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A Retrospective Look at 2014: So How Did We Really Get to Today?

Casey Paton

Posted on December 31 2014

“I'm thinking one extra year and then I’m out, that would put us into spring of '13.  At that point it's the end of the line for me. I pull the rip cord and head back to Boston. I will take the next year off, get everything rolling and we open up in late spring, early summer '14. That’s my plan.”

  • Pulled from an email sent to a friend on 6/26/2011

It's interesting when you think about a year - it can seem very short, but in reality it's a fairly long period of time. Looking back one year ago today, I remember anxiously awaiting the calendar to flip, knowing with that simple turn of a page, there could be no more delays, no more analysis; it was time to get serious about how to launch a clothing company. 

Encore Apparel Co. was just a vision at that point, there was nothing concrete or tangible about it.  With the ’13 New Year’s Eve ball making its descent, the time had arrived for me to start pushing a long standing idea forward; the moment was right to try and make something happen. Sitting here exactly a year later, it's pretty cool to take a few moments and assess how far the E.A.C. concept has grown. 

As you can see by the excerpt I started this blog entry with, I thought about Encore Apparel Co. for a long time.  Many years actually.  The whole thing was like a song you couldn’t get out of your head, no matter how hard you tried to silence the noise.  Having no clue about the apparel industry or retail in general (not that I’m by any means experienced or knowledgeable now!) it was very daunting just to start something - anything.

A somewhat unexpected thing happened though. Once I took the first initial steps, a vaguely discernible path started to open up in front of me. At no point was it clear what each new bend in the path would bring, or exactly where the path was headed, but I felt like I carried a decent enough compass so I just kept going. One step soon led to ten steps. Ten steps eventually turned into a hundred.  Before you know it, all those small steps start to add up and you’ve actually started to build something.

A lot of people have asked me – well can you explain in more detail how you actually did it?  There really isn’t a quick answer to that question.  Being that it is New Year’s Eve and we’re all full of reflection, I figured why not just offer a condensed summary of the incremental steps the company took in ’14 which got Encore Apparel to today. Below you’ll find an abbreviated version of that journey.

 

January 

  8th  Reconnected with Mark L. Pitched the Encore Apparel concept. A partnership takes root.
15th  Final design decision is made on the E.A.C. signature Heart & Sticks logo.
20th  Met with founder of Red Barn Coffee about a hybrid retail & coffee concept. 
 

February

  2nd  Started analyzing fabric and different shirt styles.
11th   Entered negotiations to purchase a café in Union Sq. Somerville [that didn’t pan out!].
19th   Introductory meeting with Dave @ Emulsion Printhouse. He totally gets the E.A.C. vibe.
24th   First screen print [good] and embroidery samples [terrible] of the E.A.C. logo are made.

 

http://www.emulsionprinthouse.com/custom-apparel-portfolio/

March

  5th  The Friends and Family ‘soft launch’ idea is brainstormed and drafted.
13th  Design decisions on logo placement, sizing, and the original LOCAL designs begin.
31st  The first Encore Apparel R.O.C.K. Foundation grant is made (ahead of the soft launch).

 

http://www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/fill-mac-s-last-days-with-love/143366

 

April

  1st  Final decisions made on LOCAL1 and LOCAL2 designs to be used for the soft launch.
  3rd  The first woven labels with the Encore Apparel Company written logo are ordered.
13th  The web domain EncoreApparel.com is purchased.  
15th  The ‘soft launch’ product page on the Emulsion Printhouse website is finished.
16th  The idea of Encore Apparel Company is officially shared with friends and family!
23rd  Work begins on three new graphical designs – Tree of Life, Drop Shadow and Vintage Flag.
29th  Production begins on the first Encore Apparel Co. trucker hats.
   

 

May

  1st  The genesis of the E.A.C. tagline is put into words on a plane headed to NOLA Jazz Fest.
  5th  Apparel hang tags are designed and ordered.
  8th  A manufacturer for printed apparel boxes is selected.
13th  The official ‘soft launch’ inventory order is placed!
15th  Encore Apparel Company is set-up as a legal entity in Delaware.
 
     

 

June

  5th  Fulfilment and shipping of all soft launch orders begins.
12th  Initial content for what will become EncoreApparel.com starts to be written.
17th  Quotes that have been collected over the years are integrated with the website.
22nd  Proceeds from soft launch begin to be donated.  More grants will follow.
25th  Additional designs begin to take shape including the Wave, Circle Back and VW Bus.

 

http://encoreapparel.com/pages/recipients

July

  5th  The Encore Apparel Co. lifestyle slide is built for the website.
  9th  Work begins on Man Walking, Music Bar, women’s Tagline and Record designs.
15th  The first viewing of C-5 Shipway Place takes place.
22nd The E.A.C. business and financial plan is officially completed. Lenders seem impressed!
27th  The first group of sample shirts is ordered.

