How did you get into the Retail industry?
Been at his since I was in High School. I created my first product/company Tim-ting Buttons as a sophomore in high school and created a sales network of other kids to sell and distribute them. Since them I have always be interested in product and retail. I ran a successful apparel brand in New York City in the mid to late 90’s. After working for brands such as New Era Cap - who are in the product and retail business - I decided to take my show on the road again and here I am.
Tell us about U-Lace. What inspired the idea and what is your vision for the company?
U-Lace is currently the company/brand I founded and run. It is also the name of the first product we launched - a modular lace for customizing sneakers. But the company is rapidly becoming so much more and that was always the plan. Our design platform is simple: create products that consumers can use to customize product we don’t make and product that that customers can customize again and again. So it’s pretty wide open for us. I see us making customizable furniture in the future.
The initial inspiration for the company was a trip to Harijuku, Tokyo to find inspiration for a product. I saw something in the window of a sneaker shop that sparked an idea. The more i looked and though about the concept more and more cue’s appeared telling me it was the product to develop and launch. 3+ million packs later and we’re not looking back.
What strategic partnerships/marketing strategies have you implemented that have attributed to U-Lace's success?
Certainly working with Mark Cuban - having him as my key mentor and advisor and partner is a major partnership. We don’t reveal a lot of marketing strategy but I’ll say that we are brand and consumer focused. We bend over backward to keep customer happy and fans of our product. Making sure that our product is affordable is also a huge plus for us and our business.
What industry trends are you noticing and how do you capitalize on them?
Things (products/Apparel/Footwear) are becoming so homogenous that we’re already capitalizing on it with our design platform. We’re empowering people to turn mass produced products into limited editions.
My motto is something i say often to the teams that work and have worked for me in the past: “Ok, what’s next?” I don’t like to look in the rear view mirror too much, I don’t like to celebrate in the end zone. We celebrate wins quickly and then move on. We are always looking to the next challenge, project, product, opportunity.
We challenge people to "Color (their) World” by telling them: “It’s your world, col it your way” That’s how life should be lived - colorfully and in the colors that matter to you.
Your greatest success as Founder/CEO of U-Lace? Most difficult moment-how did you overcome and what did you learn?
Keeping the business alive during a very, very tough time in 2012. Predictions were that we’d be out of business in 6 months. In all honesty I prayed, and god directed me to look at our product configuration, pricing and packaging - it was all wrong for explosive growth. We immediately made the adjustments needed and in mere weeks the business started to turn around. What i learned from this is that you have to be willing to accept failure and make needed changes to keep your business thriving. The mistakes we all mine but I accepted my role and responsibility but also took on the challenge to fix them.
Your advice to an aspiring entrepreneur?
An aspiring entrepreneur once asked me, what I thought then was an odd question, but which turned out to be a brilliant one: “When will I know it’s time to quit my start-up?” My answer was this: Entrepreneurship is like a real-world game of chess. There’s strategy, thinking ahead and battle with the enemy. As long as there is still a move that you can make that can change your companies position for the better - make it. This is what we did with U-Lace in 2012. In chess it’s only over when your opponent says “Check and Mate!”. At that point you haven’t quit, you’ve been beaten. Keep making moves.
Describe the ideal experience using U-Lace.
We have so many markets we serve but in the core market a kid scoops a new pair of kicks and buys U-Lace to trick them out in school colors. After lacing them up in a cool pattern - in just a couple minutes - the kid also realizes that his kicks are now slip-ons that never need to be tied. Tomorrow they are rocking a new hat of t-shirt and they re-lace them in a new set of colors - we have 50 colors - to accent their look.
How do you motivate your employees?
We try to keep things fun and casual and we buy all employees/interns pairs of really cool kicks to lace with our product(s).
One food and drink left on earth, what would you choose?
Pizza and Beer - though after losing 40lbs last year I consume very little of either.
What literature is on your bed stand?
Business books & Magazines and Golf Magazine.
Role model - business and personal?
My dad and mom taught me about respect and hard work and keeping my word - those are both Business and Personal.
Building this brand.
Favorite travel destination?
Anywhere with great food and culture.
What's next for U-Lace?
Oh you just wait and see. We’re meeting with our patent attorneys this week about a really hot new development.