Hamilton Perkins is the founder and President of Hamilton Perkins Collection, an e-commerce retailer, offering designer travel bags at an affordable price, while holding the highest standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.
Hamilton Perkins Collection has been featured in Forbes, Fast Company, The Washington Post, and Money Magazine. Hamilton Perkins Collection has hosted trunk shows at Bloomingdale’s and was the winner of the 2016 Virginia Velocity Tour business pitch competition hosted by the Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Prior to starting Hamilton Perkins Collection, Hamilton was an Investment Advisor at Merrill Lynch and, earlier, worked as an Analyst at Bank of America.
He has also served in a leadership capacity with various non-profit organizations and has been recognized for his volunteer work and service hours assisting low-income populations.
Hamilton is also a contributing blogger for The Huffington Post. He is a graduate of Old Dominion University with a degree in Business Administration and he earned his M.B.A. from William and Mary.
In this in-depth interview Hamilton Perkins tells his business startup story of how he takes the bottles gathered up in Haiti by the locals and through all the steps these bottles become these useful, designer travel bags that looks good and are some thing to be proud of using!
Billions of plastic bottles are thrown away every year and that is a problem. Haiti has a particular problem with the plastic bottles. Hamilton has partnered with the organisation Thread Ground to Good which supplies fabric made out of recycled plastic water bottles.
Hamilton is committed to working with people in less developed nations by sourcing raw materials that divert plastic bottles, save water, and create jobs in parts of the world that need it the most. They track their progress and submit to rigorous third party review to ensure accuracy and accountability.
This is a terrific example of one person taking what they care about and creating a sustainable business.
Hamilton tells it like it is. He is articulate and passionate about his business and has a laser focus for what he knows will make a difference in the world.
I have listened to this interview a number of times now and each time I feel even more inspired to be a better person and be a better business person.
Listen in to my conversation with Hamilton and please let me know what you think!
You can listen right here Healthy Numbers website
You can listen to the full interview on iTunes click here.
You can listen to the full interview on Stitcher click here.
Read the full transcript here.
My guess is that you are here because you are curious about what it might be like to start a business?
Perhaps you’ve been wondering if you have what it takes? If your idea will work or even how much it actually costs to build a successful business?
I’ve written a book that can answer pretty much all your questions “So You Want to Start a Business” and you can download the first 20 pages at www.thestartupsteps.com
15 years of experience working with start up businesses are condensed into this book.
It’s your step by step guide to launch your business smarter and faster and I’m so excited to be sharing it with you and can’t wait to hear about your progress.
Are you ready to grab your excerpt? Click here www.thestartupsteps.com
Ingrid: Hello, and here we are today with Hamilton Perkins. Hello Hamilton.
Hamilton: Hello Ingrid. Thank you so much for having us on.
Ingrid: And Hamilton’s amazing, because it’s Friday afternoon his time, and most people are doing other things on a Friday afternoon, rather than signing up for a podcast interview, so thanks so much.
Hamilton, tell us about your business, what business are you in?
Hamilton: Yeah, so we’re in the retail business, we’re in the design business. We make bags out of recycled plastic bottles and upcycled billboard vinyl. We basically got our start with a Kickstarter campaign. We had a $10,000 goal last summer. We hit that goal in about a week. We had six months as a lead time to make the products. We followed that up with a business plan competition that we went to, and we were able to secure the grand prize of $25,000 as a grant. We finished the year out, last year, in 2016, with a trunk show that we hosted at Bloomingdale’s in New York City, and to-date, we’ve done three trunk shows with Bloomingdale’s.
Came back to Virginia after the trunk show and shipped out all of our pre-orders to all the customers that had signed up to back us early on, and started our web store in early 2017, and this year’s been really about investing in our inventory so that we can have the products that the customers would like to have from us, or would like to buy from us. And now we’re in a point where we are ramping up our production so that we can be in a good place for holiday this year. So we’re excited for closing this year out and doing it all again next year, doing it on an even bigger scale next year.
Ingrid: Hamilton, what a story, that’s fantastic! Now, because half the audience is in the U.S., and there’s a significant portion of the audience are in Australia, so I just need to clarify two things that you said there, so trunk sale in Bloomingdale’s, and when you talk about holidays, do you mean the sales that happen around Thanksgiving?
