We had the good fortune of connecting with Clinton Cimring and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Clinton, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
I think the key to success for a brand is the engage your audience and involve them in the business and process. I must admit that my knowledge about branding is fairly novice, but for good reason. I worked for a major Ad Agency while I was in school for an MBA over ten years ago. During that time, I studied audience engagement and all the business buzz terms at the time like Positioning Strategy and Niche Markets. However, if you think about it – it really comes down to common sense. You can be the best out there with a lot of money invested, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anyone will want what you are selling. Rather, I think that consumers really want things that they feel like they can be involved in and perhaps even had a part in shaping. Steve Jobs is famous for making Apple what it is now through the philosophy of simply thinking different. He maintained that you don’t have to be the best. Rather, you only have to be different than your competitors. Long after the Ad Agency I spent some time working for the US Dept. of State through the US Peace Corps and ended up with a law degree and a post doc in industrial / community psychology where I studied groups of people. Through that, I realized that people simply want to be valued. They want to feel good about making a purchase. It’s as simple as that. With that philosophy in mind I looked at competitor brands like Billabong, Hurly, Quicksilver, RVCA, etc. and I asked how can we be different than them? We don’t have the money to be better, so maybe there’s a different approach. We began by donating all the profits from the sale or our merchandise to two major causes; animals and the environment. With that, rather than having investors with their own agendas, we were able to get Sponsors to cover our costs. Big clothing manufacturers wanted in. We didn’t stop there though. We began enlisting local artist to donate their time for the cause in creating the designs. We were forming the opposite of the typical corporate image that our competitors had become. The final step was then engaging our audience. We had them vote on different designs and even suggested their own. After about three years of growth we caught the attention of Amazon.com. They liked the direction we were headed and offered to partner with us through the Amazon Foundation. They offered us a partnership whereby we would be the first nonprofit to partner with Amazon.com on online sales in exchange for us only selling online. To date, we have sold over 10,000 articles of clothing that we call “Salty Swag” through Amazon and have raised over 1 million dollars for injured rescue dogs.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I am a lawyer and psychologist by trade, but I have also been a Jack of All as they say. What sets me apart from others is that I think I have a multifaceted understanding of life and business. Rather than simply stopping at technology and law, I went on to study what really motivates people and why. I am most proud of being the first US Marine in history to go on to serve in the US Peace Corps. It took over 10 years of physical and mental recovery after being injured in the Marines to be eligible to serve in the Peace Corps apart from the schooling. I am honestly not quite sure how I got to where I am today professionally. When I was a kid I was involved in a lot of my father’s companies. From the age of 10 I ran a flower store in a mall in Florida and got to see how a business in run. That kind of inspired me to have my own business one day. While I was in the Marines I earned a Bachelor’s degree and used some of the money I saved up from hazard pay to get an MBA after that. Halfway through the MBA I said, why stop there? I transferred that into law school and went on to get post docs in Education and Psychology. Overcoming challenges was the toughest part. When my family moved to America from South Africa we didn’t bring any money with us. We couldn’t afford tutors or college, so I knew that I had to pick up the slack myself. Then, when I got injured in the Marines it made things even more difficult. I’m not really sure how I did it, but I pressed on and tried to do the best I could with what I was given. While the other students in my Calculus class had graphing calculators I had to learn how to write out Calculus the long way with my left hand since I couldn’t use my right. I was just compelled to keep trying. I learned not to give up. No matter what challenges you face you can find a way to work around or through them. The thing I would like people to know about Salty Dog Paddle is that I am not the face of the brand, nor did it end up where it is now because of me. Rather, it is a combined effort of everyone who has been involved over the years that has made it the largest nonprofit watersports brand in America.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
My favorite spots in Miami would have to be Coral Gables and Coconut Grove. There’s so much history to see there from the buildings and architecture to the secluded beaches to paddle like the Round Beach in Matheson Hammock Park.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would like to give a shoutout to all the volunteers for Salty Dog Paddle. They went above and beyond to make the charity what it is today.
Image Credit to Photobug.co