Picture Credit: Malliouhana at mustseeplaces.eu
The old adage that “if they give you lemons, make lemonade!” never rang so true to the Murray brothers from Connecticut who have now grown their consumer goods company to a billion dollar valuation with 91 locations. Vineyard Vines was inspired but the brothers’ trip with their parents to the island Paradise (the resort Malliouhana and the beach where my wife and I got married is pictured above). Business Insider explains how the entrepreneurial drive drove the brothers from their 1998 startup as they face skeptics galore: “”People were always asking or thinking, ‘How could you possibly give up these good jobs to do something seemingly stupid?'” says Shep. Ian adds: “People constantly talked down to us — but we took it as a challenge.” This summer, the ‘boys’ even opened stores inside J.P. Morgan offices after the bank announced that it would move to a business-casual dress code. From The Wall Street Journal, which had the great honor of breaking this story:
“[T]hat may only be the start of a broader apparel push at the biggest U.S. bank by assets. J.P. Morgan is slated to open pop-up shops at its New York, Wilmington, Del., and Columbus, Ohio, locations later this year,” said Chief Marketing Officer Kristin Lemkau. “These will feature J.P. Morgan specific items — think a fleece vest with J.P. Morgan branding or a custom Vineyard Vines tie with the bank’s blue octagon logo…”
Picture Credit: Vineyard Vines
A close look at the Business Insider profile article highlights a number of their success secrets:
- Make Your Product a Conversation Starter: To make neckties more appealing to more people — especially young, preppy New Englanders — their idea was to create a product line with whimsical and colorful patterns that “could spark conversations.”
- Network with your contacts to get access to your marketing viral professions: They used contacts at their old firms to make connections in the fashion and design world. Soon, they accrued an inventory of ties.
- Follow Your Passions: Shep Murray explains, “The reality is, we were really passionate about going out and making it on our own. We were really passionate about the products we made. We felt that if we were passionate, other people would be to. He adds that his best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is to “quit your job while you’re young.”
- Keep Motivated by Staying Organized: “It would be very easy to just sit on the couch and watch ‘The Price is Right,'” Ian says. “So we would make a to-do list every morning, and would make sure every day we added ten things to it.” Writing out their priorities allowed them to stay focused on their goals, even without the structure of the traditional 9-to-5 workday or office environment.
- Broaden Your Footprint and Expand into Compatible Categories: Today, there are 91 Vineyard Vines stores across the country. The company is on track to hire 650 employees (to boost its 2,600-person workforce), even as other brands with similar aesthetics face struggles this year, as Fast Company reported. Vineyard Vines has also expanded its product line to include bags, clothing, and swimwear for men, women, and children — but it’s still known for its bright, playful prints.
- Pursue Affinity Marketing: The JP Morgan partnership is an expansion from a private branding effort undertaken a decade ago. But make sure it’s driven by pride in your work and your employer. “Quality of life was more important to us than financial gain,” Ian says. “That still is what drives us and drives our team. It’s extremely rewarding to be around like-minded people.”
Picture Credit: Vineyard Vines – the vehicle of choice on Anguilla’s unpredictable roads which lead to 50 beaches!