 

http://instagram.com/p/u26i-WOK0z/?modal=true

August

  1st  USPTO trademark application submitted for the ‘Life is Short. Play it Loud.’ tagline.
  4th  Finalized a special design for the Cultural Dance Exchange cause.
  7th  P&S agreement signed on C-5 Shipway Shipway Place in Charlestown Navy Yard.
  9th  Encore Apparel Company Facebook page is created.
11th  First Instagram post! The goal becomes one post a day.
13th  First Sample Printing – Circle Back, Man Walking, VW Bus, Vintage Flag and Drop Shadow.
23rd  Encore Apparel Company does the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge!
       

           

https://www.facebook.com/EncoreApparelCo/photos/pcb.566560203448864/566556010115950/?type=1&theater

September

  6th  First sample printings are physically in hand. Adjustments and changes needed of course.
  9th  Sample print run #2 is placed.
17th  Personally visit the actual Emulsion Printhouse for first time. Super cool.
22nd Closing on C-5 Shipway Place takes place.
25th  Start building the commercial architectural plan w/ I-Kanda.

 

http://instagram.com/p/udPy3TOK6H/?modal=true

http://instagram.com/p/vpvG5TOK6v/?modal=true

October

  1st  First wave of initial inventory ordered.  Nerve wracking!
23rd  Participation in our first public charity event – Liam’s Lucky Charms.  
24th  Second wave of initial inventory ordered. 
     
         

        http://instagram.com/p/vV7Jt-uK3D/?modal=true        

 

November

12th  After months of trying, we finally get embroidery sizing correct for the heart & sticks logo!
16th  First product photo shoot for website images takes place.
19th  Created the Encore Apparel Co. wholesale line sheet.
28th  The official commercial launch of EncoreApparel.com!!!
29th  The first official commercial order – Thank you Johanna B.

 

http://instagram.com/p/vw8rHZOKy0/?modal=true

http://instagram.com/p/v6imm8uK3y/?modal=true

December

  2nd First blog post on EncoreApparel.com is written.
  3rd  Initial set-up and reconciliation of company finances on XERO accounting platform. Yikes!
  5th  All initial inventory is stored and stacked in Casey’s living room (and other available areas).
  7th  The first LOCAL charity profile posted on EncoreApparel.com – Carin MacLean Foundation.
10th  The Encore Apparel Company sign goes on the door at C-5 Shipway.
19th  First press feature written on Encore Apparel Co. by Caroline M. Thank you!
 31st End the year having made a total of $4500 in charitable grants to twelve LOCAL causes.

 

    http://instagram.com/p/weOaAFuK34/?modal=true

http://www.baystate.edu/blog/post/life-is-short-play-it-loud/

http://www.carinmacleanfoundation.com/

 

If you were diligent enough to get through that entire timeline, you might have the impression that it was a relatively smooth and painless process for us to launch this little enterprise. Well I wish I could say it was easy, but that would be far removed from reality. 

Not included in the above summary were all the fun hurdles that continuously popped up, like our shipping agreement with UPS blowing up the day before our commercial launch, or receiving five hundred apparel boxes printed shoddily, or discovering some unexpected labels in certain shirts (wait these weren’t in the samples!), or visiting the MA Department of Revenue no less than six times, or wrestling with ongoing sizing issues for specific items, or continuously reworking design scale and alignments – over and over and over.  At times the path was unbelievably frustrating and it felt like we’d never get to launch day.

Looking back on it all was it worth all the trouble?  I think so.  Mark and I set out to construct something that we hope can turn into a truly ‘meaningful’ business enterprise. Supporting LOCAL philanthropic causes and telling their stories was a big reason we embarked on this adventure.  Having an outlet for our creative and music interests was also a motivating factor. Will what we created with Encore Apparel Co. be worth the substantial investment, both in terms of time and money?  Only time will tell if all that energy spent building our vision of a socially responsible apparel company will ultimately resonate with people and end up being sustainable.  We sure hope so.

One of the biggest takeaways I draw from my experiences this year is that everyone has ideas - businesses they may want to start, books they hope to write, trips they dream about taking, goals they long to achieve; but until those ideas or ambitions are actually put into motion with commitment, investment, and undertaking, they are little more than just wistful clouds. These unique inklings we all have, the little whispers that nag at your subconscious, they only become physical things or actual experiences when you commit to making them real.

As we close the book on 2014, think about picking one day a year for yourself - whether that's January 1st, a birthday, an anniversary, or just some random day in October - and reflect a bit on life, on all the important events that have transpired over those previous 365 days.  Be sure to take a few moments to imagine all the exciting possibilities that may potentially lie ahead in the year to come as well.

Remember you'll never find out what's up around that bend unless you fully commit to the road that will take you there. In the words of Hunter S. Thompson: Buy the ticket, take the ride.

Happy New Year and here’s wishing you grand success in whatever you pursue in 2015!

 

Life is Short. Play it Loud.

 Casey

 

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