I interviewed Shawn Judge of DV Clothiers for a marketing video series.
I’ve known Shawn through a networking group for a few months, however, this is the first time we connected and explored more about 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 he bought his first custom made suit. He loved how the suit felt compared to his off the rack options and the compliments he received once back home, only confirmed his new found belief that a custom made wardrobe made a difference. So, Shawn decided to start his own custom made clothier for men, the only problem was, he couldn’t secure financing.
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 or retail experience. With an industry TradeShow 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 them to pay full price – up front.
Shawn went to his friends, co-workers, and business connections to sell 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 TradeShow in Bangkok where he discovered, he was in over his head.
Each booth was selling reams of fabric, but not 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, like measuring his customers wrong, were worked out, Shawn was able to get his orders filled and had 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.
Shannon Peel is a Professional Marketing strategist and Storyteller. Her company, Shannon Peel Marketing, helps Independent Professionals and Small Businesses define their personal brands and tell their story through different channels. Click to find out more: Shannonpeel.com