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Doug, I thank you for the opportunity to ask you some questions.

Please tell us a little about your background, experience, and current business.

My background is in film/video, I also worked in the mountain bike industry in sales/marketing for 4 years which inspired me to start Dirtbag. Right now I handle all the PR, sales and marketing for Dirtbag as well as oversee product design and development.

Were you the founder of the company?

Yes, I started Dirtbag in 1996

What is the legal structure of your company?


How many employees does your business employ?

3 employees

How was the business model of the company developed?

We built the company using grassroots marketing efforts on the internet, we sell direct on the internet and we’re now focusing on international distributors as well as a group of domestic sales reps and some of the bigger chain stores, Urban Outfitters, Hot Topic, Pacific Sunwear, and Mr. Rags. We developed the business model after researching our market, competition and trends within the industry.

Was your company financed by venture capital, private investment, loans, or personal funds?

Personal funds and 2 outside investors, we’re now looking for additional capital to expand our product line and marketing efforts.

Do you feel your company has a distinct corporate culture? If so, would you describe it?

Dirtbag has always gone against the grain since it’s inception in 1996, since we’re not a huge company with millions of dollars at our disposal, we have had to build our brand the hard way. We don’t pay people to wear our products and we never will. The ‘what you see is what you get” strategy has worked to our advantage and has allowed us to create a brand that sets us apart from the mass marketed brands available in the streetwear market. Kids that we target are looking for something new and real, at Dirtbag we successfully have provided an alternative to the mainstream.

Describe some of the obstacles you have encountered along the course of building your company? How were these overcome?

Financing has been a major hurdle. knowing the right people has been a tremendous help and having good web designers has been key.

How important do you feel the proper advisors are in ensuring an young entrepreneurs success?

We have met with a lot of people who have been down the same road with their own businesses, having a good advisor/mentor is essential and has helped us avoid the mistakes common with starting or running your own business. Everyone makes mistakes, minimizing the mistakes and learning from past mistakes are the key in moving forward and building your company.

Have there been any organizations that have helped your business grow? If so, what are they?

Not so much organizations, mostly people within the clothing industry that have been where we are. We have met with Nick Graham, the founder of Joe Boxer, and Ron Page a former exec at Simple Shoes.

What have been the keys in bringing your company to the level it is at today?

Persistence. That’s it!

How have you kept your edge over competitors fresh?

We’re a small brand which allows us to communicate on a personal level with our customers, not many companies we compete against can make that claim.

What are the marketing methods you have used with the most success?

Internet marketing, and sponsorships of bands, and extreme athletes, we have also partnered with a lot of skate/msuic related websites which has given us free exposure to the market we’re going after.

What books and resources would you recommend for young entrepreneurs?

Entrepreneur magazine,, there are also a ton of resources on the internet.

How important do you consider networking and building contacts to be for an entrepreneur’s success?

Networking is the key, you can’t do everything yourself, If you’re going to be successful you need to tap into other people’s knowledge and expertise. Many young entrepreneur’s fail because they think they can do everything themselves and they think they know everything. Every successful entrepreneur had some help along the way.

If you could pin it down to just one thing, what is the one most important thing you have learned about business?

Persistence! Ask questions, and knock on as many doors as you can, if you’re not 100% into what you’re doing you will fail. Never rely on other people to make your business work, networking is important, but, at the end of the day it’s up to you to make things happen.

Any final advice for young entrepreneurs or businessmen just getting started?

Be persistent, and believe 100% in what you’re doing.

This Distinguished Entrepreneur Interview Series article was written by Doug Canning, interviewed by Ryan Allis on 2/28/2005

Doug Canning is the founder and president of Dirtbag Clothing Inc., an apparel company targeting the alternative teen market. His website is