Hamilton: Exactly, so here in the U.S., we have … so holiday would be like, December, kind of based around the Christmas holiday, and then for trunk sales, those are normally brands or designers that, they will host these sales events in-store with either boutiques or department stores. Depending on the retailer, it will have a different format, but typically it’s all run through the point-of-sale of the retailer, and you sell to the retailer’s customer base. So, in our case, we sold through Bloomingdale’s, so we were selling to the Bloomingdale’s customer, very prestigious, you know one of the top retailers in the world. And we felt like that was the best place for our product to really have its offline debut, at the end of the day.
Up until then we had done 99.9% of everything online, and it’s always good to give customers a chance to touch and feel what we’re making, and to really hear from some of the customers that are buying our products. And we now are moving in a direction where we want to have more presence, because we’ve found that having the product, customers are already excited about it, they will buy it. We just need to have it produced. So now we’re starting to explore wholesale relationships and, you know, just working to get our products in stores and on a shelf near you.
Ingrid: Wow, that’s fantastic. That Kickstarter campaign that went really well, and that $25,000 prize would have been a huge bonus in your business, wouldn’t it?
Hamilton: Yeah, it totally gave us the runway that we needed. You know, starting a business, especially in retail, is very capital-intensive up front. There is really not a whole lot you can do with a retail business without the actual product. You can do branding, you can do awareness, but 99% of the time, people want things when they see it. They don’t want to wait. We’re all competing in some way or in some fashion with Amazon, because they can sell and fulfil in such a quick timeline, so the further away you are from offering an Amazon Prime-like experience, I guess, shame on you, right?
But in our case, we had some very understanding customers in the early days, and they really supported us through that initial boost to stay efficient and not necessarily overproduce or to create more waste, something that we’re trying to help reduce through the production of our product. And I think that the grant really paid off, from a relationship standpoint as well. We had a chance to meet some very esteemed business … people in business and professionals from our entire state. You know, it was sponsored by the governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, so we got a chance to get really good leadership training and mentoring from other, more seasoned businesses, and it all has been something that has extended itself beyond just that one day and just that grant. It’s been a real … it’s been a great ride so far, so we’re just thankful for the opportunity.
Ingrid: Yeah, it sounds fantastic. And we’re going to tap into some of those topics that you’ve talked about with some of the future questions. So just back to getting started, so you’ve been going for just over a year or so, why did you start your business? What was the reason for starting?
Hamilton: Yeah, I think I just wanted a bag that I could be proud of. I wanted a bag that said something about my values. I previously had worked in investment management. I had also done retail prior to that, and I spent some time doing non-profit, just helping where I could, though I had my day job. And I felt like I didn’t have to choose, at this point, between having a bag or having a product that only looked good versus having something that had a social mission attached to it, so we decided we would make earth bags.
Billions of plastic bottles being thrown away every year, that was a big problem, still is. Several billboard vinyls hitting landfills after going out of service, we knew that that would be a big opportunity for us to step in and provide some assistance.
And importantly, we knew that we couldn’t do it all alone. We weren’t going to just overnight jump into retail or recycling and just kind of be experts. So we partnered with experts, and we partnered with great organisations, like Thread International. Thread International’s kind of been able to help us create our fabric that we use. We use the Thread Grounded Good canvas for our earth bags. That canvas is basically sourced from Haiti, and helps clean up canals and streets and rids trash, and kind of helps them on their end help with their mission of ending poverty, because it creates dignified income opportunities through the sourcing process.
So all these things just kind of came together. I knew that working in my corporate job, I felt like I wasn’t necessarily fulfilled by working as a cog in a wheel, and I knew that, potentially, I could always go back to working in a job or taking a job, but it wouldn’t always be so easy to start my own business or to be a part of a startup. So no time ever like the present, and I eventually would go on and make the leap.
Ingrid: That’s so inspiring, Hamilton, wow.
So I know you’ve kind of touched on it, but this is a different question. What did you want from your business? Is it about that combination of contribution and the dignity for other … what is it that you personally wanted from the business?
