Starting a fashion brand in today’s fashion landscape isn’t easy. Creating awareness for your brand, getting into stores, and building an online following is something brands struggle to do on a daily basis.
Some brands get lucky and manage to pull off the above with minimal effort, but for 99% of the brands out there, taking the steps to building a successful business starts with working with a great sales agency.
A couple of weeks ago, we had the pleasure of sitting down with Michael Andrews and Blair Bouchard from Ampersand Co. The Toronto based sales and marketing agency that focuses on fashion, music and sports lifestyles. Ampersand Co. are responsible for developing some of Toronto’s hottest brands including none other than up and coming jewelry powerhouse brand – Vitaly Design.
Through a mini interview and chatting with two of the coolest dudes in the business, we discovered that the key to running a successful sales agency, especially a one that works with a lot of emerging brands is staying nimble, using your resources and allowing the brands to focus on what they do best, while the sales agency handles the rest.
Q + A with Blair Bouchard and Michael Andrews of Ampersand Co.
B Can you give an overview of what you guys do for someone that has never heard of Ampersand Co.?
Michael: Ampersand Co. is a sales and marketing agency with a passionate focus on fashion, music and sports. Our ultimate goal when working with any business, brand, athlete or artist is to allow them to focus on what they are good at and delegate marketing and sales to a nimble agency with a vast number of resources. whether it’s designing, manufacturing, writing, singing, training or performing, we want to provide the means for the people we work with to really shine at their craft.
SD: How many brands currently work with Ampersand Co.?
Michael: Currently, Ampersand Co. is representing 5 brands, 3 of which are coast-to-coast sales. We are working with artists and athletes as well, providing them with social media strategies and marketing initiatives to grow their following and fan engagement within their sport or genre as well as expend their reach into related markets.
Blair: Our agency is young and we like to keep things nimble as the marketing and sales landscape is constantly shifting. We are always evolving and have developed some strategic partnerships with creative agencies, PR agencies, and social media strategists which will allow us to brainstorm and create from multiple perspectives.
SD: Where did the name Ampersand Co. come from, what is the meaning?
Blair: Ampersand Co. was actually Michael’s idea. Our agency is an extension of the people, companies and brands that we work with and we are strong believers in teamwork and collaborations, so the name fits perfectly with our vision.
SD: How did you and Michael meet and get your start?
Michael: We met back in 2001 while snowmobiling in Orillia, Ontario. We have both had a passion for action sports for as long as we can remember, so it was just natural that this is where our agency started. The first line we ever sold was actually snowmobile outerwear. We founded the agency after working together on and off for a few years and have rapidly evolved into what we are today; a lifestyle agency.
SD: Do you have any advice for people looking to get into the sales agency industry?
Blair: Yes definitely! We strongly believe in doing what you love. Sales might not be for everyone, but in my opinion if you’re selling something you truly stand behind it doesn’t really feel like sales at all. You’re simply developing relationships with people and conveying your passion to them. We attribute much of our success with Vitaly to this. So find people who share your passion, work hard and collaborate. Allow yourself to be creative and this industry will prove to be not only exciting but prosperous as well.
SD: What are key factors that you’ve seen that have lead to your success so far?
Michael: Networking, networking and more networking. Put yourself in front of people and make connections. You’re only as strong as your resources which is why we love to collaborate with other agencies and brands. It gives us the opportunity to learn, as well as complete projects we normally would not be able to do on our own.
SD: What has been your biggest obstacle in the Sales Agency business so far?
Blair: Breaking down buying objections. It’s hard to be an honest salesperson because people always think you’re adding fluff. We do our best to convey our passion through our work and I honestly think that’s why we have been so well received.
Michael: Another obstacle would be focusing on what needs to be done. We are presented with so many opportunities on a daily basis that it’s hard to say no sometimes. But since we have so much on our plates already, we have realized that focusing our efforts has to be our main priority at the moment. Blair and I say it to each other every day; “Focus”.
SD: Why do you love doing what you do?
Blair: We love it because we can both honestly say we love this industry. Being able to work with the brands we love, artists and athletes we are fans of, and collaborate creatively with other people who share our passion gives us the motivation to work as hard as we possibly can. It’s cliche but true; If you love what you do you will never work a day in your life.