There is an urban myth about an exclusive room in the White House that only the president of the United States has access to. This room is called Room 322 and it’s the basis behind the concept of Alberta clothing store, Room 322, an exclusive boutique of urban wear for the customer.
In February 2010, we had the pleasure to interview Room 322 Owner, and Creative Designer, Robert Tyndale who is, without a doubt, a very impressive Young Entrepreneur! It was inspiring to get a fresh, “get focused” approach to business ownership, targeted at those who, like many of us, have never fit the mold of what is essentially conventional. So when we heard about his start-up story, selling street-wear from his car and working hard to meet buyers and sales reps, it resonated a similar beginning to FUBU mogul Daymond John.
BIM: First off – can we have a little background information – Where you live? How old you are? What motivates you? Inspires you?
RT: I was born and raised in Edmonton, Alberta location of the biggest mall in the world. My city is small, where the degree of separation is two people at most and was rated the second coldest places on the planet on December 12, 2009. Edmonton has been coined “City of Champions” from the glory days when Edmonton Oilers won the Stanley cup in 84, 85, 87, 88 and 90s, which has sort of stuck around even though we have not won any major sporting event in a while. I am 24 years old and I get most of my inspiration from different art, music, and, lifestyles found across the world. One of the key things that motivates me is my family. I come from a very tight knit group of cousins and relatives that I see, or talk to on a weekly basis. Family helps to push me to accomplish the things I set out to do in my life. Without relentless support, I would not be able to accomplish as much as I have in my life up to now.
BIM: When did you realize you were an Entrepreneur? Was it something you knew from the very first business or something you became aware of later?
RT: I knew I was an Entrepreneur back in High School. It seemed the majority of my peers had similar plans of getting a 9 to 5 career job, which really was something I was not interested in. During my High School I did an extensive amount of traveling through a sponsored video gaming team called Team EG. We traveled across the world to Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto, LA, San Francisco, New York, Dallas, Paris, Mexico City, Seoul, and Monza participating in tournaments exposing me to many opportunities. After traveling with my team for a few years I was presented an opportunity to open my business with my brother and cousin, which was the turning point to become an Entrepreneur.
BIM: Describe/outline your typical day?
RT: My typical day changes depending on the school schedule. One of the highlights of my day is picking up what I am going to wear. I start with the shoes and work my way up, when deciding my outfits. Like my partners, I take pride in the way I dress because I believe it is an outside reflection of who I am. After choosing what I want to wear I complete my morning hygiene routine and immediately check my email to see if there is anything urgent I need to address. Technology, when used effectively, is a blessing by helping entrepreneurs communicate faster then ever before. After checking and answering any emails I grab something to eat and out the door to go to school, or straight to the store. During days when I finish class early I work at the store from open to close. First thing I do when opening is, setup the store to be ready for the first customers. This consists of getting the till ready, restocking up inventory and organizing all product displays.
BIM: Are there any other business partners at Room 322?
RT: Room 322 consist of three partners Nathan Tyndale, Jabari Broodhagen, and myself. Each partner involved brings something to the table, which has been a blessing to the business.
BIM: What is the startup story behind your business? When did it start?
RT: Fashion in Edmonton is behind when you compare the average person’s style to other places in the world such as L.A, New York, or Japan. Realizing this, my partners and myself felt it was up to the retailers to educate and enlighten customers, so they have the opportunity to grow with the fashion world. Not knowing where to start, we began ordering inventory and sold it from home and cars to friends and family. Gradually we decided we wanted to take this serious and opened Room 322 on January 1, 2008. Since then we have made many improvements in the store and we are still fine tuning some areas.
BIM: With school and social life, you must be busy. What does an average day (during school term) consist of?
RT: School takes a large portion of time especially during midterms and finals. This current semester I have arranged my schedule so that I attend school from 11am – 9:30PM two times a week. This is with a full coarse load, so between studying and exams I have only a few hours of free time. After my last class at 9:30PM, I usually stay at school until 12AM studying. Thankfully I am a night owl at heart, but it works against me the next morning. Thankfully I am in my last semester of University.