Hamilton: I think personally I wanted a place that I could be really excited to work at, probably number one. I felt like it was a responsibility to have a place that I was excited to work at, but a place that … it would care, it would make a better future. I felt like we had come so far in so many different categories, you know, if you think about iPhones or laptop computers, any kind of technology, for retail to have made so much contribution, and so many customers that, over time, companies and businesses to have grown to be such big sizes, you would kind of expect, or you would think that there could be more advancement in sustainability. So I’m disappointed with that outcome. We felt like it would make sense for us to create what we wanted to see, lead how we would like to be led. And at the end of the day, there are others out there, customers, who would like to see the same thing.
And that would be our role, that would give us a way to contribute back to an industry that has offered us so much, in terms of us being consumers, it has been just a learning experience, something that I could also learn from the entire experience. There’s nothing like on-the-job training. I think I’ve always been in love with retail and fashion, just one way or another, so this is definitely … this is the best job for me. I can’t really picture what else I would be doing if I wasn’t doing this.
Ingrid: Isn’t that fantastic? Thank you. Thank you so much for being so honest and open with that explanation. So my next question is actually one of my favourite questions, but it’s that idea of when did you realise you were actually in a business? When did the business become real for you? Because there’s all these different things that come together, as you said, and partnerships and planning and thinking. When did it feel real?
Hamilton: I think it felt real probably when I resigned. That’s when it became, I guess, really clear that this is a job. This is no longer a side-hustle, this is not a project, this is not a hobby. You are not in school anymore. You don’t work for someone else, you know, now technically you work for customers, or you work for shareholder … whatever, but that was, I think when it became real. But I think my passion to get off of work, work at night, work very late, get up early, work early, you know, before a shift, or to spend … even when I was in Business School, I’d spend my breaks or dinner, evenings, similar to today, I mean, I would spend time talking to customers or trying to learn more from existing customers, try to develop new customers. So it was always … I treated it very seriously, I guess you could say. I had a focus and I wanted to execute. I was laser-focused. You know, though, after really committing my full energy to it, surprisingly enough, that’s when really good things start happening, like the Virginia Velocity Tour, the Bloomingdale’s trunk show, expanding into new product categories, and now having a small team to help. So it’s been … that’s been how it became real for us was me making the full-time commitment.
Ingrid: Thank you. Yeah, nothing more like than that full-time commitment, is there?
Ingrid: And you said there that the customers are an important part of you … you know, that you’re accountable to them. How did you know that they’re … and this almost is a redundant question, because we sort of know the answer, but talk me through, how did you know people wanted your products? You know, you wanted a bag that was doing this, but how did you know that there were other people out there? How did you know that this was going to be viable?
Hamilton: I think that’s the beauty of crowdfunding. We didn’t know … we had no idea, really, what the response was going to be, but what we were clear on was, we could launch this in a place that early adopters are already hanging out and looking for new products, and we could really tell our story there, and you know, offer them a chance to buy it. Either … it would be on of two outcomes. It would be binary. Either you would show up, and you would support the project, or you wouldn’t, and either way it was a win for me. At the end of the day it was a win, because we knew the answer, and that’s half the battle. You spend a lot of time, you’re crafting pitches, you’re creating copywriting, you’re trying to work on press and get word out, you want to work with bloggers, and you’re doing all this planning before you start a crowdfunding campaign.
In our case, we didn’t want to launch to any crickets or anything, but that’s a place where you can lull, and you can almost get trapped in that, to some degree, because you haven’t really launched yet, and you’re not necessarily doing anything that’s really proving out what you’re doing yet, so when that campaign hit … When I hit launch on it, there’s a button on Kickstarter, it’s literally like, “Click this button to launch the campaign,” and then your clock starts tickin.
It’s like that gave a real urgency behind what we’re doing, and at the same time, it helped prove so much at that … within that timeframe, because we were able to generate about $30,000 of crowdfunding revenue in about 30 days, which was a total success for us to have never really produced a product ever to literally have only had one sample made at a time, to this being a brand new company. We didn’t have a website, this was completely from scratch, and completely from trash. So it was an idea that it eventually became a reality, and that’s the fun part about the job, still to this day, is making something that didn’t exist before and then finally seeing it in someone’s hands or seeing someone wear it. That’s just a really fulfilling feeling.
