Aaron Spatz  00:10

Good morning DFW. I hope that you are having a fantastic morning. Welcome to DFW business podcast at the Dallas Fort Worth, business podcast show that features business executives and leaders across the metroplex, bringing you the stories to help fuel your drive passion and pursuits in a way, in a way that’s meant to entertain, educate and inspire you. So I want to help I want you to join in on the conversation. So any feedback? What do you like? What do you want to hear more of what intrigues you? What really grabs your attention, drop me a line podcast at Bold media.us. And we can pick up our conversation there. So today we have Joe Lascaux. Joe has a varied background that we’ll get to he’s he’s done quite a bit of really interesting things. But he’s most recently and most notably Managing Partner of Trinidad, three genes. And Joe, I just want to thank so much for joining the show today. For sure, man, thanks for having me on. Absolutely. Yeah. So give everybody a little bit of a little bit of backstory, but like so are you? Are you native to the DFW area? Like where are you originally from?

Joe Lafko  01:12

So I’m not I was actually raised in Florida. Okay. And I was born in Connecticut. So I’m kind of a nice kind of a migrant baby.

Aaron Spatz  01:20

I mean, that’s, that’s a lot of people’s story. And then when I when I run into a DFW native and someone says, Yeah, I’m originally from, you know, like, Addison, I’m like, wow, like you are Fort Worth or whatever. It’s like, it’s it’s not very often that you run into a native so I’m not I’m not really surprised, right.

Joe Lafko  01:38

It’s all good. Hey, look, man, we couldn’t have been born here. But we got here as quick as he could. As the old saying goes, right? That’s right. That’s right. No, I was actually sent here by Uncle Sam, I got stationed over at the Naval Air Station in Fort Worth. So okay, that was, I guess, in here in oh seven. finished out my time in 2010 Active Duty over there with a Marine Corps fighter squadron, and then decided to stay I you know, I loved everything about Texas. And eventually, I, you know, my little girl was born and, and things like that. So I’m here regardless, I think, you know, probably for the foreseeable future. So Wow. Glad to be here.

Aaron Spatz  02:15

Yeah. Likewise, yeah, we got appear a few years ago. And I mean, we’ve been in Texas thing since 2012. But you have have no and no intentions of leaving. So but you have done, but you’ve done the gamut. Right. So you’ve done military, politics, sales. Now you’re in denim. So what what has that journey been? Like? What’s what’s been one of the biggest things that you’ve learned along that journey?

Joe Lafko  02:40

The biggest thing that I’ve learned along that journey from politics onwards, so basically everything, everything from the Marine Corps after 2010 and onward, like everything has sales. That’s kind of what I learned from mostly from politics. I had an opportunity to as a congressional staffer to work for Congressman Roger Williams, who’s congressional district 25, which is kind of like Burlison Cleburne area, Johnson County all the way south is in markets. Okay. So I’ve worked a lot with him. And he’s a small businessman by trade owns car dealerships. So if you’re looking to learn sales, that’s the man you want to learn from. But I learned a lot there. And then I had an opportunity in the private sector with a really great menswear brand out of Dallas, called Mizanin. Main. And I started there with with the founder, Kevin back in Oh, god. 2013 2014. He was a close friend of mine. And it still is, but it that kind of ignited my passion for passion for fashion. I hate to say to sound cliche or kitschy? No, it’s like, I really enjoyed the startup aspect. I really enjoyed building something kind of from the ground up, so I liked it to kind of stay in that arena.

Aaron Spatz  03:50

Wow. Yeah, that’s a Well, I mean, like, your background is really like, it’s very diverse. And so I was just genuinely curious. But it No, it’s just it’s, I mean, you know, I’ve learned that there there are very, very few straight line trajectories for people in life. I mean, every everybody’s got a story and, and for you listening, like, I know, you’ve got a crazy story yourself. So it’s like, everybody going through their whole life story, their whole professional career, whatever they’re working on, it is not as simple as, hey, I’m here. I want to go there a lot of times, you know, you’re you’re, you’re maybe taking a step back. You’re making a lateral move, you’re maybe jumping industries doing something completely different. And you just I mean, you’ve shown that that’s, that’s just the way it is. Right. So

Joe Lafko  04:40

yeah, I mean, it’s kind of like that meme that says, what everybody thinks success is just a straight line. Yeah. And then what it actually is is kind of all over the map. Yeah, yeah, that’s it’s really true.

Aaron Spatz  04:52

I’ve seen that graphic. Yeah. 100% 100% true. Well, yeah, well then, share with me then like What was the? What was the driving force? Like? What? What got you going? Like, tell me the story of Trinidad three? Yeah, so

