PUTTING up a hyperlocal apparel business in an era dominated by huge and established brands is like confronting Goliaths. It is a constant wrestle for a fair share of the people’s attention. But for four years of running his apparel business, Joe learned you only need to stir the interest of a few to be able to grow.
University professor Joe Positive launched Roots and Culture in 2016 to express his love for reggae and hip hop music. It is an apparel brand mainly producing printed and embroidered tops, caps, and waist bags.
“The brand was influenced by reggae and hip-hop music. I am a fan of local musicians and artists and I used to attend gigs and events. Then one day, the idea of coming up with shirts printed with images related to the scene came to me,” he said.
He initially tailored it for avid fans of reggae and hip hop music but when he rolled it out, it eventually caught the attention of people with diverse interests.
“When I started with the brand, only those who shared the same interests with me were interested in my products. As I try to find ways to improve it, and with the help of my team and my friends, it has reached a wider audience. I can see that our customers are very diverse. People from different walks of life come to purchase one,” he said.
It soon flourished to become a statement of shared passion and fearlessness and gave a more profound meaning to his brand name, Roots and Culture.
“As you go out and explore your craft, you will meet people of the same passion. And when you decide to be a part of that community, it’s important to respect those who started it or the roots and to do your part to cultivate it which is the culture,” Joe explained.
“Now, the brand aims to encourage individuals to express themselves more and to not be afraid to do what their heart desires,” he added.
The business remained small due to the challenges in the supply of his materials. He still produces as little as 50 pieces per product. Yet, this unintended creation of scarcity enabled his brand to thrive.
“Each product always comes in a limited quantity. That maybe is the main reason why it does not take long for it to sell out. Before, dugay kaayo mahurot. Karun, masurprise mi kay usahay mahurot na within a week. It also knows no season (it took a long time before we can be sold out but now, it will only take a week),” he said.
It has also given him the chance to ensure the quality of each piece every time.
“Items like shirts and bags are easier to sell. People also like to buy stuff that is unique and above the ordinary. So, each product has to be planned well enough before it comes out.
Producing it in limited quantities makes it easier for me to monitor quality, I think that also contributes. Although, we also have released products which did not easily sell out,” he said.
“Sa karun, ginapaningkamutan namo nga sa mga igawas nga products ma-incorporate ang trend with kung unsa gyud ang sinugdanan sa brand (we are trying out best to incorporate the trend with what we have in mind when we started the brand),” he added.
He and his girlfriend, who is his business partner, create print designs and illustrations, with insights from his friends and colleagues.
Joe admitted it is challenging now to keep up with the demand due to his divided time with his day job and finding the right suppliers of materials.
“I have a day job which consumes much of my time. So, I can only plan and work with the brand during my free time. I sometimes think that if I was able to spend more time building the brand, it could have grown bigger. But I do not have regrets. I love my job, and it helps me put food on the table. At least, I do not depend on the brand for a living,” he said.
The challenges, however, inspired him to grow his business. He and his girlfriend planned to add new pieces in his repertoire in the future.
“We want to explore the brand’s potential to grow. We want the brand to continue reaching more people. We want our message to reach more and more people every day, through our products,” he said.
For years of running his clothing and accessory business, he sees a ray of hope for local brands like his. The emergence of more local clothing brands has made people aware that they existed.
“Sa una nga wala pa kaayo ning mga ing-ani, ang tao dili kaayo mutagad. Siguro maisip nila ‘Nganong mupalit mnko anang tshirt nimo nga baligya? Ikaw ramay nag buhat-buhat ana. Sa mall nalang ko mupalit kay branded’ (People do not pay attention to clothes from local brands like this before and would rather buy from the mall), " he shared.
“Pero while naga daghan ang brands, naga daghan pud ang mga naga suporta. Mas i-prefer na nila mupalit ug local brand. Mamili nalang sila asa ilang ganahan. So as a brand, ang paningkamutan nalang nimo, nga mustand-out ka (But as local brands mushroomed, it also gained many supporters. It is now part of their option. What we have to do is to make sure we stand-out),” he added.