Starting a clothing line is arguably one of the hardest industries to succeed in as in most cases you are not solving a problem, but rather trying to start a movement or brand. For Randall Pich, success did not come easy for his Live Fit line of apparel, and it was even more so difficult considering the fact that Randall had dropped out of school to focus on his business. The difference was that Randall had a plan, and a sense of urgency to make Live Fit work. Needless to say, Randall succeeded in achieving that by making Live Fit apparel a recognized brand that is slated to do $8 million a year annually.
How did your brand Live Fit (LVFT) come about?
Before Live Fit was born, I came from a clothing and retail background. I used to own many brands, including a few ski brands. I started in high school, but it just never worked out. I did personal training for about seven years, and during that time I still made t-shirts and designed for fun. I made apparel for my clients, and it just eventually merged together. I capitalized off of the booming fitness industry while social media was blowing up too. Once I started getting on Instagram, I actually connected with the right people and started marketing it like a skate brand.
What was your experience with clothing beforehand, and how did that help you prepare for Live Fit?
When I was about 13 or 14 years old, I joined a band and went on tours. As a band, we needed to make some money, so we started producing merchandise for our fans. Seeing the success from selling t-shirts, hats, and other apparel, I decided to start my own brand at the age of 14 or 15 years old.
When I went to college, a friend of mine (who now owns Rusty Butcher) started a clothing line and didn’t go to college. He went on to make millions.
I slacked off during college and saw all my friends become successful while pursuing their dreams, so I decided to drop out and start doing the clothing thing again.
Did you feel that there was no value in college or was it the fact that a degree wouldn’t do anything for you?
This is why I follow Secret Entourage, because I believe in the same concept when it comes to college. I realized that I wasn’t learning anything that is useful in the real world. I also saw people graduating and not doing anything with their degrees. When you’re coughing up $30 – 40K on tuition and coming out shorthanded, it never made sense to me. All of my personal training clients who were doctors, lawyers, and teachers told me to finish college. I decided that I wanted to risk it, drop out, and go 110%. It was the best decision I ever made.
If someone wanted to drop out of school today to pursue entrepreneurship, what advice would you give them?
When I was in college, I always kept my options open. It was never like I’m going to drop out and not have a path to take or goals to complete. During my time in college, I owned a t-shirt store and was personal training. I had three full-time jobs and as a result, had a killer income while I was in college. I had options to fall back on, so I would just tell young entrepreneurs to keep their options open and don’t spend so much time indoors studying useless books.
Go out and experience life, because real life will teach you real people’s emotions and personalities. At the end of the day, we all function off of human behavior. You don’t learn that behind the desk, so just go out and experience life.
Also, ask other people to mentor you if you like what they are doing. Don’t close your doors, because there’s a lot more to it than you think. From my experience, everything that society has told you is often false. It will teach you how to do taxes, but doesn’t teach you about real estate for example.
So you do research and get into real estate market and realize all the things like, “I wish I would have known this before.” It’s all business.
How did Instagram play a role in your business and what was your strategy?
I don’t know if it was luck, but before Live Fit, I became somewhat of a local community figure, because I was doing physique and bodybuilding competitions at that time. I promoted myself locally as a personal trainer and branded my personal training business, which was called RP Fitness. I used videos and professional photos, and I’m a graphic designer too so I did all the design.
I started gaining followers, and at the time Live Fit was just a little side thing while I was personal training. As Instagram got bigger, I saw the potential in Live Fit once my clients started buying my clothes.
I created a social media page just for Live Fit with clothes and cool designs, and it just grew organically that way.
We also used YouTube and Tumblr, which was pretty big for us back then since a lot of our content was visuals. We shot a lot of content at the beach and themed it as eye candy for people.
When did you realize that Live Fit was really gaining traction, and you needed to devote more time to building that business?
When I was going to school, I also owned a t-shirt shop selling $5-10 shirts. I was also personal training and running Live Fit on the side. It came to a point where I would go to work, train a couple of my clients, go to my other work (which was the shop), and then go to the 1,000 sq. ft. warehouse that I rented to go pack orders for Live Fit. Don’t get me wrong though; during this time I was killing it personal training, making a six-figure income working about four hours a day. It was really hard to give that up, but when you’re doing online business with sales, it’s infinite.
You’re making money even when you’re sleeping, so it just progressed once a couple designs and t-shirts started catching on. I spread myself thin until I started getting complaints about people not getting their orders in a timely fashion. That’s when I said to myself, “Okay, I have to give something up.”
I gave all my personal training clients away to the trainers who were working under me at the time, and that was a very hard decision for me. I told my t-shirt store business partner that I was quitting to pursue something else, and I dropped out of school. It wasn’t an overnight thing; I had to see the money stacked up first to make sure this was secure.
Who were the first team members you brought on board, and what responsibilities did you give up to have them manage?
Right now, I have my hands in a lot of the departments, actually every department, but when I first started out at the warehouse, I hired my friend who was 16-years-old. He worked for me at the t-shirt business, and so I brought him on to help me pack orders. I still did the tracking and designing. Then I hired another person, a girl who had experience from Apple, so she knew the management side of inventory and logistics. We were a three-army business for about five months until I started bringing on other people, like an assistant. I didn’t know specifically what everyone’s roles were, because we were a startup and it’s part of building a business. We just slowly figured it out as time went on.
Do you think your business became popular because of the quality of the product or because of what it stood for?
