June 15, 2023

Beyond Jeans: The Visionary Expansion of Mugsy into a Lifestyle Empire

"From Denim to Lifestyle: The Mugsy Jeans Revolution"

Today, we have the pleasure of sitting down with Leo, the founder of Mugsy Jeans, a revolutionary clothing brand that has captured the attention of thousands of customers. In this informal conversation, we'll delve into the story behind Mugsy Jeans, its mission, and the challenges faced by Leo on his entrepreneurial journey. We'll also explore the strategies that propelled the brand's success and gain insights into Leo's vision for the future. So, grab a cup of coffee and join us as we uncover the fascinating world of Mugsy Jeans and the mind behind it all.

Leo Tropeano, The CEO of Mugsy

Chris:  Hi Leo. How are you? How's everything? 

Leo: Chaotic, but good chaos, so can't complain haha.

Chris: Okay, that's cool. 

Leo: You know the drill. How about you?

Chris: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us. I'm one of the editors at ARTicles. We have a few questions for you if you don't mind. Nothing too formal, more of an informal conversation. So, yeah. If you have any questions, please let us know.

To give you a brief overview of ARTicles, we are a newsletter with over 10,000 subscribers, primarily consisting of D2C or Ecommerce brand owners and entrepreneurs. We focus on sharing strategies, stories, and other related topics.

So, the first question would be if you could share a bit about the story behind your company, its mission, values, and why you started. We would love to hear about it.

Leo: So, my career started in accounting. I was working in public accounting at PricewaterhouseCoopers, which was a completely different field. But I always had this urge to start my own business. I just didn't know where to begin. The catalyst for my entrepreneurial journey came from a personal problem I was facing with jeans. I moved to New York after college and realized that my wardrobe consisted of worn-out clothes that were no longer suitable for a professional in the fashion capital of the US. I went to a department store in New York, like Bloomingdale's, and tried on every pair of jeans they had. The pile of jeans was waist-high and I thought, "This is crazy. Why can't we find jeans that are both comfortable and stylish?"

At that moment, the light bulb went off in my head. I knew that women's clothing had a good stretch and comfortable materials, so I thought, "Maybe this is the business I should start." I asked my friends about the jeans they wore, and most had a similar response: they wore whatever their moms bought them because they believed there was nothing better available. That's when I realized there was an opportunity.

I spent the next few years developing the concept on the side while still working my day job. Eventually, I took the leap and quit my job to pursue my dream. It took countless iterations and samples of denim, but we finally launched the first version of Mugsy Jeans. From that moment, everything changed. We experienced tremendous growth and it has been a roller coaster ride ever since. 

Chris: When you were trying to launch your product and brand, what kind of challenges did you face at the time and how did you overcome them?

Leo: The biggest one, I would say, is the struggle to gain recognition when nobody knows about you. There's so much noise out there, especially with social media. It feels almost impossible to capture anyone's attention. The first major hurdle is getting the word out. 

But once you combine a remarkable product that solves a real problem with effective marketing, that's when things start falling into place.

Chris: That's awesome. Along your journey, who are the people that inspire you? It could be family, friends, or even other entrepreneurs who have made a positive impact on your life and success. If you could mention someone, that would be great.

Leo: Absolutely. First and foremost, it has to be my wife. Just a month after getting married, I told her that I wanted to quit my job and start a clothing company, which sounds crazy, right?

Chris: And she didn't leave you?

Leo: Somehow no, we're still together with a couple of kids. She pushed me to go for it. Wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for her. In terms of the company itself, and the development of the jeans, it was all thanks to my close friends. They were my first crash test dummies. I would call them over, saying, "I have a new sample. I need you to try it on. Take off your pants and try on these jeans." They were like, "What the hell are you talking about?" But they put up with it for years, enduring my weird requests and throwing clothes at them, asking for their opinions. Things changed when the convo went from me asking them if they’d buy to them saying, "Wow, these are amazing. Can I buy these?" That’s when I knew I was on the right path. 

Chris: When I opened your website, my first impression was that you must be making millions easily because the product gives off that vibe, even just from the landing page. It's truly amazing.

Leo: Thanks!

Chris: I also came across news articles stating that Mugsy Jeans generates over 10 million in revenue. I was curious about what contributed to the success of increasing sales over the years. What do you think was the secret behind this achievement?

Leo: It’s all about momentum. Create some momentum and build on it, year after year, and before you know it, you have a business.

Chris: That's a common challenge for entrepreneurs when they create something remarkable. So, how did you solve it? 

