Brett was tired of his life in finance and wanted to do something he was passionate about. He launched Fortune out of his dorm room where he sewed and created all his clothing by hand – now, he runs the entire company and makes skateboards, jackets, hats, and so much more.
BRETT CONTI: When I was in college, I studied finance and marketing, and I got an internship. It was literally like "Wolf of Wall Street" where I was the intern. They brought me in. They were like, make 500 phone calls a day and don't pick up your head until lunch. I'd really dread it. I would see where I could potentially be in 10 years, and that wasn't me, and that's what forced me and motivated me to do something that I really love.
I started skateboarding when I was about six years old. And, man, I can't believe it's been that long. Then I always had dreams of becoming a pro skateboarder.
Skateboarding is a way of self-expression and a way of giving myself freedom, and there's nothing like just skating down the streets of New York City and freeing my mind, and it's almost a meditation.
When I was 20, I chose the path to go to college and still tried making it as a skateboarder. But then I got severely hurt, and I couldn't skateboard for six months. That was definitely a stressful time in my life. So I took my grandma's sewing machine to my college dorm room, probably the only kid in a business school with a sewing machine, and I just started sewing pocket T-shirts, hats.
My grandfather owned a textile company, and he always taught me about fabrics as a little kid. And that always fascinated me, just how clothes were made and different fabrics.
I remember it so vividly. I was on the subway, and it was insanely cold, and homeless people were still outside. And I started a fundraiser where every beanie bought for $20, 100% of that money would go to helping the homeless. So we literally raised about $2,000 in five days. And we went downtown Manhattan, and we were putting up homeless people in hostels and shelters. To start off the company with that really motivated me to keep that going with giving back to the less fortunate, and that's what kind of transpired the brand name. And even to this day we still have a tag on every piece that says how a dollar from every purchase is going to the less fortunate. Having that just really motivates me, gets me out of bed in the morning to grow this thing even bigger.
Of course, when you start a company, you're doing everything. You wear a lot of hats-- accounting, designing, merchandising, marketing, shipping even. I started shipping out of my dorm room and then led to my mom's garage, but now it's a lot easier.
When I first started the brand, I had no intentions of turning the clothing brand into a skateboard brand. But after making a little business plan, I just said, what the heck. I love skateboarding. And now it's crazy that we're in about 150 stores now, which is still unbelievable to walk into the mall and see something I created in my dorm room on the shelves.
I first started my YouTube channel about three years ago when I first got my first apartment in Chinatown, New York City. It was a five-story walk-up. I lived with seven strangers, and the room could only fit a twin bed and had a tiny little window. And at that time, I was like, I'm full focused on Fortune. I'm going to make this work. I'm going to turn this into a successful company.
The first videos that I was making, they were very vloggy. I didn't have, like, a format or style yet. But skateboarding is such a raw and core sport. It was, I would say, frowned upon at the time, and I was getting teased. There were people, like, making memes of me. But I knew that I was right and that one day that this would pay off.
I just believe that YouTube and vlogging is the best platform to really engage with your audience. There's nothing like sitting down and watching someone's life for 10 minutes where you really feel like you know the person.
I have done a few meetups in the past. I'd say about two or three. And to meet people that really have followed my channel for over two years now and how my story helped them, whether that's to follow their dream job or move to the city or their dream city, that's what keeps me motivated is knowing that I'm giving value to people or the inspiration to believe in themself. And that's something that I wish I had when I was going for it because I never knew if I was going to turn this into a successful career.
When I was working in finance previously as an intern, I knew that I needed to do something creative. I didn't want to just be a robot, so to speak. I wanted to do something much bigger and express myself and share my perspectives, my art, my visions for things with the world. So now with the vlog and YouTube and filmmaking, I'm able to do that, and I found this outlet.
And I was either going to succeed in this or, so to speak, die trying where I wasn't going to let anything stop me. I don't care who told me-- who said I couldn't do it, but I knew that this was what I was meant to do on this planet. So I was going to do whatever it took.