Ingrid: And that $30,000 in 30 days is an enormous endorsement of what you were offering, that there were people out there who wanted it. As you said, those early adopters, if they jumped in, then you know that there’s a huge portion of people sitting behind that, don’t you?
Hamilton: That’s right, and it’s public. You get a chance to really sink or swim in front of everybody, and everyone’s looking, watching. So that gives a big vote of confidence, but then at the end of the day, there’s still more work to be done after that, because guess what? If you’re in our world, if you are in retail, you’ve got to make more product, you need to be aware of the adoption curve. If you think about the people who come behind the early adopters, we’re not always as forgiving or understanding of the time constraints behind fulfilment and things like that. So that’s … that’s startup life, though, right? Every second is a new challenge. You get to the next level or next hurdle, and there’s more behind that.
Ingrid: That’s business.
Hamilton: Yeah, it’s kind of like an ongoing cycle, but that’s what we signed up for. Those are the same challenges. We enjoy those challenges, because we know we’re uniquely qualified to create what we’re creating and to produce what we make.
Ingrid: Yeah. So … fantastic. I’m almost speechless, Hamilton, as I’m listening to you, and anyone who knows me knows that speechless isn’t something that’s one of my characteristics. So we’ve talked a bit about money and you got the money from crowdfunding, you got the grant, but there’s still a lot of money involved in your business, in terms of everything you need. I know you partnered, so that makes things a bit easier and takes some of the strain off. What’s your approach to money? You can talk about money in general or in more detail, what is your funding strategy overall? How will you fund expansion, how do you use the money?
Hamilton: Yeah, so the number one use of our proceeds is always inventory. We cannot seem to make enough inventory to satisfy the demand. It is one of those things that our product, from the very first mile of our supply chain, where individuals collect bottles in Haiti, bring those to collection centres in Haiti, send that over to local recycling centres in Haiti, convert it over into a plastic flake, the flake gets exported to the States, and then fibre extruded into a final blend of either 100% polyester or a blend with cotton, all of this is all happening prior to us introducing, you know, these bold pops of colour to our product from billboard vinyls and poster vinyls and these really interesting inside linings on every single bag. So it’s already a story in itself, before the product is really even finally assembled. So you end up with this dilemma between how do you use the proceeds? how do you get the word out? What we’ve found is that the product already has a built-in virality in it. It’s already a remarkable product and we find when we tell someone about the product, or if someone buys a product, they will continue that as a conversation piece, and they’re going to continue to tell other people, so word of mouth has been really good for us.
The financing piece has been really about making enough product so that we can hit our goals, and then from there, we’re able to support the dignified income opportunties along the way and the whole brand or the whole … you know the company, everything is all-hands-on-deck, just to get product out the door, basically. So from there, we can start to refine and start to implement more traditional business practises, but starting out, it’s just been kind of a sprint to get as much product made as we possibly can.
Ingrid: It’s a nice problem to have in one way, isn’t it, that demand outstrips supply? But as you said, when you’re dealing with an audience who wants the product when they buy it, we’re used to being able to buy something and have it delivered to us or take it away with us from the retail shop, so it is a big dilemma, that balancing between having enough product to sell and then being able to meet the demands.
Ingrid: Thank you. So you’ve talked about word of mouth being where new customers come from, and your trunk sale.
Ingrid: So that’s another way of new customers. Where else do you think your new customers come from?
Hamilton: So the number one way we get new customers is from our existing customers. We found that online really gives us the chance to meet new customers digitally.
There’s no doubt about it, everyone’s on their phone these days, so we try to create these surprise and delight moments wherever we can online, and we have had success at our own website, HamiltonPerkins.com. Instagram has been really great for us, because we really show a lot of the process behind what makes a bag and the impact of a bag, and we share behind-the-scenes of photo shoots or behind-the-scenes of what’s going in the office, and we’ve found that people are interested in those individual narratives. Sometimes they may buy a bag, sometimes they may not, but sometimes they’ll just show someone, look at these photos, look at this blog post. We recently got back from Haiti, where we had a trip to see our existing partners down there, and we walked that first mile of the supply chain, and we walked the floors of our factory, and we met with the factory officials, and just sharing and documenting that journey, visually storytelling, that in itself helps us bring more people into what we’re doing. They find it.
