By Guest Columnist – J. Alexander Martin
We all lived in one house, downstairs in the basement. Our lives became FUBU. That’s what we did every day, all day. – J. Alexander Martin
Take us back to the beginning?
Basically we started in 1992, me and three other partners, Carlton Brown, Keith Perrin and Daymond John. I had gotten out of fighting in Desert Storm and wanted to get into fashion. We each grew up in Queens, New York. Daymond and I went to school together most of our lives, then we met Keith. Carlton was Daymond’s close friend from the neighborhood.
I took $5,000 I received from a car accident and gave it to Daymond and said, ‘listen this is me investing in the company, let’s do it,’ to let him know I was serious. I took the remaining $1,000 and bought clothes and would use that outfit to run around and do business.
Daymond was making hats and I convinced him to let me come aboard and show him how to make the clothing line – everything from then on is history.
When did you know that FUBU was going to be a success?
All my partners would say it was when we got into the window of Macy’s. It was the first time that an African American business made it into the window of Macy’s on 34th Street. The reaction was phenomenal, no one else could believe it, and that is when we knew that we were doing it big.
What inspired the name FUBU?
It was first ‘For Us By Us.’ FUBU came up in a conversation and we just used that acronym. We wanted something for us by us and we were like – ‘ok that is it’, it flows off your tongue.
Many aspiring entrepreneurs are making efforts to duplicate the success of FUBU, what do you believe set you apart and attributed to your success?
Timing is definitely the key. I think you have to do the right thing at the right time. But preparation is the key to success. You just have to put out a product that everyone likes and keep going and build on your niche. A lot of people don’t want to go through the trials and tribulations to actually get there. We all lived in one house, we lived downstairs in the basement. Our lives became FUBU. That’s what we did every day, all day. You have to keep going and have a resiliency about yourself. You have to crawl before you walk.
What did you face in growing the FUBU brand before investors connected to your vision?
Distribution was a challenge; being able to get our products out there and into the right stores. Because when you first start out, you are basically buying a T-shirt, you are cutting a tag and you don’t have distribution, so the working capital is kind of not really there.
In distribution you have to get it to all the different stores and they would give it to you on consignment and in consignment, you get paid when they get paid – if they get paid. So we had to deal with that challenge.
What factored most in your success?
I think it was just that the timing was right for what we were doing. I am more of a visionary when it comes to fashion so I would make an item and it transitioned to all genres and everybody wanted it.
You have achieved the pinnacle of success in the fashion industry, so what are your plans for the future?
Right now I have a company called Afashionmind, a lifestyle branding company that works to help make companies fashionable. I am working with one company called Echelon, that markets pure Indian hair. I also work with the Marvin Gaye estate.
What I do is make these companies fashionable. It is kind of a form of me giving back. I have achieved so much in my life that at this point I just want to help other companies get a start. I have an incubator situation where I take fashion companies that are startups and mentor and get them to a point where they are either bought or sold.
I am also working with Lamik Beauty, which was brought to my attention via the Bethel’s Place Black Chamber of Commerce. Most companies in the beauty business are small and just starting out, but Kim Roxie is in Macy’s already. Her level of distribution is already there, so all she needs is just another kick to where I can bring her from the southern region to the northern region and they would love her.
Her products are organic and that is really the big thing now. Her business model is pretty good and she is already on the move. So it would just take me a little bit of marketing and getting her more acclimated more to the northern style and get her in more retail shops and she is ready to blow.
I am a small boutique firm and I only take on certain people, people that are trying to make a difference and are good people and have great potential. They just need that next little push and then they are right over the edge.
For more information on J. Alexander Martin’s latest ventures, visit www.afashionmind.com.
In an Upcoming Issue: J. Alexander Martin shares tips for succeeding in business.
About J. Alexander Martin
J. Alexander Martin has externalized many successful ventures in the fashion industry including the iconic clothing line FUBU –“For Us By Us” – serving as the co-founder and vice president. Today, his kingdom includes a clothing line, a non-profit and a consulting firm. J Alexander Martin also serves as the editor and chief of Afashionmind.com and is host of King on 34th Reality TV Show Casting. He owns and operates, Afashionmind Television Network which features fashion, design, beauty, interior decoration, and urban lifestyle-related programming.