Pete Lafferty spent five years in financial services and two years in market research before starting Libero Ferrero, a high-end men’s accessories label, with his two brothers Matt and Adam Lafferty. All three brothers come from business backgrounds and have masters degrees. They left the corporate world behind to pursue their collective passions.
What are you working on right now?
A little over one year ago my two brothers and I started Libero Ferrero, a men’s accessories label, which will initially be selling men’s bags, such as messengers, duffels and briefcases. Since that time it has become a passion of ours which we’ve cultivated into a business. Consequently we have had to leave our full-time jobs to pursue our passion.
Currently, we are still in the sample stage and anticipate going into production in the fall of next year but we are loving every minute of the process and learning much along the way. We anticipate having product on our site by the end of September of this year and our first line of bags for sale by February 2011.
3 Trends that excite you?
One of the main reasons why we started Libero Ferrero was because we could not find quality, functional bags that were made here in the United States. We wanted to change that so we are seeking to join and cement the trend for providing goods made domestically that are sourced from responsible suppliers.
We are also excited to see that more men are moving away from standard utility/computer bags and into messengers and briefcases for their daily commute to work or school.
Lastly, with the proliferation of electronic devices such as iPads, Netbooks or e-readers, we wanted to provide a functional way for men to carry their belongings. Our bags are designed to serve and facilitate those three trends.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Because my brothers/founders and I all live in different places (two of us are in Chicago and one of us is in LA) we’ve had to find a way to keep moving the chains of our business, while minimizing the disruption caused by starting our business more or less remotely. By establishing bi-weekly meetings, leveraging technology such as Skype and Talktumi, and by sharing a group calendar we’ve managed to stay on the same page. The gel that keeps our business marching forward however, is our sincere and genuine passion to make something that we can be proud of and that discerning consumers could appreciate.
What is one mistake that you’ve made that our readers can learn from?
One thing that we discovered early on was that in the fashion/apparel business (like almost all other businesses) ideas need to be protected, almost to the point of excessive paranoia. Well, this point was hammered home fairly quickly.
To give you an example: when we were first visiting manufacturers to find a partner that could/would bring our designs to life we had to more or less be an open book with our designs, brand positioning and lifestyle. And although we were armed with Non-Disclosure Agreements, a designer that worked with the first manufacturer that we met with launched a new men’s bag line (almost immediately following that initial meeting), which copied our brand positioning and factors of differentiation exactly.
Needless to say we’ve been a bit more cautious about who we approach and what we share with our potential partners and suppliers since then.
What is one book and one tool that helps you bring ideas to life?
As mentioned my brothers and myself are launching this business in different areas of the United States. Consequently, communication is something that needs to be as effortless as possible. In that sense Skype has been a blessing. It’s allowed us to communicate more effectively and share information in real time.
A book that has served us well, especially when reaching out to investors, has been Entrepreneurial Finance by Steven Rogers, who taught my brother Matt at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management.
What is one idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
It is always fun to think of new ideas, especially if they are adjacently related to our core business. Those ideas are top of mind and are the ones I am currently working on, but I encourage anyone who is technologically savvy to embrace the new frontier that is mobile apps. Pick one thing that your passionate about and turn it into an app!
At what point did you transition from your full-time 9-5 job to pursue your main venture full-time?
The answer to this question isn’t an easy one. It’s always nice (and reassuring) to have a steady stream of income, but there came a time when the development of our new venture was being crippled by our “full-time” jobs; it happened very naturally and over the course of the last year. The breaking point was when I simply couldn’t continue to be effective at my 9-5 when my heart and mind was elsewhere. That was when I knew I had to make a decision to pursue our new venture full-time.
After your first collection of men’s bags is launched, where do you go from here?
Following the launch of our first collection, we will follow-up shortly thereafter with a new line of bags in addition to providing men’s wallets and other small leather accessories.