I interviewed Shawn Judge of DV Clothiers for a marketing video series and he told me how he started a custom men’s fashion company: He took a huge risk, made a fortuitous connection, and built a start-up that makes men in Vancouver look good.
His story started five years ago with a vacation to Thailand, where on a whim, he bought his first custom made suits. He loved how the suits felt compared to his off the rack wardrobe. The compliments he received confirmed that a custom made wardrobe, not only felt better, it looked better.
Shawn decided to start his own brand and become a custom clothier for men, the only problem was, like many start ups, money was tight.
He tried getting help through start up support government agencies and traditional financing, each time he came up against the same hurdle, he had no fashion experience. With an industry Trade Show in Bangkok coming up, he needed cash to get there and Shawn was not about to let his new dream fizzle out, so, he dug deep and came up with a risky idea – He’d sell custom suits without a supplier, samples, fabric swatches, marketing materials, specs, or any connections to help him get the product made, and, he’d ask people to pay full price – up front.
Shawn went to his friends, co-workers, and business connections and sold them a suit in either grey or blue, without knowing where he’d get the fabric or how they’d be made. In the end, he’d sold 20 suits and 30 shirts. Then, with his integrity on the line, Shawn went to the Trade Show in Bangkok where he discovered, he was in over his head.
A Fortuitous Meeting
Each booth was selling reams of fabric, but none at the smaller quantity he needed as a startup with only 20 suits and 30 shirts to be made. Things were not looking good, until he came across one booth where the guy behind the table was from Surrey, BC, about 20 minutes from Vancouver. After talking about the various places they’d frequented, Shawn was referred to the man’s uncle who could make the suits Shawn needed.
Once the kinks were worked out, Shawn was able to get his orders filled and made the connections he needed for future sales. Now his only problem was getting the suits home, a problem that was easily solved by buying two new suitcases from a store down the street.
Entrepreneurs take risks to make their dreams come true. They work hard with no guarantee of being paid, making the rent, or affording food. They go into debt, spend their savings, and do whatever it takes to get their dream off the ground. Some, like Shawn, get creative and make it work, others have to shut the doors before they were even opened.
What I love about Shawn’s story is he didn’t give up, he found a creative solution to a problem that stops most people from achieving success. He had integrity with enough people to fund his trip, buy the supplies, source the manufacturing of the product, and have 20 happy clients who referred more clients.
There are lots of reasons why one start-up will succeed where another one will fail and the hollow advice being passed around in the form of motivational quotes will not make it any easier. Having connections, support, friends, and intelligent, successful people who can help, will give you a fighting chance.
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Shannon Peel is an author, a marketing specialist, and a content creator.