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International Poker Champion
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Former CIA Clandestine Operative
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Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
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Is Marketing a Necessity?

Question: What is your advice for aspiring entrepreneurs? 

Matthew\r\n\r\n Malin: [NYU's Stern School of Business] had approached us to use \r\nour business model as a thesis for one of their semesters and I had \r\nworked with them sort of on a weekly basis talking about our business \r\nand it was really interesting because we have a very, sort of, \r\nnon-traditional business model in terms of how we’ve gone after business\r\n from a niche perspective. And as an entrepreneur, you know, we didn’t \r\nset out in, I think, a manner from which many entrepreneurs do. It \r\nwasn’t this "Okay, well, we’re going to start a business and here it is \r\nand we know we’re going to do this." It really just was a very simple \r\nextension of things we already were doing and we knew and we loved and \r\nit felt good because… 

Andrew Goetz: And that we were very\r\n passionate about and I think that was definitely … You have to really \r\nbe willing to roll up your sleeves and you become a jack-of-all-trades, \r\nso to speak. And in many ways that is a great education because even as \r\nyour business grows and you start delineating responsibility to other \r\nthings, you know how to do every single job in an organization. 

Matthew\r\n\r\n Malin: But even in talking to MBA students, there is this sort of, \r\nwell, "When is there a time when you don’t need to get an MBA because \r\nyou have so much experience in your business that it doesn’t really \r\nmatter? It’s not going to take you to the next level." I think that the \r\ntime for starting this business was then, like we didn’t need to have in\r\n my opinion for what we were doing. We didn’t necessarily feel we needed\r\n to have the MBA to get us to be here. It was just really sort of \r\nnatural at that point, so experience for me... one of the things that I \r\nalways talk about is having that level of experience on so many \r\ndifferent directions was really what I think helped us be to get to \r\nwhere we are today. 

Andrew Goetz: And you have to be \r\ntenacious. There is no question about it. 

Question: \r\nHow is your business model untraditional? 

Andrew Goetz: Well,\r\n\r\n first of all we’re partners in life. I mean although I guess that’s not\r\n totally untraditional. No, I mean families and couples have done that \r\ntogether. 

Matthew Malin: But I mean more specifically the\r\n model itself, like having written a business plan, which we had had \r\nsome dear friends who had started quite a successful business in \r\nAustralia... I used their business model, their business plan to write a\r\n business plan, which took me probably about six months after I had left\r\n Prada and then another year in development from start to finish when we\r\n launched. And the business itself is sort of a nontraditional aspect of\r\n how to go after business and what we’ve done is we had setup sort of \r\nthis idea of a freestanding store sort of being everything for us. It \r\nwas the store. It was the showroom. It was our opportunity to create \r\nsales. It was our distribution center, everything to the brand, so we \r\nwere sort of sitting in the store waiting on customers, packing boxes \r\nthat were being shipped to London. It was everything, all encompassing, \r\nand it sort of grew organically from there. We didn’t take investors. We\r\n are self-funded. We have grown only organically. The business has been \r\nprofitable since its first year and it has been operational since its \r\nfirst day, so while we put in an initial capital investment to the \r\ncompany, we haven’t invested any more of our own money since then. We’ve\r\n only allowed it to grow naturally in its own direction. 

Andrew\r\n\r\n Goetz: Yeah, I think that’s actually the thing that is the most \r\nuntraditional is that we haven’t had a very slick marketing world, that \r\neverything has grown organically and that we don’t actually go after \r\nbusiness in a traditional way. As a matter of fact we have never \r\nsolicited any of our accounts, so everything has sort of come to us and I\r\n think that’s unique. 

Matthew Malin: But it’s left us \r\nvery exclusive and having had these backgrounds where we were taking \r\nexperience we had... I had many beauty editors who knew who I was and \r\nwhat I was doing and Andrew had design editors and so we already had \r\nsort of a built in platform with those. I had had experience doing \r\nretail distribution, so there were a certain number of retailers who \r\nalready knew me and would talk to us about our brand, so in all respects\r\n we had sort of set the stage in sort of a nontraditional manner with \r\nbasically no money. 

Recorded on March 19, 2010

Sometimes word-of-mouth can create a more exclusive business.

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