Joe Lafko  05:06

I had been in the industry, I mean, the industry is OCAD of fashion and apparel, and mainline fashion and apparel. So for retailers and things like that, and the wholesale business since joining Mizanin main back in 2013 2014. And in that being the case, I learned to really just kind of find my niche and where I felt most comfortable. And I really learned that I learned that I had a real true passion for jeans and denim and kind of the American textile story. I learned most from a little brand out in North Carolina called rally denim workshop, which is one of America’s kind of modern, you know, real storied brands that, you know, came around. Back in 2008, when you know, they were making one gene a day, you know, with with one guy making the gene with his, with his wife, in their apartment, and it just literally grew from one pair of jeans to the next to the next to the next. And now they have a factory in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina with her own store. And it’s a huge brand. It’s awesome. But I really started to learn the intricacies of what I you know, what I learned to love and the little inconsistencies about textiles and the little the mistakes. And it really has a lot of overlap to kind of humanity and that nothing is perfect, there is no straight lines. I know that the popular the popular, I guess kind of cliche here in Texas is that God doesn’t work in straight lines. And it’s true like that. The the real perfection and denim is kind of the imperfection. And that’s what I love about it. So that’s why I kind of get to lean on denim is what my real passion was. And I had been working with another brand kind of after that I was working with a brand out of Italy, a base of Montreal, called Save the dock and I had a friend of mine kind of come to me and said, Hey, I have a guy I met in New York needs some help with a brand. He’s another Marine and he went to fashion school and he’s got this really cool brand called Trinidad three. And I was like, I’ve never heard of it. Let me you know, he has another brother. So like if he has any questions I’ll happen, you know, happily answer any questions he’s got. Yeah. And we were introduced, and it’s kind of a funny story. So I was in Vegas for what used to be our biggest trade show of the year.

Aaron Spatz  07:30

I’ll say every good story starts with I was in Vegas. All right.

Joe Lafko  07:33

Yeah. Right. It you know, it’s gonna be good. Like this one time in Vegas. Yeah. Immediately get comfortable in your chair.

Aaron Spatz  07:39

Right? Yeah, I’m like, okay. All right. Hold on. Let me let me grab a sip my coffee here.

Joe Lafko  07:43

Yeah, exactly. So we’re in Vegas, and He’s based in Southern California. So I said, Hey, look, I’m gonna be in Vegas for a couple of days, you know, this week? Why don’t you come out if you can come on out. And if you know, we’ll meet somewhere for a drink. And so long as we can sit there upright and have beers. I’ll answer whatever questions you have. And I’ll help you out to the best of my ability, no problem. So we meet over at the COSMOTE at a restaurant over there. And I think three and a half or four hours go by and we’re still upright, still putting beers away. And the restaurant starting to close down around us. Oh my gosh, yeah, it was pretty crazy. But we stopped we kind of realized like, hey, look, you know, we’re gonna sit here, and we can we can hit it off this quickly. And we can talk about these things in depth. You know, there’s, there’s something here and it took some time to marinate, you know, six, eight months, you know, before you know, I was ready to, you know, pull the trigger and say, okay, look, this is this is really exactly what, you know, my life is it kind of built it built itself up for and we hit the ground running and Trinidad three is obviously you know, based on his namesake, his his name is Trinidad Garcia the third and he was in the Marine Corps from 2012 to 2016. Okay, or maybe I got that wrong 2018 And he was a machine gunner West Coast based. So he was out with the seventh Marines and then second battalion, seventh Marines, and then out at Twentynine Palms, and then he was also with with a Mew. So he was all over the place, but, but yeah, I mean, I haven’t met another Marine in our industry. If anybody else is out there, hey, by all means, please hit me up. But he’s the only one we hit it off. It was pretty strong. So, you know, we wound up you know, putting our heads together and it just it made way too much sense not to not to do something,

Aaron Spatz  09:42

man. No, that’s a that’s an amazing story. So like from from the initial introduction, and then you’re you’re kind of discussing the business and like your passions. And then what I think is really, really important and like I like to go here because I think this You know, inside the Metroplex here are curious about this is the that that time when you’re taking to understand whether or not you want to form a partnership and what and what does a partnership look like in business? And I and I know there’s a lot of folks that have varying opinions and it can be, it can be like the best decision ever, or it could be the worst decision ever. And so like, how has that? Obviously, it’s worked out really well, like, so I’m not, I’m not like seeding the conversation with that. But I’m just, I’d love to get your insight of like, what is that whole process like of terms in terms of understanding? Hey, dude, do we want to do this together?

Joe Lafko  10:39

Yeah, I mean, it really is, it’s like data. Yeah, right. So like, it’s, it all starts with a drink or a cup of coffee, right? Or it starts with small talk, and you just slowly work your way out from there, you have your questions and, or your reservations, or whatever, you know, whatever it is, you want to call it, and you just take your time with it, you know, rushing due diligence has never served anybody, right? Ever. Yeah, it’s, it’s all you always miss something or you always you know, it, you’ll miss the detail. And that’s where the devil is, but you know, with with, with us, there was no inherent rush to hurry up and do something, it was something we could took at our own pace, we didn’t, you know, there wasn’t that we were going to miss an opportunity, right? And then looking back on it, even regardless of whether or not the pandemic was, was part of it, in a way it, you know, set us up even for success. Because, you know, it allowed us to grow at a, you know, what we would soon to understand as our own nominal rate. Okay, so while it was tough as hell, and it still is, but but, you know, we just, we, we wanted to initially just take our time, and get to know each other on a personal level before we decided to pull the trigger and say, Okay, we’re going to do something on a professional level together, and we’re going to dedicate, you know, our lives to this mission and what we’re doing. Yeah.

