Fashioning Success in Business and Friendship: The Johnson & Scott Story
1. How young is too young to start your own business? Trey Scott is still in college, but he founded a successful business with his friend Cyrus Johnson right after Cyrus graduated college. Their only regret? Not starting earlier.
2. Take a look at the story of these two young entrepreneurs and business partners who also happen to be friends since middle school. Their unisex clothing brand, Johnson & Scott, wants to send out positive energy into the world and also support local talent.
3. The key to their success is staying in their own lanes when it comes to running the business. That’s how they were able to combine both their passion for fashion and running their own business into a brand that sells out at every event they attend.
Should you mix friendship and business? Most people might think it's a bad idea. Yet, with the current examples of successful friend-run businesses like Airbnb, Ben & Jerry, and Thrillist, one wonders if this idea of not mixing the two together is relevant anymore or if it ever really was. Trey Scott and Cyrus Johnson of Johnson & Scott have been friends since middle school, and their journey into the world of business and fashion has been both fulfilling and fruitful.
One of the reasons why their business has worked is because of the close friendship they have. They both have immense respect for each other's abilities. Both of them also have totally different personalities and deal with different sides of the business. Their collaboration took root in high school when they enrolled together in an entrepreneurship class. This class is where they discovered they would gel well together as business partners because they both had abilities that complemented each other.
Trey, who was dabbling in graphic design at the time, was always focused on the creative side of things. Cyrus always had the ambition to start his own business and a knack for handling the analytical and logistical side of things. So, after years of talking and sharing their dreams about fashion and starting a business, they decided to get together and start their own clothing line.
The entrepreneurship class they took together in high school in their hometown, Columbia, Missouri, was a pivotal point in their own entrepreneurial story. In this class, they were paired together as a team, and that's where they discovered their creative synergy. Each team was expected to come up with a detailed business plan that would include details about their business idea, product, location, and target market.
This is where the idea for Johnson and Scott first took root, and both friends really got to thinking about what they wanted to do with their lives. When the project was presented and appreciated in the class, they realized it had the potential to be a real business. It was an idea that combined both Cyrus' passion for starting his own business and Trey's passion for fashion. They both began to put a plan together to launch their brand as soon as one of them graduated college.
So as soon as Cyrus graduated from business school in 2022, they launched their unisex clothing brand online. Trey is still in the final year of his Textile and Apparel Management degree at the University of Missouri and is applying everything he learns at college about retail, manufacturing, and sales to his own business. Now that they are both doing so well in the business, the only regret they have is not starting out sooner.
"Don't hesitate. I don't believe in failure. I believe in learning experiences. So don't let the idea of failing stop you from what you want to do." – Cyrus Johnson.
They both believe that they could have started this business way back in high school. They had a solid idea. They even had the designs ready, but the only thing stopping them was their own hesitation. So when asked what message they want to give out to other young entrepreneurs who are starting out, it is to start as early as possible and “just jump into it.”
"I would just say start earlier, just jump into it. Take small steps and get a feel for what you want to do." – Trey Scott.
Starting your own business can be a daunting task, but it can become easier if you have a trusted partner by your side. Trey's passion for fashion and design complemented Cyrus's desire to start his own business. What started as a classroom project eventually evolved into a full-fledged business.
They say their biggest strength is in the trust they have cultivated with each other over years of discussions and throwing ideas at each other. They also think a big reason behind their success is how they give each other the space necessary to fuel creativity and business acumen. On the one hand, Trey trusts Cyrus to handle the marketing and management side of things. On the other hand, Cyrus gives Trey enough creative freedom to conceptualize his designs and realize his creative vision. They both know how to stay in their lanes, so there's hardly any disagreement between the two.
Both Cyrus Johnson and Trey Scott are young entrepreneurs who are living their creative and entrepreneurial dreams after starting their company and seeing a fair amount of success so early on in their careers. Cyrus is also consulting with other businesses for strategic planning and management, and he brings this experience and learning from diverse fields into his own business with Trey. For example, when Cyrus works with an accounting firm, he brings that knowledge back into Johnson & Scott to improve the financial management and bookkeeping at his own start-up. Trey also draws from his professors and mentors within the fashion industry to solve some of the challenges they face as new and young business owners.
The biggest issue that Johnson and Scott currently faces as a clothing brand and start-up is that of inventory. They sell out quickly at events where they have pop-ups and then have to go back to get more pieces manufactured for all the other events they signed up for. Sometimes they can’t get the inventory in time so they lose out on a lot of potential sales. This is a problem they are now in the middle of solving with the help of the profits they are making as well as the investors’ funding and advice that they can rely on and draw inspiration from.
Online or In-Store
An interesting question to ponder when you're starting your own business, specifically in a post-COVID era, is whether to keep your business online or in-store. Johnson & Scott launched their brand online first, but their dream is to do both. They also started collaborating with local events, stores, and clubs that now showcase their pieces. They get the crowd in for these events and clubs with their brand's popularity while they also find new customers at these spots. This strategy works well for them because the clubs or stores they go to have the same target market as them, so people would buy the clothes and wear them on the spot, in the club, or at an event.
Currently, they are in the process of opening their first store in Columbia, Missouri. They also have plans to scale their business to other cities like New York and San Francisco, where they can really get involved in the fashion scene and start putting out their collections on runways. For now, they travel around to different cities like Dallas and Kansas, where there’s a huge market for their clothes and where they usually sell out within a day.
With their business model primarily running online, they recently opened up online orders worldwide and discovered a large amount of customers throughout Asia and Europe with Thailand and Germany showing the most demand for their clothes. So their long-term goals now include expanding into these international markets with in-store purchases and local manufacturing.
Another expansion plan for the business is something Trey has always wanted to do. He wants to start his own sneaker line under Johnson & Scott and market it at global events like Sneaker Con. They say that the designs are ready, and the plan is in motion for their business to go to this next level and establish their brand as a serious contender in the field of Sports, especially Basketball.
Cyrus and Trey are most proud of the positive vibes they sound out to the world with their clothes. Whether it's their signature flower head sweatshirts or motivational messages like "Love yourself as much as I love you" on their hoods, they really want to send out a message of love and peace into the world. They say people walk up to them and tell them how good it makes them feel to wear those clothes or see someone wear them. Trey believes his designs are interactive and give room for customers to talk with one another while giving out good energy and positivity.
Both business partners are also passionate about supporting local talent and artists. They collaborate with street artists and other underground talent throughout the United States. They incorporate some of the designs they like from local artists into their collection and share the proceedings from each of those sales with the artists, giving them another venue to get some side income.
One piece of advice from Cyrus Johnson and Trey Scott is to pick your investors carefully. They suggest you pick investors who will also act as mentors. To make sure they bring value and expertise along with their funding. Trey and Cyrus strongly believe a mentor's advice can change the entire scope of the business and can really help new business owners overcome their blind spots.
Trey and Cyrus might be very different from each other, but one thing both of them have in common is an invariably optimistic attitude. It helps them tackle their business problems head-on. It also helps that they both respect each other's opinions and trust in each other's abilities. As Johnson & Scott keeps cranking out fresh designs and venturing into new markets, they want to remind you that it's not just about the product you have but also the people you roll with and the amount of passion you bring to the table.
About Johnson & Scott. Johnson & Scott. (n.d.). https://johnsonandscott.com/pages/about-us
Leadem, R. (2022, July 29). 7 businesses that were founded by good friends. Entrepreneur.
Sillaman, N. K. (2022, October 17). So, you want to work in fashion?. Harvard Business Review.