We use hashtags and we work with press. We’ve been featured in Forbes, Fast Company, Money Magazine, Washington Post, so the press has been really good to us. And that does help us find new audiences or new audiences find us, however you want to look at it, and new products as well. Now we do apparel, we make shirts that are 50% plastic, they’re 50% cotton, same story, basically, as the bags. You know, the average shirt is about 97% cotton, so ours are 50% plastic and 50% cotton and 100% comfortable. The shirts end up having much less water use to make it, but no lack of quality, no lack of comfort. That’s one of the most comfortable shirts you’ll wear. I’ve been wearing it as my uniform to the office each day, it’s especially good and breathable when it’s, like I said, close to 100 degrees, here in Virginia.
Ingrid: 100 degrees in Virginia.
Ingrid: Hamilton, do you want to just say that … so it’s HamiltonPerkins.com Because I know right now, if someone’s listening, they’re going to be wanting to jump on and have a look. I’ll put all of this in the show notes, and I would normally ask you at the end, your Instagram is the same? What is the name for your Instagram?
Hamilton: Yes, the website is HamiltonPerkins.com, and our Instagram Hamilton is just @HamiltonPerkins. What we’ve done for your audience as well, is we’ve prepared a discount code so anyone that’s interested in trying it out, we’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback, so if you enter the code, “business,” all just spelled out, just business, you will get a 10 dollar discount on your first order and we’d love to hear from you. So feel free to leave us a review or reach out if you have any questions.
Ingrid: Aw, thank you Hamilton. That’s very generous, and I shall put those in the show notes as well. Normally I would cover that at the end, but it just seemed a good moment to talk about it, because that walking a mile in that part of that process chain is so interesting. Storytelling is such a valuable way of conveying a message, isn’t it?
Hamilton: Absolutely. I mean, from product optimization to fulfilment improvements and recruiting talent, you know, just even our standard operating procedures, it all … just by executing on those, it helps us get discovered.
Ingrid: Yep, totally. So talking of pricing, what process did you use, and I know you’ve been to business school, you’ve worked in retail, how did you decide a pricing strategy for this business, for these products?
Hamilton: Yeah, so we price the bags at $95, so they’re under $100. Shirts are $25. We found that online, there was a psychological barrier at $100 for a lot of consumers, so we knew we weren’t necessarily trying to price it above $100. My background before this, I had also had a leather goods business, where I swear, I sold high-end luggage, average selling prices were anywhere between $650 and up, as much as into the thousands of dollars for bags, and we just saw that this was a mass-market opportunity. We saw that apparel, it can be as low as anything close to seven or eight bucks all the way up to 130 bucks for a shirt, and well beyond that. I mean, Givenchy makes a shirt that’s $1,200, Kanye West makes a $120 shirt. White shirt, just plain t-shirt. So we felt like we had a really compelling value proposition on terms of the performance of the shirts and the performance of the bags, and we wanted to have, just an honest markup. We weren’t looking to overcharge, or we weren’t looking to just kind of price ourselves into prestige, which that happens too, but we felt that it was a comfortable price.
And our customers have been very understanding of our pricing, and to a large degree, have really informed our pricing and told us what they’re willing to pay and told us when they thought they should pay more or less. And we listen. So that’s what the beauty of being a smaller firm, you can adapt and you don’t have to wait. We have the beauty of patience as well.
I think that’s the other thing. We’re not a Wall Street company that has to report quarterly earnings, and if everything doesn’t work out, then management is axed. It’s not like that kind of environment. A lot of the things that I noticed when I worked as an analyst and I worked in investment management. So pricing for us, we felt like we could start at a respectable level, and that would largely be for the early adopters. All that would eventually find and finance subsequent lines and subsequent collections that ultimately would be even more affordable and more accessible. So the trick would be the limited edition series, because once a bag is made, it’s gone. There’s not going to be another bag with the green and yellow pop of colour the way that one customer’s bag was created. You may not get the earth tones anymore on the inside or on the outside. So that would be, just a thing that sets us apart and really taps into the individuality of the consumer and really kind of give them a personal touch.
