Harrison Blake Apparel offers a one-stop online shop for men’s accessories. The Black-owned company has a wide array of everything from neckwear and pocket squares to lapel pins and watches. Consumers can buy online or join the company’s monthly subscription service.
“Harrison Blake Apparel was launched to fill a need in the market. I had a background in apparel manufacturing and knew that it was possible to deliver quality pieces at affordable prices. As a father, I also felt it was important to get my two children excited about entrepreneurship at a young age. I named the company after my son and even though he’s in kindergarten, I encourage him to help out. It started with the website only offering lapel flower pins. Soon, we expanded the styles and realized we were doing really well in that niche,” says Richard Taylor, who launched Harrison Blake in 2014.
In just a year, the site has become popular. “It has already shipped products to customers and retailers on every continent, with the exception of Antarctica,” says Taylor. Obviously, Taylor’s bet on men’s accessories has so far paid off. “Men’s accessories are great products in my opinion for a few reasons. Since we had the goal to have an online marketplace, I felt smaller–one size fits all items would be easier to ship worldwide,” he says. “Also, we could give greater stylish options with accessories – rather than, say, a suit. Accessories allow every man to add his own personality to an outfit. I have always had an interest in men’s fashion and creating a positive self-image, so this was perfect.”
Taylor believed so much in his idea that he funded it himself. “I was able to fund the startup from my personal savings. My wife and I decided on a reasonable amount to invest and I have been very disciplined in reinvesting back into the business. By reinvesting rather than spending the profits, we have been able to grow the company with no debt and no outside investing. We are now profitable and growing each month, still reinvesting back into the business to make improvements and increase the product line,” he explains.
Though it has been a successful venture, like many entrepreneurs, Taylor struggles with being overworked and putting his “me” time on the back burners. “The biggest challenges have been to balance the work and home life. Starting a business can be very time consuming and it’s important to have balance. I have had the opportunity to connect with great people that are now part of the team. You realize early on that everything cannot be done by solely relying on yourself,” shares Taylor.
Taylor had been already involved in style and fashion for men. A year prior to launching the clothing site, he wrote a book entitled The Life of a Gentleman–a guide to style and etiquette. “That book made this transition a smart move. You can download a free ebook or audio version of that book from our website/blog,” he says.
Taylor is looking to go even further with his brand. “The primary goal for 2016 is to highlight and bring more awareness to our premier product, our monthly subscription. Selected by Harrison Blake Apparel offers 1 necktie + 4 matching accessories for $25 per month with free shipping included. It is a cost effective and easy way for men to stay dapper,” he says. “Long term, we would like to continue to grow and expand. The focus is on providing quality to ensure longevity. This is a family owned and operated business and it would be a great gift to have my children work alongside me. Each year, things have grown considerably and I hope that trend continues. By delivering value, I feel that goal is attainable.”
Taylor says he’s learned lots through the startup process. “The biggest business lesson has been to avoid paralysis by analysis. What I mean by this is – we keep moving forward. I try to bring new accessories and products to the market and brand them under Harrison Blake. We started with lapel pins, but did not stop there. We expanded into neckties, pocket squares, bracelets, watches and even socks,” says Taylor. “I listen to motivational messages all day long and one of my favorite quotes is by Les Brown: ‘Leap–and grow your wings on the way down.’ Our business is growing and getting better everyday because we keep pushing forward.”
And all-in-all, Taylor has enjoyed being his own boss and in the style/fashion business. Says Taylor, “The enjoyment for me is being creative. There are so many styles, patterns, fabrics and colors to choose from – the possibilities are endless. I also get the chance to market in creative ways and most important, connect with customers. I’m very accessible and treat everyone like a VIP. If you spend $10 or $500 on an order, we provide great service. I love what I do!”