“There is so much I want to accomplish here. In three years time, I envision great expansion within the Prestigious brand heading, including market outreach, retail locations and catalog volume.” – William Matte
William Matte had a desire to start a clothing line that representing his values, and at the tender age of 20 founded Prestigious. Prestigious is a unique brand combining 100% vegan-friendly products and eye catching designs that you actually want to wear. With a strong focus on social media, William goes out of his way to help others and share his experiences and knowledge with as many people as he can. I caught up for an interview to find out all about the roots of Prestigious and what the future holds for this brand.
You founded prestigious when you were only 20. That’s pretty young to have such a solid vision for your life. What made you decide to start your own t-shirt label
Prestigious began when my desire to do something on my own involving clothes and art came to a head around the end of 2007/ early 2008. I decided around that time that I didn’t want to be a career man. I didn’t feel as motivated like the other students who I shared business management classes with at college, and I had different goals. I wanted to be in business for myself and I wanted to start a tee shirt company of my own. It has since evolved into more than a few t-shirts (I’ve had upwards of designs released, reprinted and retired in the past three years) and the plans for growth and development are as rich as ever these days. I was working full-time and taking a full coarse load while maintaining good grades and keeping my parents happy (I still lived home at the time with them), so a degree of personal responsibility was not a concern- I was ready to open up shop and being 20 at the time was merely coincidence.
Running your own label can be all-consuming. How have you managed to balance work and social life having your own business at a young age?
The key to accomplishing tasks is focus and motivation. I had the motivation to grow my business organically on my own dollar and my own elbow grease. I focused on the little, less “fun” aspects of marketing a brand to the public via the internet as I grew and I am glad I took the time to do so. Traffic and sales would not be where they are had it not been for my time spent tweaking, planning and promoting- selling comes later. In the midst of all this, as mentioned above, I had a full time coarse load, job, and circle of friends/etc. whom I maintained what I consider to be healthy relationships with I didn’t sleep much!
Funding the start up of a label is something a lot of people struggle with. How did you get all the funds together to launch Prestigious?
Funding was a split between cash saved and cash borrowed – AKA credit cards. I cannot stress the following enough in regards to the latter: BE CAREFUL. Printing shirts, paying for art, hiring a photographer and a web developer (which are all extremely important in the life of an online teeshirt entrepreneur) are not even close to cheap. We’re talking thousands PER RELEASE, not year, and this is printing 15-20 different tee designs a year, 100 pieces each or less. This is all considered small scale. I know this from experience and those bills pile up quick. I would never suggest cutting corners to save money on expenses but a great counter to debt is proper savings. As mentioned above, I worked a full time retail management job and when you start a business, you invest a lot of your own money. I worked long, hard hours to launch my brand the way I wanted to at the time.
Everything you make is vegan and ethical. Was that an important part of your vision for your label initially?
Every product sold by Prestigious is made in the United States, sweatshop free, and by fairly treated human beings in the given workplace. We never use animal-derived dyes, leather, silk, suede and so forth and never will. In the past year I began marketing to the vegan community because I had been vegan long before starting this brand and felt that I could open the door to an entire demographic simply by letting that demographic know that I sold products they’d appreciate- cruelty free, captained by a vegan entrepreneur in his early 20′s. I had a wonderful feature on www.peta2.de in 2010 which gained the brand popularity in German speaking areas (the article was published exclusively in German, actually). I guess without realizing it at first, I could double-dip the brand’s exposure in both a constructive and honest way to both the indie tee community and the veggie community. It is very important to let your audience know about yourself without assuming they’ll find you and do all the work themselves.
There’s so much to learn when you start your own brand…how did you learn the ins and outs?
Each day is a day you should learn something new. I will never know completely the ins and outs of any industry, as it takes a lifetime to master a craft in many cases. When it comes to running a business efficiently, it is best to read as much as you can. This reading should include testimonials of those in a position similar to yours, a person or brand who has accomplished something. These people/entities know what they’re doing, and if they are kind enough to share what they know, the rest of us should listen and take heed. Read articles on the internet and talk with like minded people- the recipe for success.
These days there’s an overwhelming amount of brands popping up everyday. What do you think it is that gives certain brands longevity over others?
The indie apparel market has been saturated for years, and this will never cease to be the case thanks to the power of social networking and the internet as a whole. The ease in which one can dive into running a brand with both feet is a double edged sword. It is easy for a new brand owner to bite off more than they can chew, especially in the very beginning- overspending, overbuying, and under-compensating skills in marketing and brand development- a recipe for obscurity, monotony and an eventual fade-away. It is difficult to find something truly different these days, something that stands a head higher than the rest. Those who can, however, will last and keep selling units.
For those interested in the process of running a t-shirt brand, can you tell us what a typical day is like for you over at Prestigious?
Day to day operations vary, as does the amount of sales volume we experience. There’s never nothing to do, one must retain down-time can be great for drafting, planning, organizing, and catching up on emails/customer service. I try to tweet, tumble and Facebook with our fans as much as possible. I pack all our orders personally, deal with each customer and maintain our website. There’s days when I don’t eat because I don’t stop working, and there’s days when it’s a bit more relaxed and I can think, plan, create and so forth.
Vision is crucial for the success of a brand. Where do you see Prestigious in say, three years?
Three years from now, I hope to have expanded our catalog to several largely different areas than where you currently see the brand. There is so much I want to accomplish here. In three years time, I envision great expansion within the Prestigious brand heading, including market outreach, retail locations and catalog volume. I’d like to elaborate further but I could go on forever Let’s look forward to 2012 as we have much in store to unveil…
Lastly, do you have any advice for the other people out there who are wanting to launch their own label?
Save money, plan ahead, be unique and always stay motivated to put the work in. I am always willing to help anyone with questions personally, just contact me through our website at www.thisisprestigious.com.