My name is Anthony Simpson and I am the owner & creative director of Random Objects… and I love quotes! Don’t judge me.
I grew up hearing quotes and they became deeply ingrained into me. I developed an interest and appreciation for them that still lasts to this day. The central focus for Random Objects is to take different quotes [sayings or proverbs] and interpret then in a creative and visual way. Basically – let the quote guide the artwork! This can be a real challenge sometimes, but I absolutely love what I do.
This is a saturated business and creating a niche is key. What sets Random Objects apart from other brands is that I try to infuse quotes, my point of view, and creative wit into the designs that I create, and hope that it resonates with people. The fact that it does is nothing less than a blessing. When someone purchases one of our tees I hope they can feel the thought behind the design. I carved a comfy quote filled niche for Random Objects in this large t-shirt landscape. Someone once said to me at a tradeshow “You aren’t a skate or surf brand, and you’re not a typical streetwear brand… you’re kind of like a hybrid!”. I am not completely sure what his thought process was, but I took that as a compliment (I hope it was meant as one haha!). This is going to sound cliche, but you have to be true to yourself – even if it is not considered “popular” or “trendy”.
What were your biggest mistakes running a clothing company? How would you of done things differently with the experience you have now?
Random Objects has greatly benefited from the massive mistakes I made with my first brand which crashed and burned in a fiery blaze of glory. For that brand I made so many mistakes that I don’t know where to start! I will just list the major ones that I made starting out. First, I did not take actual product shots – they were ai or psd mock ups… bad idea. Second, I did not contact any of the t-shirt blogs that were numerous back then to be featured on their sites. Third, I produced too many tees without knowing what would sell or not. I literally sold 1 tee… that’s right, 1 tee in almost a year! Last and most importantly, I did not have a clear focus. I just designed what I thought was cool and that led to my designs to be all over the place concept wise and not cohesive.
When I recovered and regrouped from that huge failure, I corrected each mistake that I previously made before launching Random Objects. I made sure I purchased my URL and had an organized and clean website. Then I invested in a good camera and took actual product shots. Once I took those shots, I then researched and contacted every major t-shirt blog I could find on the web to be featured. These past mistakes and corrections were invaluable for Random Objects web presence and sales.
One day I came home to $1000+ in orders. I literally could not believe it and did not know what to do. A blog featured my VISION TEST design and in 1 day BOOM… an avalanche of orders! This was my first experience with how something can go viral. This was in R.O.’s first few years so this was a really big deal for me at the time. I had to call my wife at work and ask her to come home early to help me process all of the orders. Good times haha!
I have 2 breakthrough moments that I often reflect on. The first one was when I saw Michelle Chamuelle wearing our “Build Bridges” sweatshirt on the set of The Voice. I had a “Is this real life?” moment when I saw it. The second was when my brand was chosen for a national campaign sponsored by Simple Mobile, Complex Magazine, and High Snobiety. They had me come down to NYC to meet in the corporate offices of Complex for a complete photoshoot. I mean models, make up, professional photographers, video production & editing… the works! I felt like an owner of a major brand when I was walking around in their office. Everyone was so helpful and attentive to what I wanted and needed. It was truly one of the best experiences of my life.
T-shirt blogs and forums were the best forms of advertising for us for many years. It allowed me to directly connect to a customer base that love tees. I could literally track a spike in sales to certain blogs when they featured one of R.O.’s designs. Now tee blogs are few and social media is rapidly dominating the market. I have been using Instagram more to reach out to customers and receive fan pics from them to feature on our site. Social media is going to be huge moving forward into the future!
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started?
That I should pay myself. I would bury everything I made back into R.O. and not put anything away into my personal savings. I have since learned that “I” am my first employee… so I have to pay myself too.
Taxes, legalities, business, what is some advice you would give others starting out?
First, I would advise brands starting out to track all their costs (production costs, expenses, etc) very carefully. It is very easy to lose track of their cash flow and find themselves out of business in no time. When you start making money it is easy to get excited and start spending frivolously . You have to be disciplined.
I get asked this a lot and here is what I tell them:
- Have a clear focus and start small
- Be true to yourself & original (don’t just follow current trends)
- Don’t be afraid to make mistakes or get down on yourself when you do… learn & grow.
- Find a good screen-printer (quality is of the utmost importance)
- DON’T PRINT A BUNCH OF TEES WITH YOUR LOGO ON IT
And most importantly…
- Remember that this business is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes a long time to build up a following, but it’s rewarding to watch your business blossom over time.
Where do you do the majority of your business, online, trade shows, craft shows, stores?
Majority of our business is made online. The internet is our worldwide marketplace, but craft fairs make up a small percentage. Craft fairs can be a drag sometimes (especially when it rains), but I love the fact that I can meet our customers and connect with them on a personal level. You can get direct feedback and genuine reactions to a design or new product that you simply can not get online.
What changes do you see in the future with your company, the t-shirt industry, and the internet?
I see Random Objects customer base continuing to grow. Getting R.O. into more stores and boutiques will also be something that I will continue to strive for. As far as the t-shirt industry is concerned, I foresee easier access to potential customers via new social media sites. Potential customers will be able to be introduced to your brand that you never would have had access to before. This can be both good and bad – especially if big brands [industry] continue to have a strangle hold on sites and push out independent brands.
What keeps you passionate and motivated about your clothing company?
It’s a great feeling to work hard on conceptualizing and completing a design, and then see that it is well received by our customer base when it releases. It validates the hard work and constant struggle that we in this business know all too well. Other artists and brands keep me motivated too. I like to see what new and innovative things that they are doing. Going to art galleries and museums regularly also helps to stoke the flames of creativity.
What has worked best for you in social media?
I have found that Instagram has worked best for us. As I stated previously, blogs were huge for us in the past but IG is the definitely the way to go now. It allows you to feature not just the product but also the lifestyle. It allows viewers to develop a “feeling” for your brand without you having to explain or describe it. It is time consuming, but it is necessary for me to present Random Objects’ message in a unique [and consistent] way. I am definitely looking forward to what the “next big thing” will be in social media in the future though.