While at our good friends’ wedding in Northern California, I got speaking to a friend of ours, Henry Molloy, a money manager with a pretty amazing track record. Henry’s not the type of guy you’d mess around. He fought and beat one of the toughest boxers in the Hell’s Angeles for the Diamond Belt Championship in 2008. He’s a straight to the point, no bullshit type of guy. A “go getter.” I love chatting with him about big ideas. I told him about our vision for Sonas and what was going on. He asked me what I needed to take it to the next level and I told him I needed celebrity endorsements and brand awareness. Henry agreed to take us to the Sundance Film Festival to promote our jeans at another gifting suite.
A few weeks later, Christine & I drove from San Francisco to Nevada and stayed overnight with Henry and his girlfriend in Incline Village. Then, the following morning, we caravanned over 600 miles to Park City, Utah. Henry and his girlfriend (now fiance) drove in their SUV. They were well used to the snow having been living in the Tahoe Area. My wife and I drove in our packed out 2003 BMW that was full of jeans and marketing material. We didn’t know BMW’s had rear wheel drive which became very relevant when we attempted to put chains on our tires later in this story. The four of us stayed together in a two bedroom apartment that was included in the gifting suite deal.
The morning of the first day of the event, Christine and I drove up to the hotel/venue watching the snow fall, heavier and heavier….and the wind became stronger. Some people call those things blizzards. As we slid off to the side of the road on the steep turn ascending our way up the mountain to the hotel, we decided it was time to put the chains on. I got out and put the chains on the front tires, bad move. We were in a major rush, so I put the boot down and the car went in all angles! It was nuts. Other cars coming down the hill had to swerve out of our way. I had no control of our car. Holy shit man! I thought our trip to Sundance was going to end there and then - off the cliff into snow. Suddenly, we ended up in a small ditch, stuck in heavy snow. Thank God for my lover! She saw that the back wheels were spinning and got out and wrestled the chains off the front ones and onto the back wheels (which was not easy in a blizzard). Then we dug the snow out with our hands. It was a nightmare! I’ll never forget that episode of bonding in the snow storm as long as I live.
We eventually made it up to the event and parked our car and brought in our jeans, mannequins, banners etc… I over heard one guy in the lobby say to the concierge “Holy shit Man, did you see those nut cases in the California registered BMW!? They nearly caused a pile up down there.” I kept my head down and couldn’t help but laugh my ass off after hearing this guy. Just hearing that alone made it all worth while :)
The gifting suite was in a big marquee that was leaking for the first few hours with the heavy snow fall. Our jeans were in boxes that got soaked. I was expecting some A listers but it was 90% C list celebrities that came through all looking for free swag. All saying that they loved our product and would love to help us promote etc, etc….. Which they didn’t. But at the time I was new to this. People will say anything to get some free jeans. But in my mind, all it takes is one cool influential celebrity that’s real and sincere that can change everything.
We made the most of it and had a bit of a laugh with the other vendors. Henry was standing next to our booth like our minder and was handing out flyers about his business asking folks if they had they thought about investing for retirement. It was hilarious! Here’s these guys there to get free gifts and then being asked what was their plan for retirement. I wish I had taken a few pictures of their faces after Henry asked them, it was priceless.
When the gifting suite finished at 5pm each day, I hit the streets handing out flyers about our jeans and then at night time the four of us went out to dinner and hit up a few bars and clubs etc…
We went to a few parties such as the “Twitter Party.” It was free drink and they had some big name DJ’s playing. I was pretty excited to go, but when we got there, the atmosphere was brutal. I made a note to self about hosting a future Sonas party at Sundance, a party with some real atmosphere.
Even though we didn’t get any business of of it, it was a learning experience about gifting suites, it was a fun trip, and we got to know Henry and his now fiancee Cara a lot better after spending five nights with them in the same apartment.
A few weeks later, I was back in LA working on our production and I heard about another gifting suite going on. I called them up the day before the event and offered them a few hundred bucks and some free jeans to take part. They accepted. Better to fill a space than to leave it empty.
I didn’t know what to expect at this event. I was only set up a few minutes and suddenly this pretty high energy crazy woman came speed walking over to our table with the paparazzi behind her taking photo’s etc…
She grabbed a pair of our Broadway Skinny jeans off our table and held them up in the air looking at them, then she told me she loved them and had to have them. To be honest, I didn’t know who she was, so I told her that it was only a sample and I’d send her a pair in a few weeks (after I googled her and thought it was worthwhile sending her a pair). She kept on asking me for them telling me she loved them but I wouldn’t give them to her. Ok she said, here’s my number and asked me to give her a call as soon as I have a new pair for her.
After she left, I “Googled” her and realized that it was Ex Super Model “Janice Dickinson” who is pretty big in Fashion. And to say the least, know’s her shit. Damn, I thought. I should have given her that pair.
About two months later when our production was finally ready, I gave her a call back and explained it was Gerry (the Irish Guy) with the unique patchwork jeans. Straight away she said, “OMG I love those jeans please send them on” and gave me an address to send them to. So we mailed a pair to her office the day we were leaving for Ireland for the Christmas holidays.
While back in Ireland I sent her a few messages on Facebook asking if she had received the jeans and got no reply back. So one night I came home pretty late and decided to give her a call on her cell. She never answered, so I left a message asking if she got the jeans and telling her that I had sent a few messages through Facebook.
The following day, I got up late and my mum said to me “Gerard, a woman called Janice Dickinson called. She never got your jeans and she doesn’t do Facebook.” It was hilarious.
About three weeks later we were back in LA for work, and I called her again. She told me they never arrived and could I send on another pair. I told her that I didn’t want to send another pair in the mail as they were expensive but would drop them off to her assistant at her office. She then said to me, ok then, come out to my house tonight at 7pm with the jeans, here’s my address.
So that evening, I packed a bag full of jeans and drove out to her house. On the way, I stopped at a Best Buy to pick up a camera, as the camera on my windows phone was broken. The Best Buy assistant assured me that I would have no issues with the camera and it was ready to go.
I got to Janice’s house at about 6.50pm. It was a beautiful house in the Canyon in Beverly Hills. I must admit, I was a bit nervous. I had the jeans nice and neat ready to show her and I took the camera out of the box and put it together ready for some great shots. I turned it on, it opened and then said “Re-Charge” and then closed.
I thought to myself “OH Shit” what am I going to do without a camera? It was just about 7pm now so I knocked on her door and went in. She was there with her assistant (a super friendly cool girl my age) and a gay English dude who I think was some type of PR agent by the way he was talking.
Immediately she said, “Ok, so what have you got?” I answered, “I’ve got the sexiest, best fitting most jeans on the planet.” She then gave me this stern look and said, “I’ll be the judge of that.”
So I put the bag on her kitchen table and she told me to turn around while she changed. About a minute later she said “OMG” these jeans are amazing, I love them and started posing against her wall. She then said, “ok take some photos.” I said, I don’t actually have a camera. “You come into my house with some jeans and don’t even bring a camera?” I then explained the story to her and she was cool. We ended up getting her assistant to take the photo’s and then she emailed them to me.
She then asked me about our brand, how I got into the business etc. I told her our story and she loved it. She offered to do a free photo shoot with us on the beach in Malibu which we did about three weeks later.
Lessons I learned from this stage of my life
- There are some genuinely nice celebrities out there willing to help. Janice Dickinson is super cool and she knows fashion.
- Try to get into some gifting suites for a small amount of money and some trade. Better to fill a space than to leave it empty. Haggle and be prepared to walk away from any deal.
- Building and developing friendships is super important, even though it’s not making sales.