Neil Patel

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In the fast-paced world of entrepreneurship, there are few stories as captivating as that of Andrew Blackmon, the co-founder and CEO of The Black Tux. From humble beginnings in LA to navigating the challenges of building a successful startup, Andrew’s journey is one of resilience, innovation, and unwavering determination.

Andrew’s company. The Black Tux, has attracted funding from top-tier investors like the TZP Group, Stripes Group, Menlo Ventures, and Raine Ventures.

In this episode, you will learn:

  • Andrew Blackmon’s journey highlights the importance of trusting your gut and staying true to your vision, even in the face of uncertainty.
  • The Black Tux’s commitment to innovation and customer experience has been central to its rapid growth and industry disruption.
  • From navigating fundraising challenges to weathering the COVID-19 pandemic, Andrew emphasizes the importance of adaptability in overcoming obstacles.
  • Surround yourself with talented individuals who share your vision and can execute the goals of your business: Andrew’s view.
  • The emotional connection with customers is crucial; investing in branding and customer experience can set your business apart from the competition.
  • Setbacks are inevitable in entrepreneurship, but they can also serve as valuable learning experiences on the path to success.
  • Despite the ups and downs of entrepreneurship, maintaining a focus on the long-term vision is essential for sustained growth and success.



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About Andrew Blackmon:

Andrew Blackmon is the co-founder and CEO of The Black Tux. Founded in 2013, The Black Tux was created to offer a suit and tux rental that doesn’t feel like one, offering a higher quality product, an exceptional fit, a seamless experience, and a better price.

Prior to founding The Black Tux, Andrew built his foundation in tech startups. He received his MBA at HEC Paris and graduated from Pepperdine University with a degree in English.

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Connect with Andrew Blackmon:

Read the Full Transcription of the Interview:

Alejandro Cremades: All righty hello everyone and welcome to the dealmaker show. So today we have ah another inspiring founder that is joining us. You know a founder that they you know he’s going to teach us a thing or 2 about dealing with the apps. The downs you know in this case, you know like they started. You know why. Knocking on doors of vcs. You know, eventually they had the backs turned on them then they got some traction then they came back to them and then other stuff like dealing with Kobe then partnering with bigger players you know and now everything starts with maybe like a cease and desist you know stuff like that like so of like really adrenaline. Filled you know type of experiences again building scaling financing all of that good stuff that we like to um here in those stories so without further ado. Let’s welcome our guest today Andrew Black one welcome to the show.

Andrew Blackmon: Um, all right Thanks for having me Ajandra great to meet you.

Alejandro Cremades: So originally born and raised in L A so give us a walk through memory lane. How was life over there.

Andrew Blackmon: Yeah, one of the one of the proud few born and raised in l a and I’m transplant I grew up in the valley which is about 20 minutes from the city or city center. It’s a great place. Sunny couldn’t leave I left for a little while but for most of my life I’ve been been here.

Alejandro Cremades: And it’s not like you went too far because I mean you went to paper line. You know they’re in Malibu but you didn’t study the typical you know stuff that founders would study maybe business economics computer science maybe law you went into english literature. I mean out of all things. Why.

Andrew Blackmon: It’s It’s actually funny looking back on it. But at the time all I knew was that I Really loved to read and I loved philosophy and sort of classic literature and I thought this is what I’m going to Study. This is what interests me I need to kind of follow my heart and follow my interests and so. Did it towards the end of school I started to realize this is very impractical. The only jobs people are hiring for are like teachers or then maybe somebody going to grad school. But honestly at the end of the day I really enjoyed it and I like to hire people who have a kind of humanities background often because they’re very well-rounded in my opinion.

Alejandro Cremades: I mean 1 thing in your career too is like the ° I mean you go from literature which is like super interesting then all of a sudden you find yourself doing law I mean I p law I mean what’s going on with I p low.