Definitely what it stood for. I tell people all the time that I’m just selling t-shirts, but it’s the belief of the product because I believe in my product. I believe my t-shirt is better than other t-shirts not because of the cotton, not because of the fabric, but because of what it stands for. I found Instagram influencers who later became athletes of mine who believed in my product just as much as I did. I think that’s a pretty big role, because if you believe in something then it’s going to rub off on other people. At the end of the day, everything in this world has competition, so it’s all about the branding too.
What personal skills do you think helped propel your business forward and differentiate you from other t-shirt companies?
It was probably all the experience that I’ve gained over the years. I gained all that knowledge, so now I know who to use, whom not to use, and all my connections are there. Also I am a workaholic; I work with a sense of urgency all the time. If I’m not actively doing something, I feel like there is something wrong. I think that characteristic is what a lot of entrepreneurs have above other people. I think that drive has really helped me a lot.
What are some of the reasons the business has been able to scale so successfully? Is it having new lines, recycling the customer base, or influencers?
It’s a combination of all those three that you said. First, it’s the designs and the concepts. Secondly, we’re a direct consumer type of business. Obviously now we have about 100 retail stores worldwide carrying our brand, but 99% of our business still to this day comes from online sales. The margins are killing it. Finally, the athletes that we sign on are a tight knit group.
We make sure our marketing is at the point where we provide social media content for the influencers: professional photos, videos, etc. We’re making sure they are represented and doing their part in growing, and they have their little niche of people that they attract.
In the beginning, did you just focus on one design or were you constantly putting out new designs from the get go?
It happened gradually, because the first design that I put out was my personal training shirt, which is still being sold today online. It says RP Fitness, Long Beach California on the back. When I first started selling that shirt, I was selling them to make my money back and once I did that, I invested that money into the next batch.
Then I started expanding to other designs, but only one or two because I would have to cough up a lot of money. One or two became three, then it became four or five, and then 10-20. I started with $300 and now we’re producing about $7 million this year and with no debt. That’s how I structured my business model, by putting it all back in and letting it snowball from there.
We’re not like a store where we’re in a local community, and the same people come in and out. We’re on a social media platform where there are millions of new people everyday seeing our products. So even when I launch new designs, I’m not dropping the old designs. I’m only dropping designs that don’t do well.
The best thing about social media and online sales is that you get to test your market first. You can start with a small inventory and see how it does. If it doesn’t do well, then you can save your money. If it does great, then boom, invest, and pour it out.
Is there something you learned along the way that you wished you would have known when you first started?
Yes, a lot of things. Obviously now that the company is bigger, I had to learn all the HR stuff, tax filing, etc. One thing I wish I had known before is dealing with people’s behaviors and just being more cautious about people’s emotions and things like that. Also, I definitely pulled back on saying a lot of things I would’ve said back then, because I had to be professional and be the face of Live Fit.
But now I feel that if you’re following us, then it’s because of our values so nothing else matters. If people are offended by something I said, it has nothing to do with the Live Fit brand.
I have some strong beliefs in some areas, but I don’t hold back that much. If people can’t accept that, then they’re not ready for the real world. I’m still trying to be as real as I can, because a lot of people need a reality check.
What is your advice for young entrepreneurs wanting to start their own clothing line?
It’s never too late. What I’ve seen a lot of startups do wrong is not realizing that fact. I consider myself to be an artist as well, so I know if something will be aesthetically pleasing to the general population. If you can’t recognize that and can’t take constructive criticism, then you’re not ready for this business because the consumers are the ones who will make or break you.
It’s never too late to start; all it takes is an iPhone, start a social media page, and put it out there. You have to recognize if your designs are great or not and take the criticism for real. You can’t just assume that your product is going to be great and fly off the shelves.
Also, I’ve seen several clothing lines make the mistake of pricing their products a little too low online. It may be good margins for them, but if retail stores start approaching you, then you don’t have any margins to play with. So I always do a 100% markup, making sure if a wholesale account does approach me that I can still double my money.
With so many other clothing brands out there, how do you deal with the competitors and make your brand stand out?
I don’t really pay attention to them. All these other lines I’m talking about are people who have approached me for my feedback. I actually look at big brands that are in retail stores and see what they are doing, because I feel that what we are doing is unique. We’re attacking the wholesale side a little stronger this year. We’re playing it backwards. Normally, when a clothing line starts they try to get the accounts first from stores where people spend a good amount of money. We went straight for the consumer first, and now the stores are fishing for us. They’re behind on social media and see our brand on social media with a strong following. That gives me the leverage to require them to hit certain minimums if they want us in their stores.
Is there anything you would do differently with Live Fit if you could start all over again?
I don’t think I would have done it much differently, but I wish I had taken shortcuts like making the videos and behind the scenes content the way we do now.
In this industry, it’s hard to jump the gun because of capital. That’s one thing I applaud myself for is not taking out a line of credit or a business loan. I started with nothing, so I think what I’ve done was probably the safest and best route to not have the company in debt. If I were to change anything though, I would have dropped out of school earlier to pursue my business.
What is your advice to aspiring young entrepreneurs who are on a quest to be successful like you?
Experience and live life. When I say that, I don’t mean taking a vacation and living in the Bahamas or anything like that. Observe and see how the world works around you. I want people to understand that this world runs off of business. We live in a monetary system. So wherever you go, like a busy club for example, try to observe how they’re making money. That’s the kind of mindset I have; and the more you’re out doing these types of things, the more you’re going to see different personalities and different businessmen. And always keep your options open too.