Being an entrepreneur can create a state of panic in one’s life, given that there’s so much to worry about. In addition to your finances, if you’ve grown up even remotely aware of the inequality faced by the urban community, you may feel compelled to elicit societal change—complicating your mission even further.
Entrepreneurs and brothers Bryce Stewart, Vince Stewart and Jordan Stewart have come together to address both concerns with their clothing brand, PANYC STATE (pronounced “panic state”). The brand was developed from a desire to express creativity while addressing socio-political issues faced by the urban community. Although the idea of producing socially conscious apparel is not new, the business approach taken by this group of young men is quite noteworthy. In an industry where most brands take the “side hustle” route—completely undermining their agenda—PANYC STATE has emerged as a legitimate company.
In the interview below, the PANYC STATE team and I discuss the inner workings of their business and what’s in store for their future. Enjoy.
CC: How did you get from the “side-hustle” phase to a legitimate business?
PS: First, you have to form a legitimate business structure. Usually for artists it’s a partnership or an LLC, which is what we formed. Other than that, it’s really just paying taxes and getting your designs copyrighted and trademarked so you’ll be legally protected. If you’re still in “side-hustle” mode, without copyrights, anyone can take your designs and make money off them. And if you want to wholesale and get into stores, you need your EIN number before they’ll even look at you.
CC: So you’re obviously taking your business seriously. How do you plan to grow your business?
PS: We started with a grassroots movement around Philadelphia, and now we’re spreading our wings all around the world through a network of friends. We started with our tees but we’re going to expand the line to sweatshirts and button-downs. And eventually we want to open up a store.
CC: Having a brick-and-mortar store means having a lot of overhead costs. How do you plan on sustaining yourself with the additional costs?
PS: We want to make sure we grow our following first…and international following. We want to make ourselves a destination. Being in Philly, we don’t see a really strong urban fashion community like you see in New York or LA, so we want to make sure our store is a destination spot…like an Abacus Takeout. There are a lot of independent lines in Philadelphia but we want to put ourselves in a different spot. Last year we became RAW artists so we can put ourselves in the art space. Everything we do is hand drawn instead of using images pulled from the computer and kind of pieced together. So that was huge for us and we’ve made a lot of contacts from that. Other than that, it’s doing things like this, being featured in blogs. And we have our stuff in a shop in University City called Cum Laude.
CC: With such ambitious growth plans, how do you set your profit margins to be able to reach your goals?
PS: Well if you want to sell for $25, I think a double mark up is good to start out with. So if you sell for $25, the shirt shouldn’t cost more than $12.50 to make.
CC: That’s good to know. What other advice would you give another clothing brand, based on your experience?
PS: We’ve built pretty good relationships with our suppliers and that’s key. Definitely get a good team. You can’t do it by yourself. I thought getting stuff printed would be easy. You know, send in your designs, send in your money, wait a couple weeks and get your stuff. That’s definitely not the case at all. You have to work it all the way through, make sure they’re actually staying on their schedule. Make sure they’re getting the blank that you want and the colors that you want. And from day one, get an accountant. And don’t be deterred. It’s not going to be easy and don’t take no for an answer.
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(Posted by Garron Gibbs)