10 Q’s With Greg Hampton Of Burnstyles
Like most people out there, Greg Hampton and Andy Frigulietti wanted to work for themselves. Aside from that, they have a passion for art. With passion and dedication, anything is possible. Greg was glad to share his journey with Bossstart readers in this installment of “10 Q’s With…”, our question and answer series aimed at encouraging the entrepreneurial spirit.
Q: Tell our readers about your business, your passion, and what it is that you do? What’s your story? And what sets you apart from other businesses in your particular market?
“My name is Greg Hampton. I am one half of Burnstyles.com. My partner Andy Frigulietti and I started our business 2 years ago. Andy and I have been friends since we were zygotes. He is more like a brother to me. He understands that art is a huge passion of mine, creating it and witnessing it. It was his stroke of genius when he came to me with the idea of starting a business together. You see, Andy is the hardest working person I know, besides my dad. At one time he was working four different jobs. At this time he came to me and said, ‘Greg, I’ve got to slow down and when I do, I want to be my own boss’. He knew I was interested in trying to create a t-shirt line but couldn’t invest much money into it. Andy said with all his determination and hard work, he doesn’t have something to show for all that he’s doing. ‘I want to run my own business’, he said. I grew up watching my dad run his own business and knew that one day, somehow, I would like to run my own as well.
This is when Burnstyles.com was born. My passion from an early age has always been art. Ever since I could pick up a crayon and put it to paper, I’ve been drawing. In my teen years I became addicted to skateboarding. The technicality, the individualism and of course, the art. When I attended art school in Boston, some of the guys that I became close with were graffiti writers. Their styles and creativity was something so new and fresh to me. I had to be involved. I mostly photographed the pieces, but did get my hands dirty as well on some free walls. Burnstyles.com involves all of these things. It has the community revolving around skateboarding, some of personal art and my version of urban art. Not to mention the belt buckles we make from used, ridden skateboards. What I think sets us apart is everything that I put on a shirt, I feel like I had my hand in the image idea in some way. From the kids with the spray cans, to the animals with the suits on, each shirt is from my life and each shirt tells a story in itself.”
“Two things inspired us: my dad inspired me and Andy was inspired by the work force he was stuck in. Both Andy and myself had never tried something like this before. We were both excited and scared to become partners in a venture that was new and at the same time foreign to us.”
Q: How much planning was involved prior to the start-up of your business? Can you offer some insight into that process?
“We didn’t really know how to plan for this. We knew Andy had saved some start up money and I started saving all my sketches and began putting finishing touches on work that was incomplete. We asked a friend how much it takes to make a website. He told us the cost, next we asked around through friends and family to see if anyone knew any website developers. We also looked at websites we liked. We tried to meet weekly to discuss images and functionality we saw in eye-popping designs.”
Q: In terms of running your business, what does a typical day look like for you; or is every day different?
“Everyday is different in the beginning of starting your own business. At Burnstyles.com one day we have t-shirt orders coming in, another day it’s a couple buckles and the next it’s simply the website fees or cell phone bills. We are busy trying to keep our business budget level and remember all the money coming in and going out. Checking in with our printer or I.T. expert is another thing we do periodically. Updating Facebook, sending out tweets or adding to our website blog is happening at least once or twice a week also.”
“The most challenging part of this has been finding a marketing specialist who can “get” our brand and what we are about out to the public. It is hard to get a person who is not just on the same page as us, but can get on our page. By that I mean trying to make sure our representative fully understands what Burnstyles.com is all about. We want people to understand it’s not just an apparel company, but also a lifestyle that evolves around it.”
Q: Besides the obvious of being your own boss, what is the most rewarding part about being an independent business owner?
“Setting up our own rules. Putting on specials or sales when we see fit. Hearing from the public and replying to them the way we always wanted a company to respond to us. When someone says they like something or don’t like something, we try to get back to them fast with an honest answer or reason for why things are the way they are. We also can ask why they liked or don’t enjoy the product. We are not a big business. So when someone calls us or emails us, you are talking to or receiving an email back from one of us; not someone paid to respond to emails or callbacks. When we do festivals or fairs, we enjoy getting the responses from the public. We take ideas and opinions into account and yet still stay true to the Burnstyles.com brand and beliefs.”
Q: How do you promote your business (i.e. Advertise, Endorsements, Contests, Social networking)? Or are there any marketing strategies that have helped your business? What about hurt your business?
“We promote sales and new designs mostly through our Facebook page or through Twitter. We do try to sponsor local skate competitions with 1st, 2nd or 3rd place prizes. We did try to hire a marketing specialist but she was a bit out of the “loop” when it comes to the age of buyers, the different circles our customers thrive in and the mentality of a young vibrant company like Burnstyles.com. This person did attempt to get our name out there, but was unsuccessful at promoting to our demographic. We also tried through Craigslist.com. We put out a small ad that said in a round about way that we were looking for marketing students to get their feet wet with a small start up company. We sent out packages containing 5 shirts, 2 or 3 buckles, about 150 small postcards, some stickers and business cards. We asked these participating students/volunteers to pass out the different articles in each package. They could do it on a street corner, college campus, nightclub event or any venue where our demographic of customers would be conjugating.
We said they could wear the shirts while passing out the other pieces of Burnstyles paraphernalia. Andy & I asked the participants to take photos with their phones or digital cameras, and send us them. The group with the best photo depicting them trying to get our name out there was going to win a small prize in 2 months. We would put their photos and names on our Facebook page and website blog. We set aside some money to purchase an mp3 player to send the winners. Out of the 8 groups we contacted, no one ever sent us an image, responded to our follow up emails or called us back. Our idea was a bust. We thought it was a good one but all we could do was trust that these people were going to fulfill the requirements we asked of them.”
“It has only been two years. We are babies in the business world. We are trying to hire a marketing rep and achieve more word of moth by passing out free t-shirts on college campuses. This September we hope to have a contract with local Universities School of Marketing. We are trying to get a student or two to intern for us, and get credit for doing so. This is still in the works.”
Q: If there was a way to do things over, would there be anything that you would do differently?
“We wouldn’t have bought expensive cell phones. We do almost our entire Internet browsing on our home computers or on our personal smart phones. We don’t use our business phones as often as we thought, yet we still are paying the high monthly contracted bill. We would have looked deeper into our web designer’s background. Our first I.T. professional did not know enough about the type of website we wanted and the site crashed twice in the first 2 months of being live.”
Q: What advice do you have to those reading BossStart.com that you feel is valuable?
“Go For It! Do not watch other people do something that you know you can do better. Believe in your skills and try to define why you believe your product is better than the competitors.”
For more information on Burnstyles, Greg Hampton, or Andy Frigulietti please visit:
About the Author: Daniel Ballard
Daniel is a Writer and Entrepreneur. He is Co-Founder/Main Author/Editor of BossStart and Co-Editor/Featured Author for BossStart's sister site, PauseStart, launching early 2012
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