sales process and kind of think through it, and I mean you said to is like you just gotto roll up perceive and do it again right, like you, gotta get into it andfigure out what the customer is really liking and what is attractive to thecustomer. What isn't why you've won the customers you have and why you haven't,so I'm going to be spending a lot of time. Doing that I spend quite a bit oftime fund. Raising, I think you your face is the choice early on either bepatient and I think that's a really great wayto be be patient now that the business might take ten fifteen years to buildand that still not that long on the grand scheme of things or for there isa business reason. I think that's the advice. I would give if there's a areason for the viability of your enterprise to go fast. Then you startbecoming a bit dependent on outside capital, which provides its own risksor Um. KINDOF presents its own risks, so I guess yeah. I spent a lot of timefunraisn right now, 'cause. We believe that this one of the spaces that we'regoing after is going to be one in the next few years and we need to be. Webelieve that we are the people to do that, so we're kind of running to dothat and then organizational design- I guess, cool, so something that again,relatively new pod guests people in the middle of their journey. This is goingto go out to a lot of alumni, a lot of people in theNC pomorsial communitie. So if there's any request that you have of thecommunity, it would be right now, your fundraising yeah, I mean, I think it'swe haven't done like big, structured and Noune srounds. We never announcedhow much we raise like I just kind of I never really. I get it from a recruiting perspectiveso like if you say, we've raised eighty million dollars, you might get highertant that want more security. I get that otherwise, I kind o feel like it'san ego contest that I don't really want to be a part of sometimes not everyone,but sometimes it can be. So we have an announced rades and that kind of thingd we actually kind of like don't do these big structured rounds. We kindolike find the right partners that are aligned both timeline and kind of wherethe North Star. The company, is an share, the vision and we kind of takein the checks as they come in, based on allignment. Rather than like doingthese big structure rounds, I'm sure we're going to have to do a a largestructure round in the near future. But yes, we are. We are fundrays, okay, sopeople are interested. They get in touch with you that for that reason,and then on your Calit B, not doing it justice t the white label side on theemotional sedass. If there are any, it sounds like you're, sturving, primarilycompanies and fifty to two fifty 'retypically using some other hill dinn or whoever may belike low quality. That's marked up because of like kind of the supply, CHNhows how it exists right now, so you know it's often kind of the newer agecompanies. You know they digitally native or kind of like those types ofcompanies have so far been our most frequent customers. Fifteto two fiftyKINDOF TRONTO NEW YORK, San Fren, is how it's been so so next time, you'reputting on an event or need com. T shirts made, I consider actly ordinarysupply, oinary supply, so the two companies they find cotton online. Thebest way to find you guys, yeah just con dcomer at Kotn, on in Scram or Kotn,dotcom and oer supply, same thing, ordinary supply com or at ordinarysupply on instrument perfect. And if someone were to reach out and had some way to help you the best way, justthrough the website and t it'll, find its way to Yeaat I'll find its waythereis a general. I think email, hello, cotton, DOT, com and and those aredirected the right way. The other thing is we're hiring on a few differentareas, both like operations, kind of sales and a few different places bothon the cotton and ordinary supplyside, so maybe check out our careers page,perfect, yeah, P, I'd love to do a Fallo up episode. Where we get to talkabout now. Somebody had heard the pod cast that leddanext handful ofcustomers of ordinary supply. Next, so is there anything any advice that you'dgive is my last question. Any advice you'd give you twenty year oldself. Sooften the students that are in the school, many of them are around twentytwenty five years of age, many of them taking entrepreneurial classes. Isthere anything that you're thinking man?...

I wish I would have learned thisearlier or advice that you would give to rummy sitting in those seats. So anyears I think I'd say perspective is everything in perspective and how youinternalize with the filter in which you you deal with the events. IsEverything I've learned that things are going to go wrong? Things are going togo well, you have x percent control, whatever that may be, or differentpeople believe different percentages, but whatever that may be and there's aMaxi amount of effort you can put in and everything else is purelyperspective. A mistake can be: Oh, my God. These is a disaster or could belike I'm never going to do that again, which is actually so valuable like whenwe go through and try to figue out which channel works like I wantchannels to fail so that I know- and I can peace of Min say, that'll- neverwork. I'm done spending one percent brain power there. So I think thatperspective is is really important. The other thing is like focus is reallydifficult and there's a lot of opportunits that I present themselveswhen you're going through the path and learning how to say no is super supervalue. It's been a reallygreat fror us, so you can say heck yeah of the things that actually exactly Senouo. This has been awesome. I hope people get some value out of thessession and H, it's fantastic to have you in AA sory. Thank you. Appreciatit you've been listening to the Ivioncminor potcast to ensure that you never miss an episode subscribe to the showin your favorite podcast player, or visit ivy dot ca forward, slashentreprenership. Thank you so much for listening until next time.

In-Stream Audio Search

NEW

Search across all episodes within this podcast

Episodes (41)