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It is easy to find proof that people are wearing JBRD Apparel's merchandise.
The Rochester company has made the customers who buy its shirts and sunglasses an integral part of its marketing campaign. Plastered all over JBRD's Facebook page are self-taken photos of fans wearing the T-shirts at concerts, in the park or standing in front of the bathroom mirror.
"We want people to feel like they're a part of something special," says Rob DPiazza, co-founder of JBRD. "It's not about hiring a model to show off the gear. We wanted to show actual people who were excited that they just made a purchase."
DPiazza, 29, launched JBRD with friend Jake Butler, 27, in February. The company's name is a mash-up of Butler and DPiazza's initials.
Butler handles the shirt designs, while DPiazza handles most marketing. JBRD sells sunglasses for $8.99 and a range of T-shirts from $9.99 to roughly $25.
In theory, the target audience for the company's clothing is the same teenagers and 20-somethings who visit trendy stores like Forever 21 and Urban Outfitters in droves. JBRD's early customers, however, have been very diverse, DPiazza says.
"We're definitely getting interest from an older audience," he says. "I don't exactly know why, but the designs seem to appeal to them. I went over to my buddy's house the other day to visit, and his parents wound up buying a dozen shirts from me for themselves."
This month, JBRD has moved over 200 units of merchandise, twice as much as it did in March, primarily online at JBRDapparel.storenvy.com. DPiazza says the company's early success is because of an aggressive social media campaign that includes a lot of networking on sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, along with the purchase of Facebook ads, which he says has been very beneficial.
Still, it has not been easy. Butler is quick to admit that the competition in the fashion market is intense, especially as the weather gets nicer and summer concert season approaches.
"It seems like everyone has a clothing line these days," Butler says. "During the spring and summer, kids are going to a lot more concerts with extra money, looking to buy the latest and greatest thing. They set the trends, and clothing companies want to capitalize on that."
Yet Butler says he was confident of JBRD's potential. Over the past decade, he has been playing guitar in various bands, touring the country and getting a sense for what trends audiences jump on.
On top of that, DPiazza has actually done a successful clothing company launch before. He is co-owner of Streaker Records, a Rochester-based record label and clothing company that sponsors local and national musicians and sells its own merchandise. DPiazza and others at Streaker have spent the last four summers as vendors on the Van Warped Tour, traveling the country to more than 40 cities a year.
DPiazza has applied his experience with Streaker to JBRD. He and Butler have sponsored musicians including Rochester band Forget Me in Vegas and Louisville act Uh-Huh Baby Yeah.
Both bands wear JBRD's apparel during photo shoots and performances. JBRD also recently received an order from heavy metal band and national recording artist Sevendust. DPiazza says sponsoring musicians who tour a lot will further expand JBRD's national customer base, which already has produced sales to states like Texas, California and Hawaii.
Another component that sets JBRD apart, DPiazza says, is the quality of the company's shirts. While some clothing lines try to save money on material costs, DPiazza says JBRD spends extra money on high-quality fabric.
"It costs a little more money, but you can't put a price on customer satisfaction," he says. "That's what drives this company. We want people to put on a shirt and feel proud that they got their money's worth. That way they're very likely to purchase from us again."
Small Business is a weekly feature focusing on entrepreneurs. Send suggestions for future Small Business stories to Associate Editor Smriti Jacob at email@example.com.
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