| TUESDAY, JANUARY 28, 2014
It's a Tuesday afternoon in January and Florida native Lauren Siktberg is housebound in Chicago due to the Polar Vortex. While most people may use the snow-infused serendipity to catch up on episodes of "Downton Abbey'' and "Breaking Bad,'' Siktberg is using her time like she always does -- working.
Although employed fulltime helping an online personal shopping service transact social media, Siktberg uses every spare hour developing her own lifestyle brand of clothing and accessories. "I work nonstop,'' she says. "I work before and after work and during my commute.''
Siktberg’s line, branded Anchored Style, includes men's and women's T-shirts and accessories such as belts, hats, neckwear, jewelry and drink koozies. Products are sold through Siktberg's website and at retail stores along the U.S. East Coast and Texas.
"My goal is to have a heritage brand,'' says Siktberg. "I want to grow gradually over the years to build a brand that I am proud of and can tweak along the way according to market needs and desires."
"This year I'm focusing on building stronger relationships with my current customer base and expanding to other markets,'' explains Siktberg. "I'm doing a trade show in Dallas to expand a little further into the South and add the right stores to give my online customers a home base store to shop in and to touch and feel the merchandise for a more personal experience.''
Coming About Full Circle
Siktberg grew up near the southern part of the Pinellas peninsula devouring issues of GQ magazine. "My true passion is men's fashion,'' says Siktberg. "I've been getting GQ since I was 15. I have a very long-standing subscription.''
Siktberg attended Bauder Elementary, Seminole Middle and Seminole High schools before graduating from Florida State University in 2003 with a degree in Textiles and Consumer Science. "Which is a fancy way of saying Fashion Merchandising,'' she says and laughs.
She currently maintains a condo in Largo and is contemplating ditching the Windy City for warmer climes. "I'm not sure if I want to come back to St. Pete permanently or go to the Carolinas. I want to be able to travel to my retail partner stores and do on-campus events at colleges -- like tailgating and things like that. It's really fun. I want to have those personal relationships.''
She's developed her latest business relationship right back home in Tampa Bay.High Cotton Living, a Tampa boutique located at 1619 W Snow Circle, is currently selling Anchored Style clothing in its Hyde Park store. High Cotton owner Andrew Smith says Anchored's business model impresses as much as its products.
"I like preppy lifestyle clothes produced in the U.S.,'' says Smith. "It's nice to see they're achieving. They do their screen printing in St. Pete. It's a very local brand. Not to mention the design of T-shirts are cool and fit in with Tampa Bay lifestyle –- lots of fishing and boating going on around here so it seems like a cool fit.''
Creating A New Southern Style
At first glance, Siktberg's brand appears to target the sailing set. However, Siktberg says she's found her niche with young men on college campuses -- particularly in the South. She chalks it up to good old-fashioned Southern tradition.
"Most Southern towns have a men's haberdashery store where a guy's grandfather shopped, then their dad shopped there and now they're shopping there,'' explains Siktberg. "It seems to be a very southern thing.''
Says Siktberg of her brand: "It's definitely a coastal lifestyle but on the more tailored end. I like to call it the Anchored lifeStyle, nautically inspired, preppy, all-American, classic but modern in colors and shapes.''
So Why Chicago? Why Now?
Siktberg explains her itchy feet are responsible for landing her in Chi-town.
"It's very important to travel when you're doing fashion. I'm here to experience more city life. It's kind of like a social experiment to see how I can market to people who live in different places and do different things. I'm always doing marketing research –- watching people, what they're wearing, how they're acting. I like to focus on a niche and really get to know everything about how they live their lives from work to play.''
Siktberg's social experimenting also took her to New York, where she worked as an intern under Lori Goldstein and culled a good deal of insight about the fashion industry and herself.
"I learned that I didn't want to live in New York,'' she says and laughs. "And I learned "The Devil Wears Prada'' is true. There were 11 of us -- all new to New York. Most worked at magazines; a few at showrooms. They were all done at 5 p.m. and went to happy hour. I wasn’t done until 7:30.''
Siktberg says that while these experiences make her a keener marketing person, social media has made her research all the easier. "I make a lot of things based on requests and what I know people want to see. I use social media to get feedback through contests and having people vote on new products; comparing two to see which one resonates with potential customers.''
Developing Her Own Style
Siktberg left New York to move home to Seminole in Pinellas County and began working at a boutique in Belleair owned by Lindsay Phillips, as well as for a T-shirt designer in Clearwater.
"Working with them is how I actually learned about building a business from the ground up,'' Siktberg says.
When Phillips decided to move her business to New Jersey, Siktberg opted to stay put, eventually ending up at the Sperry Top-Sider store at Tampa's International Plaza by 2010.
