While J Press sells the conservative Preppy Lifestyle. While Ralph Lauren sells the classic elegance of the Preppy Lifestyle. While J Crew sells the Preppy Lifestyle with a modern twist. Vineyard Vines sells what preppies love the most, THE GOOD LIFE!
Now! I've always been fascinated by the American Dream. Not the dream that consists of having the house, cars, the two point whatever children and the white picket fence. No I'm talking about the dream of saying 'what the hell', there has to be a better way. Then setting out and creating one's own reality, by any means.
This is just what the two brothers, (who have become quite iconic in their own right), Shepherd Paul and Ian Charles Murray have done. They've rolled the dice on a dream and bankrolled it into a multi-million dollar business.
I mean unless you've been living under a rock for the last 10 years you'd know that in the new preppy world, these guys are everywhere. Senators from the left and right wing alike have worn their threads. These two are as real as it gets and it's also cake that they happen to be pretty classy guys.
I was lucky enough to catch up with Elizabeth Hodgson, who works public relations for the VV about the company, the founders and everything in between.
THE BEGINNINGS OF A BRAND
Both brothers grew up spending winters in Greenwich, Connecticut and summers on Martha's Vineyard. A good beginning I must say for the type of clothing and lifestyle they present.
The brothers attended Brunswick School in Greenwich, CT. During the summers Shepherd who's affectionately known as Shep would run an auto detailing business, which taught him marketing, networking and entrepreneurship.
He later graduated from Skidmore College in 1993 with a major in business. Shep then worked on the trading floor of the NYSE for two years as a specialist assistant. Two years later he landed a job at Young and Rubicam as an advertising account executive. Fortunate for us he resigned two years later to follow his dream with his younger brother Ian, and as they say, the rest is history.
Ian Murray received a BA in English from Lafayette College in 1997. Throughout college he played drums and guitar in various bands managing them much like a small business. A little known secret about Ian is that he recorded his first album entitled "Waiting for the Wind", in 2005.
After College he sailed on a charter boat for six months on Martha's Vineyard before returning home. He then worked for a small public relations firm in Manhattan, but resigned six months later.
Here are the brothers in their own words. Excerpt of marketing question supplied by Elizabeth Hodgson.
Who is your target market?
This question is impossible to answer. Everyone from 8 years old to 80 years old enjoy our products and love the lifestyle we promote.
Why are people buying this product?
People are buying our product because they love the lifestyle; it is what separates us in the industry.
What need is being met through the use of this product?
Our products are versatile; they can take your from the pool to the boardroom, from white sand to white snow.
What is the message or positioning of this product? How does the marketing strategy speak to consumers?
Our philosophy is quite simple, we make quality products that people like to wear and offer the best customer service possible. We don't just sell clothing, we sell a lifestyle.
What motivated you to start the business?
We decided that commuting to New York City wasn't for us. We grew up in Connecticut and spent every summer of our lives on Martha's Vineyard, MA which made us huge fans of the water, fishing and having fun. In the late nineties we found ourselves miserable behind desks in Manhattan, so we quit our jobs within ten minutes of each other and decided to set out to create the very thing we hated wearing, neckties. Our first batch of ties was created in whimsical colors and patterns that reflected life on the Vineyard to remind people of what was really important to them, and to make it a little bit more fun to go to work in a suit and tie everyday.
What unexpected challenges have you faced in being an entrepreneur? What lessons have you learnt?
The rapid growth of our company has forced us to quickly learn how to be good managers and how to make not only customers happy, but our employees as well. The best lesson we've learned is, to ask for help when you need it!
What has been the biggest surprise to you in your entrepreneurial career? Why?
The biggest surprise we've encountered in our entrepreneurial career is the response we've gotten over the years from our customers. We knew we were onto a good thing when we started, but we've been surprised as to how supportive our customers are and how much they really do love what we stand for.
What is your idea of success for the venture?
Our idea of success for the venture is being able to wake up every day and actually want to go to work and being able to do what you love.
What is a typical day for you at your job?
