Defining your purpose. Back in the day, you went to a store and had to purchase whatever limited products were available to you. Now customers have the power to choose where they allocate their dollars in addition to a myriad of options. A company’s brand, mission statement, and purpose — beyond just selling products — are becoming increasingly important to today’s consumers and especially to Millennials and Gen Z.
As part of our series about the future of retail, I had the pleasure of interviewing Anthony Orisses.
Anthony Orisses is the Founder and CEO of RARE CUT, the first-ever pocket square infused with a proprietary memory metal to ensure no matter how you twist, bend or fold it, it always holds its shape. After noticing pocket square fails firsthand at work, events and weddings for years, he was inspired to solve the problem himself. RARE CUT, launched on Kickstarter, designs high-end pocket squares infused with hyper-thin memory metal, so they’re easy to fold and guaranteed to stay in place. Born and raised in Queens, New York, Anthony is a proud second-generation Greek American. When he’s not working on launching his business, Anthony’s probably biking around NYC or barbecuing with his family. Learn more at https://www.rarecut.com/
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I was born and raised in Bayside, Queens, NY. I am a second-generation Greek-American and I am blessed to come from a very loving and hard working family. My parents grew up with very little financially but together they hustled hard and sacrificed to elevate themselves on their own to be able to provide me and my two younger sisters with the opportunities that they didn’t have growing up. My parents are a real-life example of the American dream. I got my hustle and drive from my parents. The idea for RARE CUT came to me by recognizing a problem. One night, I was at a medical device awards dinner where everyone was dressed up and looking their best. My coworker told me that his wife bought him a 100 dollars pocket square for the event. I didn’t even know they made 100 dollars pocket squares! As the night went on, he kept taking it out to fold and refold it but it wasn’t holding and kept falling apart. I remember him saying what a pain they were to fold into the specific shape he wanted. The next day we got our pictures back from the event, and we noticed that his expensive brand name pocket square was nowhere to be seen in any of the pictures, it completely sunk and disappeared. Then I started noticing this problem everywhere — guys wearing suits and blazers on the streets of New York City, in pictures on Instagram, even grooms at their own wedding! I realized how common this problem was and knew there had to be a better way, so I decided to do something about it. With RARE CUT pocket squares no matter how you bend, twist, or fold them they retain their shape and stay up in the pocket. The feedback I’ve received has validated that this is something that guys struggle with and it solves that problem — so that inspired me to take the leap of faith.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I had been working on my idea for 4 years prior to launch and pretty much anyone who knew me was aware that my project was in the works. I would always share behind the scenes footage to give others a sneak peak of the experience of building a business. My advice to everyone is to bring people along your entrepreneurial journey — this helps for people to better understand both you and your product, while also providing for great content. Over the course of these years, people would often ask me how things were progressing and that they were excited for the day that I finally launched. When that day finally did come this past September, I put one last announcement out to everyone that the campaign was finally going live. I was completely blown away by the amount of family, friends from all different walks of life, and fans of the company who contributed, reached out to me, shared my story, and helped promote my brand without me even asking for it. We reached our minimum funding goal of 10,000 dollars in under 10 minutes! By campaigns’ end, we raised over 500% of our initial goal! This completely shattered my expectations and to see how many people came through to give their support is something I will never forget. I definitely felt the love and this alone made everything worth it. I can absolutely say that launch day was one of the best days of my life.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaway you learned from that?
The classic rookie mistake I made when I first started was misjudging the timeline on pretty much everything related to starting a business -from engineering our technology, to website, pattern and packaging designs, to the Kickstarter launch, the list goes on. When I first came up with the concept for RARE CUT people would ask me when I expected things to be up and running and I remember saying and believing that it would be “about a year” — not even close! I would set these self-imposed deadlines on when things had to be done by — which definitely helped to move the ball forward but ultimately you never rush anything out until things are done correctly and you feel satisfied with what you’re seeing.
Are you working on any new exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?