It was during this time that Siktberg decided to test the entrepreneurial waters. She started Anchored in Style, a personal shopping service for Tampa Bay businessmen.
"I did a lot of research on personal shopping and closet consultations, and started marketing myself. I also sold J. Hilburn men's custom dress shirts. I went to clients' homes or businesses, measured them and picked out clothing I thought would work for them.
"I found Tampa Bay to be a difficult market for me,'' Siktberg explains. "I didn’t have the connections I needed to be successful and I realized that I am much more successful selling a product than selling myself. So I ended up morphing my personal shopping business into a lifestyle brand. I already had a great logo that I often got compliments on, so I thought maybe I could start a new business with it.''
This is also when Siktberg made the college connection. "Kids would come in and ask for certain styles for fraternity rush. It made me think that preppy was making a comeback. So I envisioned my customer as a Sperry kind of person. I researched and wrote a business plan. I worked from 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. every day to prove to my dad that it was workable and to figure out how I could differentiate myself from similar brands.''
Siktberg's dedication paid off. Her dad ended up investing in her new enterprise, along with a family friend. Anchored Style was then built and set sail within a whirlwind seven-months, during which the young entrepreneur not only designed her initial line, but also developed both a marketing plan and strategic business partnerships to ensure the launch went off without a hitch.
She now has products in more than 20 stores as well as representatives on several college campuses to help Anchored grow its intercollegiate customer base.
Working at Sperry also provided Siktberg with an opportunity to meet Alexandria Boudreau, who appears to be a kindred fashionista. After her co-worker's custom canvas bag designs caught Siktberg's attention she began selling her Boudreau's bags under the Anchored brand.
"She is the real deal,'' says Siktberg. She's got great style. And she is a very avid sailor -- probably one of the best sailors I've ever met in my life -- better than any guy I’ve ever seen. She knows her product.''
Boudreau has since launched her own brand and site, Nautical Notions.
Unlike her competitors, Siktberg is committed to keeping all facets of her business stateside -- including manufacturing. From the graphic artist who transposes her sketches into sharp lines and colors, to the production line where original ideas become three-dimensional products, Siktberg insists on keeping it globally local.
"I like knowing that it could have been your aunt or family friend who made the garment for you,'' Siktberg explains. "I'm all about quality -- having something made by someone who has pride in their job. That's why I like Alex's work. You know there's a lot of love in that product. It's all unique -- hand-sewn vs. mass produced; based on how fast they can get it done. My key fobs and belts are custom made in Maine. I really like the quality of them -- they're leather and you can wear them and take the Anchored lifestyle with you everywhere you go.
"When given the opportunity to make a commitment to something that can make a difference, I want to,'' she stresses. "It is really exciting that ‘American Made’ has become a movement and I'm happy to be a part of it.''
Siktberg says that while keeping it stateside is costly, it's worth it. "I'm definitely taking a financial hit. My profit margins aren't as high as many of my competitors, which is why I have a fulltime job right now -– to pay down debt and grow my business slowly.''
She also admits her self-imposed work schedule has taken a toll on her personal life. "It's tough, as any entrepreneur will tell you. My social life takes planning. Dating, going out with friends, church, I have to plan ahead of time. If I go somewhere spur of the moment that means I have to work more on the weekend. If I want to have fun on the weekend, that means I have to work more during the week. It's about keeping your priorities straight.''
So is it all worth it? Well, Siktberg's business doubled in 2013 over 2012, and Siktberg says she expects to see another 25 percent jump this year. "I always tell people -- if you're really truly passionate about something, you will find a way to make it work,'' she says.
Anchored Style is a little bit different and a lot a bit unique compared to other companies' styles you've seen me talk about. The founder and designer, Lauren, calls her style 'surfer prep'. It's a cross between your classic new England collegiate style and that of the laid back west coast. They combine to create this a classic item twisted to focus on comfort and fit.
Anchored Style offers Men's and Women's apparel and accessories featuring their signature logo. I have always been drawn to Anchors because of my mom. She was a Delta Gamma in college, and I grew up in a Raggedy Ann Nursery and humming Hannah songs. This being said, both my parents grew up in Florida and instilled in me a lasting love of the ocean, so I really connect with the symbolism throughout the Anchored Style line.
Lauren is also very proud of her jersey cotton hoodies and how comfortable they are while maintaining a sense of style, a surfer-prep style to be exact. I had the great opportunity to talk with Lauren, and below is my recap and take-aways from our conversation.
Lauren first decided to start the company after starting her first company known as Anchor In Style, which offered personal styling, shopping and closet consultations. In summer of 2010, going with the same logo, she decided to create her own lifestyle brand, and drop the "in". The launch was fast and furious taking only 7 months between the initial idea and receiving the first samples.
