The street-ware inspired, men’s clothing line, Standard Deviation is an increasingly popular brand that is a reflection of the two geniuses behind it’s success, Stephanie Park and Manuel Gonzales-Luna. Manuel, a trained Fashion Designer and Stephanie who is experienced in Merchandising combine forces to create a high quality, yet reasonably priced casual clothing brand for men. The two have shed blood, sweat, and tears creating a brand inspired by the needs of their friends. They both had a strong desire for a career change and together this is fueled their success so far.
It was the height of the Great Recession and both Stephanie and Manuel were working in the finance industry. With the world’s economy in dismay, Stephanie and Manuel began to think outside the box of what they originally thought their long term goals should be. This meant “throw[ing] out the window more conventional and staid notions of what a career should look like.” Eventually, this line of thinking lead Manuel to fashion design school and Stephanie to the merchandise planning industry for retailers.
With both fashion design and retail experience, the duo set out to create their own line of men’s ware. Taking inspiration from their friends, the two pointed out the need for a casual, yet well-made apparel line for men that is sold at a reasonable price. “Our male friends had outgrown their collegiate wardrobes and wanted to wear well-made casual clothes with “fresh” style, but didn’t feel comfortable paying designer prices…With this opportunity in mind, we started Standard Deviation to basically dress our friends,” Stephanie explains.
While the idea of Standard Deviation just sort of fell into place for Manuel and Stephanie, the journey of getting the idea off and running was a little more difficult. Upon reflection of their journey Stephanie admits that if she could tell her younger self anything, she would say ” Take your expected launch date and add six to nine months!” Initially they were supposed to launch Standard Deviation last September, however March rolled around and they still hadn’t received all of their products. Of course, this caused frustration for both Stephanie and Manuel, but they were adamant that they would not accept anything less than perfect to launch their line with. “Having built in some cushion for ourselves in terms of our financial runway helped us get through the issues, as well as plain old dogged perseverance,” Stephanie says.
Manuel recalls a time just days before their first photo shoot where he and Stephanie were kicked out of their apartment. “We came home one Friday afternoon to an inspector from the Department of Buildings politely informing us that our building had never been certified upon its renovation and suggesting that we speak to the Red Cross about finding temporary shelter,” Manuel says.
This needless to say added even more stress to the duo’s life. A photo shoot just three days away and they’re homeless! However, Manuel and Stephanie worked day and night in order to keep their dream afloat and it ultimately paid off. Their first photoshoot was a success and reminded them how much they loved their product and just how far they had come in one year. While that certainly wouldn’t be the last obstacle course in their way, Stephanie says, “having a business partner and friend down in the trenches with you when the world feels like its falling apart really helps.” The balance that these two brings to each other is what the success of Standard Deviation thrives around
Beyond their drive and determination, Stephanie and Manuel use strategy as a big part of their plan to create success with the Standard Deviation brand. While Manuel had the education in Fashion Design and Stephanie had the retail experience, just those two things combined were not good enough. “Do your research and learn about your industry,” Stephanie says. “My greatest resource has actually been Google and friends and acquaintances who are on similar journeys,” she continues. Stephanie and Manuel show us that having a great deal of insight on any industry that you want to set forth in is highly important to achieving success.
“At the end of the day, you will ultimately be responsible for everything in your start-up, so make sure you or your partner knows how to do the core competencies related to your business.”
With an idea in mind and the proper education of the industry they were entering, Stephanie and Manuel set off to get the business up and running. Stephanie was no stranger to the business world. Her mother owned a small business , so Stephanie grew up with a business venture in her own home. “In terms of deciding to take the plunge to start my own fashion line, I’ve always been relatively comfortable with taking measured risks. I don’t think that there’s one particular episode or experience from my childhood that conditioned me to be that way, but having immigrant parents, one of whom was a small-business owner herself, maybe had something to do with it,” Stephanie says.
Think about the 80/20 rule; if you get 80% of your impact from 20% of what you do, what is that 20% for you right now?
Now that our initial collection is in production, most of our energy is going into cultivating relationships to raise brand awareness. Taking the time to sift through potential partners who are excited about our brand is time-consuming, but its always great when we find a new collaborator.
Where do you see yourself & your brand / company in 10 years?
World domination. Just kidding. I would love to see Standard Deviation continue to grow to have a wide customer base and brick-and-mortar stores.
What’s the next frontier in building your tribe?
Partnering with the right influencers will be an important next step for us. We recently worked with Teaching Men’s Fashion to create a video for his YouTube channel.
What’s next? & why?
Honing our marketing and advertising strategy is next. We recently engaged a PR firm to help us with this effort, and we are researching various forms of digital and physical advertising.