How Coworkers’ Poor Fashion Sense Inspired a Company

How Coworkers’ Poor Fashion Sense Inspired a Company

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Josh Moore and Odini Gogo are the founders of Res Ipsa, a footwear and accessories company based in Atlanta. The two attorneys started the business after realizing a need for timeless pieces in their professional wardrobes. Celebrating its four-year anniversary in January, Res Ipsa has grown steadily. Moore said, “We try not to be too numbers-driven, but we’re pleased to be doubling every year. Our goal is to build a brand with integrity and products we believe in. We’ve partnered with stores we respect and want to shop in. By putting that together, the numbers take care of themselves.”

Starting Out

Why did you start the company?

Gogo: We’re both attorneys and we had a conversation about how lawyers dress. As a group of people who can afford to dress well, based on our experiences, attorneys didn’t know how to dress properly for work, especially new attorneys. We both had instances when attorneys and partners at our law firm asked us if we could talk to new associates and give them pointers on what to wear. That conversation led us to talk about making ties that would never go out of style. Ties get dated very quickly. We were watching a Seinfeld episode and the ties let you know that it was the ’90s. We decided to start making ties.

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Moore: We traveled to Istanbul to source tie materials. We discovered Turkish rugs and we found a place near our hotel that made products out of vintage Kilim rugs. We went in and the guy twho was working in the store asked us where we were from. When we told him Atlanta, he lit up and pulled out a Georgia driver’s license and a student I.D. from Kennesaw State. He is a Turkish guy who had gotten his degree in the States. We instantly connected over Atlanta. His family has manufacturing capabilities. He told us he could literally make anything. It felt like providence. We started thinking of products that we liked. We first thought of the Albert dress slipper, that traditional British dress slipper silhouette, done in Kilim to be a one-of-a-kind piece. We also decided to make a weekend bag and a dopp kit. Those were our first three products. The shoes were an instant hit and became a signature item for us.

Gogo: We are mostly doing this full time, but once a lawyer, always a lawyer. We now work mostly with family and friends.

How did you finance the company when you started?

Gogo: Personal savings, a little bit borrowed from family and friends, and a little bit of credit. Now, we self-finance and put our revenues back in the business.

What’s the biggest mistake you made when you were starting out?

Gogo: When we went out, we didn’t understand this business. We made 18 different SKUs of ties and we made a lot of ties! We thought, “If you build it, they will come.” We learned early on that even if we are very passionate about our product, we have to test it out first and we have to get feedback. Even when you are making timeless things, you don’t want to have a lot in the market at a given time. You have to market it to let people know about it first. When you make a lot of it, it’s going to take a long time to sell it.

What’s the smartest thing you did when you were starting out?

Moore: We stayed fearless. We didn’t know what we didn’t know and we didn’t listen to people telling us how hard the retail industry is or how hard e-commerce is. Many people said footwear was really hard, but we saw it as an opportunity because when something’s hard to do, it tends to scare a lot of people off and there’s space in that market segment because there are fewer players. Entering into that space was a smart decision because it helped us quickly establish a niche.

Managing the Business

How do you manage cash flow?

Moore: It’s an art and a science, especially in the retail industry. It’s a constant challenge because you pay a manufacturer several months before you deliver. We have to be judicious about how much product we make and how fast we grow. We are selective about the stores we’re in and the trade shows we go to because all of that strains cash flow.

Gogo: We use QuickBooks to manage finances.

What is the most challenging thing about running the company?

Gogo: Every day comes with new challenges. Sometimes, it’s managing customer service and all the calls we get from customers asking how they can determine their shoe size. Sometimes, it’s managing cash flow for orders. How fast can we grow? How can we bring new people in? Those are all challenges that come up depending on where we are at any given time.

What is the most rewarding thing about running the company?

Gogo: When we see someone wearing our shoes. When we get a nice email. When we see couples wearing them for their engagement pictures. Or someone wearing them at a wedding. Since we’re a consumer business, seeing people enjoy the product and getting good feedback is No. 1.

Moore: It’s a real complement to see people using our products at momentous occasions in their life. It’s nice to know we got to participate in that event in a small way. And as we’ve been able to grow and scale, we’ve been able to add members to our team. Knowing that we can provide opportunities for the people we’ve hired is a solemn responsibility and very rewarding.

What advice would you give to a new entrepreneur?

Moore: At the risk of sounding trite, don’t quit your day job. It was a real help for us that we had income from our jobs as lawyers that we could rely on to support us, because we were able to grow this slowly because we weren’t depending on it for our livelihood. When you do that, you make decisions because you need money, not because it’s right for the brand. We kept our jobs for maybe a year and a half until we had grown to a point where it was not sustainable to work full-time. By then, we had our sea legs and it was a good decision.

Gogo: The other side of that is when it’s good and it’s working, don’t be afraid to quit your day job, because there’s a balance between risk and caution. You have to take intelligent risks.

The Future

What’s next for Res Ipsa?Moore: We’re always thinking of new products and new things to offer. We have prototypes being finished up now that we’re excited about.

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About the Author — Ashley Sweren is a freelance marketing writer and editor. She owns her own small business, Firework Writing (http://www.fireworkwritingonline.com/), located in San Jose, California.

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