We had the good fortune of connecting with Nick James and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Nick, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
I knew I wanted to start my own business after taking an Entrepreneur class my Senior year. It just fit with the lifestyle I had been living due to my athletic career. Since I was 16 I had been working on my athletic skills in similar fashion as a business is run. I had a clear cut goal, I had a timeline and milestones, and I had a schedule to adhere to. I kept this up until I retired from professional baseball at 25. I basically had almost a decade of “entrepreneurship” experience before I even realized it. Then when I was taking MBA classes at Florida Atlantic University I came across information on the yearly Business Plan competition they held. I decided to enter as a learning experience. I just needed to come up with a business idea! I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, but I had some parameters to follow. I wanted to keep my expenses low, enter an industry I could use technology as a competitive advantage and work towards building a fully e-commerce driven business. The custom apparel industry fit the criteria and I also had artistic talent as an added bonus. When I placed in the Top 8 out of 200 entrants, I decided I should officially launch my business.
What should our readers know about your business?
My basic philosophy was to keep things as small and efficient as possible with minimal cash outlay. At the beginning I only focused on the artwork and customer service. Those two aspects are notoriously problematic for the customer and the business in this industry. I was devoting my full time focus to the customer and creating/editing artwork for free and then I would outsource the production. This obviously resulted in lower profit margins and less control over the production, but I was able to build a client base. Then I slowly began adding my own equipment. First a $750 heat press to press pre-made designs onto shirts. Then a $1000 cutter to make 1 color prints.Followed by my first “big” purchase, a $3000 sublimation machine to create full color prints for specific types of apparel. And then I finally went all in on the business and purchased a $40,000 package to print on any kind of apparel including shirts, hoodies, hats, jeans and even sneakers. It definitely hasn’t been easy. And it hasn’t always been fun, but the key is to keep working. You never know when the next break will come your way. It really isn’t luck, it’s more that you give yourself every opportunity and then jump when the right one comes along. I want my company to show people that anyone can open and run a small business as long as you continually learn and strive to get better. I am learning new things everyday and I’m open and honest about my naiveté and the problems I encounter as a 1st time business owner and young entrepreneur. I even livestream a couple times a week to showcase numerous aspects of my business from production to negotiations. We may not be the biggest company, but we are the most transparent.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Ha. This itinerary is right up my girlfriend’s alley. I’d probably revolve most things around the beach since it is a huge part of my life now. I’d show them the Boardwalk, South Pointe Park, Nikki Beach, the Versace Mansion and different hotels and bars on the beach. Stop by Joe’s Stone Crab, Smith & Wollensky and smaller places like Rosetta Bakery. I’d also take them to Wynwood because it’s a very cool area with a lot of personality. Finally, I’d take them to my friend’s escape room, South Beach Room Escape because it’s a fun experience and a place we can hang.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
The weird thing about running a business is that no one helps you and everyone helps you at the same time. Meaning no one is going to help figure out my business model, marketing, social media, etc because it’s my job and everyone is busy with their own life. But everyone helps in their own way, by recommending my business to a friend, connecting me to someone I can build a mutually beneficial relationship with, purchasing from my business and many other ways. So I’d like to thank every one of my friends that follows my journey on social media, those that share my business with their friend circle, the customers that believe in us and purchase from store and the employees and workers that work hard to make sure each product is well made and received in a timely manner. More specifically I’d like to thank Florida Atlantic University for being very helpful in working with my business on licensing the FAU logo. As well as the baseball coaches who continue to support me and my endeavors through words of encouragement and now a business relationship, Kevin Cooney and John McCormack. My college mentor, the professor of the Entrepreneurship class that gave me the business bug and helped in many other ways over these years, Jeanne McConnell. Anthony Diaz who has been working with me for years now and keeps things running smoothly (for a start up). My first employee, Dr. Eric Krznaric who worked without AC in the heat of the Florida summer for me, but has obviously gone on to bigger and better things. My great South Florida friend group (too many to name) who a continually help me with anything and everything I need to keep the business running. My girl friend Danielle Simone who handles the unpredictability of late nights, weekend work and even uprooted her life to move with me to South Beach to tackle my expansion ambitions. And my family – my parents who unconditionally support me on my business journey, gave me free office space in their house and labor (when necessary) and help keep pushing me forward. And to my grandparents who gave me the final push to start my business, by simply saying “Why don’t you just go for it?”