Ingrid: As you were talking there, I was thinking about your billboards, because you’re repurpose the billboard. Is it recognisable in any way when you reuse it?
Hamilton: In some ways, it is. What we end up doing is trying to find the most interesting pieces of the billboards to use, and it all depends. Sometimes, for example, we’ve used some billboard vinyls from Haiti that have were so popular they were the first to go. There were not any of those left after they came out, but some are just a standard colour. It might just be all red or it might be all yellow, or it might be just a green. It all depends. And we are just starting out, so we still have some ideas, and we have some concepts that we’re working on and collaborations that are yet to be announced or still waiting to get final confirmation on some things, but we’re eager to work with clients. And already we have clients sending us vinyl and asking us, “Can we send you this, and can we do a custom order? We want to show the world that we’re not just advertising, we’re making a change, and we’re making a difference in what we sell or how we sell, it makes a difference.” And it’s been a really good response, and we’re excited.
So also, for that, if you want to send us vinyls, send us an email to email@example.com, and we’ll get you the shipping address so that you can ship over your vinyls, and we can work on any custom projects. If you just want to have your vinyl used, we’re glad to use it, so we appreciate it.
Ingrid: I’m already thinking that there’s wonderful ways of making those part of a premium product. It sounds like your creative team are already onto every single one of those ideas. So watch this space would be the point there, wouldn’t it?
Hamilton: Well, if you have that many ideas, you may need to come and work with us, we always need some help with creativity.
Ingrid: We’ll talk about it after the show, I think. So Hamilton, I know you’re just getting started, and this is something that I talk to people when they’re getting started in business, is about an exit strategy. You know, you don’t have to tell us what that is, but have you thought about where this goes, in terms of knowing that there is a future, and what is that future? Do you have an exit strategy?
Hamilton: Yeah, you know, it’s interesting to see some of the companies that we’ve admired and that we’ve looked up to either have exits, whether those are acquisitions or just going public or in some cases, unfortunately, going completely out of business. I think that we’ve seen that it’s possible to run a business long-term and ultimately create value, and that’s what we want to do.
If we can stay and ultimately create more value and continue to grow at real, sustainable clip, it would make sense for us to continue to do what we’re doing. And like I say, I really don’t know what else I would do if I wasn’t doing this. I’m really having a whole lot of fun. I don’t see myself doing anything else. It would be really difficult to see what else I would be doing if I wasn’t doing this, so I’m really having fun on the job, and I think that I’ll definitely be doing this for quite some time.
I still have a hat for finance and investment management, I mean, that’s what I was doing prior to this and still kind of conservatively look at things and take an approach to disciplining myself, so I’m always going to have that spirit, but I think for the present and the foreseeable future, minimum 10 years, I’ll be doing what I’m doing for a long time.
Ingrid: And the way we’re producing rubbish on this planet and plastics, you know, I think you’re going to have resources for a long time! So now, let’s have some reflection. What’s one thing that you really wish you had done differently in the early days at the beginning?
Hamilton: I think I would have started earlier.
Ingrid: Can I tell you how many times people say that?
Hamilton: I think I would have started much earlier. We have already produced nine billion tonnes of plastic. I saw a statistic, I think that’s about 20 thousand times the weight of the Empire State Building. I would have started sooner, I would have just taken more risk, but at the end of the day, I’m glad with what I’ve done. I’m never one to regret or say, what if I would have done this? I feel like we always make the best decisions that we can at the time with the information that we have, and as long as you listen to yourself, I think you’re in a good place. So I think yeah, if we started sooner. That’s just generally. That’s business, but that’s everything else, too.
Ingrid: Yeah. This is a slightly different question. What do you wish you’d known from the start? If somebody could have given you some additional piece of knowledge, what would have been useful at the beginning? Or from the early days?