Aaron Spatz  11:55

Wow. Well, I mean, in your perfect lead into my next question, which is going to be obviously, how has How has COVID? How is the whole pandemic impacted the business and like, give me a sense of the time like the timeline again, so when, when the partnership was formed, and then when you started going, like going out and starting to starting to produce sales like and then and then the impact of the pandemic?

Joe Lafko  12:19

Yeah, so we hit the ground running earlier in 2020. And in February. So yeah, it was literally right on it right, as things started to pop up in the news. Yeah, that was kind of when we hit the ground. And we were at the Las Vegas trade show. So we were there. It’s a it’s a show called Project, that part of the capital kind of magic apparel series. But we were there, we had a huge booth and tons of people came in. And we had I mean, celebrities kind of run amok. And everybody wanted to know what we were doing. And it kind of started to snowball, which was great, because it was what we wanted. So we were gonna hit the ground running with sales, and we’re going to be all over the country. We had tons of stuff planned out. And then we had the opportunity. Luckily, Nordstrom had reached out and said, hey, you know, you know, this is really cool what you guys are doing. You know, we would like to see more about it. And I said, great, you know, this is really cool. Yeah. And so we scheduled a meeting to go up to Seattle to their corporate office, which is kind of the Nordstrom is like the department store god of fashion and apparel, right. And in America is the one everybody wants to work with. Right, which is great, because they’re amazing people. They’re absolutely dedicated. It’s an it’s insane the amount of like longevity that people have there. But anyway. So we get up there on March the fourth, our meeting was on March the fifth. And we got a call the afternoon before a meeting. And they called and said, hey, the corporate and the leadership have, you know, decided to shut the company down essentially at the corporate office, and send everybody home. And so we were basically marooned in Seattle, over you know, a couple of days, which was fine. We had, you know, we had a chance to, you know, go go see some friends and things like that and spend some time getting some things done. But it that’s when it all kicked off. We were like, oh my god, we can’t believe this is actually happening. So yeah, that’s when it started. And from there, you know, for the next couple of weeks, it was kind of, you know, it was kind of a weird face until the end of March when the lockdown started to kick in. And the first week of April, you know, we had an opportunity to start making masks for the Cleveland Clinic and the Mayo Clinic and things like that through a friend of mine on the East Coast. That was kind of putting all that together. Yeah. And that really, really helped because it helps stabilize our business one but it also helped keep the lights on and keep us in business. So we were able to do all of that, which is great. And then You know, as that stuff started to wind down, it was really, it was a race to the bottom with regards to masks, and I don’t know, if a lot of people kind of are aware of that the majority of America’s textile factories, meaning where the sewers, kind of are, where they’re employed for the most part is in Los Angeles and LA County. And in LA County, there’s a handful of really, really large factories that are there that, you know, kind of, it’s kind of a big, you know, big kind of textile cartel, I, it’s not really that way, but I can’t really identify with anything else. Sure, you get a couple of really big guys, and then you got lots of smaller guys. Okay. So, I guess kind of equated to the airlines, right, you got three big ones, and then everybody else, right. But outside of that, it was really hard to be able to generate new business in mass making, because that the larger guys would basically come in and out price everyone and even take contracts for manufacturing at a total loss, holy cow, per mask, which you’re talking about pennies here, just so that they could secure the business and soak it up. So when that started to really happen in the LA area, we’re like, you know, what, we have our own factory, you know, we can’t really compete with people who have hundreds and hundreds of textile workers in the US like, we need to get back to what we’re doing, you know, what we’re, we’re really supposed to be doing. And luckily, and that, you know, that’s when they the lockdown started to turn off. And that’s where people started to kind of come out of their hole. And everything kind of started to turn around. So we hit the ground running, and started talking to the retailers started reaching out and talking to customers and all these kinds of things. And then we launched our new American selvage line, which is a style which is right here behind me. Nice. We launched that one on July 4. It to be inherently cliche with the American story, that was the

Aaron Spatz  17:00

goal. Hey, man, that’s okay.

Joe Lafko  17:03

We launched our 13 ounce selvage denim. They’re on July 4, with our partner at Medallia Mills, who’s based in Louisiana. And that fabric comes 100% from the United States in every respect. So all of the cotton and everything, all of the dye and everything that goes into that gene is 100%, based here in the United States. Wow. Yeah, so we didn’t get anything from anywhere else. Everything was based here, which is really cool. Because most everything now especially in fashion is all done overseas, because that’s where that’s where the the industry and technology is, right? For the most part. Now, we’re looking to change that in the long term. But right now, you know, it was really cool to be able to do that we sold out it took about a month or so but we totally sold out of the gene. And then we made more. So we still have a little bit left. But as things grew from that we got back into the retail space, and it being here in Texas is really lucky for us because we were able to kind of, you know, not have to deal with the LA New York, you know, major metro area, shutdown stuff, yeah, the same, you know, to the same respect that that other cities have. Now, I’m not knocking other people’s policies, it is what it is nothing I can do about it. So, but we just were a little bit more flexible with how we could do business and do it safely. So which is really great. So we got back to the business of making jeans, I hit the road as safely as I could. And you know, the story really resonated with people it’s, it’s something that really grasped onto a lot of customers, because they have something now, it’s not just a cool product. Look, anybody can make a cool widget, right? Anybody has the ability to do that, generally. But when you’ve got the story, you know, of our brand and being you know, from the military and supporting veterans with a repair, it’s something really that resonated with a lot of books. So we hit the nail on the head straight out in August there and we took off and didn’t look back. And it’s literally been growing every single day since we’ve been very lucky. So yeah, that’s the pandemic basically in a nutshell, so far. And we’re gearing up for our upcoming trade show season for our shows in Memphis and here in Dallas, later this month. And yeah, really looking forward to

