This is the first of a three-part series on entrepreneur and designer Benjamen Janey, ranging from his musical success, to his small clothing startup, to disrupting fashion with Spooler.co.
LOS ANGELES, October 7, 2016 — Multi-talented hip-hop artist Benjamen Janey is also the 33-year-old entrepreneur and CEO of HD-LV USA who wants to make an impact on global pop culture in ways that have never been done before. “A young black entrepreneur opening up in a mall; if that story gets out there,” he says, “it will have an impact—even if it’s just inspiration for others.”
In October of 2013, Benjamen did just that. He opened HD-LV USA (“Highly Distinguished – Liquid Value”) to much fanfare and success at the Westfield Culver City mall near the Los Angeles International Airport. Benjamen continues to make a huge splash on the fashion scene with his products and his presence, as he graces red carpets at the Entrepreneur Awards, MTV Awards, and fashion designer Sue Wong’s “Jazz Babies” Spring Collection Review.
“I’m in the process of raising the capital to open another one next year,” he says. “In my opinion, I think fast growth is important. I think we hit the market at the right time and we have to capitalize fast. It’s not the big eating the small, it’s the fast eating the slow. So that’s gonna be the approach.”
While Benjamen’s marketing strategy involves the young, rich, and fashionable, the pricing of his custom-designed hats are not outside the realm of possibility for the average Joe, with some of his custom hats selling in the same price range as stores like Lids.
“One cool thing about the brand is that it’s for everybody. In terms of the price point, we’re talking $40 dollars and up. Like a snapback, or a licensed NFL hat are $40-50 dollars. So that approach has helped us to penetrate the market, but affordable relatively speaking.”
Benjamen pays homage to his late aunt, who helped him achieve his current success. She facilitated his move to Los Angeles and helped him with a place to stay while he got set up to do business. Most pivotal, she also took him to the Westfield Culver City mall.
“My aunt brought me to that mall, and I thought yeah, I think I might open up here. That was like four or five years ago.”
The mall’s location between Southwest Los Angeles and the LA Airport is a high traffic stop with over one million people walking through its doors on average each month. “You get traffic from Marina del Rey, Venice Beach, Santa Monica, Inglewood, more urban areas as well, says Benjamen. “I was selling a lot on Venice Beach. [The mall is] about three to four miles from there, so I thought it would be a good location to get a start.”
That’s quite a leap for a business that got its start with just a table and some blank caps. Thanks again to the influence of his aunt, Benjamen saw the potential in starting out his new business on the Venice Beach boardwalk. “I just saw, this is where I need to start—you get like millions of tourists every single year.”
Given Benjamen’s artistry and charisma, he soon began to draw a crowd.
“I bought some blank caps, put ’em out on the table, and people would naturally start saying, ‘Hey, can you do this?’ ‘Can you put my name on there?’ ‘Can you put this character on there?’ The funny thing is, I taught myself how to do that—it’s nothing that I ever did before. So it was almost like the need for me to make money forced me to learn a new skill. I did that, and it worked.”
Benjamen has a particular gift for recognizing money-making opportunities, having started out with a business venture with his brother nine years ago.
“I ended up leaving school to start a music business at 21. My brother and I, we had a record label called “Holla! Records” in New York. We signed local artists from Harlem and Boston and we distributed mixed tapes to about 12 different states—back when you could really sell albums.”
Benjamen’s hard work with this company made him a millionaire when most of his peers were still in college.
“I think in the music business you have to have tenacity, and you have to be really aggressive, and that’s helped me too. You’re 21 years old, you have like nine artists signed with you, you’re making money, you have a studio, you have a house—so you can imagine that’s a pretty intense lifestyle. So I learned a lot, and I think those experiences really help me now.”
However, it’s not all about Benjamen, or even “the Benjamins.” This leading-edge entrepreneur also wants to use his platform in a socially-conscious manner. “It’s not just money, but having that impact is something that gets me up in the morning.”
Helping to cure cancer is one of those areas of impact where Benjamin would like to get involved. “We are working on a project right now with Sesame Street, where a percentage of each sale from a particular cap collection that we’re going to design is going to go back to a cancer research program in Boston that actually sponsors students at Harvard and BU who are pursuing cancer research. So that’s pretty exciting,” he says.
Benjamen has other exciting changes in the works for the HD-LV storefronts, the better to keep the concept unique and fresh.
“We want to add on value to what already exists, so we can find new ways to market it, we can expand on the product. One idea we’re working on, we don’t have it in place yet, is having an artist actually there to design hats for people. So you would walk in, and there would be a chair just like when you go to a barber shop or salon. You sit down in the chair, and there’s a designer who is designing the hat while it’s actually on your head. So you are getting catered to and styled in person.”
Benjamen Janey’s smarts, innovation, hard work, and perseverance is a model of success that should be learned from and replicated in every locale.
Benjamen shared this advice for the younger generation:
“One thing I would definitely advise is when you get opportunities, take ’em. Even if it doesn’t turn out the way you want, it’s going to be a learning experience, and it’s going to take you a step closer to where you want to be.
“You have to be a people person. You’ve got to love people, you’ve got to talk to people. And you have to pay your dues. Sometimes it can come quick, but don’t be discouraged if you have to get hit a couple of times. When you get into the ring, you’re gonna get hit. This is the game. Be prepared.”
Sage advice from an old soul living in a young man’s body.Click here for reuse options!
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