A typical day for us consists of brainstorming on new ways to sell and market our product, developing new products and improving the existing ones, and maintaining our relationships with our retailers and customers.
What kind of advice would you give someone?
It may seem simple, but this has helped us tremendously in our adventure: We realized early on that if you're doing what you love, success seems to follow. That being said, follow your instincts and don't lose sight of your goals-if you have a strong anchor, you'll find it much easier to grow. And perhaps one of the most important things we've learned on our journey was to ask for help when you need it. No one can do everything by him or herself, and sometimes that advice and support of someone with know-how can make all the difference. For example, if you know someone who's artistic, it's likely that they know someone with design experience...and, hey, it can't hurt to ask! We wish you the best of luck in your endeavor...keep up the positive attitude!
HERE ARE THE VINEYARD VINES STATS
Started: July 4, 1998
Namesake: "Vineyard" for Martha's Vineyard-the Murray's summer residence, and "Vines" a fun word for ties that wouldn't limit them to only making such.
Logo: A pink whale. The island of Martha's Vineyard was once an old whaling village, and is know for it's hand-carved whales. Shep and Ian's father, Stan Murray, taught the boys how to carve these wooden whales when they were children.
Headquarters: 37 Brown house Road, Stamford, CT 06902
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or 1.800.892.4982
Martha's Vineyard: 19 Winter Street, Edgartown, MA
Boston: Shops at the Prudential Center, 800 Boylston Street, Boston, MA
Cape Cod: vineyard vines by Puritan, 21 Market Street, Mashpee, MA
Georgetown: 1225 Wisconsin Avenue NW, Washington, DC
Greenwich: 145 Greenwich Ave, Greenwich, CT
Memphis: vineyard vines by Oak Hall, Regalia Center, East Memphis, TN
Nantucket: vineyard vines by Murray's, 2 Harbor Square, Nantucket, MA
Ocean Reef: 84 Fishing Village Drive, Key Largo, FL
Westport: 90 Main Street, Westport, CT
Southampton: 35 Main Street, Southampton, NY
WHERE CAN I FIND VINEYARD VINES?
Wholesale: We work with over 600 specialty, boutique and US department stores, including Bloomingdale's Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue. Vineyard Vines is also sold internationally in Great Britain, Australia and Greece.
Custom: Over the years we've been fortunate enough to work with some of the most respected businesses, schools and organizations in the country to make one-of-a kind, custom products. To date, over 2,500 unique silk designs have been made.
Licensing: Since its 2004 launch, our collegiate licensing division has grown exponentially, with custom products now available at over 150 colleges and universities nationwide, including follett and Barnes & Noble run bookstores. We also have partnerships with Major League Baseball and the National Football League to produce custom ties and totes for all teams.
Pro Shops: Our Golf Collection can be found in over 300 pro shops, including 8 of the top 10, and 37 of the top 100 courses nationwide. We've also made custom products for major championship events including the US Open from 2006-2010.
Tied to a Cause: We've always said what good is the Good Life if you can't share it with other? When we first started Vineyard Vines we never imagined we'd be fortunate enough to partner with so many causes near and dear to our heart and whether it's a sense of humor or a relaxed state of mind, our products have always said something about those who wear them. Now, with our Tied to a Cause Collection, featuring custom ties, totes and more for some of our favorite charities and nonprofits, we're hoping they also help make a difference. Each month we'll highlight a new organization and donate all of the proceeds of the sales from their custom products directly to them.
WHAT THE RETAILERS ARE SAYING....
"It's a preppy lifestyle, but interestingly enough, we're selling it in Florida, the Midwest, California, it's not just about the Northeast. It's timeless."
Michael Gould, Chairman and CEO, Bloomingdale's
"These guys are the real deal. They are building a brand that reflects their true lifestyle, not some made-up Madison Avenue dream."
Russ Mitchell, Co-President, Mitchells of Wesport & Richards of Greenwich
It's safe to say that this company is fast becoming 'Tied and True,' and quintessentially preppy. Fall is fast approaching and new items will definitely be in stock. So do yourself, your family and friends a favor and head on over to the Vines and tie one on.
Posted By O. Cavanaugh