It is so helpful to learn from others who have been in the game longer than you. Learning from their successes and failures can help you make solid decisions backed by experience and research.
Nino Manca is the co-founder of New York’s newest streetwear brand, Crttrs. Crttr’s premium streetwear shoelaces are designed with every type of shoe collector in mind – from athlete to skater to Xtreme sports fanatic to hip-hop dancer. Manca has always had a passion for streetwear and an eye for design, so launching a clothing and accessory line was a natural next step. Manca currently resides in Vail, Colorado where he travels and teaches snowboarding lessons.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
The idea for Crttrs came to me on a morning New York subway commute. Looking around at the variety of fashion on the subway, from businessmen to high school kids, the one similarity was that their shoelaces were the same boring solid colors. For years, the same apparel has demonstrated the art of fashion: shoes, socks, pants, shirts, hats. What if we could add shoelaces into the mix and personalize their style even more? We then went on a search for a logo and our little critter buddy was developed and it was a perfect match. The logo solidified the idea and got me and Geoff extremely excited for the next steps in the process of creating this company.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I live in Vail, Colorado so a typical day revolves around being outside hiking, mountain biking, fly-fishing, rock climbing or rafting. The more time I spend outside correlates to the better mood I am in. During the winter I spend my days snowboarding until the sun sets. While this may not seem productive, my mood and positive energy inspires our collection. My active lifestyle pushes me to constantly be thinking about the next invention.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I bring ideas to life by bouncing them off the people around me. I am lucky enough to have such a diverse group of friends with completely different opinions that will tell me what they think without any sugar coating. I have some ideas that I think at first are brilliant and then within a few minutes, after talking about it out loud, realize they have already been invented or would not pan out the way I would desire. The best is when you gather a group of friends and dedicate time specifically to coming up with new inventions or ideas. I believe it is very rare that people put aside time to brainstorm new ventures, even if nothing comes of it, the creativity is fun to talk about.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Retro fashion coming back to the ski and snowboard community. I have always been a fan of the bright colors and how it creates a fun and goofy environment that puts a smile on everyone’s face. I love the idea of fashion being able to brighten someone’s day up. It’s hard not to smile or laugh when you see someone walking around in the town of Vail in a fluorescent pink onesie. It brings out the kid in everyone, and that’s something I am very passionate about. I still feel like I am a kid sometimes and would never change that feeling for anything. I will do anything to feel young until the day I die.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Getting off the grid when I go on hikes. I am able to think clearly and live in the present, which can inspire the future. Too many times when I’m inside I find myself getting lost in my phone, 90% of it is unproductive. In the fresh air, I’m inspired to think outside the box.
What advice would you give your younger self?
There are so many things I would tell my younger self. One is to research ideas and contact company executives. It is so helpful to learn from others who have been in the game longer than you. Learning from their successes and failures can help you make solid decisions backed by experience and research.
I would also recommend not being afraid to try something and fail. This is probably the most beneficial thing you can do for future ideas because you learn firsthand what works and what doesn’t. It relates to relationships in life as well. Through every relationship, you hopefully learn more and more about yourself; thus leading to better relationships down the road.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
No one believes me, but Salami and Nutella are a great combination.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Again going back to hiking, get off the grid and off your phone. Travel by yourself for a month and become comfortable in your own skin. I was fortunate enough to be able to buy a one-way ticket to Hawaii and have a new fresh start. I told my parents to mail my phone to me in 2 weeks and it changed my life forever. You forget that by being phoneless how easy it is to talk to people around you and observe your surroundings. I met new people every day for those 2 weeks, which I can’t say I would have done with a phone in my pocket. It’s too easy to avoid being social when you have a world at your fingertips. By staying present with new people, you learn about the perspectives of others and what a majority of people might find interesting rather than what only you find interesting.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Having a passionate and determined business partner. Without Geoff, this company would have never happened. He had the courage to invest in the company and make Crttrs a reality. I’ll never forget the first time we held our laces in our hands and I thought to myself – “I am holding an idea that came to life.” Working with a business partner/brother I would trust with my own life helps immensely on making big decisions for the company. Since we live in different places at the moment we are able to bring different perspectives to the table as we develop new designs. He sees the changing styles of streetwear fashion in New York, while I’m out in the mountains in Colorado observing the style changes from season to season.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Our first product line was faulty and we had to fix each lace in our home in order to complete all the orders. It was a deflating experience, to say the least, but we didn’t want to waste our first order so we did what we had to do to get the shipment out and made sure it was corrected on the next order. The other mistake with this first order was that all the laces were only one size. This made our product only designed for one type of sneaker which was self-defeating since it limited our consumer base. I ended up taking a break because of the mishap. Through this experience, I learned that mistakes happen and it can be disappointing, but don’t ever give up. Sometimes all you can do is remedy what you can immediately to mitigate the damage and then take your lessons learned and apply them to future decisions. A lesson learned is so valuable, but not learning from them can be tragic. We made sure our second order of laces were nothing short of perfect.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Making an app with skating maps for longboarders that represents a ski mountain. You would have green runs, blue runs, and black runs depending on the steep gradient of the streets. You could be able to measure these gradients by using the Strava app since they have already landscaped a majority of cities for biking. You could then include pit stops that would cater to skaters – whether it be great local eats or cool clothing stores. The reason I love this idea so much is that it would inspire travel and I could skate through all of the cities I want to visit in the world. Then while I am in those cities I could stop by the local stores and learn about the communities and culture, while helping them attract business by adding their stores to the app. Skating inspires a new view of that culture and allows you to have a more hands-on and personal experience in that city. Rather than being secluded in a car. With the trend of longboarding only growing in urban areas, I believe it would be a great tourism addition to the skating community.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
My snowboarding jacket and pants, best $100 I spent this year. It is a retro onesie with bright pink and turquoise accents that will make me stand out on the mountain.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
Sweatcoins makes me have to go outside. It keeps me healthy and eventually will allow me to collect enough coins to purchase cool products off their app.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. The book focuses a lot on the law of attraction, something I feel strongly about. It is extremely important to have a positive attitude and wishful thinking about the future. I love the idea of thoughts having energy and bringing these thoughts and ideas into reality.
What is your favorite quote?
This quote comes from the book, The Secret.
“There is a truth deep down inside of you that has been waiting for you to discover it, and that truth is this; you deserve all good things life has to offer.”
I believe we were put into this life to enjoy it. All our senses were created for us to enjoy our surroundings, and be grateful for being alive.
- Sometimes all you can do is remedy what you can immediately to mitigate sudden damage. Then take your lessons learned and apply them to future decisions.
- It is so helpful to learn from others who have been in the game longer than you. Learning from their successes and failures can help you make solid decisions backed by experience and research.
- Get outside. Disconnect all your devices and step into nature. Practicing presence in nature can help you think clearly and inspire new ideas.
- Read The Secret by Rhonda Byrne to learn why it is extremely important to have a positive attitude and wishful thinking about the future.
- By being present with new people, you learn about the perspectives of others and what a majority of people might find interesting rather than what only you find interesting.
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.