October 10, 2008
We interview Keith, CEO of Ceer!us Apparel.
TM: To start things off, what’s the idea behind the name, Ceerius?
CA:We needed to rename and rebrand ourselves after we began the clothing line. We started as a music promotions business, turned record label, and nobody thought we’d get to the point we were, so we ran with a name that was already being used. To start fresh and with this new business venture of the clothing line we had to change our name. I was in bed one night after a long day of hitting DC (3-hours each way) and had 50 Cent’s “MTV Diary” on TV. He got up in the camera in one shot and shouted “This is serious!” and it stuck. I thought of how impactful the word is and how much weight that carries and thought it would be a great name as you can add anything to it: Ceerius Popsicles, Ceerius Ice Skating Rink… anything. So I jotted down all the ways to spell it and the c-e-e-r-i-u-s stuck. Sent it to our graphic designer the next morning and he turned the “I” upside down as our logo. We’ve treated it as such ever since and use the exclamation mark to get the upside down “I” effect, so we’re also known for the exclamation mark as well.
TM: When did you decide that t-shirts was your thing?
CA: We made tee shirts for the record label to supplement income. They sold well and they were pretty basic. Designed well, but nothing like they are now. I just candidly asked our creative director if he ever though of starting a line. He said he had but didn’t want to handle the business aspect of it. I told him I’d handle that. Now nearly 4-years later here we are. None of us ever thought of doing this when we were children, nobody said “I want to have my own clothing line” but it’s been a wonderful thing.
TM: How long have you been in the t-shirt biz? And what have you learned?
CA: 4-years now. Been a business since 2001 though. We’ve learned doing this teaches you in ways you don’t get out of a textbook. You have successes, you fail, and you learn from your triumphs and mistakes. I encourage anyone to give it a shot. In the world of Myspace now, you can get your online store up and running for free and promote for free as well. It’s worth it to give it a shot.
TM: At what point did you realize that your company was really “taking off”? What was the turning point in your business?
CA: You start hearing from people you appreciate and value, who speak to you about how they have been following your stuff and love it and want to express their thoughts. We hear from MTV reality celebrities about outfitting them on upcoming shows, bands we listen to want to get involved with us, bands we listen to come to us for show bookings (we used to book shows before all of this, within the promotions company). It’s really always growing. I think “taking off” is a subjective word and each will definite it differently, but when you get orders from overseas, that’s cool. The internet is a great thing and it’s really connecting people. Small businesses are now global.
TM: Do your run your label alone or do you have a team?
CA: Team, but it’s more like family. We treat everyone on staff and everyone we work with as a family. It’s all of us, or none of us. And titles are garbage, if you start a business to create a title for yourself you should stop before you start. It isn’t about seeing something fancy next to your name, it’s about the work you bring to the table. In many ways we have the hierarchy, because all businesses need to, but for the most part we’re a team made up of a family who are all on the same level contributing and offering insights. We’re also not all in the same area, it helps due to seeing things in your neighborhood versus someone else’s – different way of looking at things. It’s also important to point out we use freelance designers. It’s a fresh perspective and our way of helping people get into the business.
TM: I see you guys do custom designs for customers as well. How has providing this service helped your business?
CA: It’s really our way of helping someone out. We know our vendors and how to use them effectively and get someone some great product for cheap. There are a lot of designers out there that design for people but they don’t necessarily help the client through the process, it’s giving them a design and then it’s on the client to get the product produced. We’ll help every step of the way and manage the thing for you. You say “go” and send us the money and it’ll arrive on your doorstep within 3-weeks. That’s as simple as that. And you don’t need to use us to design the stuff, get it designed somewhere else, that’s cool, and we have no problem printing the item for you. We look at it as a supplement to the business, but not a second business in any way.
TM: Do you do a lot of promo events for your clothing line? Or do you currently attend a lot of events to promote your line?
CA: Of course. You have to be out there. Support other lines, bands, the arts, your community. Be out there, be able to talk to everyone you meet, and introduce them to your brand. We also sponsor shows and sell our clothing at those shows, we throw parties both at houses and in clubs, we have done fashion shows both of our own and within someone else’s… events are key. It’s branding.
TM: What’s in the works for the future of your label?
CA: This month is a big one. Please pick up the December issue of AP Magazine, dropping on Nov 4. We have a full-page ad in there that we’re very proud of. Also check the web site on Nov 1 for a all new intro we think you’ll enjoy, corresponds with the ad too, so pick up the ad for it to make sense. Right now through 10/28 we have full re-stocks in the online store (http://shop.ceerius.com). We’ve also completely re-done our Myspace and started a new Myspace account (so it’s at a new URL). This was done to start fresh and communicate better with everyone on our friends list. The previous account was 78,000 friends strong, but I bet you ¼ of them were active with us. We wanted a more intimate friend base who supports us so we can talk to the supporters. Check out our new design and friends us and communicate with us (http://www.myspace.com/ceeriusapparel). We’ll be dropping 1 new design pre-holidays and possibly two, so be on the look for that. Join our mailing list so you don’t miss any of the news (http://ceerius.com/mailinglist)
TM: What tips could you give to others trying to get into the t-shirt biz?
CA: Do it. Flat out. Myspace has enabled someone to make a presence online for free. There are plenty of fulfillment stores that allow you to create an online store for cheap and sometimes free (so long as you have 5 or less products). If you design, I’d love to see your stuff as if we like it we’ll buy it and use it. We are all here to help you in any way we can, it’s why our contact info is plastered everywhere – get at us on our personal Myspace accounts, IM us, email us, whatever question you have we’d love to answer it.
For more info on Ceer!us Apparel, check out their site, ceerius.com, and their myspace page, myspace.com/ceeriusapparel