The growing Los Angeles small business received support from PACE and U.S. Bank
Benjamin Lee Phillips and partner Florence Tang co-founded Lot, Stock and Barrel in 2014 after taking a leap of faith and leaving their careers in corporate America to follow their passion for design, apparel and retail.
The company is a full-service design studio and retail shop offering custom tailoring and embroidery design and development, and specialty garment production. Over the last six years, the business has grown from a two-person enterprise with a conceptual retail space in downtown Los Angeles to a 10-person team with a showroom in West Hollywood and design studio in Hollywood.
Lot, Stock and Barrel has collaborated with brands including Levi’s, Madewell, Asos, Nordstrom and Barneys. It has also partnered with entertainment and music festival companies such as Hulu, Netflix, Amazon and Coachella by providing custom tailoring, promo materials, and on-site, personalized embroidery.
Prior to COVID-19, the company was gearing up for another busy year of entertainment events and music festivals, starting with Coachella in April. Then everything came to a screeching halt due to the pandemic. The effects were immediate: invoices and purchase orders with retailers were shut down; employee hours were cut back; contracts were lost; and the retail storefront was closed down. As a result, the company was sitting on supplies and inventory that could not be returned. Money was not coming in and expenses, including rent for two locations, were building up.
As a company that was completely bootstrapped from the get go and had never taken any investment or financial partners, Phillips and Tang were determined to get through the pandemic on their own. Like other small businesses, they made major adjustments to their operations in order to survive and stay relevant. Undertaking small production for specialty clients, offering curbside pick-up, and providing drop-off for long term clients helped keep the company afloat for a time. Despite their own financial struggles, Phillips and Tang even began producing and distributing masks at no cost to friends and colleagues in the retail and restaurant industries.
But as the months passed, things began to become more strained and the partners realized they might need a bit of help. After an exhaustive internet search, Phillips found PACE and connected with Business Manager Wai Ling Chin who recommended that he apply for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL).
PACE received grant funding from U.S. Bank’s $1 million Market Impact Fund to support its business counselors who are working hard to help small businesses that were impacted by COVID-19, like Lot, Stock and Barrel, with relief and recovery efforts.
Phillips said that his experience with PACE was the complete opposite of those he has had with larger agencies, “To be frank, I was surprised to get so much help and support.”
He was astonished about the level of service he received from Wai Ling who provided step-by-step guidance throughout the PPP loan process – reminding him of submission deadlines and helping him complete forms. As a result of PACE’s assistance, Lot, Stock and Barrel received its PPP loan in the second round of funding. The capital has enabled the company to retain its 10 employees and recoup manufacturing and supply investments.
As the country progresses through additional stages of re-opening, Lot, Stock and Barrel is working hard to get back to “as normal as possible.” Although events are a ways off, the company is focused on devising more creative ways to launch online product collaborations as well as increase partnerships. One positive aspect of the pandemic is that it has given the company more time to focus on their own private label and designs. The key to success, said Phillips, is “being agile, creative and as flexible as possible.”
When asked to share words of wisdom to aspiring entrepreneurs, Phillips said, “Don’t sacrifice your vision. Don’t pay attention to what everyone else is doing. Be your own guide and focus on your vision and passion.”