Behind every great design is an even greater story. Today we’d like to introduce you to Palmer Dean, founder and CEO of Dallas-based apparel company OutlineTheSky.
When we first spoke with Palmer in 2013 he was running OutlineTheSky from home, on his iPad, as a side job. But what started as hometown pride quickly grew into a profitable apparel business with 100% YoY growth. Read on to hear how an adaptable, location-based product and strategic networking helped Palmer attract over 100 new distributors in the past year.
Made in Dallas
Palmer knew how to run an apparel business in Dallas. Having lived there his whole life, he knew in which stores he should sell his shirts, and to which media and influencers he needed to reach out. And his Dallas skyline t-shirts tugged at the heartstrings of Texas natives who loved repping their city.
But local success wasn’t enough for Palmer, who dreamed of creating a nationally-recognizable clothing brand that sold more than “just t-shirts.” Palmer began to add other items to his skyline repertoire, including super-soft hoodies, beanies and other street-chic options in various colors, sizes and styles. Once he had a range of products to offer, Palmer decided to expand past eCommerce and into the wholesale environment. Thanks to the adaptability of the skyline motif, he knew there would be a market in nearly any city he chose. The hard part was finding the audience in each city. So Palmer crafted a foolproof method to get retailers looking his way.
- Put together a kick-ass media kit
A media kit shows who your brand is and what you are all about. Include a line sheet of products you offer, photos of designs and a list of clients you’ve worked with. This is your chance to define your brand and prove you’re not some B.S. company. Having a clear brand identity is a must.
- Curate a list of clients to target
It’s super important to think about what the best markets are for your product and to drill into these. Think about location, industry and demographics. Finding an audience you can connect to will yield the best results.
- Distribute the media kit to targeted clients
You’re going to have to be persistent! Follow-up two, three, even four times if you have to. Show them you believe in your product. Linkedin is a great tool to connect with valuable people in your industry.
Palmer’s method worked wonders for OutlineTheSky. The apparel brand got picked up by workout studio chain Barre3, followed by fifteen additional clients referred through Barre3.
Hyped off his success with Barre3, Palmer took a risk and reached out to a buyer from athletic retail mecca Dick’s Sporting Goods. It was a longshot pitching a local clothing brand to a Fortune 500 corporation, but after three months of persistent outreach, Palmer won the account. OutlineTheSky’s namesake t-shirts are now sold in 200 Dick’s Sporting Goods stores across ten different cities, with plans to add more products in coming months.
Connections, connections, connections
More than just profit came out of the partnership with Dick’s. A few months after Dick’s picked up OutlineTheSky, Palmer received an email from artist Travis Hanson. Travis loved the sleek skyline t-shirts he saw in Dick’s and wanted to work with Palmer to help evolve the promising motif. Like a business Cinderella story, the two hit it off perfectly—Travis is now OutlineTheSky’s first art director.
Palmer has built a network of people who believe in OutlineTheSky. By sending “swag bombs” full of OutlineTheSky’s branded merchandise to celebrities and influencers, Palmer is able to continually reach new audiences, earning OutlineTheSky nearly 8,000 Instagram followers and 10,000 Facebook likes.
“Work with people who understand your brand and want to get involved. You want to create a brand where you all believe in your product.” —Palmer Dean
A solid visual identity has been key in OutlineTheSky’s growth. Without this recognizable brand, there would be nothing for customers to latch onto, which is what led Palmer to patent his design from 99designs this past year. He even had it painted on the wall of OutlineTheSky’s new office in the heart of Dallas’ art district!
Tips for successful scaling
- Pay attention to your needs and adjust as necessary
OutlineTheSky started as a free Shopify site, which Palmer managed from his iPad. But as the company grew and expanded from t-shirts to all different kinds of street apparel, this was no longer a viable way of running a business. Know when you can wing it and when it’s time to bring in the graphic designers (hint hint).
- Choose your battles
Rather than spreading himself thin across many different markets, Palmer focused on finding success in the sports apparel arena. To begin with, focus on a single market you know well—you can replicate your learnings in other markets later on.
- Respond to your followers
Palmer continually reaches out to his eCommerce customers asking for feedback on products and asking which designs they’d like to see next. Listening to what your customers want will help you sell, and you can’t grow as a company if you don’t have a product that’s selling.
To the future, and beyond
So what’s next for OutlineTheSky? Palmer hopes to push his brand past “just streetwear” and expand into customized products. New items are set to launch this spring and summer that evolve beyond the skyline motif. Although that imagery built the company’s foundation, Palmer sees moving past it as a necessary step in building a comprehensive brand.
“It’d be like if all Nike ever did was the swoosh. If you want to continually grow and be a thriving brand you need different selections and different things to avoid becoming stagnant and failing.”