Edward Parker and his family started Tat Patch after a family vacation in 2011. Today, the company offers 40 different designs of their patches, which are supposed to cover up holes in jeans.
Growing up, Edward Parker, the founder and CEO of Tat Patch, was always encouraged in his entrepreneurial efforts by his parents. Today, Parker — a father of three — has employed the same tactic with his children, starting Tat Patch as a true family business. The company makes iron-on patches for jeans from sweatshirt material. The company has expanded since opening and is set to start selling their patches in retail stores shortly. BusinessNewsDaily spoke with Parker about the role of his family in his business, why business owners must have focus and how he has built his brand.
BusinessNewsDaily: What did you want to be when you grew up?
Edward Parker: That’s easy. I wanted to be a baseball player. Ultimately I didn’t get passed 9th grade ball before I got distracted with a million other ideas, sports, girls, etc. But I still love the game — it’s tough being a Minnesota Twins fan! — and coach it for my kids in recreational leagues.
BND: What did your parents do for a living?
EP: My father was a judge in the Minnesota State Court of Appeals and my mother was a homemaker.
BND: Can you talk a little about your businesses and how you got your start?
EP: Tat Patch was actually invented by my kids, Joe, Matt and Luke. We were on a family trip to NYC in 2011 and the kids noticed that people were wearing leggings, lace and even what looked like pajamas under their holey jeans and the designs peeked-out of the holes. We got to talking about holey jeans as a fashion and one of them came up with the name "Peek-A-Patch." A product was born! Later, we came up with the name "Tat Patch," because it sounded cooler and they looked like a "tattoo for your jeans."
BND: What's the best part of owning your own business?
EP: Well, there are two parts to the answer. First, you get a chance to use your creativity. With Tat Patch creativity is not limited to designing patches — the fun part — but extends to marketing, sales and manufacturing. Second, you answer to nobody. Your success or failure is entirely dependent upon yourself, which is both frightening and exhilarating. You are not dependent on anyone else for a paycheck, and your hard work doesn’t line anybody’s pockets but your own.
BND: What's the biggest mistake you've made as an entrepreneur?
EP: Oh man, there are lots of mistakes to be made! While it’s true that we learn a lot from failure, believe me that it’s a lot more satisfying to taste success! But to answer your question directly, I would caution anyone not to enter into contracts with consultants that are not tied directly to performance. With Tat Patch, we ended up paying two consultants retainers that ultimately gave us nothing of merit.
BND: What was your main motivation in starting this business?
EP: My main motivation was my determination to show my kids that they can control their own creative and financial destinies. I believe that the days of working 9-5 and relying on someone else for a paycheck are waning if not entirely gone. I believe that the happiest and most successful people invent things that people want and need, bring them to market and watch their dreams come to life.
BND: What previous experiences helped you in that journey?
EP: My mom and dad always came up with unique ways to help me make money as a kid. Instead of slogging away at a paper route or mowing lawns, I used to sell things door-to-door. They’d finance my inventory and I’d go all over the place selling my stuff. Two of my favorite products, which I found in the back of kids magazines, were American Seeds, flowers and vegetable seeds, and Victory Miracle Cloths, polishing cloths. People would always ask me, 'What organization are you selling these things for?' I’d say, 'I’m selling for my own personal profit and motivation.' It worked every time. Of course it helped that the products were useful!
Since that time I’ve started several businesses. Some have succeeded and some have failed. But once you catch the entrepreneurial bug, it’s tough to turn back.
BND: What was the biggest challenge you encountered and how did you overcome it?
EP: Our biggest challenge is still market adoption. Tat Patch is a fun, useful product, but early on we faced the fact that nobody really needs a Tat Patch. We are convinced that if Tat Patch can get noticed, we’ll succeed. We think that if style leaders like celebrities start using Tat Patches, we’ll sell a ton of them. So we are participating in awards shows, gift baskets and everything to get the word out. Until that time, we are working every social media angle we can think of. And, we are just about to dabble in Google Ad Words.
BND: What is the best bit of advice you have for other entrepreneurs?
EP: This is a tough question. I’d say that focus is key. A lot of things can steer you off track when you are trying to start a new business or launch a new product. On one hand, you want to watch out for doing too much. For example, at Tat Patch we could introduce traditional top-of-clothing patches too, but the effort would likely take our focus off the Tat Patch brand. On the other hand, you want to watch out for focusing so much that you become myopic and start throwing good money after bad ideas. You’ve got to learn to cut through the noise…it’s tough when the ideas just keep on coming.