When Shep and Ian Murray quit their jobs in New York City back in 1998 to sell ties in parking lots on Martha’s Vineyard, their business plan was simple: “Twenty years ago, as Silicon Valley casual wear spread east, the timing for a necktie business seemed awful. But the Murrays settled on a contrarian thesis: Yes, guys were wearing ties less often, but when they did, they wanted to make a statement. And neckwear had high margins and no sizing issues,” writes Steven Bertoni in Forbes. Every summer, when my family visits their flagship store in Edgartown, Vineyard Vines is packed. The brothers Murray are a story about a small, family business making it big-time.
Steve Bertoni writes of the brothers in Forbes:
The brothers caught a break in 2002 when Aflac ordered a custom design featuring the company’s duck mascot. The Murrays faxed a mock-up and received a $400,000 order for 10,000 ties. When the $95,000 deposit check arrived, they ran out and bought a boat and then hustled to fill the order, bribing pals with pizza and beer to box the merchandise. The ties were, and still are, made by a domestic manufacturer in Queens, New York–making it easier to fill orders and control quality.
The company expanded beyond ties in 2004 and opened its first stand-alone store in 2005 on Martha’s Vineyard. More followed. And then the credit crisis hit. “For years it had been one big party,” Ian says. “The recession forced us to grow up.” Sales fell 35%, some clients canceled orders, others couldn’t pay. With the company living check to check, survival hinged on efficiency. They invested in inventory-and data-management systems, renegotiated supply deals, built distribution centers and scooped up prime storefronts on the cheap. “The recession motivated us to invest in our own stores,” Ian says. The investments set up Vineyard Vines to ride the economic recovery.
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Originally posted on Yoursurvivalguy.com.