Hamilton: Maybe patience and I would say, just knowing that there’s not just one thing that will make this overnight success. I guess I figured that out pretty early, but it always would’ve been nicer to just know it even sooner. Because the optics of what you see, looks like in some cases, oh, this just happened. You get on this show, or you get in this publication or you have this crowdfunding campaign or you make this kind of product, and life is just set and you’re on easy street for the rest of your life, but it just doesn’t work that way. It never happens without really hard work, really long hours, and lots of setbacks and lots of challenges and lots of adversities. Those are the things that actually make it work, and before you know it, you look up, and you have all these really small wins that eventually kind of turn into one big win. So it would’ve been nice to know that, but you learn that from experience.
Ingrid: That’s one of the reasons I do this show, because when you tell that story and there’s a number of people who I’ve interviewed along the way who have said similar kinds of things. It can look like the overnight success happens really quickly, but it’s all those bits and pieces that go together, and all that work and all that background, and all that effort. And I don’t want that to sound like it’s just hard work, but it takes diligence, and it takes discipline, and it takes resilience, doesn’t it? It just doesn’t just happen, does it?
Hamilton: Right, absolutely, I concur.
Ingrid: Hamilton, you’ve had some terrific people around you, in terms of your customers supporting you through the crowdfunding. My question is who, apart from yourself, is of the greatest assistance to you and to your business? And you can either name names or you can talk in concepts about who are the people that have really helped you along the way.
Hamilton: Well, definitely, it would be my wife, from just supporting our household to actually being hands-on with a lot of our operations and production. You know, helping us stay on track with creating the products that we need to create and really just being very supportive and kind of understanding, coming from an entrepreneurial household herself, I think it’s really been just a great force to have on our team. So I think, yeah. And then we have interns now, so our interns have been doing stellar performance, down to this very podcast interview. We’ve had some really talented folks come and work with us, so shout out to Daniel and Sophia, really working hard this summer, and we’re just really excited about just kind of like building up our team.
Ingrid: That’s fantastic. Thank you. Who can give you good feedback, Hamilton? Who … you’ve talked about you listen to customers and what they tell you. How do you get good feedback?
Hamilton: I personally, in business, I get a lot of the feedback from action. The crowdfunding is a great example. It was going to be fine to get advice and to get people that have done it before to tell you how to do it, and to get experts and people that are consulting you. All that stuff’s great, but the best feedback is to know, did you sell anything? If you’re in business and you’re an entrepreneur – if you don’t sell something – to me, that’s the feedback. Did it sell? Did it work? What was the outcome?
I look into real time a lot. I’ve found that I learn more by doing that. I’m the type to want to make something, and that’ll help me figure out if it worked or not. If not, I think it’s always good to have people that you can trust, and it’s always good to have great advisors and we’ve had some great people. We’ve been really fortunate to have great advisors that we can always have for moral support and to tell us how things happened in their time. We’ve had just lots of companies, whether they’re in our own backyard, basically giving us help, and just giving us thoughts on what we’re doing or just giving us encouragement, it’s always good. And including us in things that they’re doing. That’s one of the most powerful ways that I feel like that we get feedback, is to actually work with people that are giving you advice or giving you thoughts. I think that’s a big testament.
Ingrid: It is. And you mentioned at the beginning that when you were part of that grant, that $25,000 prize with the governor of Virginia and the leadership and the number of people that you came into contact through that, you mentioned that at the beginning, that those people as well had been part of who has been of assistance and giving feedback. It feels like you’ve been very supported, but it sounds like you’re the sort of person who is very easy to work with and you ask for help, you take the support in the spirit that it’s intended.
Hamilton: Yeah, absolutely. It takes vision, right? Feedback comes to me from having a vision for something. And the thing about it is, normally if we’re gifted with a vision or we’re gifted with a talent, usually that’s something that’s unique. When I look at, for example, I may look at Elon Musk of Tesla, and I may see what he’s doing and what their company does, you know, that’s a gift. That’s something that he’s uniquely equipped to handle.
