This time of year is always one of reflection for us — a moment to pause, realize and appreciate the changes we’ve seen in the past year. With Ledbury’s sixth anniversary on the horizon, we thought it only appropriate to sit down with our Co-Founders, fondly known as the Pauls, for a little insight into proud moments and challenges, what’s to come for the business and their encouraging words for entrepreneurs. With rumors of a Tangier Cup and new retail stores opening, year seven is certainly one to look forward to.
What’s your proudest Ledbury moment?
Watson: I think my proudest Ledbury moment was bumping into a complete stranger in the middle of Washington, DC on an elevator who was wearing one of our shirts.
Trible: Did you make it awkward?
Watson: I did! I just started touching the fabric… (laughs)
Trible: Mine probably comes once a year at the Quail Hunt. We’ve got everybody there in one spot, and it’s not only us, but the whole team is there. All of the friends, people we know from Richmond and across the state get together, and it’s a true representation of what we’re doing — building a real community around this idea of a clothing brand. I just always feel, at that point, that this is so much more than just shirts.
Starting a business of course has its ups and downs. What are some of the biggest challenges the business is facing right now?
Trible: Right now, it’s responsible growth. We have a really good foundation, and there’s an opportunity to really take off, we just have to manage that appropriately. We have to make sure that the right people are in place so we can support growing and building a significant business. There’s a lot of good ahead of us, we just need to be prepared to handle it.
What departments do you anticipate will have the most rapid growth in the next year?
Trible: We’ve always talked about fit and quality, which are two tactile things. Now we’ve got distribution channels where we’re getting shirts in front of people who might not know about Ledbury, but they touch and feel the shirt and they fall in love with the product. So really, it’s about wholesale and retail — growing wholesale accounts, getting into some great stores who believe in our brand, getting shirts in front of people and growing our own retail stores that can be hubs for the brand we’re trying to build in cities across the country.
The shift has been interesting — we started totally online and we’re moving towards these tactile experiences where people can come in and have a human interaction. It all leads back to the website, but I think we’ve learned a lot about how we need to get people there, and a lot of that comes from face-to-face interactions.
Watson: It’s even coming through in the marketing channel, too. The fact that we’re sending direct mail to people’s mailbox — something they can look at, hold and flip through. It really speaks to that.
We’ve had a run with a slew of new initiatives - pop-up shops, custom shirting, new product classes, we’ve hosted dinners for a handful of top customers in different cities around the country… give us a little insight on what new and exciting initiatives we can expect from Ledbury next year.
Watson: We’ll be doing a lot of the same brand-building events. There will probably be more associated with the wholesale channel, events with our retail partners and things like that. We’ll certainly do the Quail Hunt. There’s rumors of a Tangier Cup. To be determined!
Trible: In terms of initiatives — bringing the bespoke process and what we’re doing with Creery to life for more people is going to be an interesting initiative. Whether that’s through the Commonwealth Collection, which we’re really going to expand to create interesting things that we can offer to our customer online, or us doing special events around the country — it’s such a unique experience for people. One of our pushes is going to be finding ways for more people to interact with that experience.
What are some of your professional goals for year 7?
Trible: I think it’s a personal, outward professional goal if that makes any sense — bringing in the right people. We’ve got such a good base right now, and it’s going to be really important to bring in that next essential circle of folks that have the same vision for the brand we’re trying to build, and have those complementary skill sets that can help take us to the next level. I think that will make us better at what we do well and make us better managers. That’s the main focus right now.
Watson: One of the struggles that we we have is that as we continue to grow and add more people to the team, communication becomes more and more tough — to make sure everyone is on the same page, understanding what is going on day-to-day. Improving communication throughout the organization is a constant goal.
People probably ask you this all of the time, but what advice would you give to folks setting off on an entrepreneurial path?
Trible: Usually we say, “Jump and a net will appear.” So just go for it and do it. The fact that we started a clothing business at the bottom of the market as two guys with zero experience — a lot of that was hustle, trying to learn it and being passionate about what we’re doing. And if we can do it, I think that’s a pretty good indicator that most people can do it, but not enough people are willing to take that leap. Once you do, that mixture of passion and fear is such a motivating factor. The personal and professional reward of creation — whether that’s making a product or creating a business — is something that can’t easily be replicated. And for both Paul and I, I think that no matter what happens in the future, we’re going to need that, because that experience is so unique and impactful.
December 06, 2015 — Mel Calabro