Now that the Kickstarter launch is complete, manufacturing and fulfillment figured out, and have the e-commerce site up and running, we will now be focusing on properly implementing one of the original ideas I had when I came up with the concept for RARE CUT — to design different pocket square patterns for different causes. Our goal is to collaborate with different charitable foundations and also donate a portion of the proceeds to those organizations. The plan for RARE CUT is not just to be a company with a unique product but to also make a difference in our own unique way.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
It is imperative to create habits and stick to your routine — no matter how busy your day is. During preparation for launch there were many times where I felt overwhelmed. I would often bypass working out or meditating because there were too many things to do that day. The truth is that in order to be effective you need to create a winning routine and commit to it. One of my favorite quotes is, “how you do one thing is how you do everything.” After feeling like I wasn’t living up to my true potential, I decided to take part in a program called “75 Hard” — where for 75 straight days you have to work out twice a day for 45 minutes each (one has to be outdoors), drink a gallon of water, read 10 pages, stick to a certain diet, and abstain from drinking alcohol. I also added in daily meditation and journaling. Having this daily structure and routine ultimately lead to me stepping up in all the different areas of my life. In turn, it was a tremendous help in boosting my energy and taking on a new way to look at business and life in general. To be the best version of yourself you have to be in shape — physically, mentally, and spiritually. You’ll feel better, make better decisions, and tap into your ability to respond to situations in life instead of reacting to your environment.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful, who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Since I was 12, I always wanted to get into medical device sales. My uncle in Greece runs his own distributorship. I was always intrigued by his job and became laser-focused on getting into that industry. At that time, my career counselors hadn’t even heard of that job and asked me if I would be open to pursuing more common sales jobs but I told them I wasn’t. They would playfully laugh about how specific I was. In college, I worked a handful of jobs but my favorite was bartending. It was my first day on the job and the other bartender I was working with, named Pete Kambitsis, introduced himself. As we were setting up the bar, he just asked me outright “Tell me about your aspirations and what you want to do with your life.” And at the time I said, “this is really random and not too many people know about this industry but I want to sell medical devices,” and he goes to me, “wow, well, today’s your lucky day because I am in the business of selling medical devices. I just bartend on the side for fun.” Pete helped me prepare for interviews and helped me land two jobs in the industry. Being in the medical device industry ultimately led me to the idea of inventing the concept for RARE CUT, which has led me to where I am today. I give this example for two reasons — the world will guide you down the right path if you know where you want to go and you can meet someone who can change your entire life in the unlikeliest of places.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Starting a business is not for the faint of heart and it is easy to feel lost and confused along the way. The only way you will excel will be by asking for help from those who have already done it. I want to use my experiences to be able to provide people with the guidance I received and needed in order to be able to succeed and push forward. I’ve been jotting down every step of my journey to remember all my entrepreneurial experiences with the intention of being able to reference those moments and help other aspiring entrepreneurs along the way to pay it forward.
Ok super. Now let’s jump to the main questions of our interview. The Pandemic has changed many aspects of all of our lives. One of them is the fact that so many of us have gotten used to shopping almost exclusively online. Can you share five examples of different ideas that large retail outlets are implementing to adapt to the new realities created by the Pandemic?
The Pandemic has certainly forced all business owners to call an audible on what was once “business as usual.” Some effective strategies that can be implemented are:
- Companies leveraging social media to talk directly to their customers. Most people like when a founder or CEO of a company interacts with their community because it humanizes the company and connects us closer to the brand.
- Free shipping. As made popular by Amazon Prime, consumers have now grown accustomed to free shipping. The problem is for smaller businesses with lower prices items, this can cut into their margins and be the difference between being profitable or not. A way to make it work is to offer free shipping on orders over a certain amount that both incentivizes the consumer and is also sustainable for the small business.
- Collaborating with influencers. Previously scoffed at by businesses who were accustomed to traditional online advertising, these strategic partnerships allow companies to tap into new audiences while always having that chance to potentially go viral. Just look at the most recent “Doggface208” Ocean Spray cranberry juice video that brought Fleetwood Mac’s song “Dreams” to triple in sales, double in streams, and hit #29 on the Billboard 100 after 40 years! While this wasn’t an official collaboration it does show how powerful a single social media post can be if it’s done right.