What is your inspiration?
Where did you first develop your style?
What do you hope your products will convey about yourself and your style?
Integrity, style, and quality. Lauren believes that staying true to the brand and the original concept is of the utmost importance when it comes to Anchored Style. She wants her products to be special that people can enjoy for years to come.
What has been the hardest thing about starting your own business?
“It’s hard breaking into stores, because often buyers want brands that have a proven track record of being in high demand. My online sales are growing, thanks to social media and our growing army of brand ambassadors at college campuses across the country getting the brand recognition The specialty menswear buyers are hard to break at first; it’s a real boys club. Most of the guys in the industry has been around for 30-40 years, and the sales reps have been selling to the same people forever. It is all about paying your dues and I'm more than willing to do it.
New button downs. Lauren believes these will be different than others on the market because they’re handcrafted in the US, something not many brands can say right now. The shirts are expected to have some classic subtle detailing that would make a nice addition to any wardrobe. She’s also coming out with men’s ties, “I’m matching them with the new ties I’m designing. They won’t just be the standard stripes and collegiate colors that are currently on the market, ours will have a little twist. They’ll also be made in the US.”.
How would you define today's 'Preppy' and how do you think it compare to the preppy of past decades?
“A lot of people think the "preppy" of today is represented by American Eagle & Hollister, but to me it’s heritage brands; classic stuff that lasts forever. Stuff that you can still wear it and it’ll last 10-20 years, like a pair of khaki’s or Sperry's that look better with age. I like when companies take a modern look on a classic style. Polo, Ralph Lauren and Brooks Brothers stay true to what they are all the time.” It looks like the preppy of past decades is making a comeback, and I couldn't be happier.”
Father's Day - June 19, 2011
I am truly blessed to be able to call John M. Siktberg my dad. My dad is the most amazing father a girl could ever ask for. He is the most caring and selfless person I have ever known. He gives his all in everything he does and puts everyone before himself. He displays the upmost integrity in his life. My dad loves God first, my mom second, and his kids third. He is a true gentleman. My dad still opens the car door for my mom every time, and if I’m getting in the car, he opens mine too. This year marks my parent’s 35th wedding anniversary & they still look like newlyweds. My dad has raised the bar so high for men out there. I have faith God will bring a man into my life as great as my dad.
My dad is a smart business man and I have always looked up to him. As a kid, I remember waiting for my dad to get home from work so I could tell him about my day, eating dinner together as a family, finishing up our homework, playing games, a kiss and a prayer good night. Often, after we were off to bed, he’d go back to work. He always made our family a priority, even while working long hours. Finally now, I can tell him how much his actions meant to me and my brother and sister growing up.
He has always known me best. He knows when I put my mind to something; there is no stopping me until I get it done. As a child, I would draw out a floor plan of how I’d like to re-arrange my bedroom furniture. I did this a few times. I guess I’ve always had the merchandising bug? Pretty late at night I’d ask my dad for help with my plan, and of course he’d say, “Yes, in the morning”. Well, I was a strong little girl. I’d be moving my bed and dresser around myself after everyone had gone to bed, so I’d wake up with a new room! My dad would come in and wake me up in the morning, and be surprised I did it again, and again.
I have always been quite a planner with a bit of an impulsive side when it comes time to implement the plan. I enjoy sharing all of my dreams, ideas, work experiences, and dilemmas with my dad because he always listens and gives me great feedback. I greatly appreciate his wisdom, even if it is not what I want to hear. When I told my parents about my plan to start my brand, my dad was 100% supportive.
Without the love and support of my father, Anchored Style may not (probably would not) be here today. My dad helps me mentally, emotionally, physically, and monetarily. My very special dad truly believes in me and that support means the world to me and continues to make me strive to be the best that I can be and keep pushing my company to the next level.
Dad, I love you so much and can never tell you enough how much I appreciate how much you do for me!
“Often the difference between a successful person and a failure is not one has better abilities or ideas, but the courage that one has to bet on one’s ideas, to take a calculated risk – to act.” – French Historian, Statesman, and Novelist, Andre Malraux.
Only one short year ago I developed the idea to launch my own clothing brand, Anchored Style. I was terrified of the undertaking, but more scared of not taking the risk to fulfill my dream. So with the quiet buzzing of an idea in my head, the electricity of fear beneath my skin, and the knowing thump of my heart pushing me to take a chance, I threw myself into developing my line of surfer-prep apparel. In seven short months I had the product off the ground and selling in stores and on 11 college campuses around the U.S. Here’s how I did it, all in under a year.
