Business Briefs: Gay-owned swimwear company seeks designers
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Have a great idea for a swimsuit design? It could be included in the next collection from Eyegasmic Brand , a gay-owned, Newport Beach-based swimwear line.
Chief Executive Officer and founder Brennon Lamar Jackson is looking to partner with other designers this year as he develops his 2017-2018 collection. Already, more than a dozen people have submitted potential looks, and others can do so through the end of August.
"We will buy their design upfront, and they get a commission on each swimwear we sell," said Jackson, 30, who lives in Irvine and launched his company three years ago.
He debuted his inaugural collection of swim trunks and briefs last April. Called the Fruits of Labor, it features brightly colored skimpy briefs ($47) as well as short trunks ($57) adorned in various flowers, such as lilies, orchids, and the bird of paradise.
"I was constantly looking for swimwear and not finding anything I wanted. Either the swim shorts came all the way to my knee, which I don't like, or were too flamboyant or too cheesy," said Jackson, who works full time as a senior director of operations for a health care company. "I don't want to be wearing swimwear with rubber ducks on them or things like that."
He went live with his website last April, and to get the word out about his brand, he partnered with nonprofit health agencies in Los Angeles; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Miami. Anyone who sought out testing for HIV or STDs was given a code to order the swimwear at a discounted rate, and with each purchase, a percentage of the sale was donated back to the agency.
"There are a lot of male swimwear lines, especially in the Los Angeles area, but we specifically target the LGBT community," said Jackson, who also tries to hire models from within the LGBT community for his marketing.
The strategy has paid off, as sales have crossed the six-figure mark, said Jackson, who declined to provide more specific sales figures. His customer base is heavily skewed toward black and Latino men, who account for roughly 70 percent of sales. In the Bay Area, many of his customers live in the East Bay cities of Pittsburg and Richmond.
"Everyone said expect losses for the first three years. But we didn't," he said. "A lot of people support us because we support them."
Around the holidays sales started to spike from overseas customers in Europe, particularly in Spain. This year he has focused his online marketing not only in Europe, but also Australia and Brazil, as each country is known for its beach culture.
"We are trying to get an imprint there before our competitors," said Jackson.
He now employs a full-time publicist and casting director and is bringing on a brand ambassador "to engage buyers at different trade shows with an eye toward increasing sales," said Jackson, who is also rebranding his ownership of the company under just his first and middle name. (For instance, his twitter account is @brennonlamar.)
No overnight success
His company, however, was no overnight success. After moving to southern California in July 2014 from Houston â€" his parents worked in the oil industry and moved the family around the globe when he was growing up â€" Jackson spent $25,000 in savings on his first stab at launching his brand, whose name derives from his hope people will be overjoyed by seeing men in his swimwear.
But he paid an unscrupulous vendor in India to produce his bathing trunk designs, and when the finished product arrived, it was of such poor quality as to be unsellable. He ended up donating the trunks to local organizations that teach young adults how to swim.
Unable to recoup his money, as the vendor stopped communicating with him, Jackson spent several months depressed. Then the 2015 beach season arrived, and once again, Jackson hated the swimwear he was finding at stores.
"At that point the flame was reignited, and I decided to pursue it again. I had to get creative," he recalled, since he was low on cash.
He found a new vendor, this one with an office in Dallas, that he could visit, ordered samples of his designs to inspect, used those to create a marketing campaign, and structured a payment plan where he didn't have to come up with all of the money at once. And he sought to address one of the biggest complaints men voice about their bathing suits, that they chafe them.
"That comes from people using the mesh liner," said Jackson. "One of the upgrades I made is our liners are cotton, just like underwear, so you don't have to worry about chafing."
With the success of his bathing suits, Jackson is now expanding the Eyegasmic line to include underwear, which should debut in the fall. Going forward, he plans to roll out a new underwear collection for fall and winter and new swimwear designs for spring and summer.
"I am also looking at expanding into athletic wear, but I am not sure yet because that market is so saturated," he said.
This month Jackson, who has an 11-year-old son who is currently living with his parents in Texas due to his often traveling for work, launched his own line of children's T-shirts. They feature different quotes and memes under the name Too Grown Tots. (The shirts, with sayings like "Who Gone Spank Me Boo?" and "Straight Outta Timeout" cost $24.99 and can be ordered at http://www.toogrowntots.com.)
The name refers to when people say certain song lyrics that children have memorized are too grown up for them.
"I want to embrace it. Those kids have character and their own personality, things like that," explained Jackson. "I want to embrace their being so creative and clever."
Jackson also owns the Mogul Mindset Academy , a business consulting and coaching company that "assists people in growing their professional career," he said.
To learn more about Eyegasmic Brand, visit https://www.eyegasmicbrand.com/.
For details on how to submit designs for the next bathing suit collection, visit https://www.eyegasmicbrand.com/artistdesign/.
Michael Chertok, president of Congregation Sha'ar Zahav, the LGBT synagogue in San Francisco, has joined the Silicon Valley Community Foundation as its vice president of donor experience and engagement. He started in his new job March 27, having left Digital Divide Data, which he co-founded and had served as board chair and as chief development officer; it works to find transitional employment in the tech sector for youth from poor families in Southeast Asia and East Africa, as well as for veterans and military spouses in the United States.
Having recently stepped down as CEO of the California CASA Association â€" CASA being short for Court Appointed Special Advocates for children â€" John Lipp is now the acting director of the Friends of the Alameda Animal Shelter, or FAAS. The longtime advocate for animals at one time was president and CEO of Pets Are Wonderful Support, which assists people living with HIV/AIDS and other diseases in taking care of their pets.
Got a tip on LGBT business news? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org.