Andrew Blackmon: Yeah, so my first job out of college was very fortuitous. It was basically a guy who had a connection to Pepperdine. We got along really well he offered me a job doing kind of like marketing and just any assistant stuff. He had a big intellectual property law firm in Santa Monica so I owe this guy so much gratitude because it was my first gig and I really got to see actually all the inventors and the entrepreneurs coming through because they needed protection for their ideas. Their copyrights trademarks patents, etc and to me what I found up or found out that it was very inspiring to me was. Entrepreneurial side. Not the law side. So I you know I toyed with going to law school took the lsad and thankfully I didn’t get a very good score so I didn’t end up going and that kind of catapulted me into going to business school instead which was great.

Alejandro Cremades: Well, you know, eventually you know something something really interesting happened here because you find yourself in Paris all of a sudden you know what point do you realize that is time to hit the reset boton and and maybe you know, go back to school.

Andrew Blackmon: Um, exactly I.

Andrew Blackmon: You know I think I was so interested in business and in entrepreneurship. But and in venture capital frankly that I just didn’t have the background of kind of knowledge to understand that world like if you would have told me a trillion dollars of this is this. I would have no concept of what that really meant and I had no concept of a p and l anything like that. So I decided okay I need to go to business school. This is a good path for me. Um I thought about going in l a or California but I’ve been here my entire life. So I ended up going to Paris. Which had a really interesting experience for me because I was surrounded by people from all different countries all over the world and I really I was probably the most green student given I didn’t have a business background or didn’t study economics or anything like you said in school. So for me, it was actually pretty hard. The coursework was challenging. This wasn’t a walk in the park. Um, but I really enjoyed it and really enjoyed the international experience. Especially.

Alejandro Cremades: What do you think opened up for you. You know the being outside of California for a little bit.

Andrew Blackmon: I mean so at first it was kind of challenging if I’m honest I felt homesick I’ve been in California by the beach surfing my whole life and then I’m in the middle of Paris kind of living in the city center which is you know so populated. There’s not a lot of nature and I’m very used to like going hiking and things like that. But after it was hard. It was really interesting like I met a ton of fascinating people I think it really broadened my horizons in many ways, not just business. But personally there was a lot of personal growth to live in a city that is so foreign to me I didn’t even really speak french when I first went there and I went to a school that. Is primarily a french school although their Nba programs in english so it was like just kind of widening my aperture of what the world is in a major way which is great.

Alejandro Cremades: And obviously it helped with a shaping up a little bit more the way that you were thinking about business. So I guess you know like what were the sequence of events that needed to happen for you to you know, bring the black talks to life.

Andrew Blackmon: Um, yep.

Andrew Blackmon: Yeah, so my co-founder and I at the time he was at and Nyu business school Stern and I was finishing up business school in Paris and these 2 schools were actually kind of sister schools and so we threw around a bunch of ideas and we were basically like. You know we have complementary skill sets. Let’s start something together and we had ideas of like in the food space. You know we’re pretty young at the time I think we were 24 and then we had both rented suits and tuxedos a bunch of times for prom weddings things like that and we thought this is a really interesting. Interesting industry and so we did a bunch of research into the market and we realized that the leading player in the space was a multibillion dollar company the rental part of their business was really profitable and rentals and generally to me are a really good model because you can buy the inventory and rent it repeatedly over time. And you end up generating a lot of cash on the inventory that you originally purchased and the more we dug into this the more we became convinced hey if we start something that really kind of overhauls the entire student tuxedo rental industry. We’ll be able to take some market share. So it really just kind of came from an idea. We were a little different than I think most entrepreneurs or at least most that I see now because now I like to invest in some businesses. You know I get like a 10 to 20 page slide deck which is all I want when we myself and Patrick first started the business. We wrote like a 50 page business plan.

Andrew Blackmon: And we thought through like every little detail and if you read this thing now which we have It’s like pretty hilarious because you know some of it ended up coming true. Some of it didn’t but we were like very diligent with the idea and I think to me that was like the right way for me to start it or for us to start it.

