40-one-year-old fashion designer, philanthropist, and serial entrepreneur Marc Ecko has done a bit of it all. Now we can add “author” to his already extensive resume.
Ecko’s book Unlabel: Selling You Without Selling Out goes on sale today. The book shares Ecko’s own lessons on how to turn a scrappy startup into a billion-dollar behemoth. It’s available on Amazon right here.
Outside of his eponymous Marc Ecko Industries, Ecko is also the mind behind Complex Media, a lifestyle site which started as a print magazine in 2002. Complex is recently in the news again upon raising a $US25 million investment.
Ecko was kind enough to catch up with us via email to get us up to speed on what’s going on lately.
BUSINESS INSIDER: What’s keeping you busy, personally, professionally, whatever else?
MARC ECKO: So much. Book launch. Complex. And what I’m really excited about will be ready for announcement soon. I count my blessings for the amazing people I get to work with and the businesses I have been able to build.
BI: What’s the current state of the union for Complex Media?
ME: Godzilla is out of the cage, and he wants to be fed. We are fulfilling our revenge fantasy on old media. I am not joking. I am f—ing serious. And the cynics should be careful in misjudging us because we were largely built by outsiders. That is what has defined us and will continue to be the thing others can only emulate.
BI: What does the recent $US25 million investment do for the company? Can you share any plans on how it’ll be spent?
ME: It will be spent wisely. LOL. In all seriousness, we intend to deploy it in a way that strengthens all of our stakeholders — who have managed to grow this by essentially creating fireworks out of the sparks of two nickels being rubbed together. That same ruthless intent to create something from nothing — which got us here, will be
the fuel to feed this next chapter. This time the sparks will be bigger, and the fire will burn stronger. More technology. More innovation. More video. More e-commerce. More delight and delivery of surpassing expectations — for our end user, and for our partners.
BI: Is there a common mistake you see people repeatedly make in business and wonder why they keep making it?
ME: Yes. I’ve made them all. I am an expert on mistakes. We tend to make the same mistakes over and over in life (and business) — they just show up packaged slightly different on the outside. The numbers may not lie but people’s feelings about them ultimately run the show. The greatest tragedy from mistakes is not in making them. You are supposed to. It is in not learning from them. The inability to learn is steeped in hubris. Hubris, and tolerating it — allowing it to disguise itself as passion or knowhow — is toxic.
BI: What about a good obvious strategy you’ve seen and wondered why more people aren’t using it?
ME: Sleep & stay hydrated. This “I never sleep” thing is bulls— and bad for you. Simple. Sleep. For real. Get a nice cushy bed & pillow. It’s the only place you are allowed to really be comfortable. So make it good.
BI: What kinds of stories from your life can readers of UNLABEL expect?
ME: The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Jokes aside, my life is not really what is interesting. But the things I have learned from it, and my ability to share turn it into pragmatic lessons on branding, authenticity, and marketing are what makes the book strong. Hopefully all these stubborn grey hairs have a purpose after all. Maybe someone can learn something from it.
BI: What field is still ripe for building new businesses?
ME: Fashion. Next wave is coming. Be prepared. So many inefficiencies in that industry. From the design process to the manufacturing. Lots of change coming. Lots.
BI: Is it better to improve an existing product or create something brand new? Maybe more of a different-strokes-for-different-folks thing?
ME: It is a different strokes thing. There is no better way, there is just your way. At 41, I think it is better to focus and refine. But never at the expense of re-imagining your entire model. Never so stuck, or nostalgic.