"When Courtney Crawford first explored launching a designer-shoe company in
2004, he had no previous business experience. He envisioned a line of primarily
high-heels for a woman who "didn’t mind being center stage" and was
"unapologetically sexy," he says.
But he knew designing his own line would be an expensive proposition. He’d
have to pay for work space, materials, trademarks and a look book, a collection
of photographs of his designs to show potential buyers and retailers. In
researching, he found that the look book alone could cost thousands of dollars.
"With a luxury brand, people sometimes spend $100,000 or $200,000 on a
look book. I didn’t have anywhere near that kind of money," Mr. Crawford
To make his dream a reality, Mr. Crawford had to persuade potential
investors to provide financing to help turn his designs into the high-end
footwear that upscale boutiques would covet. This meant first climbing a steep
learning curve and then working closely with his backers to assure them that
their investment would one day yield a profitable operation.
Mr. Crawford had just entered the Fashion Institute of Technology in New
York City. Always an avid doodler and designer, he wanted to have his own
company. "I grew up around five women, and they were into luxury goods and
into high fashion, so I wanted to jump into luxury," says Mr. Crawford,
now 26. "I always wrote out mission statements and thought about brand
identity. Things started to escalate when I started at FIT and, from there, I
started to develop a real business strategy."
He says he peppered his lawyer and his business-savvy friends with questions
about starting his own company and read Internet articles, books on the luxury
market and such fashion trade publications as Footwear News.
"In researching, I found out how much trademarks cost; I knew I needed
models and ‘look books’ and a PR person, but I didn’t quite know how to get
them," says Mr. Crawford.
Eventually his questions led to a meeting in July 2004 with friends of
friends: investors Lyndon Campbell, head of New York fashion and media
investment limited-liability company Dynasty Global Holdings, and Burnell Guyton, an Atlanta automotive-dealership owner, who
provides financing for some of Dynasty’s portfolio companies.
He came to the meeting armed with sketches and an outline of his target
customer and retailer, he says, hoping his volume of material and strength of
conviction would belie his age and inexperience."