Rock & Responsibility: Encore Apparel Company Launches Premium Clothing and Lifestyle Brand in Boston

encoreAs two proud former Villanova students, it’s with much pleasure that we circle back to our alma mater and share our story of launching a new socially responsible business: Encore Apparel Company.  The fact that Villanova now has an amazing platform like the ICE Center that promotes and supports the entrepreneurial interests of students, makes us very happy as alumni.  When we were plugging away on our trusty IBM Thinkpads in Old Bartley Hall many years ago, there really only seemed a couple of paths you could take with a business degree – accounting or finance, Big 5 accounting firm or investment bank.  Fast forward to today and we can all agree there has never been more opportunity to chart your own course in business.

Today’s world has been transformed with unparalleled advancements in technology and communication. In this age of connectivity, the possibility exists for anyone to go and start their own venture; all you need is a lot of guts, even more gumption and a personality able to handle the roller coaster of emotions that comes with creating and running your own enterprise.

Now we’re sure you probably don’t want to hear a couple of old guys talk about what the world was like before the IPhone, Snapchat or Kickstarter.  With the limited real estate we have here on the ICE blog for this specific entry, we thought it best to touch on a handful of bigger picture concepts that apply to starting any business – whether that is an apparel company, a new technology app or developing a different spin on toothpaste.

After graduating from Villanova, Mark and I both spent more than ten years in the corporate world of computer programming and equity trading.  While our jobs were relatively well-regarded with solid paychecks, at the end of the day we both began feeling a bit ‘boxed in’ by our work.  Having each collected our own individual confluence of experiences and insights, we basically arrived at a similar conclusion at roughly the same time – there has to be something more enjoyable, more engaging and more rewarding.

With that idealist hope in mind, Mark and I both decided the time was right to partner up and try build something meaningful.  Being that both of us were big classic rock and folk music fans, we hoped to take the attitude and aesthetic of the ‘60s and pour that into our vision of a socially responsible apparel company.  Our LOCAL philanthropic giving concept tied to the Encore brand was inspired by the work the Grateful Dead had done for years through their charitable arm: The Rex Foundation.

For us getting into and owning our own business, while this may sound cliché, wasn’t about trying to get rich financially, it was about getting richer emotionally and intellectually.  It was about putting a unique idea that had nagged relentlessly at your subconscious out there for a larger audience.  It was knowing that if you didn’t push your chips in now, you’d surely regret not at least giving it a shot.  In creating Encore Apparel Co. our major aim was to build a fun and meaningful business; one that could operate in an inspiring and thoughtful manner.

You can argue all day about the role that business should play in improving society (if any).  Some will say that a company is meeting its responsibilities if it employs a few people and pays taxes.  Personally, we think that the commercial landscape has changed. Our belief is that consumers are demanding more of companies and the products they purchase with their hard-earned dollars.  To borrow a quote from Richard Branson: The brands that will thrive in the coming years are those that have purpose beyond profit.  We couldn’t agree more.

Being encouraged by the successes of brands like Life is Good and TOMS further drove home the notion that corporate social responsibility resonates with modern consumers.  Mark and I didn’t want to just create another boutique apparel brand, we wanted to blend our interest in music, style, and charitable giving into one unique package.  As we quickly learned though, there is a lot more to consider than just the idea in bringing a vision to reality.

Taking the plunge into building a small business means being prepared to take on many different roles.  For us that ongoing list includes:  creating new designs, managing inventory levels, overseeing fulfilment, keeping the e-commerce platform working, dealing with payment processing issues, interacting with customers, keeping up with social media marketing, doing even more in-person marketing, weighing manufacturing decisions, understanding accounting, being cognizant of legal/trademarking, keeping up with SEO analysis, knowing about commercial real estate, being able to make hiring decisions, etc.   Just writing that list is exhausting.  The major takeaway is that you better be 100% committed to your business otherwise it will eat you up.

We’ve also found that being an entrepreneur means there will be good days and bad days.  It’s almost like being strapped to an insane rocket ship.  The days when things are breaking your way – maybe you land a big order or the press writes a complementary piece about the company – you feel like Leo in Titantic, “I’m the King of the World!”  On other days when an integral process unexpectedly breaks, or you realize your budgeting is full of holes, or it seems that nobody outside your mom really cares about your company’s existence – you feel like jumping off a bridge.  The day to day swings are truly unbelievable.  You’ll see.

But with all that it takes to start something from inception and craft it, layer by layer, the personal reward is limitless.  Whether that comes in the form of mainstream recognition, financial reward or just the satisfaction of creating and maintaining something only you could envision, you’ll get no better feeling in your working/career life.  Like anything worthwhile, it just takes a lot of time and a huge amount of struggle to reach the destination.

We cordially invite you to check out what we’ve created at EncoreApparel.com.  As we say to everyone, we appreciate any feedback, any ideas, and of course any support you’d like to put behind a small company just starting on a journey.  While the last twelve months have entailed putting together what you see on the website, please understand that this is only a beginning.  We’re still experimenting, still testing things, still trying to figure out what sticks and what our ultimate path to success is going to be.

Remember there is no blueprint for building a company in any industry; you just gotta get out there and figure it out.  You never gonna know exactly where the journey will lead, but you’ll for sure never find out where that road can take you until you start driving.  That’s exactly where Mark and I find ourselves as we push onward in 2015.

 

Life is Short. Play it Loud.

 

Casey Paton ’01 and Mark Lisavich ‘02

Co-Founders Encore Apparel Company

 

P.S. Being ever cognizant of our roots, we will be back on campus February 15th, for the Phi Sigma Kappa Zilly Jam fundraiser.  Since Encore Apparel Company looks to support smaller, grassroots charitable causes, lending a hand to the Billy Zimmermann Foundation which we hold in very high regard, seemed like a natural thing to do.  We’ll be working with the brothers of Phi Sigma Kappa in producing t-shirts for the event.  We do hope you come by and say hello.