Aaron Spatz  19:19

it, man. Well, I mean, it’s just, it’s an amazing story. And, you know, there’s, there’s a lot of people like that can identify with this. And if you’re listening to this, watching this, you know, people that have been impacted adversely, you may you may have been out of work, you may your business may have suffered or shriveled up and so, like Joe, it’s just it’s an amazing story. That one, you’re able to kind of keep the business floating. I mean, it’s a startup though. That’s the thing, man, it’s like, you’re you’re just getting it going and then you’re you’re I mean immediately right out the gate getting punched right in the face. But the pandemic Yeah, and is able to really continue to sustain it, keep the lights on, keep, keep all the bills paid. And then then you’re able to kind of turn the faucet back on and start to kind of crank back up production and sales. Are they like, I’m generally curious, did what? What’s the what’s the rest of the story on the Nordstrom side of the house?

Joe Lafko  20:21

Well, we were able to reconnect with them, luckily, and that was great. They were super open and very supportive. That’s cool. And they agreed, yeah, we’re, I mean, again, we’re really lucky to have the partners that we have in retail are some of the best, the best boutiques in the men’s business, which is amazing. And Nordstrom, you know, kind of off to the side, they’re definitely part of the pack. So that, you know, we kept we got back with them, we decided, say, Hey, we’re ready to come back at this. And they were ready to so they said, hey, look, you know, we’d like to put you online, on the website, you know, for the fall or for the winter during holiday season and see how things go. So we said, okay, great, no, let’s totally do it. So it took took a while to kind of to get that done their their reorg. And they you know, they’re reorganizing their whole company due to COVID. And, and there were layoffs and restructurings and all kinds of the big corporate stuff that they deal with. But we worked through it with them. And we got online starting on the first of December. And it’s up until this point, it’s been you know, it’s great. It’s really consistent sales every day. Wow. Yeah, I mean, really grasping to it, you know, and great colors, you know, fun, stretch denim, you know, it’s stuff that’s very modern at a, you know, premium, a premium product at unapproachable price point at, you know, $169, which totally understand and, you know, people who would say, Oh, that’s a crazy amount of money for a pair of jeans. Well, you know, it’s, it’s also the same justification when you think about, okay, well, where did you buy your F 250? You know, Ltd, diesel truck, you know, you know, for $85,000, right, you know, and things like that. It’s all about inherent value and what it’s worth you but, you know, making things and in America and making things, you know, by hand and not, you know, in an automated process. It’s still very old school. Yeah, it’s, you know, eight to 12 hours per, you know, man hours per gene to kind of get done. That’s a lot of effort. So,

Aaron Spatz  22:24

wow, man, well, well, we’re, we’re gonna cut to break really quick. But when we come back, I would, I would love to hear more about the production process to the extent that you’re comfortable sharing, obviously, but but would love to understand a little bit of how the sausage is made in terms of what is what is the whole denim, what’s the whole denim process, like you mentioned, you mentioned imperfection. So we’ll we’ll cover that here in just in just one second. So this show is made spot is made possible by our amazing sponsors, and I just wanna give a shout out to our sponsor, for today’s episode, first response, AC and heating. So if you are a business or a residents in the DFW metroplex, particularly more on the Fort Worth side of the metroplex, you really do need to get these as a call they’ve been they’ve been serving them and serving my family and I for a few years now, and what makes what makes HVAC and plumbing and electrical and all these other things really difficult and why I know you’re getting tense even me just talking about it right now, is because there’s a knowledge monopoly, when it comes to the the entire process, so they can come over and identify whatever the problem may be. And they could tell you, hey, it’s gonna be 10,000 bucks, or it could be $10 in you would not know, you would not know any different. And so what what I appreciate about first response AC is every time I’ve ever had a problem, and I’m a DIY guy, right? So I love doing as much stuff on my own as I can, up until it’s actually a little dangerous, and I need like licenses and special equipment. But I had a problem where I thought, like I had a big problem. And so I called him over like, Hey, I think this is what it is. Here’s all the things I’ve done so far. And you know, they’re they’re really gracious with me and my stupidity and and realized, like, Hey, man, actually, you don’t have this problem. You have this other problem here, it’s going to cost a fraction of what you thought it was going to be. And look, I get it not every time is it going to be this massive cost savings. The point is people that you can trust so when it is a massive repair, or that I do have a major problem, I know I’m getting shown and I know that I’m getting being given right and accurate information. And so I think that’s what anybody looks for and wants, when they’re dealing with with any business but particularly people that come to your home. So anyway, huge shout out to them. I’d encourage you to check them out. First Response AC and heating. So Joe, I mean crazy, amazing story again with being able to endure the pandemic and then kind of slowly ramp things up, you’re able to get back into Nordstrom, which I think is just fantastic. Right. And so, share with us a little bit about the story. So you mentioned, you know, right, right at the very beginning of our time together, you mentioned how the you appreciate the imperfections of denim. And then you also mentioned how like, all the materials are sourced here, United States, and everything is done here stateside. So like, take us a little bit behind the scenes, like how is that actually done?