Alejandro Cremades: So why ended up being the business model. How are you guys say making money.

Andrew Blackmon: So business model is pretty simple. It started all online. But now we have a lot of stores we have about 35 locations but the concept is if you need to rent or buy a suit or tuxedo for an event. Usually it’s like prom wedding. Keats and ya New Year’s events things like that. We’ve now branched out past events but that was like the original concept. Um, you go online look at our site choose what style you want and or you go in store and do the same thing and then we have this fit algorithm that tells you what size you are. We send the suit or tuxedo to you ten days before your event you have enough time to try it on. Make sure everything fits looks good and then you send it back a couple days after the event and so it’s pretty simple. We make money basically on the rentals and our business is like a heavy kind of um.

Andrew Blackmon: Supply chain business because we design and manufacture the suits ourselves and then it’s a heavy logistics business because we have big dry cleaning in both of our facilities on the east and West Coast because we have to make sure that these things kind of look and fit nicely for the customer.

Alejandro Cremades: So how much capital have you guys raised to date Andrew.

Andrew Blackmon: We’ve raised about 75000000 in equity. It’s ah it’s a pretty um capital intensive business.

Alejandro Cremades: So I know that the early days you know before you guys even launched you were already knocking on vcs doors that were not opening and eventually when you had some traction. They not only open but they were coming after you because they wanted to Invest. So. What happened there I mean walk us through how has it been. You know the experienced tool of raisingcing all that money as well. Yeah.

Andrew Blackmon: Yeah, so when we launched a business. It was twenty thirteen and right before we launched we were part of this accelerator in l a called mucker labs and what they do is they invest a small amount of money in the business like you know, very small amount but then they help you grow the business and these guys were fantastic and before we launch. A lot of people would come by this office and they you know talk to all the companies and entrepreneurs and there were some interest in us and so we thought why don’t we try to raise money before we launch and so we put together pitch deck etc. We went out to all these mostly Silicon Valley in New York vcs some in la as well. Um, but everyone was kind of like. No interesting concept. You guys are really young. This is a pretty operationally intense business like let’s see what happens you know I know it’s not really like a fully closed door in the Vc world at the early stage. It’s like a hey, let’s keep in contact. Um. But it it wasn’t no, we weren’t able to raise that round and so we had some like friends and family money and some of the money from mucker. We launched a business and we got so much traction we were covered in gq and the wall street journal and all these places were saying like this is the new way it to run a throughter site. Tuxedo gone are the old days where it doesn’t fit. It’s baggy. You know you’re in a strip mall and things that like the customer doesn’t really like and so basically we had a long waitlist we have way more demand than supply and so we went back to a lot of these investors and then we had more. Um.

Andrew Blackmon: More investors than money we wanted to take in that round so that was super exciting. It was very early stage and the business was still unproven but we did a financing with layer ventures first round Capital Menlo ventures crosscut rain like a whole bunch of like you know at the time really good kind of seed stage vcs. And so that that was like like I said a really nice moment coming from a situation that made us want to cry to a situation that made us like you know, extremely excited to have the capital to keep running business.

Alejandro Cremades: And then what about like the subsequent financing cycles. You know how did they look like.

Andrew Blackmon: Yeah, so they were a little more step function than that. So you know we would grow the business and for the first couple years we grew without marketing. We just I think it was really right timing like we were very fortuitous and lucky in some ways in the timing at which we launched the business and so. You know one of our insiders led a series a and then we got another group called stripes in New York to lead a series b and then we got another group called Tcp in New York to lead a series c and so it was just like these subsequent rounds of investment and that really we’re tracking with the growth of the company.

Alejandro Cremades: So you were mentioning that you guys started. You know, really doing direct to consumer and and now you have all these different stores you know on the way as Coast East Coast how did the strategy look like you know when when thinking that through.