BIM: Where do you see yourself and your business in 5 years? 10 years?
RT: In five years I see my business being a major outlet in Edmonton for local and visiting customers. We currently lease our building, but we plan to own our next location within the next three years allowing us to fully develop the aesthetics of Room 322. In addition to that, we plan to have a large internet following and become very active in the streetwear community. In ten years, we plan to have our second location operating, or the development of a sister store within Edmonton.
BIM: What book has inspired you the most?
RT: Over the past few years I have read a variety of different business orientated books that have helped me build Room 322 into what it is today, but one of the most inspirational has been Think, think, think, and think again by J. Sakiya Sandifer. This book is an easy short read, but is much focused. Very few people really self reflect on their actions and thoughts but, this book encourages you to believe in yourself and in turn, your ideas. This seems like a no brainer; a majority of people conform to the environment that we are in and this forces them to think like others rather than thinking uniquely. I strongly suggest this book to anyone who aspires to be anything except ordinary.
BIM: What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
RT: The first tip I would give an aspiring entrepreneur would be to choose a business that they are passionate about. When you are building a business from the ground up you must be able to stick to it during the ups and downs.
BIM: Who has influenced you most and been your greatest inspiration?
RT: My family has been one of the main influences and inspirations that drive me forward through my mistakes, trials, accomplishments, and knowledge. I am able to grow and reach new heights in the hierarchy of life.
BIM: How do you go about marketing your business and what has been your most successful form of marketing?
RT: Room 322’s marketing has been based mainly on word-of-mouth through friends and family. In that past we have thrown fashion shows, giveaways, and flyer campaigns, but we have not been really effective. This year we are going to focus on more forms of untraditional marketing strategies, especially gorilla marketing and viral marketing to raise more awareness in our city and online. I do not want to get into detail, but Room 322 will be causing some waves.
BIM: Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?
RT: My favorite company right now is a group called Street Etiquette. The reason why I admire them is because they have a deep passion for fashion. They are able to incorporate detail in their clothes and, in their projects. Both founders Jkissi and Trav have tremendous style. I check their site daily. These two individuals set the bar instead of following. I highly recommend their site to anyone who is in love with fashion!
BIM: How do you achieve balance in your life?
RT: This has be a very hard task that I have not achieved. Between school, work and an extremely limited social life, I do not have a lot of free time. Currently, I am trying to reach a balance with my life through organizing my time. With anything, structure is necessary and vital if you are trying to accomplish tasks efficiently. This is currently a work in progress but, this year marks my last semester of university. It will take a significant workload off my schedule.
BIM: What are some of the stresses and pressures involved with your business?
RT: Some of the stresses involved in our business involve securing brands that we want in our store. When I first started Room 322 with my partners we were under the impression that, whatever brand you want, you could get the brand as long as your store fit the lifestyle but, in many cases, it does not work. In mainly clothing, there is a lot of politics that you have to sort through in order to secure the lines you want. You have to get some face time with a sales rep, distributors, and, store owners in order to get your foot in the door. Being a new guy it was initially hard but, slowly we are moving up the ladder and getting access to products we truly love and admire.
BIM: If we could introduce you to anyone, who would it be and why? (You never know who we know!)
RT: There are too many people, so I am going to break this question into two parts, Canada and US.
Within Canada a person I would love to meet would be Matt George. He is one of the founders of United Front, which is a group of individuals who brought Stussy chapters in Canada, GoodFoot, and Ransom. The reason why I would like to meet him is related to the fact that, I would like to work with a group to develop new ways to expand street-wear culture across Canada and, bring more awareness of the lifestyle. Matt George has accomplished a lot and I look forward to seeing what he has planned for the future.
In the US I would like to meet the founders of Street Etiquette. They display a window of how limitless fashion can be in regards to style. The amount of detail that Street Etiquette employs from accessories, outerwear, and, footwear is very creative and original. This is not an easy accomplishment. Through their perspective of urban fashion both of these guys are both very inspirational.
Robert graduated from the University of Alberta in June 2010 with a major in Marketing.