Joe Lafko  25:25

Yeah, so denim in itself is is? It’s an organic material, right? Because it comes from Mother Nature. It’s something that’s totally sourced from the ground, it’s not typically, in 100% Cotton product, obviously, it’s not going to have any kind of inorganic material wound through it, other than the stretch stuff, but that’s obviously different with you know, alas, gainer spend X and things like that. But with the cotton 100% Cotton based product, it’s one pair is never identical to the other. And that’s not to say, Oh, well, it’s not the same size or anything like that. No, that’s not what I mean, what I mean is that the the overall texture and the look and what you know, the little flecks of of cotton and the little touches, and the lines are never perfectly straight. And they’re never perfectly round, and it things like that, the little nuances of the fabric itself, that’s where your real character comes from. Okay. And that’s what makes everything kind of unique and different. And, in doing a comparison, it’s really kind of hard to compare, because there’s nothing really else like it. It’s something that America has kind of given the world through its entrepreneurs, you know, and obviously, making it really huge is Levi Strauss back in the day. And for the miners and things like that, which has created this entire industry of vintage denim, kind of, at at whole. And then, you know, it’s not unlike, you know, when, at least for me, the way I look at it, it’s America has done very significant things as far as innovation and you know, and giving things to the world at denim being one of them not unlike aviation, or modern agriculture, or things like that, where it literally changed the course of, of, you know, of civilization. And denim is one of those things that it’s no matter where you come from no matter what you do. People know what it is, right? People no jeans, right? It just it is what it is, right? It people automatically know what you’re talking about. There’s an immediate reference, right? It’s kind of like Ferrari, Coca Cola or Disney World. Right? Right, or Apple, like people immediately get no capital. Genes are the same way people automatically know what you’re talking about it. So it’s really cool to kind of be involved in and in see these kinds of things, and the tiny changes and nuances in industry, but also at the same time, it hasn’t really changed all that much. You know, we’ve we’ve made things better, we’ve added stretch to them, we’re making it more sustainable. You know, that’s kind of the big thing, and in our industry right now is sustainability. Because it requires a lot of material and a lot of water and a lot of all of these other things that don’t necessarily go well, with, you know, planning for the future and making sure that we we manage our footprint here on the earth. So we want to find ways to, to get around that. And one of those things, it that we look at for sustainability, is the fact that we don’t go and reproduce as of right now. New denim, that that hasn’t already been made. So we find and we’re able to source large quantities of denim that already exists, that we don’t need to go take, you know, sources, either from the earth or from, from inorganic sources and make jeans out of it. The most sustainable piece of clothing that you’ll ever find is already been made. Yeah. So that’s kind of our goal, and you know, reducing water and doing all of those other things kind of come along as as part of the package. But we wanted to find something that already existed that was made here that, you know, fits our mission. And we’re able to do that. There’s a there were there was a mill. America’s most famous mill was cone Mills white oak plant that was based in Greensboro, North Carolina, and Greensboro forever was, you know, the headquarters of American textiles. They made everything. Li wrangler Levi’s, you name it, they made denim for everybody, right up until they closed sadly in February of 2018. But what they had done is they created a lot of fabric that was stock so that they had built up giant warehouses full of fabric and it hadn’t sold. So we were able to locate some of this stuff and it luckily enough, it was a good enough preserved condition that we could use it and it’s been working miracles and people have been enjoying it, join it, as you know, the past six months that we’ve been, you know, selling to retailers we’ve been, it’s selling really consistently. So people really enjoy that. They really love the story about it. And then having all of our hardware and you know, like even our zippers and the thread and stuff that we’re sourcing the majority of everything we have comes from the United States.

Aaron Spatz  30:21

Yeah. Well, I mean, is that gonna create a problem for you, though? Because I mean, there’s a finite supply, right, the mills shut down. So I mean, what are you going to do when you when you run when you when you actually do run out of material?

Joe Lafko  30:32

Well, the old adage is where God closes a door somewhere, he opens a window. So we’re able to find other sources, luckily enough, who have plenty of stock. And also there’s other mills that produce here in the United States that are growing up, and getting started. But Dahlia mills and Vidalia, Louisiana being one of them, with Dan and Eric and Bob and the team down there have been very supportive of us from day one, and believe in what we’re doing. And they’ve given us an opportunity to succeed at every corner. So there is opportunity out there, you just got to be willing to get out there and you know, do the do the Huff work hit the hit the street, and, you know, wear out the shoe leather, shake the hands and, and knock the doors that you need to to find the opportunity. And that’s what we did. So, you know, yeah, Trinidad is super into and, and making sure that even though we might only have three tools in the world, you know, the tool chest, that those three tools go the farthest every single day. And, and maybe that’s our marine mentality that, you know, we’re, we’re Marines. And we make do it kind of kind of our little motto, but he really lives it every single day in his design ethic and his work ethic. And he can go out there and source with the best of them. And in the LA area, there’s a lot of opportunities, right to find fabric and things like that. It’s where textiles are today. So he’s been able to really do a really awesome bang up job, you know, sourcing us the best material for the best price and allowing us to be competitive every day.