Andrew Blackmon: Yeah, so when we launched we were sort of like maybe a little naive thinking everyone wants. Everyone’s going to be okay, renting a suit or tuxedo online and buying one because right now we actually sell our suits and tuxedos as well and we have a lot of traction there. Um. Anyways, so we opened a little like showroom in our Santa Monica location because we started finding like some people are kind of skeptical of doing this online. They don’t know if it’s going to fit think if it’s like a young guy in his twenty s and it’s just one of his first suits, you might not even know what size he is and so we open this little showroom in the back office. Um. And this thing was just getting booked like crazy. We put a little like you know book in our Santa Monica location on our website and so many people were coming in and then we were like hey this makes a lot of sense. We should scale this and so we opened 5 more of our own and then to really scale it like we’ll continue opening more of our own over time. Um, potentially aggressively but to really scale that opportunity we partnered with Nordstrom and there’s a funny story there. So originally when we launched business when we were pure online and no offline we put on our website like go to Nordstrom to get measured because Nordstrom would do free measurements and we put the Nordstrom logo on there. And a lot of our customers were going in so many that Nordstrom sent us a cease and desist and basically said like you can’t put our logo on your website. It looks like you’re affiliated with us and you know we understood so we took it down which was a little bit of a bummer to us. But then about a year and a half later I got an introduction to someone on the corporate development team at Nordstrom.

Andrew Blackmon: And I was telling them this story like look we were driving a lot of people into your store for measurements and we got to cease and desist. We can’t do it anymore. But it would be great to partner and this person was you know, really supportive of that idea and then so we got to meet you know people in the nords from family and all this and. The idea became let’s open black tux showrooms in the Nords from locations. So it’s not like they’re selling our stuff like we actually staff it. We have the employees. It’s all appointments and so that’s really how we’ve scaled the offline experience we have over 30 over 30 Nords from locations and we’re opening a few more of this year

Alejandro Cremades: That’s really amazing now. Obviously you know like as part of the journey to you know you guys had to go through Covid you know and I know that that was not an easy an easy you know type of experience. Especially for for this company that you guys are running. So. How was that for you. All.

Andrew Blackmon: Miserable, really challenging. Um, give me a lot of gray hair I think at the end of the day. It’s an I think important for entrepreneurs to understand that very very seldom is a business up and to the right for the entire history of the business. It’s like a squiggly line that hopefully moves up into the right. And you know that was very much our story we’re in a great place now. But for the first 6 to 7 years The business grew really nicely and then we hit covid and I remember sitting around the table with the board and people discussing hey you know. We’re reading this in the paper and this was like early Twenty Twenty is this a concern for the black tucks and we were all like oh we’re not sure we don’t know and then fast forward like maybe not even a month and it was so bad that you know we decided we need to furlough. Many of our employees we need a temporary but temporarily close all of our stores we need to do literally everything humanly possible to preserve capital in this environment because what we were looking at and projecting was like we were probably going to do 20 to 30% of the revenue that we thought in that year and that is just such a massive operational challenge. Um, and we were lucky I think in some ways like we saw quickly acted very fast and I give a lot of credit to my team for that and because we acted fast. We were really able to get to the other side of it and our idea was if we get to the other side. We don’t want to raise capital during this environment of course because we’re just going to get hosed. But if we get to the other side.

Andrew Blackmon: It’ll be like a snow globe and the industry was shaken and there’s going to be a lot of opportunities and probably a lot of market share to take and that’s what ended up happening and so we got to the other side and in 2021 we had way more demand than we could fulfill and so that was also a really challenging year. But then 202045, we’ve been um. In a much better place. So it kind of took I would say 2 3 years out of our business trajectory which in hindsight is really disappointing but I really feel like for the team that stayed with me. It was a huge challenge we got through it together. We were fighting in the trenches. Um. And so it was like kind of a very motivating and rewarding experience to have made it through and now be in a position where we can continue growing the brand.

