Gabe Lee is a full time student at SFSU majoring in Business Administration. I have known Gabe for over 6 years now and have been able to see his company unravel into what it is today. I was able to sit down and have a small Q&A with him about what MINT is, how becoming an entrepreneur has changed him and what his plans for the future are.
Q: What is MINT?
A: MINT was a shoe company first started by my uncle (Leo) in Hong Kong in 2010. When he decided to move it to SF it was shortly changed into a Lifestyle brand. Now we consider it to be a mix of HK and SF lifestyle clothing brand mainly focusing on hip hop style.
Q: Where did the name come from?
A: The name came from our slogan “Always Fresh”. We came up with the slogan first and the name MINT soon followed when thinking of what to us is always fresh.
Q: Did you always want to run a business?
A: No (laughter). I really did not have any plans because of how old I was when we started. At first it was helping out at the warehouse with cleaning and organizing which soon turned into more responsibilities like shipping and helping package boxes. From there on I have only gained more and more responsibility to now where I do almost all of the shipping and ordering, and all of the paper work that needs to be done. When I graduated high school I had plans to study Biology and enter the medical field but after helping run the business i soon changed my major to fit what I found out I really love to do.
Q: What goes into the creative process when you are thinking of a new design?
A: Most of my creative thinking happens between 2AM and 3AM. Because my uncle lives in hong kong for months at a time communication is usually at weird times but it has never been an issue. For us we start with the collection (Fall, Winter, etc) from there we do mock up drawings of what we think might work, from there we get smaples made, we give samples out for feedback, tweak the samples and adjust them until they are our final product.
Q: How do you build a customer base?
A: It was basically luck for us. A few of my uncles good friends know stylists who would put us on with managers of celebrities or people in the know and we could just get our product out from there. Well Armed helped us get on to the Karmaloop Kazbah and once we were able to get onto the site our clothing company kind of just blew up. Other than that I use Instagram and Twitter to direct message either celebrities or their managers to see if they would be interested in wearing our gear. Once people see someone famous wearing something new everyone wants it.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish with MINT?
A: I hope to open a Flagship store in San Francisco and hire friends who have stuck with me from the start. I want to make the company as tight knit family orientated as possible. But yeah, a MINT store is my ultimate goal.
Q: Who is your biggest inspiration?
A: Jonas from LRG. ( the founder of the very famous clothing company LRG). For me he is such an inspiration because he started young with a grass roots movement and brought it from nothing to one of the most popular clothing companies around. Just shows how you can start so small and make it so big.
Q: What motivates you?
A: Customer and friend support. Customers and friends who give feedback and show they care about the brand and continuously purchase and back the company are the reason why we keep doing what we are doing. Knowing that people care is all the motivation that I need.