Start a business that you are very passionate about. Also, keep in mind that having a business is an ongoing process. Things don’t have to be perfect from the get-go.
A lot of people dare to dream. Only a handful of people though dare to turn that dream into reality. To, in the parlance of one notorious TV character, pull it out of their minds and into the world (we got you, fellow Game of Thrones fans). Ryan David is one of the daring few. He started with a simple picture in his head: making and selling cool shirts.
In 2007, he along with his partner Philippe Arenillo started The Perfect White Shirt, a garment retail brand that sold plain white tees. The company gradually added graphic designed shirts in their product line. This lead to their breakthrough with university shirt designs, which became a hit with the youth market.Today, The Perfect White Shirt’s wares include statement and custom shirts that scream pop culture, which they sell in 5 physical branches on top of their online store.
Not to be comfortable in mediocrity, Ryan turned his sights on another youth culture staple: skateboards. He founded Big H Skate Co. in 2013, initially selling vinyl cruisers. Now, Big H Skate Co.is a formidable brand selling a wide array of skateboards, wheels, and other skating components in their physical store in Taguig, and soon on their online store. For product development, they have the Big H Skate Lab, where skaters, artists, and designers come up with skateboards with high-end features at an entry-level price point. They have a community of skaters and enthusiasts who serve as Big H Skate Co.’s brand evangelists.
We asked Ryan 5 questions about his businesses and the secrets behind his continued success. He was cool enough to accommodate us, given his busy schedule. So how do you build an empire based on your passion? Let’s go find out.
First challenge was our lack of capital, though it turned out to be an advantage because we started getting creative on how we can get our products on the market.
Given that you are a chef by training, what inspired you to start your first business, The Perfect White Shirt? What challenges did you encounter at its conception and early days?
When I graduated from Culinary school, not a lot of restaurants were hiring young formally educated cooks, so I had a hard time finding a job. And when I finally landed a kitchen job, I realized that the pay wasn’t so great and I wouldn’t be able to afford the life I wanted for myself (although the experience of working in a kitchen with very low pay helped me a lot in my business). I quit my job and helped with the family business for 2 years selling ladies’ shoes. That’s when I realized that I liked product development. My business partner, Philippe Arenillo just got back from the US and we started attending Rich Dad Poor Dad seminars and brainstorming until we came up with The Perfect White Shirt. We started with very small capital (P17,000 each) and it was very hard to find suppliers that will entertain a small, startup company.
After a successful run with The Perfect White Shirt, you also launched your second business, Big H Skate Co. You seem to be building an empire on youth culture! What’s the secret sauce to capturing this demographic?
We’re both relatively young so I think it’s an advantage that we can totally relate with youth culture. Our businesses revolve around things that we actually care about. We are the market, we know what we want.
How do you keep up with both foreign and local competitors of Big H? What makes your products unique?
We’re one of the very few local skate brands that produce all our own skate components (bearings, decks, trucks, wheels). Our team riders test (or rather abuse) every item before we release them, making sure they are street-ready.
Starting young always has its advantages because you can fail without the added pressure that comes with age.
What are the challenges and advantages of being a young entrepreneur?
First challenge was our lack of capital, though it turned out to be an advantage because we started getting creative on how we can get our products on the market. Starting young always has its advantages because you can fail without the added pressure that comes with age.
What advise can you give young people who want to start their own business?
Start a business that you are very passionate about. Also, keep in mind that having a business is an ongoing process. Things don’t have to be perfect from the get-go. You can, or rather should, always edit and tweak while the business is already operational. I think most people get easily discouraged when their business plans are not perfect, which ends up with them folding even before the business began.
Want to start your own business but don’t have the funds?
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