Alejandro Cremades: What was that moment where you were able to take a deep breath and we’re like we’re gonna make it.

Andrew Blackmon: Oh man, that’s a good I don’t know that there was like a single moment because it was so chaotic that even if there was a moment when I took a deep breath honestly in the back of my mind I was so like shell-shocked thinking like what’s going to happen Next. What’s the next shoe to drop. Because there was so much if you remember there was so much back and forth of like restrictions vaccine. All these different things and because our business is so event focused like people are using this for social gatherings. Um, we were probably like 1 of the most affected businesses by the constant back and forth and so for us it was like. I mean I was looking at the news and looking at the reports of cases like every single day multiple times trying to figure out what is the future going to hold and it was impossible to predict so it was probably honestly like after a couple months of good news then we were like okay we can settle down and we can start planning. A little bit more for the future with like you know more confidence.

Alejandro Cremades: So talking about planning and talking about the future. Let’s say you were to go to sleep tonight and you wake up in a world where the vision of the black talks is fully realized what does that world look like.

Andrew Blackmon: Yeah, so we would like to have a lot more stores. So so basically the formalware industry has been controlled by like a couple major retailer retail players for a very long time and from our perspective these brands did a great job in the past. But. Don’t do as good of a job now meeting the customer needs and really speaking to the customer in a way that they understand and it’s hard to turn that ship when you have like thirty plus years of brand equity so our perspective is that’s what we want to do we want to have a large rental business I think with probably 3 to 5 times as many stores that we have now. But. A rental business that also feeds into a sales business. So lately, we’ve started selling a lot of suits and tuxedos and had some success there and so we’ll continue to expand that part of our business because we have these young guys who come to us. It’s like the first time they’ve worn a suit or a tuxedo or even a shirt or a pair of shoes slacks. And they’re like hey I really like what you have to offer because we have very high quality garments surprisingly high quality for the price that we offer and they’re like can I keep this or can I buy a new one etc and so it’s like a really nice way for them to try out what we have to offer and then buy something later so you know in like 10 years We’d love to have. Over a hundred locations and a big business in both rent and buy.

Alejandro Cremades: So I think that there’s 1 1 aspect, you know that thing that you were alluding to earlier you know which is the the logistics you know of of a company like this you know they’re not easy. Um. As you as you guys are thinking about I mean you have quite a sizeable amount of of people how many how many employees do you guys have today I mean that’s a lot of employees I guess in that regard. You know as you’re thinking about execution as you’re thinking about making sure that.

Andrew Blackmon: Um, we have about 400 employees

Alejandro Cremades: Everyone is rowing towards you know the same goal you know with the same vision with a full alignment there and to make sure that people are capable. You know of executing in a business like this. How do you guys think about systems and processes.

Andrew Blackmon: Yeah, So I think for me, it starts at the top. It starts with hiring people who know how to do the things that I need them to do because for me I can set the vision I can bring the capital bring the motivation. But then the team really has to be experienced enough to know how to do all the things that we need to do get from point a to point B So I. Really want to give a lot of credit to my team. We have a fantastic, very experienced team right now in terms of processes I think it’s for us. It’s important to like set the vision and then set kind of quarterly goals that are tracking along toward that vision that are very clear with clear deliverables about what needs to happen within that Quarter. And that’s been kind of hard during Covid because like I said it was so chaotic. That’s like any quarterly goal just goes out the window. So This is the first year that we’re kind of back operating that way because there’s less chaos and it’s a little more Stable. It’s still somewhat unstable, but um.

Andrew Blackmon: So I really think it starts at the top then has the right people and then just has kind of like management processes for goal setting and making sure that you know we’re moving towards and meeting those goals.

Alejandro Cremades: And and talking about you know people there I mean having 400 plus how do you go to about culture so that it doesn’t break when you’re scaling you know and you’re adding so many hits you know into into this thing.

