James J. Crosby was adopted from Seoul, South Korea when he was five months old. He grew up with a very supportive and generous family with three sisters. He grew up in a family oil business. His parents worked extremely hard to give us every single opportunity possible. They always encouraged him to try new things, be creative, and push himself. James attributes much of his success to them. His parents instilled many important values in him.
From as young as James can remember, he had always wanted to make money and be successful. When James was little, he’d see successful characters in movies and want to go into whatever career they were in. In high school and college, James would set up lunches with very successful individuals just to learn about how they got started and take any advice they offered up. He always thought he was going to end up on Wall Street. He started investing in mutual funds, when he was eight years old. In college, James realized he could be successful going into corporate, but if he wanted to be successful and happy, he’d have to work for himself at whatever cost necessary. James has been working for the family business since he graduated to fund Crosby & Co. with no outside investment.
In your own words what is Crosby & Co.?
Crosby & Co. is a lifestyle. Gentlemen who enjoy the finer things in life wear our brand. Refined individuals who enjoy good food, flavorful cigars, and single-malt scotch will wear our accessories. We combine bold designs with the highest-quality materials and the finest level of craftsmanship. We want to be fashion forward but remain timeless. We strive to be the most distinguished men’s accessory brand.
How did you come up with the idea of Crosby & Co.?
I originally wanted to do something really innovative with tie bars. Tie bars made a comeback over the last 8 years, but nobody was doing anything really creative with them. I created a thick clip with engravings and insignias on them to make it a piece of art as opposed to just a thin metal bar. I kept postponing the launch, because it just didn’t feel right. I wanted to keep adding different accessories and finally launched with a 22 piece Spring Line including tie bars, cuff links, pocket squares, and ties.
Could you walk us through the process of starting up Crosby & Co.?
After I came up with the idea for a men’s accessory brand, I began working out all the logistics like funding, manufacturing, marketing, and growth plans. In business, you need to envision the end goal, but you also have to be able to break that down into smaller attainable pieces in-order to reach that goal. I envisioned a luxury brand and decided my target demographic would be refined males ages 25-40, so everything had to align with that. We took all the necessary steps to make sure the corporation was legally set up and with today’s technology most of the government filing can be done online. I had to have the website built, which would be our main market place. Then I had to secure multiple manufacturers for packaging and the accessories.
Did you encounter any particular difficulties during startup and if so, how did you guys overcome it?
There were many difficulties along the way. I knew nothing about manufacturing or where to even start. I learned as much as I could from reading and doing research on the internet, but you don’t really get everything figured out until you just start doing it. It took us awhile to figure out our supply chain and manufacturing. People need to understand that if you’re going to start a venture you will make mistakes and sometimes they are very costly. I overcame all of our challenges by simply not giving up and learning from each mistake. I started by myself, but now I have a network of over 20 individuals I rely on. I’m lucky to have very talented friends who help with photography, graphic design, engineering prototypes, printing marketing materials, modeling, & web design, and couldn’t do it without them. Funding the venture by myself is a challenge, because I have to balance working full-time for the family and full-time expanding the business. It’s all about balance. There’s 168 hours in a week. I work about 80, get to the gym four times a week, sleep, and use the remaining for networking events or friends.
How have you been developing Crosby & Co. since startup?
We prepared the best we could for about 2 years until we launched. I wanted everything to be perfect or at least as close to perfect as I could get it. There are still many things we’re improving upon like becoming more efficient with our manufacturing processes and marketing. Now, we’re just trying to scale as fast as possible. We have some pretty big revenue goals, but we’ve been setting up partnerships that can help us get there.
What kind of feedback did you get for Crosby & Co. so far?
We’re getting fantastic feedback. People love the quality and designs. We focus on Instagram the most out of all of our social media, and we’ve been getting great responses.
What is your strategy against your competition?
