Black & Denim Apparel Co. was created by Roberto Torres, Luis Montanez and Christopher Findeisen. Torres and Montanez, who attended Florida State University, came up with the idea in 2006. Findeisen, a University of Tampa graduate, had the chutzpah to knock on their door and ask for a job and was later hired as a freelance fashion designer. Next thing you know, they’re all business partners.
The trio that make up Black & Denim were recipients of a $25,000 business grant through MillerCoor’s Urban Entrepreneurship Series and are currently Live Pitch Event Judges for the upcoming Miller Lite Tap the Future business plan competition.
Read what Torres has to say about inspiration, mastermind teams, being entrepreneurs and gain some insight on how to take your business to the next level.
What inspired you to start a new business? How did the idea for your business come about?
We always knew that we wanted to work for ourselves. The idea evolved from being inspired to open a business in the fashion industry. I had worked as an auditor for eight years, so I had experience auditing big retail corporations.
What motivates you as an entrepreneur?
Every day I wake up to a new business. It is intoxicating.
What team members do you recommend that entrepreneurs have on their mastermind team?
I think that you need a balance guy. I like to think that we have “checks and balances” at Black & Denim. I am the numbers guy, Chris is in charge of design and Luis is the tech guy, so each of us serve as an “ambassador” to each portion of the business. We don’t have to know too much about each other’s area of expertise since each of us take ownership of our subject. My advice is to acknowledge the field in which you thrive in and partner with experts to cover the fields you’re not familiar with. You will find that out as you start filling out the Miller Lite Tap the Future business plan application. The judges will ask you the toughest questions on every aspect of your business, so be sure to recruit the best team if you want to win the $250,000. As a base you at least need a people person and somebody that is good with business. The rest you can learn as you go!
What should a good business plan accomplish? What components should it contain in order to be effective?
Business plans are living documents. They should give you the bare essentials to get started and have a good road map to at least three years into the future. I would visit the plan every three months. The best way to know if you are doing a good job in creating a business plan is if you are having a tough time filling out the plan. If the answers come easy… you are doing it wrong. Creating a business plan should be as comprehensive as possible. The level of detail that you need to answer each question will either make or break your business.
What are the top three questions to ask when determining your readiness for an entrepreneurial venture?
Starting an entrepreneurial venture is rough, so every morning when you wake up ask yourself things like:
– Are we ready to eat glass?
– Are we ready to step into an abyss?
– Are we ready to risk everything that day and go home satisfied that you left everything on the field?
The good thing is that your friends-turned-business partners will be the best asset to reinforce the encouragement you will need every day. They will be the key if you want to win the Miller Lite Tap the Future competition.
What would you say are the top three skills and/or characteristics needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
Mental toughness. People undermine how ready and alert you need to be at all times. You have to fully understand that you are your company and represent it 24/7. You also need to be mindful of your health and become extremely disciplined with your habits. For instance, don’t expect to function perfectly at work if you were partying late the night before. Finally, ask yourself if your decisions are based on ego or if they are the best decisions for the business.
How do you formulate and perfect an elevator pitch?
Simply think of what your company does. Practice by saying it out loud, and chop it in half if it takes you more than a minute. The key is to capture the essence of what your business or idea does and phrase it as simple as you can. If you cannot recite it in 10 seconds or less, you are doing something wrong.
What should an aspiring entrepreneur know and do in preparation for a live pitch of a business concept?
PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. Practice at home, in the shower, in front of the mirror. The judges might have many questions and take great part of your time on stage… but they cannot control how long you practice!
Please give us three things to consider when entering into a business partnership.
Separation or divorce is not an option, so take if off the table. Make sure that you have an exit strategy (in case there are truly irreconcilable differences). Even though you are working with your friends, don’t forget that you are there to work. You will always have time to enjoy some cold ones with your friends after a productive day!
As judges, what advice would you give to potential entrants to make their concept or pitch stand out?
You need to be yourself and prepare to captivate an audience. Enter the room with a well-rehearsed plan and execute it. Do your research as well. Find out what each judge does outside of business and how you and your business can relate to them. Those nuggets are priceless.
What books or other works have inspired you the most?
Books: Think and Grow Rich. Chasing Cool. 48 Laws of Power. The Bible. Internet blogs and magazines are always good. Autobiographies are the best!
Who do you see as mentors or examples to follow in the entrepreneurial space?
Daymond John from ABC’s “Shark Tank.” It’s an honor that we will be judging contestants along with The Shark! Other people we admire include Warren Buffet, Alfred Edmund Jr., Renzo Rosso, Richard Branson, Elan Musk and Mariano Rivera. We like them because all these guys share the same belief: hard work trumps talent. They love to work hard and reap the benefits.
How are your friends and family involved in your business?
Advertising and word of mouth. All of them help to get the word out. That is the quickest way to help spread the word about Black & Denim!
For more information on Miller Lite Tap the Future business competition, please visit mltapthefuture.com.