Aaron Spatz  32:11

That’s so cool. But no, that’s, that’s amazing. It’s, it’s amazing in terms of the creativity, you know, and you know, here you’re, you’re, you’re right here in our in our own backyard. I mean, the depth of the Metroplex is home to so many awesome companies, and so many what I call success stories being written right now. And so it’s, it’s really cool. It’s really cool to see this happening, like, what, what do you think has been one of the differentiators for you guys in terms of, I mean, there are probably 1000 denim brands out there or more, I’m probably like way under shooting there. But you know, what, but what made you an attractive target to retailers? Like how, how does somebody like Nordstrom just because that’s the only one that I could think of on the fly, right? Like, what what makes you attractive enough to want to partner with them, as opposed to, you know, the hundreds or 1000s of other brands?

Joe Lafko  33:04

You know, it’s a combination of things. So what you know, what a general retailer will look for is one, look, you’re in business to make money. So you got to be able to work with a brand and a line or, you know, whatever it is that you’re going to sell, that’s going to give you enough margin that you can buy it and sell it for a good enough price, sure that people are ready, one that your customers will enjoy first and foremost, but to that you’re able to sell and make profit. So we had to place ourselves at a price point where we know that we could still, you know, create the product and be able to sell it to the retailers at a reasonable price without undoing our own shoelaces, you know. But, but also give them enough margin so that they could they could be profitable as well. That’s a big part of it. The other part is 100%, you know, kind of leading the charge is the story of why we’re doing this. And in what we’re doing is to Marines that, you know, saw an opportunity in our own veteran community to be able to lend a hand up, you know, to folks that needed it and be able to support veterans organizations or charities that support the veteran community directly, is something that, you know, hadn’t really been addressed as far as the fashion and apparel industry and come from now, there’s people who sell T shirts, and I’m not taking anything from T shirts or hoodies or hats or bumper stickers or like people have been supporting veterans, you know, since the beginning of, you know, even since the Gulf War and things like that, so not taking anything from that. Yeah, I’m sure it’s decided to do it on a different level with mainstream fashion and more premium price points, which is a little more difficult. But at the same time, it’s it’s the same challenge. And I think that it has a real grasp for a lot of consumers for a lot of customers for a lot of the retailers because it gives them one it’s a newer brand, with a with a great story that has a real community involvement mission for existence. Rather than simply existing, as you know, a fashion brand that really is just here to give you something new every six months, and, you know, at a at a decent, you know, price point. And then next season, we’ll give you something a little bit more innovative or with different colors, or this or that, right, we didn’t want to exist just for our own sake. Right, just because we can, like, there’s an easier way to make $1 than making jeans, I can tell you that. It is a difficult, difficult process. There’s lots of moving parts, it’s extremely difficult logistics wise, especially when you get things coming in from all over the country to try and put together in a timing pattern that gets things out, you know, to the retailers at a specific season, or a specific date to be able to be in the store, so on and so forth. Or if you have to do drop shipping and things like that. But outside of that, really, you know, it’s the story more over than anything else, I think that really resonates with the consumers in seeing veterans in a space where you don’t typically see the veteran story in fashion. In fact, we almost never see it. Now, we’re out there, there’s and you know, we’re not the only vets in the industry. There’s, I mean, they’re even there’s another there’s another veteran, or I think he’s actually a reservists. But there’s another guy in Illinois, who’s comes from the army. And he’s got a denim brand, his name is Charles Miller. And he’s got Charles Miller, brand denim, that he does, and he makes great heritage style denim too. And he uses the same manufacturer that we do for Dahlia Mills, which is really cool. So it’s nice to see, you know, we’re not just, you know, the stereotypical well we get out of the military, or we go back to school, or we, you know, we start a business or we’ve become a police officer, firefighter, paramedic, you know, a lot of people have that stereotype about us, because for a lot of time, you know, for a lot of years, that’s what people kind of expected us to do. You know, and that’s kind of what they tell you, when you get out of the military, you know, when you go through the taps program, or tamper or whatever it’s called now. And they say, Okay, one, they kind of tell you how to apply for unemployment insurance, which we’re all like, Are you kidding me? Like, we serve and this is what we’re gonna have to deal with, like, come on. But outside of that, it’s, you hear the talks from the major defense contractors, I worked in aviation, and being stationed in Fort Worth, it was your right across from Lockheed Martin, you know, we could almost throw a rock and hit their windows. So you see them you see Grumman, or you see Bell, or any other major defense contractor, and they all want to that talent pool, you know, from the aviation community. But, you know, some of us just aren’t built to do to do that stuff. And we want to do other things and be entrepreneurs and try our hand at different businesses and, and build things up. And you know, there’s the greatest example of of, at least it that I can, that I can really think of is a veteran kind of going his own way and risking his neck. But getting it to work is Fred Smith, at FedEx, and another aviation Marine who was a I think it was a two time Vietnam vet. But he took his knowledge and aviation parts sourcing and got it to work for sale service, which is, I mean, it’s it’s improvise, adapt and overcome to a tee. Right? So we have the ability to do anything we want to we have a passion for apparel and denim in particular. And what we’re doing with that, I think is really grabbing the attention and resonating with a lot of folks on the ground, which you know, we’re happy to have them join the mission,

Aaron Spatz  38:44

man. No, that’s amazing story. And I couldn’t I couldn’t agree more. I’m not even gonna try to add or add additional commentary to that man, I think I think that’s brilliant. So your your so is a company headquartered out in LA is headquartered here in Fort Worth for

Joe Lafko  39:05

our sales office. And showroom is based here in Fort Worth on the outside and then our factory in our design space and our warehouses and quarter million.

