UNPLUGGED: We are with Sam Lehner, chief of marketing for Eleven XXI. You are the person that's creating the image, and getting that image out to the world about Eleven XXI. How challenging is it to do that for a new start up?
Sam: It has its ups and downs. If it was an already started company with a foundation there would have been previous images to base things off of. Since it is brand new, there is a lot of room to get creative with it. Sometimes we will take things we make and think it's wonderful! Weeks or months later were like, what were we thinking? Then we have to go back and tweak our work. Sometimes it gets shaky, but since there is a lot of room to work with. It's fun to do your own thing! To be able to start from scratch and just create whatever Preston bounces off of me or Derek throws my way. We bring their brand to life!
UNPLUGGED: You are relatively young in the industry. Is it challenging being so young, and a woman in the industry? In marketing instead of the modeling side?
Sam: Yeah, it is a challenge I have run into. When Preston and I are with clientele, meeting other business
owners, or even coworkers! A lot of people laugh or stop and be like, “You don't work for him.” Or say “What are you talking about? You’re his chief of marketing? That's not true.” Preston has to tell them, “No she really is!” It is because I'm 19 yrs old. I have run into challenges on the age end of it. Gender wise, so far I haven't felt exiled or unincluded. I just feel like I just flowed right into the stream of the industry. Right now I like where I am! Modeling is fun to play around with, and I used to model back in highschool. Now I like the business side of things. I like being behind the scenes.
UNPLUGGED: What skill or technical edge do you bring to Eleven XXI being the chief of marketing? What does your eye catch?
Sam: The smaller details in the big picture. We have a lot of great people on the team who are able to see the big picture. (Which is helpful and very appreciated.) There are a few of us that can see the smaller details. We try to find ways to think outside of the box. Every company is doing this cookie cutter formula. We find ways we can be well respected but at the same time still be refreshing.
UNPLUGGED: With all the popular trends that are out there, how do you pitch Eleven XXI against those brands?
Sam: In college when I am talking to my friends, we are always looking for the next up and coming trend. At this age a lot of people want underground, not as well known clothing lines. Things that are very unique and special to people. To wear something that not everybody else knows. When I am telling somebody about it, they are like “I could go to express and get a blazer. So what’s the big deal?” I tell them our designs are insane! They are unlike anything I have ever seen! Being able to make your own custom designs by mixing 3 different fabrics together is something we can do for you. Other companies say “here our our designs. If you don't like it, oh well. You're out of luck” We say to our customers “If that's your dream and you want to do that, we are going to do that.”
UNPLUGGED: What would you say as the chief marketing for Eleven XXI is one of the biggest challenges
start up companies face when it comes to marketing?
Sam: Getting other companies to trust and invest in you. To invest in putting your name out there. There are some promotion companies that think “ Why would we put our name on them? We would just be wasting our efforts if this failed at the end of the day.” So building trust and that relationship with those promoters has been a challenge. The challenge that stands out to me the most is being on the same page as them. If they are not, there's not much more I can do. It has also been a good learning lesson. Be intentional with the people and places you are trying to put your name on.
UNPLUGGED: I am sure if you don't already have it, and you're going to get yourself a blazer, what blazer speaks to you from the Eleven XXI collection?
Sam: The “Athena” or “Aphrodite”. More “Athena” Because it has a very bold, leader kind of feel to it.
UNPLUGGED: How can people get in touch with you?
Sam: Through our social media. I help Ron run it. The easiest way is through our website, iameleven21.com.
Article written by: Caitlin Johnson
Interview by: Phillip Bufford, Owner of UNPLUGGED Magazine