Using Relationships To Out Run a Lion

A guest blog by Xan Hood founder of Buffalo Jackson Trading Company. Lessons from an unabashed entrepreneur.

Blog post by Xan Hood

How to Trump the Survival of the Fittest
Headlines on capitalism make out the world to be a vicious lion versus lamb mentality. Only the strong survive. If you don’t have the resources, you’ll get eaten.

In some ways, I’ve seen that. I started my menswear company, Buffalo Jackson, with a few hundred bucks and absolutely no experience in clothing in 2009. Clothing is not a great business to get in if you don’t have much cash, because clothing is made in bulk. It gets cheaper the more you make.

But here is where the analogy of lion versus lamb goes missing: the power of human relationships. The power of working together for hopes and dreams. And the room for the little guys… like me, and maybe you.

I was at a manufacturing trade show a year ago to look for some apparel manufacturers. We had struck up a friendly discussion with one supplier named Gary. I was hoping to work with him on some flannel shirts. And then we came to the part of the conversation where we started discussing how many shirts I could make. Ten thousand? Twenty thousand? Fifty thousand?

Most people at this trade show were large clothing companies. Quite frankly, I didn't have in my bank account the quantity of their orders in dollars, let alone to put in an order that size.

“How about a hundred?” I said.

He had reason to be offended. This show was for folks looking to do big business. And I was there because of the future of where I believed our company was going to be one day. I had been turned down by plenty of booths. But he thought about it.

Then he gave me a price, a high price, and said, “Can you at least do 200?”

The flannel shirt supplier looked at me after that deal and said, “I want you to know that even at this price I just gave you, I am not going to be making any money on this deal. But I want to build a relationship with you.

I am humbled by many things--being small, having fewer resources, options, and leverage than most. But one thing that has humbled me the most is that relationships matter, and people are willing to risk for them.

The same happened when we got a call from a fulfillment center in Charlotte, NC. The two owners, Quancy and Brady, said they’d like to ship our products, so I could quit shipping (out of my garage) and focus on my business. It sounded like a great plan. I was literally getting kicked out of my garage that week for having a “fulfillment center” in a condo complex.

It began when I boxed up the products with no SKU’s, tags, or labels and shipped them from Colorado to their operation in North Carolina. They said, “We will sort it out.“

I don’t know if they would say it has been worth it--we sure have given them plenty of headaches being a young company--but grew twenty times larger in the first month of shipping with them. And we've grown ever since.

Truth is, most folks have turned us down as we have reached out. A bank wasn't interested in giving us a loan when I brought in my 36 page business plan. I've learned how to get near the back of the line.

There is a friend in Austria named Tobias who has a conviction for details in jackets. I had to explain our orders might be small to start. And he said, “I know that, but we believe we have a future together.”

Risk and Reward
That is why I believe in the free market system.

It is this beautiful web of risk and reward, hope, and trust. This web of commerce and transactions linking us all together--is it perfect? No way. But it offers an opportunity. For those with a lot, and those with a little, and for those with dreams.

Xan Hood is CEO of a successful clothing company. In his spare time, he likes to out run lions by being a human being. His company begin with a few hundred dollars and a dream. For more information on Buffalo Jackson Trading Company, visit their website

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