Eat, Drink, and Sleep your market
Immerse yourself in the lifestyle you want your product to appeal to Finding out exactly who your market is will and can be one of the hardest parts, but if you surround yourself with your desired customer you will find out exactly who they are and what they want. Your desired market could end up very differently than you had originally planned, or spot on. My goal was to design a line that focused on the nautical world with a surfer-preppy style. So, I took a part-time job selling boat shoes at a Sperry Top-Sider store. I also took up sailing with members of a local yacht club, learned the lingo and the sport. Living the lifestyle is easier than you think. I feel is it important to be authentic.
Read & Research
Then read and research some more. Read as many business books, magazines, journals, websites, and blogs as you can get your hands on. Read absolutely everything you can about your market; watch broadcasts, newscasts, and financial programs; visit with local entrepreneurs. It is beyond important to know what and who you are up against, and how you will make your product stand out against others. There is a wealth of resources to help you get your product going. You’ll build knowledge and gain inspiration. And don’t forget to take the time to research the products of young entrepreneurs like yourself. One of the most important things to remember during this process is that others have been through, or are currently going through exactly what you are. You will gain a lot of insight and help from their stories. My two favorite must reads are Three Feet from Gold & The Tipping Point. Two of my favorite magazines – Entrepreneur & Inc. All of these materials helped me on my journey.
Everyone knows someone who knows someone, which will often lead you to a great connection. Talk about what you are doing when you are engaged in everyday conversation and connections will fall into place. If you don’t promote your venture, you can’t expect anyone else to. You are your own best PR representative and no one will speak as passionately about your product as you do. And don’t forget about the importance of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter; they are the easiest way to make your product visible, not to mention they are free!
Get a Mentor
Utilize SCORE, a Resource Partner with the Small Business Administration that offers free and confidential mentoring through online and face-to-face meetings. I looked up the government website, found my local chapter, and booked my first appointment. They gave me guidance and helped by holding me accountable to developing my business plan at the same time. As I developed my plan I was also busy preparing for each meeting with them. I spent three months researching, writing, and editing my plan. Even now, I’m updating, and editing all over again.
Surround Yourself With Friends & Family
Remember, becoming an entrepreneur is no 9 to 5 gig, and it is important for you to have people who support your venture and your time schedule. And don’t be afraid to ask those people for help – your friends and family have a vast amount of talents and knowledge and will probably be ecstatic to get involved and offer their help to you.
It is always a good thing. Every short-lived job with a start-up company or stint with a corporate company will build your portfolio of knowledge. One of the main reasons I have been able to successfully launch my brand in such a short time is because of my background in the fashion industry. Each job with a new brand of a large retailer has given me the knowledge of what to do, and most importantly – what not to do.
Everyone needs it, especially yotu! Without confidence in yourself and your brand, consumers aren’t likely to have confidence in your product either. You are your number one sales person and when you believe in yourself, your passion and confidence are sure to show through the attention to detail in your product, and through a glimmer in your eye.
Most importantly, remember this - No risk = No reward
You have to keep faith in yourself, and don’t stop. Take the chance and don’t be afraid to do it. Sure it’s hard but if it was easy, everyone else would be doing it.
Remember, in the words of Arnold H. Glasglow, “An idea not coupled with action will never get any bigger than the brain cell it occupied.” So get out there and cultivate your brand.
Lauren Siktberg is the designer and CEO who brought her brand, Anchored Style, to life in under a year. You can view her “Surfer-Prep” designs at AnchoredStyle.com and follow her journey athttp://www.facebook.com/AnchoredStyle or http://anchoredstyle.tumblr.com
Anchored Style officially launched its Wholesale side of the business this past weekend at Surf Expo, Jan 6-8 in Orlando, FL. We had a great response. We had the opportunity to show the line to buyers for the first time and got a great response!
For all wholesale inquiries, please contact Lauren@anchoredstyle.com or call 727.470.9294.
I want to thank my amazing photographer, Erik Valind. He sees my vision and makes it happen! I could not ask for a better partner in getting the Anchored Style Lifestyle image across.
Thank you for putting in extra long hours with me and making my dream a reality Erik!
For more on Erik, check out http://erikvalind.com/blog/
Welcome you to the Anchored Style site!
Thank you so much for your continued support as we work feverishly to get the Anchored Style products to you, and just in time for the holidays!
Anchored Style truly is a Lifestyle & I'd love to share with you where I find my inspiration! Please feel free to follow my photo blog of my journey up the east coast this fall at http://anchoredstyle.tumblr.com/ I had the time of my life getting to meet the most interesting people on each stop! Each place I visit and each person I meet becomes permanently locked in my memory to take inspiration from in the future. I'm very much looking forward to my next trip! I'll be sure to share with you.