We face an incredible amount of competition. There are less accessory companies than fashion apparel companies, but it’s still very tough. Social media makes it much easier for us to brand and market the company, but it also makes it easier for competitors. We just stay true to our values and keep working hard. Our designs and creative marketing ideas will help us to reach our target demographic.
Have you developed any industry insights that you could share?
Trends come and go. We don’t want to chase trends, because we’re focusing on creating a timeless look. Socks, fabric lapel flowers, and semi-precious stone bracelets are huge in men’s accessory right now. Wood is really being incorporated as well. I always thought it would be cool to have some wood in accessories many years ago. It’s interesting to see it being done in phone cases, sunglasses, tie bars, and even bow ties and pocket squares now.
How do you plan to stay relevant in this industry?
We will continue to produce pieces that are elegant, bold, and finely crafted. People like to know why a company is doing what it’s doing. We hope enough people will share a connection with our values.
What is the future of the industry in your opinion?
Wearable technology gadgets are the future. Look at the new watches with computers built into them or fitness bands. We don’t see ourselves necessarily getting into that anytime soon, but we never count anything out.
Was there anything that disappointed you initially?
It’s taken longer than I thought to start generating revenue. It’s almost a blessing in disguise, however, because I wouldn’t want to scale too quickly and not be able to handle it. We’re still learning every single day and setting ourselves up, so we can scale fast when the time is right.
What is the hardest challenge to your current growth?
A limited advertising budget is our largest challenge. Funding the inventory, packaging, and everything else that goes into a seasonal line uses up most of my budget. I need to advertise to sell, but I need to sell to have money to advertise. It’s a challenge, but I’m getting by with a limited budget for now.
What is your opinion on Asian entrepreneurship vs Western entrepreneurship?
It seems to me that Asian entrepreneurship is more industrial and western entrepreneurship is more consumer goods. It’s ironic that most of our manufacturing is done over in China now though.
What is your definition of success?
Reaching the goals you set is my idea of success. Some people set much higher goals than others, so success is a very relative term. Personally, I need to make an impact on the world to feel like I’ve been successful. I want to become a globally recognized brand. I want to motivate and inspire many individuals. I want people to see that with hard work, anything is possible. There are plenty of people who started with less and have accomplished way more. I also want to create enough wealth to really give back. I want financial security to give to charities and provide a comfortable life for my parents and sisters. I want to be an even more active member of our community.
Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?
I became an entrepreneur because I wanted to make the most out of this one life I’ve been given. I knew I’d only be happy working for myself, and wanted to create something really great.
What do you think are the most important things entrepreneurs should keep in mind?
Success takes time. Nothing happens fast. And the more you fail, the more successful you’ll be. If you want it bad enough, you need to keep at it day after day. You will get tired and doubt, but don’t doubt or worry. Everything always happens for a reason. There’s always something good that can come from any situation. If you don’t love it then walk away. You need to find your passion, and then it will be easy to chase your goals.
In your opinion, what are the keys to entrepreneurial success?
Never give up and don’t stop when times get tough. Work hard. Don’t doubt. Ignore the naysayers. Align yourself with positive people and influences in your life. Make mistakes, but learn from them. Find a way to create value and you’ll be successful whether that’s being creative, innovative, or smarter than your competitors.
True entrepreneurs are a very rare breed. All the successful entrepreneurs you read about have it in their blood. Certain skills can be taught and sharpened, but that inner drive to want to make a huge impact is hard to find. I’ve learned many things in school and having worked for over 10 years in various jobs, but creativity, drive, and intuition just come natural. You need to have the tenacity of a bull, work extremely hard, never give up, and surround yourself with positive influences. My goals have changed throughout my life. It’s not all about the money or the fame anymore. What I truly want is to make a huge impact in peoples’ lives and the fashion industry. I really want to motivate other entrepreneurs and individuals.
Any parting words of wisdom for entrepreneurs out there?
Maximize your time, because you only get one life to live. Work hard and love what you do.
Linkedin: James Crosby