DALTON GERLACH, 23
Ensyd, an apparel company, Los Angeles
Employees: Two full-time workers, four independent contractors (bookkeeper and three designers).
Financials: 2012 revenue of $750,000.
What led you to start your own company?
In 2008, I had 400 cardinal and gold “Beat OSU” shirts delivered to my freshman dorm at USC. After liquidating the shirt inventory through guerilla sales tactics and locations, it hit me: Inventory is scary. I wonder how the dudes who made our shirts make money? They’re already paid and took zero risk. So I decided I would start a business manufacturing apparel.
Where did you get the startup money?
I didn’t need any startup money. The cash from the first few sales funded our startup costs. Business cash flow has always and continues to fund our growth.
What was the biggest challenge?
One of the biggest challenges has been managing cash flow. We are always carefully qualifying customers and making sure they will pay invoices quickly enough so that we can turn that same money around to pay bills and therefore avoid financing any of our expenses.
What was the most important lesson you learned?
Storm the gates. My dad taught me this and the principle has served me well in all facets of our business. When a customer or partner has a face to the name, they are much more likely to want to do business with you and you are much more likely to get something accomplished.
How many hours a day do you put in?
I work around the clock and until tasks are finished. But I am making a diligent effort to leave my laptop at the office each night and keep work out of my personal time, especially when I am with my amazing girlfriend, Allie, or my fantastic family and friends.
Does your youth lead to awkward situations, such as when you supervise older workers or meet with clients and investors?
It hasn’t. Employees, clients and others tend to respect me for my company’s work rather than judge me based on my youth. And when this is not the case, I try not to deal with that person.
Will you start another company?
Definitely! Already several in the rice cooker.
Could you ever work for someone else?
Definitely. If it was an opportunity to learn something interesting, new or work for someone I admired. It would hopefully be for only a short period of time, though.
What do you do to relax?
I enjoy surfing and eating.