Friday, June 1, 2007

Rotem Gear

Jean Roth is an entrepreneur extraordinaire. Her businesses include Rotem Design Studio, a graphic design business for print, identity, and web design, and Rotem Gear, an apparel line of t-shirts and tops inspired by pop culture, ethnic, and urban designs. Other businesses include Unearthed Tees, a shop of geology-themed shirts, and Insinceri Tees, a fun tee shop full of glib lines, half-truths, excuses and empty promises ! (“We’ll Do Lunch”, “Loved your Script”, “The Dog Ate It”). She also runs LickiTees, a cuisine and wine-focused t-shirt shop,, a ceramic pet memory tile shop, and, which features youth-targeted urban t-shirts. One thing I can tell you-Jean is one busy woman!

“My work experiences include a wide range of types of businesses (academic, diplomatic, hi-tech, architecture, corporate and non-profit), which really helps me with the needs of different types of design clients. I’ve worked at UCLA, the Japanese Consulate General, the number one high-end Japanese audio-electronics company, a software company and the diamond exchange in Tel-Aviv, a non-profit educational organization that helps Jewish and Arab children in an under-served section of Israel, and two award-winning architectural firms.”

“I am very much influenced by my personal, educational and professional background, which has also taken me from East Asia to the Middle East… Visiting other places like Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Taiwan, Hong-Kong, Turkey and Egypt, I am fascinated by the textures, typographies, rhythms and architecture of traditional, modern and colonial influences on urban life. The mix of culture, language, food and history is very much in my mind when I design, as well as American pop culture and humor.”

Typical Customer
“[O]ff-line sales are a mix, from teens and young adults to other adults, depending on the venue. Of course, what I offer will vary according to the market I expect as well.”

On Outsourcing
“My t-shirts are all printed by other vendors. At the moment most of my online shirts are printed and shipped by the print-on-demand company CafePress.”

“For direct sales I use a local printer who is lovely to work with. I support local business this way, and more importantly, I get to check everything first-hand.”

Challenge-Believing in Yourself
“Seriously, the hardest part is believing in yourself. Everything else – funding, marketing, selling – flows from that. If you don’t believe in what you do you will not be able to take care of those important parts of your business.”

“Women in particular tend to trivialize their own businesses with words like "my little website," and practically apologize for their products on their sites with copy that sounds like "pleeeease buy my little doodads." Can you imagine a man saying this?”

“Our businesses are creations that we put time and thought and talent and effort into. We must have pride in what we do and believe in ourselves. We do not have to be egotistical or obnoxious about it. As we see ourselves as serious business people, so will others, and that includes everyone from investors to customers to colleagues to potential advertisers and marketers.”

“That’s the most challenging part.”

Marketing and Advertising Products
“[I market through] SEO, targeted directories, targeted ads (blogs, Google, etc.), blog, e-zine and magazine mentions, and other businesses that affiliate my products or otherwise link to me, Web 2.0 –type “social networking” sites.”

“I have done blogads, with middling-to-negligible success, and Google adwords., as well as some link directories, blog directories, etc.”

”I love having the challenge of a of carte-blanche in design. I do my best work that way, just going by my gut, and so far I have been lucky enough to have clients who loved what I produced, whether it was web design, t-shirt design, animated ads, or printed materials.”

“Because of my oddly cross-cultural view of the world, I am also motivated by what the textures and typographies of the places I’ve lived and studied.”

Recommended Business Resources
“Soooo many … but anyone getting into their own small business should first check the resources at the United States Small Business Administration. You should also check your own state’s requirements for registering your business name. Also important is United States Patent and Trademark Office."

“Those in creative indie businesses will find a supportive and knowledgeable community at The Switchboards. I am also getting inspired by Ladies Who Launch these days.”

Words of Advice- Knowledge is Power
“[K]now what drives you. Closely related to believing in yourself is knowing what it is you do, or want to do, or are compelled beyond reason to do. I once saw someone ask in a forum “how did you decide what to design and sell?” That shocked me, sort of, because the way I see it, you know what it is you want to do – it is the thing you do well and what you will enjoy and believe in, and thus make work. How can you be successful in something you don’t love? An indie entrepreneur’s work isn’t a job, it’s a calling, and whatever it is that you do, it calls you, not the other way around.”

“[K]now your assets. What can you offer the world that few others can? It is often something you take for granted. Is it a skill set, a language, an access to materials or places or experiences? A point of view? A way of life? An inspiration? Silliness? A dedication to healthful living? A love of … what? Bring these elements into what you do. Maybe you love to make jewelry with silver flowers. But lets say you grew up speaking French … think about levering that into a product set that sets it apart from all the other silver flowers.”

“For me, it was combining my love of design and typography with my love and knowledge of languages and cultures. I also learned that where my t-shirts are concerned, rather than squelch my own quirky sense of humor I need to embrace it. This combination may be lost on some as it’s not middle-of-the-road, but it is what I do best, and it is unique, I believe.”
“That thing you take for granted may be what sets you apart. Nothing is silly or trivial. It’s a big world out there. Yes, there is a lot of competition, but there is even more opportunity.”


Jean Roth

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