Meet Michael Leddin. Founder of Ledin Gray, a media and global lifestyle platform housing international fashion brands and curated profile pieces on a range of uniquely successful creatives. This is his entrepreneurial story.
Where did you get the idea for your business and how does Ledin Grey fit into the current social media landscape?
LG started out as a Male-based boutique clothing label. I thoroughly enjoyed it’s early yet minor success in such a powerful industry that I felt it needed a facelift. I still wanted to retain it’s presence because as a brand it stood for something, be it a clothing label or not. I came up with the name Ledin Gray with a branding/ graphic design friend of mine as we started to discuss some unique sounding fashion icon labels. Like your Helmut Langs, Claude Maus, Marc Jacobs, Vera Wang. The first part of the label is formed by my surname but we removed a singular ‘d’ as visually it sat better. The Gray just balanced really nicely to form a personality of sorts, but it goes a little beyond that in always implying there are two sides to a story. Both good and bad. Always find the Led inside the Grey.
I think the rebranding to become a media/ lifestyle company was pioneered by the fact we felt we found a niche and opportunity to take advantage of the social space and fit into that landscape. I think today LG fits its beautifully because we are constantly searching for new inspiration and new content. We are not restricted to one type of storytelling, nor do we restrict what type of product we sell on our store. I think the beauty of fitting inside social media today comes from the core of new inspiration every day, be it an inspirational photograph we shot in Canada, or a short clip we ran with a RedBull athlete.
How did you get your business started?
The clothing label commenced after two to three trips to China planning out where to source fabric and a solid manufacturer. I remember being up until 2am some nights on the phone to the Chinese manufacturer, discussing things like where to place buttons and what stitching to use on a hem. The actual rebrand of Ledin Gray commenced in December of 2014. Just ideas flowing around my beach house over the summer break, to the point we put together a short list of talent to interview, our first clip was shot on the Gold Coast. The entire rebrand took a good 12 months as myself and co-director were both working full time too. I think we just wanted to get it right prior to clicking go.
It’s amazing to see, we actually emailed 150 talent for an interview. We won’t tell you how many came back but we definitely sent follow-ups before landing our first set. The same went for brands to partner with to build an e-store. It was a new channel, but we as a brand we unheard of so brands were semi-reluctant but intrigued. The 150 turned into nine brands we now house online. I would have been happy with five! But you have to go after the whole pie to get a slice.
What lessons have you learned so far on your business journey?
I’ve learned anything is seriously possible. It’s amazing how many times we have actually set up a personalised email, taken the time to do a background read and insight on someone, before pitching them our idea and thinking to ourselves ‘they’ll never respond’ but it’s worth doing it’. We have interviewed influencers with north of 500k followers in some fields, Iconic big brands and CEO’s of major companies asking to partner, its a great feeling receiving their email response saying they love what we are about and would be more than happy to be part of it. I think another thing is you can’t ever be a success on your own. No matter what anyone says, Mark Zuckerberg still had a handful of mates on the backend who are billionaires today. But no one knows that. I think when people love a dream and are passionate about what you are chasing, the appetite is there and the blend fits and success is in sight. Ledin Gray to date has 8 team members, three of which reside in Hong Kong and Canada. Networking has definitely become my best friend in the journey.
How do you see the future of the digital media industry working and what is your vision for Ledin Grey within this?
I think the digital industry is extremely exciting. The impact social media has had on the digital space has allowed brands around the world to find out people’s passions, interests, times they wish to shop, keywords they use and the content they want to see if their feed. Allowing brands to prepare accordingly and create content. I think the future of digital will definitely be surrounded by focus towards influencers, live content and online shopping but primarily virtual reality. My vision for LG within this is to continue building our network of influencers and stories. Continue reintroducing new ways of telling stories along with the types of products or experiences consumers wish to purchase. For instance, our next range of video could be a blend of Punkd and Carpool Karaoke!
What are your top three tips for starting a business?
- Budget. We think money isn’t everything and passion will get us there. However, in the early stages of start-up, trying to convince a range of people on your vision is extremely difficult without a budget to fall back on.
- Build the right team. There are so many corners of a media/ lifestyle company that cannot be pioneered by a guy who studied business and majored in marketing. I needed support in videography, graphic design, branding, photography, editing, networking etc. Get the team together before you start the fire.
- No doesn’t mean shut up shop. We have been told no or encouraged to adopt a different strategy from well over 50 people and brands. Some didn’t even get our name right in the email response but we continued pushing until someone understood our vision, saw what we meant and said yes. No sometimes means ‘not now’. Don’t let it kill your dream.