Merchandise Marketing Students Meet Entrepreneur and Founder of RPMWest Menswear Brand

February 25, 2016

Merchandise Marketing students in Andrew Batey’s Entrepreneurship class were treated this week to an inspiring presentation by Manuel Rappard, founder of RPMWest, a company launched by a Kickstarter campaign.

RPMWest is an ecommerce menswear brand. To date, Manuel has raised close to an impressive $1M with Kickstarter campaigns.

He started off by talking about the power of the internet. “It has allowed us to put marketing first, and distribution second.” The landscape of marketing and entrepreneurship has changed. Reach and distribution is faster and more direct.

A former tech industry guy, Manuel worked at Google before diving into the fashion industry in Los Angeles. He has, however, always had an appreciation and love for denim. Growing up in Germany, he convinced his mother to get him Diesel jeans—a premium label not many had access to. When he was in his late teens, he learned everything there was to know about denim. Later, when he moved to San Francisco, he met a pattern maker for Levi’s and he learned how to make his own jeans. The story continues from there.

He walked the students through the stages of product development as he has experienced it: the idea, the message, execution, timing, and fundraising. He also hit on the “why” of things. He said it’s much more important to be aware of why you’re doing something, as opposed to what you’re doing. People will care about the why, but not about the what.

With Kickstarter, entrepreneurs present their idea using a template, then they crowdfund. In the past, people had to shop their line around and go through gate keepers. You’d have to sell your idea to buyers, who may or may not be in touch with the current market. The internet changes that. You can now bypass buyers.

He encouraged the class to “fail quickly” and to “succeed quickly.” He said that nine out of ten times, you’ll fail, and that it can take five years before your successful idea becomes a success. With Kickstarter, you can test your idea without investing too much. A good way to approach your business idea, is to determine what problem you’re trying to solve. He said an entrepreneur is a problem solver.

Once you have your idea nailed down, you work on your message. For him, it was, “Perfect Jeans Delivered.” He was inspired by Warby Parker’s home trial idea and decided to borrow it. He sent his customers three pairs of jeans, told them to keep one, and send two back free of charge. Sometimes, the message is more important than the idea.

When it comes to execution and timing, some things you can control, while other things you can not. Well thought out planning is everything. He referred to something he calls the “Kanye Effect.” From the outside, it looks like Kanye just drops an album and it’s an overnight success. But, in reality, he’s an expert marketer, and has done copious amounts of work leading up to the drop. He makes it look effortless—the Kanye Effect.

The bottom line is Manuel Rappard is successful because he is hard worker and he’s smart. Essentially, he hustles. He said he doesn’t stop until he figures it out. “I am creating my own future,” he said. “I know exactly why I started this journey.”

He encouraged all the students to pursue their dreams, and contact him any time. The beauty of social media is that you bring people with you on your journey.

A student from FIDM is currently interning for Manuel at his office/warehouse in the Arts District of downtown Los Angeles.

Categories: Merchandising & Marketing