Andrew Blackmon: Yeah, so I think it just has to be very intentional like to me I think of one of the biggest responsibilities I have as the co-founder and Ceo is to create a culture that motivates people and is a place they want to be you know when I first started the job or even before I started this business with Patrick I was like. That would be so fun and so interesting to create a culture that’s a reflection of my values and of the things that I kind of really want to see and it’s evolved over time like I think in the early days. The business was like a family It’s like everyone was close friends. But then as the business matures parts of that are unhealthy and you need it to be like very professional. And very kind of goal and results oriented and so you know as the business has changed the culture has changed but I think the one thing we’ve done is just been very intentional about what the culture is and if it’s changing communicating how we want it to change and just. Kind of spending a lot of time nurturing and cultivating people and relationships.

Alejandro Cremades: So you been at it now for about you know, almost eleven years I mean it’s a I mean you put that into the corporate world. That’s like 100 years I mean it’s unbelievable. So I mean I’m sure a ton of stuff now that you’ve learned along the way I guess if I was to put you into a time machine.

Andrew Blackmon: It’s crazy.

Alejandro Cremades: And I bring you back in time I bring you back in time to maybe that moment where you were thinking about doing something of your own and maybe you were brainstorming with Patrick what’s possible and let’s say you were able to show up right there in front of that younger Andrew and you’re able to give that younger Andrew. 1 piece of advice before launching a business. What would that be ny. you know what you know now

Andrew Blackmon: I think it would be trust your gut. So for me, um I felt like when I first started the business a little bit of an imposter like I didn’t study business undergrad I was way more interested in humanities I still am like I’m more interested in like philosophy and science fiction and things like this in my regular everyday life. So. I kind of doubted myself and doubted my intuitions even as they related to business but over time as I’ve looked at some of the intuitions I had in the past I realized oh those were like really good and then we’re coming from a place of logic in a place of strength but I just didn’t trust myself because I didn’t have the experience. So. Looking back I would just say trust yourself. Um and be willing to make decisions kind of from from your gut.

Alejandro Cremades: Has there been like a moment looking back where you really you know, trusted your gut and then things ended up working the way that you were hoping for them to work and what was that.

Andrew Blackmon: Yeah, so probably around the brand and sort of like I really enjoy working with our creative teams on like how we speak to the customer. How the images are the videos all those type of things early days in the company we had and still have but like a very very talented team. Working with us on the brand and so my gut told me that brand was one of the most important things in this space like a lot of people said you should just launch an Mvp like just get something out there and see how customers responded to it but my gut was like that doesn’t make sense like we have to be something that looks excellent. This is somebody’s wedding or somebody’s prom. It’s important. They have to really like feel a lot when they’re interacting with our company and so we spend a lot of time and a lot of money that people encourage us not to spend on doing that. Um, and so that was a moment where I realized hey I think a lot of our traction and a lot of our kind of ah. Customers using us is coming because they feel a certain way when they come to the business and because if at the end of the day like you can buy a t-shirt from a hundred different companies or a dress shirt from 500 different companies. Why are you choosing the one that you choose. It’s not because of the quality or this and that because they’re. Most things are like largely similar I really think it’s because of the emotional connection that the company tries to create with you and whether or not it resonates with you and so that was a moment or kind of like a whole area of the business where I really trusted my gut that it was important and then hired the right team to execute on.

Alejandro Cremades: So Andrew for the people that are listening that will love to reach out and say hi. What is the best way for them to do so.

Andrew Blackmon: They can email me I don’t I’m not super active on social. Um, they can email me at Andrew at the black I’m happy to chat with anybody.

Alejandro Cremades: You see you see enough. Well thank you so much for being on the deal maker show today. It has been an absolute honor to have you with us.

Andrew Blackmon: All right? The pleasure is mine. Thank you so much for having me.


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