And I think we all have something to bring to the table. Now, everyone is not going to be Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos or something like that. Everyone can’t be Oprah, but you can be yourself. And that’s the thing I think is underplayed a lot, so that’s always my message. When people ask me about my experience, whether they’re coming up or young people, I’ll let them know, you can be comfortable knowing that you have enough, you were given enough when you were born. You have all that you need. And don’t be afraid to voice that or to really live that, because there’s a lot of things that are set up to help us think that we don’t have enough, and it’s just not true.
Ingrid: Hamilton, thank you for that. We’ve only got a couple of questions left. But my next question was going to be, what would you say to someone who was thinking about starting their business if they came to you? Because a lot of the audience of this podcast are people thinking about starting a business, or getting into a side hustle. What would you say to them?
Hamilton: Yeah, just make every minute of your day map to what you want to happen. So if you want to start a business, and you’re working at a job or you’re in school, make sure that you’re schedule reflects what you want to happen. So that means customer development, number one. Unless you’re just a great engineer of some type or some designer that you can create something and you can pull people to you, you’re going to have to go out and you have to sell your product, you have to sell your service. You have to get people really excited about what you’re doing. No one’s going to do that for you. So really reflect on your routine. Something that simple.
Like I said, I made it a point to spend lots of time creating the world that I wanted to basically live in, and that meant cutting out happy hours. That meant cutting out time hanging with friends. That meant cutting out vacations. That meant vacations were work, so I haven’t taken a proper vacation in almost three years. You know, next month will be the first time I actually take a real vacation where I completely recharge. And I’m not saying that that’s the best for everyone, because you got to have your health. But I’ve done things to adjust, and I’ve got a trainer now, and I get up 5:00 am in the morning every morning, and I’m in the gym at 5:30. I’m eating healthy, I do things to make sure that I’m, personally, I’m okay, I’m physically fit.
I would just say make sure that you surround yourself with people that are either going to support you or challenge you. You be the judge of what you want, but surround yourself with people that are doing things. You’d be surprised like the outcome of just surrounding yourself with three to seven other like-minded individuals, in terms of starting a company or running a business. Having a support system to bounce ideas off of, even if it’s only once a month or once a quarter, you’d be surprised how that will impact your performance. And that’s something that I’ve found good experience with is just aligning myself with people that have either been there, done it before already and have already had success, and really making that be my circle of friends and influence.
And I think that, the good thing is, if you’re getting started and you’re listening to this, good thing to remember is that you’re young, so you have time to try things. It’s okay to fail. You don’t have to make Facebook on your first try. You don’t have to make this unicorn on your first try. And if you don’t make that, it doesn’t mean assured failure, so just know that you already have what it takes to be successful.
Ingrid: Yeah, thank you so much for that. You mentioned Elon Musk, I absolutely am in awe of his ability to bounce back from things that don’t go right. You know, when you read his story and watch what’s happened to SpaceX over the last 10 years, you know, that ability to pull himself back from big, big disappointments. It doesn’t have to be big, massive disappointments, small things can stop you in your tracks. Anyway, I don’t want to get onto Elon Musk and how fantastic I think his vision is for what we’re doing.
Hamilton, one last question. Three key characteristics that you have that make you successful. And you’ve talked about a lot of different things, but when it comes down to it, what do you think the three things are that actually make a difference for you that are the reason you are successful in your business?
Hamilton: I have gratitude, I’m grateful. I have a really strong and high-level of work ethic. And then I’m patient. I don’t expect to make everything happen in an hour. Like I said, we’re not in a Wall Street environment where this has to be done on a quarter’s basis. Yeah, I feel like those are the things that have contributed the most to our success.
Ingrid: Thank you, now we’re just going to close now, but is there any one last thing that you would like to say to the listeners before we close off?
Hamilton: Yeah, we thank you for your ears, and like we said, check us out at HamiltonPerkins.com. Feel free to enter that discount code in at checkout. The code is “business,” and you just type that in at checkout and you’ll get $10 off your first order, and we’d love to hear from you. Love to hear your thoughts, your feedback, your reviews are welcome, and again, just thank you so much for having me, Ingrid.
Ingrid: Yeah, thanks for your time, Hamilton. Goodbye.
Hamilton Perkins is the founder and President of Hamilton Perkins Collection, an e-commerce retailer, offering designer travel bags at an affordable price, while holding the highest standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.