I have never been the one to work a 9 to 5, instead I would rather hustle and scrape my way to a payday. I guess its been in my DNA since I was trading baseball cards as a kid. I just think I knew early own I was not built to be confined to work orders or making money for others. As far back as my early 20's I was trying different businesses, mostly retail ventures that always seemed to have a decent run but for some reason or another, (that some reason being me), would see them fizzle out. Fast forward to 40 year old Chris with my latest venture just about to have run it's course and I had no clue what was next. That would be until that one fateful afternoon while on vacation on the coast of North Carolina. I remember it like it was yesterday... my wife, Erin and I were taking our daughter to nearby Southport for ice cream. Now when I say nearby it was still a 30 minute trek from Holden Beach so we had plenty of time in the car to "waste" for lack of a better word. So we are spending that wasted time playing a game of "what if" and to be honest I don't even know if that's a real thing, I think it's just a game we made up. But the question was asked what if we had a clothing brand and what would it be. My daughter from the back says Proper Pirate, not bad I thought but as we knocked it around we decided on Preppy Pirate. So that was that, we ate ice cream, walked around beautiful Southport and headed back to Holden except the ride back was different. My brain, my inner being, my fire was blazing and it was all saying Preppy Pirate. I could not shake it. Needless to say I spent every waking moment on the rest of that vacation week dreaming of what would be my next venture. In 2016 Preppy Pirate Outfitters was born. By early 2017 Preppy Pirate was a registered trademark and believe it or not in a few stores.
Now that I have painted you the whole Birmingham, here is where I was going with this blog. Starting a business is one thing. It's a leap, it's a risk, it's exciting, and it's scary. But buying other brands to stock your store with that have already found some success, built a following, and for the most part established themselves, is a walk in the park when compared to building a brand from scratch. I still shake my head every time I see an ad pop up that says "start your own t shirt brand for $50 bucks". I'm like really, cause somewhere you guys have left off 3 or 4 zeros. Maybe $50,000 could get you a grassroots start but to be in the game... like really in the game $500,000 probably gets you a decent head start. Before we go any further I certainly did not have 500K just FYI. So anyway there I was in 2016 like a deer in headlights, I knew retail and l I have a really good radar for trends and fads. I was born with the "gift of gab", could sell ice in Alaska and all that, but starting a brand was a different story all together. So I started the easiest place you could start, t shirts. I got super lucky that the second place I went to (the first place seen me coming, they were salivating for a big pay day, luckily I was not feeling those guys) but when I walked in the second screen printer and pitched my idea I knew I was home. These guys were/are successful, a big operation who did not need my few designs and low numbers. But they listened and I will never forget Mark, one of the owners, who said something to the effect of "well Chris we get pitched alot, but you may have something here". Looking back now he may of just been being nice, cause I tell you looking back now those designs were very entry level design ideas I had, basic and blah. Never the less we did some designs and started the ball rolling. Side note: here we are in 2020 and I wouldn't consider having my screen printing done anywhere else, if not for those guys and I mean the entire plant I wouldn't have made it. My loyalty with them is for the long haul. We have a really good embroiderer as well and the relationships we have made overseas have been great, we have been blessed to deal with some really good people. Let me get back on track here, so anyway we did some festivals right out of the gate. We begged our friends to wear it, tried to get our families to wear it, which by the way is almost as hard as walking up to a total stranger and saying buy this and wear it. However my in-laws who have been excited and supportive since day one have worn our brand religiously...I am however still working on my own kids, lol. It was a grind and I mean a grind. Did I mention a grind? For example I remember that first year trying to have a "Black Friday" sale on our website, I waited all day for those orders to roll in, not one ever came. It did not take long after about that first year that I could feel it in my body either we better find a niche quick or just like the thousands of wanna be clothing brands that have tried to start up, we were gonna go down before we ever came up. Then one day an idea popped in my head, it was like the good Lord had served it up on a silver platter. That thought was beach music. Now that doesn't mean much to people in Texas or California but you see I am in Carolina and the Carolinas are dominated by beach music. So I contacted a gentleman named Bobby who was with beach band The Embers, he took a big chance with us and let us license some merchandise with their likeness. Now at the time I had no clue that i was dealing with one of the biggest names to ever grace beach music with Mr. Bobby, I just knew I wanted to give this thing a try and I was thankful. Looking back now I am even more thankful, here is a major legend in beach music with one of the biggest bands who let me build our brand with their help. So then the doors opened to alot of the beach bands and it wasn't overnight but after a year or two of grinding we had our niche. Preppy Pirate was known as the official brand of beach music. Nothing melts my heart more cause if you know beach music people they are genuine, kind and loyal. Having that crowd on your side pushed Preppy Pirate along one notch higher to having a real shot to make it. Now I know I have to wrap this blog up so I am gonna leave a whole lot of stuff out, like for example the many athletes and celebrities that have so kindly worn a shirt or hat to help give us much needed exposure. But in hopes of trying to get to the finish line on this it's really unbelievable the amount of time, research, work and so on it takes to build a brand from scratch. What designs will sell, what hats are trending, should we do long board shorts or short, how about button up shirts, well how many of these Hawaiian styles should we carry, you think we can sell 1000 PPO flags, what colors will sell, we really need to be out knocking on doors trying to get in new stores, we need to pack the website orders, we need to update the website, did we order supplies, who's working at the store today, what sizes are we low in and a million more examples. It's a wake up working and don't stop til you go to bed type deal. There are no days off. There are no hours off. When I am working, I am working and when I am not working I am working. Did I bite off more than I could chew, absolutely! But can I handle it? Absolutely! I was built for this and I have amazing support around me and a whole bunch of MVP type supporters. 2020 is gonna be a big year for Preppy Pirate. We are, as my friend Jim Quick says, "one right turn from being the next big thing". I still can hear him saying that and I still get goose bumps when I think of it. Maybe its true maybe its not but only time will tell. I again will tell you starting a business is one thing, starting a brand is quite different.