Aaron Spatz  39:16

Okay. And then when, specifically the Metroplex so so you’re selling nationwide you’re not just you’re not just focused on one particular reach so like you’re you’re you’re working with other with other retailers or with other companies here in the DFW metroplex, but you’re also I mean, you’re also going nationwide, right?

Joe Lafko  39:34

Yeah, yeah, we fell

Aaron Spatz  39:38

through Nordstrom. Right,

Joe Lafko  39:39

right. I mean, Nebraska, New York, South Carolina, Carolina, Virginia, Texas, Oklahoma, like California, you name it, Las Vegas. Yeah. So yeah, we have clients all over the place.

Aaron Spatz  39:54

You know, like, what’s been it like, is there anything that you see in the industry like in the industry that you’re in right now. Do you see any upcoming trends? Or do you see anything that you feel like the industry is going to need to react to or adapt to? That hasn’t already faced?

Joe Lafko  40:13

I mean, the obvious answer is the whole kind of leisure where infusion because of shutdowns and working from home, and people want softer, more cozy stretchy, you know, stuff, so to speak, isn’t necessarily true for denim? Depends on who you ask the the whole clinic COVID dynamic from a design perspective, it has changed a lot of things, but also it hasn’t. It’s left a lot of things alone, I think. And it’s changed more than anything else, the way that we do business from one from a financial perspective. And being able to offer retailers things at a good margin, right. So that they can stay in business themselves is really something that, you know, a lot of brands they focus on, but also, you know, a lot of brands, you know, choose to put the effort somewhere else. And I understand that look, every brand is different. I’m not talking down to anybody at all. Sure, yeah. People just do business differently for their own reasons. So what we kind of tried to set out is to, you know, for us to keep in mind that design perspective of, hey, look, can you wear these jeans at home as well, as you’re wearing the jeans? You know, out and about? Yes. Okay, well, we checked those boxes, is it something that’s going to be a little bit softer? A little bit more stretchy? That’s, you know, gives you that more that all day feel? Yes, great. We’ll check those boxes. Is it something that has a great story, and that’s got, you know, something that’s community minded and sustainable or more sustainable? Then, you know, then a past alternative? Yeah, great, check those boxes. So it’s something that kind of came together from different aspects of the industry into kind of a melting pot. And I think that’s kind of where we’re at now design wise, with, you know, texture brandstory, community, consumer, you know, how we face the consumer? And are we selling, you know, a product at a reasonable price into the marketplace? And right now we are?

Aaron Spatz  42:19

Yeah, no, I mean, I’ve definitely noticed a increase in the attention devoted to a community story or to a cause, or to something else, like, there’s a lot of brands doing a lot of that. And so they’re weaving a story into the products that are simply they’re not just selling a product or selling a story, or they’re, they’re selling a feeling or selling an attachment to something. And so, it’s nice, I mean, we already covered it, but it’s really cool to see how you’ve been able to weave that in. So like, in terms of being 100%, made here in the United States, supporting veterans. And so it’s like, you’re helping people connect to something beyond beyond the denim, right, they’re connecting beyond that, and they’re going further with you.

Joe Lafko  43:02

Yeah, they’re connecting with the community, right, which is something when we’re all locked down, or we’re, we’re forced to spend the majority of our times and kind of confined spaces. You know, humans are social animals, you know, biologically, that’s, that’s what we need in order to survive. So if we can’t have that in a physical sense, we need to have it in an emotional or in a communicative sense. And a great way to do that is kind of, you know, through product through fashion through being able to support the community from an outside perspective, while not being physically outside yourself. Yeah.

Aaron Spatz  43:34

Well, you know, this is probably my last question, but I think you are very uniquely positioned, I think, to answer this because of your like, as I said earlier, you’re very diverse background, right? You’ve had a very, you’ve had a No, man, no, no, no, this is good. This is good. Nope. So somebody listening or watching this right now, they may have, they may have been, they may have iterated through a couple of different careers, right? So they’re either maybe considering starting their own company, it’s been something that it’s kind of been stewing back their mind. Or they’re simply in a career in a in a field that they hate. And they’re considering jumping into something else. And what would you say to those that are, because I’ve, I’ve run into this with with folks that I’ve interacted with, where they feel like the time that they’ve spent is wasted, or it’s been like they’ve had to backtrack and what is your perspective on that in terms of the the overall journey as people are heading towards something else?

