by Brian Lipton
[metaslider id=111877] “The most important thing for a successful business is to have a clear vision and stay true to it.” These words of wisdom from Chris Manley, founder of Surfside Supply, were among the many valuable pieces of information given to attendees of SWIMLESSONS, an all-day “boot camp” for emerging fashion and lifestyle brands, sponsored by UBM on Monday, May 23 in New York City.

The attendees learned about trade shows, risk management, fashion law, selling to retailers, and working with bloggers and magazines from a variety of industry experts, including FBA 360 founder Liza Deyrmenjian, blogger and content creator Marcus Troy, retailers Ken Giddon of Rothmans and Stacey Pecor of Olive and Bette’s, attorney Douglas Hand, Alli Johnson, show director of POOLTRADESHOW and THE COLLECTIVE, and MR fashion director William Buckley. The audience was consistently engaged, peppering the speakers with questions and thanking them for sharing their time.

Manley, who launched Surfside in his 50s after a career that included high-level positions at Theory Men’s, Nike and Hugo Boss had some of the most pertinent advice for those starting new brands. He talked about locating and then filling a “white space” in the market, noting there were no “East Coast beach brands” around when he launched Surfside. He urged entrepreneurs to try to find investment money other than their own to sink into the business. (In his case, Manley simultaneously began a private label business whose profits were used to supplement the beginnings of Surfside). And he stressed the importance of managing a company’s costs in order to remain profitable, pointing out it was better to have a $500,000-a-year company that made money than a $5 million-a-year company that lost money.

He also spoke frankly of the biggest mistake he made during the early days of Surfside. “I listened to the 10 coolest people I know,” he said. “In fact, when you begin believing your own nonsense is when you get in to trouble.”

As for his strongest piece of advice, and the reason why he’s happy to be the owner of Surfside: “It is so important to do something you love and stay passionate about it,” says Manley.

Editor’s Note: MR and MR-mag.com are owned by UBM.