JM: Since 2000, I've been in and out of college (USF, HCC, and a few others) so many times that I lost count (I'm returning once again in the Spring '10 semester). As far as getting into fashion, I've just always had my own preference of clothing style, color and design, and when I walked through
stores, I'd always say to myself, "This shirt or pair of pants would be better if it had this, or didn't have this, or was this color, or fit better." I always just assumed that others thought the same way. But there's a real fat chance of getting in touch with a major label's designers and an even fatter chance of them listening to you if you do get their attention, so the only solution was to design the clothes myself.
CL: I noticed that a lot of your designs are interpretations of Tampa's landscape and people. Why is that?
JM: I really love Tampa, that's why. There's so much to do here and the city has so much potential to be even greater. Championship sports teams,
great restaurants, tons of bars and nightclubs, the weather, the close proximity to beaches, lots of opportunity for entrepreneurs. I could keep going. Anyway, there's just lots of inspiration readily at hand when you're living in a town that you really like and I decided to showcase that on t-shirts.
CL: You also said that part of your mission in launching Eleven O Twelve is to build up Tampa and make it a permanent fixture on the national map. What is your vision of a future Tampa?
[image-2]JM: Well, my vision is a little grandiose, but that's the way I think everyones visions should be. I'd like to see Tampa eventually be one of the U.S. cities that "never sleeps." You know, foot traffic all day and night in certain districts like Hyde Park, Downtown and Ybor. I'd really like to see downtown Tampa totally littered with independent shops, restaurants, and bars. It's like there's this huge opportunity for our city to build a unique personality, and its just standing there, waiting. I know it takes time, money, creative businesspersons and risk takers. But it seems like everyone is just standing back, waiting for someone else to make the first move. Maybe when the economy improves people will step up.
CL: The unemployment rate right now is 11 percent, underemployment 17.5 percent. What made you decide to launch Eleven O Twelve in an economic downturn and what kinds of challenges have you encountered along the way?
JM: I started the company in July, 2007, when the word "recession" wasn't being used in everyday speak. Media outlets weren't drilling the horrible state of the economy into our heads every day. I guess it just hadn't hit rock bottom yet, and people were still spending. None of that would have even entered my train of thought when starting the business, though. I had tunnel vision and was going to start a clothing business no matter what was going on. I will admit I was very naive, though. When you're doing something you enjoy and you're driven, you don't think too much about outside circumstances holding you back. As far as challenges I've encountered, none really have to do with the economy in the shit hole. All pretty much have to do with the rejection, humility and mental strain that go along with running a startup.
CL: There are countless upstart t-shirt companies out there right now, all of them claiming to be unique. What sets Eleven O Twelve apart from the rest?
JM: Well, I'd consider Eleven O Twelve a clothing company rather than a t-shirt company because we do have cut and sewn pants and button-ups, just not in stores, yet. But nonetheless, yes, there are new lines starting up every day and yes, every one does claim to be unique. The "uniqueness" factor doesn't really mean much anymore, in my opinion. You want to set your startup apart, you've got to be a well-rounded business owner, versed especially in marketing, PR and networking. What I do believe sets Eleven O Twelve apart, design-wise, is that I, Jon Mishner, am sitting at my computer, in South Tampa, making each t-shirt design, then driving the designs over to Scott at Ultra Screen Printing in Ybor to have them printed. You know, I'm not ordering generic, touristy "Tampa" t-shirts in bulk from overseas. There's meaning and some depth behind each design.
CL: What advice do you have to offer other entrepreneurs in the fashion industry?
JM: Tough question. Well, first, don't get in it for instant riches or fame. Be prepared for plenty of obstacles, rejection, people flaking on you, ripping you off and not returning your calls or emails. I'd suggest working under a designer so you can learn on his or her dime; this and/or going to fashion school would have saved me a million headaches. Another important lesson I've learned is that it's crucial to understand the business side of things. As a creative, you're going to want to design something, put it up for sale and then you'll wonder why it's still sitting in your living room a year later. Learning all aspects of running a business and having lots of knowledge are crucial. Otherwise, like all other entrepreneurs will tell you, just don't give up if you believe 110 percent in what you're doing.