Matthew Clough - Founder of Benson Backpacks

[quote style=”boxed”]Default to action. Stop thinking and start doing. Everyone screws up; the people that make the most progress are the ones who aren’t scared to make mistakes.  You have to embrace failures, learn from them, brush them off and keep moving. That’s one thing I’m working on. In some situations in which I’m not entirely experienced, I have to give myself more of a push. I think it’s better to take action and course correct along the way. Otherwise, it will always just be a pipe dream.[/quote]

Matthew Clough is a social entrepreneur and creative professional who has dedicated himself to helping children get the educations they deserve in Tanzania, Africa. He is the founder of stone + cloth, a backpack company where your purchase supports children’s educations in Tanzania, Africa. Matthew has backpacked through different parts of the world, loves the outdoors and has a knack for making things. He’s interested in designing products that help other people live better lives, and has worked with other socially conscious companies including TOMS Shoes and Falling Whistles. He lives and works in downtown Los Angeles and takes every opportunity he can to meet new people and share his story.

What are you working on right now?

We’re working on a lot with a little. We’re getting ready for the back-to-school and holiday push, and getting out to every community event in the city that we can to sell backpacks and talk about our brand.

Where did the idea for stone + cloth come from?

It came from the trip I took to Africa to hike Mt. Kilimanjaro. As I descended from the summit, I learned my friendly and hard-working porter, named Benson, only earns between $1-2 per day. This isn’t enough to put a child through school.  It was an epiphany trip for me. It opened my eyes to how nice it was to grow up with access to clean drinking water, food on the table and a decent education.

I bought a used sewing machine and started sketching out ideas for a product that I thought represented both education and my climb. I always carried a backpack to school and a rucksack to climb, so creating a mountain-inspired bag to tie the two together seemed like the natural solution. Your purchase supports a child’s education in Tanzania, Africa.

What does your typical day look like?

The days are never typical. Lately they’ve been spent strategizing with interns and some of my talented friends to create awareness for the brand. We’re super small, so I manage everything and make sure that how I spend my time today is quite different from how I’ll spend it tomorrow. Some days I’ll be down at our cut-and-sew shop, checking on the quality of the backpacks that are being produced, and I’ll spend other days looking at where we’ve been so we can use that knowledge to make decisions for the future.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I use the action method. I’m a bit of a dreamer, so I’m always thinking about the future and visualizing what it should look like. I’ve learned the best way to make my ideas happen is to take an idea, write it down and write out every step it will take to bring it to life. The tricky thing is working backwards in the process and figuring out what my first step should be. Once I’ve worked through that process, any goal feels more attainable.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

I’ve been really fascinated with the world of crowdfunding and have been giving some serious thought to testing a campaign on one of the platforms that are out there.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

I was working for an Internet marketing company and my job was to analyze the ROI on re-targeting campaigns that were helping e-commerce stores get higher conversion rates. I’m not a numbers guy and probably never will be. A big part of the job was looking at graphs, doing math and doing all this other stuff I had absolutely no interest in. After my training, I sat down with my manager and she asked me, “Matt, do you like being here?” The room went silent for a minute and then I responded, “Umm, no.” It was kind of awkward. She looked at me and said, “Okay, you can leave then.”

Every part of that job was taking me away from being creative, and being creative is what makes me feel alive. I felt like a small part of me was dying when I was there. Getting fired woke me up to what I value, what I cherish and the things that I love. It was a really important experience for me.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

Think less, act more.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Default to action. Stop thinking and start doing. Everyone screws up; the people that make the most progress are the ones who aren’t scared to make mistakes.  You have to embrace failures, learn from them, brush them off and keep moving. That’s one thing I’m working on. In some situations in which I’m not entirely experienced, I have to give myself more of a push. I think it’s better to take action and course correct along the way. Otherwise, it will always just be a pipe dream.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Ice trays that make ice faster. Why are they not around yet?

Tell us a secret.

My childhood dream was to be an architect.

What are your three favorite online tools and what do you love about them?

  • Google Analytics gives me awesome insights into my website.
  • Ted Talks keeps me motivated and keeps the creative juices flowing.
  • Orchestra App for iPhone allows me to write to-do lists, delegate tasks to others on my team who have the app, and stay organized. It’s great for communicating and organizing.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky, because it’s the best book ever if you’re trying to do just that.

What’s on your playlist?

Lately its been Robert Johnson and James Brown.

If you weren’t working on stone + cloth, what would you be doing?

Making things, socializing and looking for adventure.

Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?

  • @the99percent (not the movement) gives insightful research insight on productivity for creatives and entrepreneurs.
  • @Inspired_Ones for daily motivational quotes.
  • @lizstrauss is an insightful social business strategist.

Who is your hero?

Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia, who is a rock climber and an environmentalist.

Why did you decide to support education and not a different cause?

Two reasons. The first is because education is valued in Tanzania. They understand how important it is and I want to help them achieve what they want to achieve.  The second reason is because education has the potential to break the poverty cycle. If we can give this young generation the opportunity to go to school and grow up with the knowledge and skills to put their kids through school, then I’ll feel like I’ve made an impact.

Connect:

Matthew Clough on Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/Matthewdclough
stone + cloth on Twitter: https://twitter.com/stonencloth
stone + cloth on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/stone.n.cloth
stone + cloth’s website: http://www.stonecloth.com/