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Question: What’s your favorite tee and why?
Answer: “That’s a tough question, no one’s asked me that before… one would be a “coach” tee. After I graduated high school, I went back and coached my old soccer team. The second would have to be our Buzz Buds shirt we created in collaboration with Larry Johnson and Muggsy himself! This tee not only paid homage to my new home but to one of my heroes growing up.”
— JD Harris, Founder of Glory Days Apparel
When you think about your favorite t-shirt, what comes to mind? Why is it your favorite t-shirt? Is it because it’s soft? Is it because it boasts your fave team? Whatever the case may be, you have a fave tee, if not a few.
So when JD Harris, the creative genius behind Glory Days Apparel, decided to leave behind the gray cubicle matter of the finance world, he knew exactly what he was going to do — start a t-shirt line.
A simple idea influenced by his passion for nostalgia has quickly turned into a “glorious” addition to the small business scene in the Queen City. Why? Because Glory Days Apparel #LOVESTHEIRBRAND and so do the people of Charlotte.
We ran a contest not too long ago asking the people of Charlotte to tag their favorite Carolina brands in an Instagram post. Glory Days Apparel was one of the brands that locals love to love. So we hopped in their DMs to arrange a conversation between The Chief and JD Harris.
We learned quite a bit from our conversation with JD, including, how he was forced to drive his white, unwrapped van on dates — hilariously awkward! But we learned even more about the inspiration, hard work and passion that goes into growing a brand. Here’s the skinny:
Everything has a process
Fun fact: JD wasn’t born and bred in the Queen City. But if you spend any decent amount of time in Charlotte, you’ll soon find yourself referring to this place as “Home.” That’s why creating a brand based around Charlotte culture felt completely natural.
Question: When you started Glory Days Apparel, how did you develop the vision you had for the organization or brand?
Answer: “Memories are attached to t-shirts. That’s why we never end up throwing them away. Even though I wasn’t born in Charlotte, I loved the city. And the nostalgia of old teams like the Browns/Reds in Ohio inspired the vision I had for Glory Days designs.”
Question: When you come up with a new line or concept, how does it come to fruition?
Answer: “Sometimes the t-shirts are event-oriented, like a design focused on the upcoming football season. Sometimes, a concept is inspired by fans/shoppers. Sometimes from friends… I never turn my brain off so concepts are free-flowing/organic. Once I have an idea, I’ll hand-draw a design, then I’ll turn to graphic designers. Once I’ve settled on the design, the turn-time is usually around two weeks.” After JD sees how well the item sales and the fans react, he determines whether or not he’s going to keep it inventory and restock.
Talk about nostalgia, even Glory Days’ production process incites nostalgia. Why? They screen print all of their tees locally. Quality screen printing is one of the key factors that create the Glory Days tees that everyone loves.
Solidifying a place for a new brand
One of the biggest challenges that new businesses face is creating a product or service that people actually want to buy. After you’ve created that product or service, the next challenge is to maintain and grow your customer base. So how do you go about doing that? You’ve got to separate yourself from the competition and keep giving the people what they want!
Question: What separates Glory Days Apparel from every other Charlotte clothingbrand?
Answer: “It’s a little bit of everything. It’s the nostalgia inspired by retro designs. Our brand’s personality is a conversation starter. We involve our fans. We post funny videos. And we have the softest tee around!”
Question: How has your brand/relationship with the community grown since 2016?
Answer: “We’ve established brand recognition. People recognize our logo. They recognize the van. We even tell people to post pics posing on the van if they see it. Every room in my house is being overrun with inventory, but that’s a good problem to have.”
Sidenote, the “mystery van” JD took a date out in has since been wrapped. Decked out in the Glory Days’ logo, black/white/blue color palette and the infamous bulldog mascot with a gold crown, it’s hard to miss. In fact, you can catch a hilarious video featuring the infamous van and JD. All of these things together make Glory Days Apparel different than most.
Looking ahead to a ‘glorious future’
In addition to establishing a solid fan base, a successful brand has to have a plan for the future. Where is your brand going? How are you going to continue to grow your customer base? How are you going to keep your current customer base engaged?
Question: You’ve got a diverse array of products for men, women, and kids? Any other products on the horizon?
Answer: “We added a lot of products this spring, including a fanny pack. We’ve had a lot of big collaborations like our Rail Trail series and Johnny Fly “Day Drinking” tee. Not to mention, we designed the official shirt for the Charlotte Pride Festival 2019.” (And coming real soon: a completely custom-designed bandana!)
Side note: While a brick and mortar may be in store for the future, you can find Glory Days Apparel in a temporary retail space with Charlotte Collective through August — and tentatively longer!
Advice from a successful brand
As is the case for many small business owners, successful brands aren’t built without growing pains. JD didn’t shy away from the fact that the past three years haven’t been met with challenges. Some days, inventory was flying off the shelf, other days it wasn’t. But he always kept the mindset that he had no plan B, because he refuses to let the brand fail. Who better to take advice from than a go-getter like him?
Question: What advice/tips do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
#1. “If it’s something you truly believe, stick with it.”
#2. “Fail forward.” This implies that everything isn’t always going to go as planned. Mistakes/Failures are a part of the process but looking at them as opportunities to grow and improve is what makes successful entrepreneurs.
Whether you’re a small business owner or an aspiring entrepreneur, these are the tips that everyone wants to know. Of course, there’s no one-size-fits-all guide to creating or growing a successful business. But it doesn’t hurt to chat with and learn from those in the area that are already doing it. #LOVINGYOURBRAND is the first step.
If you want to be a part of our #LOVEYOURBRAND series, email The Chief by reaching out to email@example.com. Let us tell your brand’s story.
How Can You #LOVEYOURBRAND?
At TalenAlexander, we build brands and we build businesses. With Charlotte roots and a global reach, we help clients create authentic engagement, reach new audiences and break through the marketing noise.
Check us out at www.talenalexander.com/c5 for our top industry tips and tricks to increase your brand’s engagement.