- Optimizing e-commerce sites. Many brands who were reliant on in store purchases or B2B as the bulk of their sales are being forced to revamp and streamline their online shopping experiences.
- Defining your purpose. Back in the day, you went to a store and had to purchase whatever limited products were available to you. Now customers have the power to choose where they allocate their dollars in addition to a myriad of options. A company’s brand, mission statement, and purpose — beyond just selling products — are becoming increasingly important to today’s consumers and especially to Millennials and Gen Z.
In your opinion, will retail stores or malls continue to exist? How would you articulate the role of physical retail spaces at a time when online commerce platforms like Amazon Prime or Instacart can deliver the same day or the next day?
As convenient as online shopping is, especially during a pandemic, ultimately people crave human connection and interactive experiences. People enjoy the experience of shopping and we still need places to go! A mall or retail store is often a great place to spend some time and escape from your routine. We remember experiences and how the employees in the store make us feel. When a business of any sort adds a personal touch, it incentivizes people to want to physically visit their store. Some places you walk into and just get a good vibe and walk out with a nice feeling. That stimulation can not be replicated by an online store, and many people feel inclined to support small business owners more now than ever.
The so-called “Retail Apocalypse” has been going on for about a decade. While many retailers are struggling, some retailers, like Lululemon, Kroger, and Costco are quite profitable. Can you share a few lessons that other retailers can learn from the success of profitable retailers?
A great example is Rothmans by Union Square in Manhattan. They’re an award-winning, independently run men’s clothing shop that has been open since 1986 — they’ve gone through a lot of crazy times, including this one, but they constantly find new ways to reinvent themselves.
During this pandemic, they found a way to be forward-thinking and set up FaceTime shopping and sidewalk sales. They’ve built not just a store but a community. They create a personal shopping experience for every person who walks into their store and they treat their customers like family. They have created a loyal following of customers who keep them top of mind when it’s time to make a purchase. There will always be a demand for a store that provides exceptional service and delivers value.
Amazon is going to exert pressure on all of retail for the foreseeable future. New Direct-To-Consumer companies based in China are emerging that offer prices that are much cheaper than US and European brands. What would you advise to retail companies and e-commerce companies, for them to be successful in the face of such strong competition?
The reality is that we are evolving towards an inevitable global marketplace which is going to continue to gain traction. On the flip side, there are many countries who love products that are imported from the USA, so there is also tremendous opportunity. If a consumers’ motivation is solely to buy the cheapest products then a company overseas that is willing to undercut domestic companies will almost certainly have the edge. However, cheaper definitely does not mean better and very often that can equate to inferior quality. Instead of focusing on being the cheapest game in town, retail companies should focus on providing quality products, fair prices, creative marketing, and excellent customer service. Those are the things that never go out of style and that are hard to replace. In our case, RARE CUT uses a proprietary technology that is patent pending. Not all brands can make that claim but every store or brand needs to lean into what their unique selling point is. For example, we at RARE CUT have all our products printed in the USA. Printing in small batches in NYC is a differentiator that we have received a tremendous amount of positive feedback on from both our domestic and international customers.
Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. Here is our final ‘meaty’ question. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I am proud to call New York City my home and it is also the most influential city in the world. We have an abundance of talented people — musicians, artists, actors, comedians, etc. who are looking for opportunities to showcase their talents but all too often have limited platforms to be able to do so. With RARE CUT we want to be able to give our local creatives another avenue to show their talents. We are working with local artists to feature their designs on our pocket squares, musicians to be featured in future soundtracks on our social media, comedians for social media skits, and actors for our videos. We encourage other NYC based businesses to utilize the abundance of artistry that surrounds us and find ways to get creative to help NYC’s most talented stay here and thrive here.
How can our readers further follow your work?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!