Advice for the Next Generation of Creative Entrepreneurs

On Janurary 8th, 2014, the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center had streetwear folks and knowledge seekers in full attendance for Agenda Emerge, the learning platform for the next generation of creative pursuers and entrepreneurs. Powered by Group Y, a leading collective of those focused on youth marketing and progressive and expressive cultures, the roster of guest speakers included the best in urban apparel: Greg Selkoe (Karmaloop CEO), Keith Hufnagel (Founder of HUF), and Tom Campion (Founder of Zumiez). Agenda Emerge also featured a one-on-one discussion with pro skateboard Paul Rodriguez and rapper Nas a.k.a. Nasir Jones on current streetwear designs today and the power of being dedicated to consistency.

Hosted by Pro Skateboarder and On-Air Host, Feliz Arguelles, Agenda Emerge touched on topics that spanned from protecting your brand to the power of collaboration to  important lessons of online retail and traditional in-store retail brand building. Behind The Hustle was in attendance to learn what these game-changing entrepreneurs did to ensure that success was their only option. Here’s what they had to say to inspire the next generation of creative entrepreneurs:

“Be dedicated to consistency.” Paul Rodriguez, Professional Skateboarder

Growing up in the 818 Valley, Paul Rodriguez was always a fan of skateboarding. Even to this day, he admitted that he spent about 2 hours practicing before he got to Agenda. P. Rod mentions that for his peers it might be easier for them to do tricks on their board, but for him it takes a while and admits that the reason why he’s gotten to the professional level that he’s at is because of his commitment to consistency. P. Rod confessed that he’s stubborn enough to keep practicing a trick until he gets it right. Sometimes it’s good to be stubborn, because normal people would give up, but if you’re passionate about it, you won’t take no for an answer.

“Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.” – Nasir Jones, Musician and Founder of 12am Run

There are people who play the game and others who change the game. Nasir Jones can be defined as the latter, and with his new business endeavor of 12am Run, a Las Vegas retail store that will showcase the best in streetwear apparel and high-end retail, Nas is committed to staying on that path. Nas says that the 12am Run will focus on both streetwear and high-end retail. Mixing the two elements together was a priority for him because he says that “there is always a part of the streets that wants to aim higher.” Don’t be afraid to aim  higher than where you are at right now because there is always a next level to pursue.

“Do yourself. Be crazy and different.” – Keith Hufnagel, Founder of HUF

Keith Hufnagel, founder of HUF, wants the next generation of creative entrepreneurs to “do yourself and be crazy and different,” remarking that the current industry of streetwear industry is stale. His do-it-yourself demeanor as a pro skateboarder in San Francisco was later applied to his business venture HUF, a streetwear brand dedicated to the culture of skateboarding. One of the lessons Keith learned early on in his career was the importance of protecting yourself and your brand trademarks. Lesson after lesson he learned how companies such as Burberry and Hugo Boss noticed his designs were similar to their own trademarks. Always do your research before selling your products so that you can protect yourself and your brand.

“I don’t follow orders.” –Greg Selkoe, Founder of Karmaloop

Greg Selkoe, does not follow directions. Right when he got onto the stage he mentioned that he’s not allowed to take questions from the audience, but did so a few minutes later. His ability to disregard the rules has gotten him far, with Karmaloop becoming the most prominent online streetwear apparel retailer today. Learn to ride against the tide, and be different; because that’s the only way you’ll build muscle. Though it’s good to follow directions at times, being an entrepreneur means you’ll actually benefit the most when you don’t follow directions. When Greg was beginning Karmaloop many people didn’t want him to build content onto the website because he was told it would distract consumers from buying. However, the content he built into the site, such as Q&As with fashion designers and contests, actually improved the consumers experience and raised Karmaloop’s popularity because they stood out from other online retailers.

“Become a big player in a small niche.”  -Tom Campion, Founder of Zumiez

Being invested in action sports apparel, Tom Campion understands what it means to cater to a small niche. What small niche do you feel needs to be catered to? Find a lifestyle and build a brand supporting that culture. Streetwear apparel may be many, but how can you make your brand stand out from others? The key lesson highlighted by Tom was having a unique vision. For him, he knew that sports apparel was a big thing in the market, but he catered specifically to skateboarders, snowboarders, and surfers. His ability to stand out from the other clothing retail has given him the opportunity to be in business for over a quarter of a century with over 400 retailer stores across America.

Learn from the wisdom of game-changers and make your own mark. Whether it’s building your own brand, or cultivating your dream  into a reality, success is yours if you’re willing to clock in the time and be consistent in your dedication to the vision. In the words of Nasir Jones, “The world is yours,” so act and believe in that truth.

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by Mary Elainne Dizon