Joe Lafko  44:32

First things first, you gotta learn to manage your own expectations. Look, nobody’s born with a billion dollars necessarily, right? So we all have to make do in some way or another. We have to compromise, make sacrifices, all of those kinds of things. But if you’re looking to make a change, if you’re looking to, you know, deviate from a career path, you know, that you thought you loved but all of a sudden you don’t, you know, the biggest thing one managing your own expectations and making sure that you’re doing what you have actually want to do, regardless of passion or, you know, whatever else, whatever other you know, internal driver you have, if that’s going to be something you set your mind to manage your own expectations and those around you, and do it in an open communicative form. If you need to write shit down, you know, write it down. If you need to put things in on a whiteboard, put on a whiteboard. But do that as best you can. Because all it’s going to do is set you up for success later. The second thing being is you do the due diligence, you need to do your homework, and check out what you’re getting your nose into, make sure that you’re doing it for the right reasons. And make sure that you know, this is going to be something that you can, you know, get to that manage expectation within a reasonable amount of time. That’s up to you, of course. And outside of that, you know, just the biggest drawback I find to entrepreneurship. And the biggest drawback to getting to that next step is we get in our heads too much, right, we just need to get out there and do the work. And that’s a lot easier said than done for a lot of people. And I admit that that’s totally understandable for a lot of reasons. And I can I can hear the digital community screaming at me as I say this, but at the same time, like you don’t need to wait for the perfect set of circumstances, right, you don’t need to wait until the situation is perfect for you, for you to go out there and create the business. No, we create opportunity, go kick over some rocks, go knock on some doors, make some phone calls, you never know what you’re gonna find. Yeah, we have to go and create the opportunity ourselves, Mother Nature and the world around us, the community’s not going to hand it to us on a platter. So get out there, do the work, put your feet to the pavement, send the emails, make the phone calls, whatever it is that you need to do, to get things started. Because people are always going to appreciate that in the end, they’re always going to remember that you didn’t you know, you didn’t sit around and wait for them to come to you. You decided that, hey, I’m going to get after it, I’m going to do it. And you did it. That’s gonna, that’s what separates, at least for me, that’s what separates a lot of successful entrepreneurs from people who, you know, continue to find struggle, or they say, well, it’s not working because of this, or because of that, or whatever. No, just get out and do the work.

Aaron Spatz  47:16

Solid, solid, solid words of wisdom, Joe, man, I appreciate that man. The what? One thing that I would actually probably add to that, too is, you know, you’ve had such a varied background, that I would argue that every single position that you’ve held, and every single company you’ve worked, worked in, has has simply been opportunities for you to learn and for you to grow. And so there, this is just my this is my estimation of, of your background, and of a lot of people’s backgrounds is like, there, there isn’t really time wasted, you can choose to let it be wasted. Or you can choose to see it as a growth opportunity. See it as something that you that you were able to learn from, right?

Joe Lafko  47:57

Yeah, absolutely. There’s, like there’s opportunity around every corner, right? That’s kind of the old cliche way to look at it. But you’ve got to make it right you it’s a it’s a Cognizant choice that you got to make to say, I’m gonna learn something today, right, or I’m gonna, I want to poke my nose around here, because I want to learn what this what this process is about. Or I’m going to ask my supervisor or boss or partner, whoever I want to ask them about this, because I’m curious about that. Right? I want to learn how to close this deal. I want to learn how to put, you know, an m&a deal together, if I work in the finance world, or investment banking, I want to learn how to do this, you got to make the choice to want to do it, right. And if you sit around and kind of wallow in it, or it kind of you take a backseat approach to it, you’re never going to get the results like anybody else who’s going to, you know, just kind of say, Okay, I’m going to go make a choice to to be better today. Right. And you don’t need to be a rock star, whatever it is that you’re doing in the first day out. Nobody is right, all rock star has spent years in practice trying to get where they’re at. So you don’t need to try and do that. So at the at the end of the day, it’s it comes down to making a choice to be paid, I’m going to be a little bit better at this. Today, I’m going to learn something today. I’m going to take something you know, more in the learning environment, then I am just kind of going through the motions,

Aaron Spatz  49:15

which ties back in directly in perfectly to your first point which is managing your own expectations. I mean, it’s like, perfect.


It’s perfect life here.

Aaron Spatz  49:24

That’s right, man circle life. I love it. Well. Joe, how can how can people get ahold of you? How can they learn more about Trinidad three jeans?

Joe Lafko  49:33

Yeah, so we’re super active on social media. So you can find us on Instagram most of the day. That’s going to be at Trinidad three. And you can find us there or at Trinidad three jeans. And then you can also find us on our website, Trinidad three.com And you’ll find us online Nordstrom COMM And you’ll find us on a ton of our retailers I’m kind of across the country and, and if you’re in Omaha you can find this in great, great clothing if you’re in Decatur, Illinois. You can find us at the brass horn, Columbia, South Carolina, you’ll find us at Granger, Owings and a ton of others in Charleston, you’ll find us at Jordan lash there on King Street, which is I have to save some of the one of the coolest cities I’ve ever been to. If you’re in the Outer Banks, you’ll find us in Duck North Carolina, and untucked there on the coast. So you know we’ve got nine or 10 Physical retailers kind of across the country and sorry from leading leaving some people out here but at the same time like it we’re growing it look for us out there more often. Shoot us a you know, shoot us an email on the website you have any questions or hit up Nordstrom or any of the other retailers or or find us on social media at Trinity three jeans.

Aaron Spatz  50:53

Brilliant. Joe, I just want to thank you, man. This has been a sincere blast.

Joe Lafko  50:58

For sure. Thanks for having me, man. I really enjoyed it. Awesome.

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