Leo: It starts with identifying a big problem, then creating a product that effectively solves it, and understanding the people who are experiencing that problem inside out. It was easy for me because I was in the audience, as were my friends. So, I really knew who this product was for. I even took it a step further though: I would write journals from a Mugsy customer’s perspective, jotting down everything about them, from what their job was, to what bars they went to, what shows they watched, what they ate, etc.  

So I knew our audience inside out. And when you know that, you know how to get in front of them and market your product.

Chris: Understood. I'm also interested in knowing more about your company's distribution channels. I've seen your impressive website, but do you have any other avenues for distribution?

Leo: E-commerce will always be our bread and butter but this year we are focused on expanding brick and mortar. We started the year with two stores and are opening three to four more in the next couple of months. It’s cool to see physical stores are back after COVID, that was such a major loss to the brand experience the last few years.

Chris: Understood. Okay, that's cool. You might have already mentioned this, but I'm curious to know what the biggest risk you've taken in the past couple of years is. What are your thoughts on that?

Leo: Oh man, too many to count. When it comes to risk, I believe in taking calculated risks. You can't plan for everything, none of us have crystal balls. So all you can do is gather all the available data, make a decision, and act fast. If it works, you double down. If it doesn't, you cut it off immediately and move on.

The first real big risk we took was when we ordered the first run of what I consider the V1 of Mugsy's. I initially planned to order a few hundred and build from there. But a family friend and mentor said to me, "This is the right product, right? Then what are you doing messing around with a few hundred units? If this is it, order a few thousand." At the time, that was insanity, we were making like one sale per day! But I believed we were there, so I placed the order. We sold out of those few thousand pairs in a few months.

It was a great lesson—there’s a time to be slow, and there’s a time to be fast. Develop slowly, but when it’s go-time, push the launch button.

Chris: That's pretty cool, man. That's amazing. By the way, I think you made the right call. It turned out great.

Leo: Definitely. I think that was the most important moment in Mugsy's history.

Chris: That was an all-in move, and it seems like you handled it well. That's cool. Can you share any upcoming products for your brand and your main goals for the future? How do you envision the future of the company? Are you looking to exit or find someone to become chairman and another CEO?

Leo: We started with jeans and expanded into chinos, swimwear, and shorts. However, our current COO and my business partner, Scott O’Shoopdulany, saw the potential for building Mugsy into a lifestyle brand. He kicked off that initiative a few years ago, and now we're starting to see it pay off. If you visit our website today, we have a wide range of products, maybe too wide haha. But I'm excited about how our customers can come to Mugsy now for full outfitting, way more than just jeans. So we’re excited to dive deeper into Tops given their recent success. Again, develop slowly and then act fast!

Chris: Alright, we have one final question, which we ask everyone. What advice would you give to someone starting their own brand with a vision? What are your thoughts on that?

Leo: That question could fill a whole book! But if I had to boil it down, I would say my superpower is my ability to intensely focus. That comes with a whole host of cons and tradeoffs that my wife would attest to haha, but I don’t think Mugsy would be here if it wasn’t for that. 

So I would say: Understand the problem and know everything about your audience. Then dedicate everything to solving that problem and serving that audience. In time, it will all fall into place.

Easier said than done. There will be a million ways to spend your money and time at any given moment. You need to focus on one. Think of it this way: would you rather do one thing exceptionally well or a million things subpar? That’s the mindset you have to have when you create a business. 

So my advice is to stay focused, figure out what works, and commit everything you have to it until it no longer does. Then, either expand, pivot, or iterate based on your learnings. Over time, you'll zoom out and realize that you've built a wild business.

Chris: I really appreciate you taking the time to share your valuable insights about your company today, Leo.

Leo: Cheers!

Final Thoughts

As we wrap up our conversation with Leo, the founder of Mugsy Jeans, we've gained a deeper understanding of the remarkable journey that led to the creation of this innovative clothing brand. From the initial spark of inspiration born out of personal frustration to the relentless pursuit of a solution, Leo's story is one of determination, passion, and willingness to take calculated risks. Throughout our conversation, we discovered the key factors that contributed to the brand's success, such as identifying a genuine problem, crafting a product that effectively solves it, and understanding the target audience intimately. Moreover, Leo's emphasis on focus and staying true to the brand's mission has played a pivotal role in driving growth and expansion. With plans to venture into brick-and-mortar retail and expand the brand's offerings, Mugsy Jeans is on a trajectory to become a comprehensive lifestyle brand. Leo's advice to aspiring entrepreneurs echoes his own experiences: stay focused, commit wholeheartedly to your vision, and be prepared to adapt and iterate along the way. We extend our gratitude to Leo for sharing his insights and wish him continued success in shaping the future of Mugsy Jeans. Thank you for joining us on this captivating journey into the world of entrepreneurship and innovation.

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