We had the opportunity to speak with Matt Aronson (left in photo below), CEO of North by South, about his innovative clothing business, which aims to add a special something else to your wardrobe.
Small Business View: Can you tell us about your business?
Matt Aronson: North by South (NxS) is a clothing company that offers customizable t-shirts with necktie pockets, mixing formal and casual wear to provide customers with a unique style opportunity. I started NxS in November 2014 while I was in my senior year at Georgetown University, after about a year of business development planning. Having been in college at the time, I came up with the idea and built the business as a product of my environment. Our tees appeal to many types of people but the college market has been a key target for us. As the CEO of the company, I work with our network of business partners to carry out marketing initiatives and manufacturing processes, as well as manage an extensive group of campus reps to grow our brand on site. I’m very fortunate to be able to work with great people in building NxS so that we can offer these tees to customers, allowing them to express their individual styles and feel great while doing it.
SBV: Have you always wanted to be in business? Why or why not?
MA: I never really thought about being in business until I came up with the idea for NxS. During my first couple years at Georgetown, I took many classes and explored different professions, until I really committed myself to launching NxS and learned to love business through first-hand experience. However, business has such a wide variety of meanings that it can take on. As I’ve run the business, I’ve further developed my professional interests so I’m grateful for the experience that entrepreneurship has given me.
SBV: What is your ultimate vision for the brand?
MA: The NxS brand is simply about expressing your individual style in a classy way and providing that feel-good confidence of getting dressed up with a more formal look while in everyday clothes. We’re still in our first year of business so the priority at the moment is to grow and develop our core around these necktie pocket tees. Beyond this current focus, we hope to be able to partner with larger companies to offer even more unique options and expand our product offering into adjacent categories in the future.
SBV: Looking back to when you started your business, what did you see in its future?
MA: I wanted to give my idea a shot and have fun exploring my interests with a brand and product that I felt passionate about. Too many times people have a great idea and just leave it at that. It’s an intimidating thing to start a company with no prior experience, but I promised myself that I would see my idea to fruition. I understood that building a company from the ground up would be a long-term process so I just take it month by month, and I still hold that mindset as I run the company today.
SBV: What is your biggest takeaway, your biggest reward from what you do?
MA: Without a doubt the biggest reward in running NxS for me is when a customer lets us know how much they love the shirt(s) that he/she purchased. When someone else can find the same passion in your product that you had when envisioning your product and starting your business, that’s really special.
SBV: What’s the most challenging thing you do?
MA: I’m sure other entrepreneurs would agree with me when I say that the most challenging thing in running a startup is the uncertainty and the balancing act you have to deal with in life. From the outside, a company can look like it has seamless operations. However, there are so many unexpected issues that arise internally that must be dealt with on a daily basis. But that’s the excitement of entrepreneurship and what makes it so enjoyable—overcoming these issues, learning as you go, and committing yourself to your brand and product.
SBV: What do you do to kick back after a long day?
MA: I love hanging out with close friends and family to unwind from a long day—going to a movie, dinner, or anything else. I’m a big fitness and sports fan as well, so a good workout or game to watch is always really nice.
SBV: Are you involved with any other organizations right now?
MA: I currently work for a company called Navigant as a consultant dealing with government healthcare solutions. I operate NxS during my off time from Navigant in the early morning, at night, and on weekends. The people at Navigant are fantastic and my work there is very dynamic and interesting, so I consider myself lucky to be able to work at a great company and explore my entrepreneurial interests at the same time.
SBV: Any advice for someone just starting out?
MA: My number one piece of advice for people just starting out would be to just go for it. It sounds simple but it far too often goes overlooked. The beauty of entrepreneurship and small business is that you learn as you go, make mistakes, surround yourself with good people, and gain invaluable experience along the way. If you have a good idea and you are passionate about the idea, then do your research and give it a shot. Whether your idea turns into a very successful company or it falls flat after a year or two of business, you will be glad that you at least saw it through. Don’t be afraid to fail and hear “no” a lot, because moving from failure to failure while remaining passionate about your brand is what is necessary to see the success you want.
SBV: Anything else you want the readers to know?
MA: I believe that confidence is key. That is what entrepreneurship is about, and that is also what the NxS brand represents with our shirts. You get an emotional connection and special feeling when you wear something that is unique and good looking. If you feel good about yourself, then you’ll be more confident and happier in life. That isn’t to say that difficulties won’t come your way, but rather it is an empowering mindset that focuses on the good things in life. Be confident in yourself and just go after your goals. You won’t regret trying.
You can learn more about North by South, or buy one of their products, at northbysouthapparel.com.