I'm especially excited about this edition of Inside the Design Studio. Paul Hotze is one of my favorite people, hilarious, a fellow entrepreneur, and an all-around great guy. We have more than shut down State of Grace on several occasions commiserating on the life of a small business owner.
Paul is the owner of Paris Texas Apparel Co, a great store for any Texan or aspiring one. Hot tip: it's the place to get a gift when you don't know what to get. I've had the pleasure of working with Paul and his wife Chloe on several occasions, including a line of women's guayabera dresses. You may know him from his recent profile in the Wall Street Journal featuring his "Make Oil $80/BBL Again" hats.
While his physical store may only be open for curbside pickup, because #Coronavirus, I hope you can get a sense of Paul's humor and generous spirit. He's one of those small businesses to support. I'm super excited to be sporting (you'll see me in it on Instagram) his newest t-shirt design "A Texan Can Survive," which benefits the Greater Houston Covid-19 Recovery Fund, all the time. I practically live in my Paris Texas graphic t-shirts. They're the best.
Tell me how you got started!
I launched Paris Texas Apparel Co in May 2012 right out of my garage in Houston. We wanted Texans to have a way to express their love of the Lone Star State that wasn’t overly obnoxious or cheesy. We launched with silk neck ties designed with small recurring patterns of iconic Texas images (oil derricks, armadillos, Come and Take It, chips and queso, Lone Star flags, etc.). All the ties come in embossed tin boxes which made them perfect gift items. The idea gained immediate traction and we quickly expanded into bow ties, t-shirts, prints, barware and our very popular guayabera line. Each year we build on the previous year and are in a constant cycle of improvement. So we’re analyzing sales, what moves and doesn’t move and upgrading our retail store, tradeshow booths and product mix to maximize our return on investment.
Every year is an evolution over the previous year and we really have focused on the direct-to-consumer business model rather than going the wholesale route. We focus on building relationships with our customers through our flagship retail store (Voss & Woodway), markets and tradeshows and eCommerce.
I am fortunate to have my wife, Chloe, working alongside with me and would have never been able to grow this business to its current level without her. My role in the business is focused on the long-term vision and growth of the enterprise, designing and developing new products, sourcing and manufacturing at various factories and managing the financial side of the business. Chloe is more operational focused and handles the day to day operations of our staff, retail store, warehouse, managing our eCommerce and POS platform and the ordering of inventory. We complement each other very nicely (she’s the Yin and I’m the Yang) and I believe that every successful business owner needs to have a key person who complements them…Chloe’s strengths are my weaknesses and vice versa.
What I love most about owning my own business is being able to control my own destiny, calling the shots and using my God-given talents and skills to be creative. Having the freedom to focus on how I spend and allocate my time and balancing between work and family. There are times when we are extremely busy, just drinking from a firehose and slower times that allows me to focus 100% of my time on my family. It ain’t perfect but there is a degree of flexibility to it and I just couldn’t imagine having it any other way. Last but not least, I enjoy working with my wife to build something together that has meaning and purpose.
How does a situation like COVID-19 affect you as a small business?
There’s a little saying that I think applies to this very situation, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” 2020 was going to be a break out year for our business after hitting some major milestones last year that put us in a better financial position. After the financial meltdown of 2008, I have always been looking for the next bubble and really got knocked on my ass from how the Coronavirus has played out. I could have never imagined our country getting to the point of shutting down bars, restaurants, offices and retail stores in an effort to prevent the spread of this virus.
However, we have been here before. Hurricane Harvey was a major blow to our business and the city went dead for about a month and a half. However, we were able to react quickly to it and come up with the “Come Hell or High Water” t-shirt where we raised more than $75k and donated to the JJ Watt fund and a number of other non-profits that helped those impacted by Harvey.
When they shut down our retail booth at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo on Wednesday, March 11th, I knew I was going to have to pivot and come up with a creative idea to get us through this rough patch. So we launched our “Make Oil $80/bbl Again” collection that has been a major win for us in terms of helping to offset the closing of both the rodeo and our retail store. It’s not a cure-all but it certainly softens the blow and allows us to at least open up an income stream that keeps us active and moving…there’s nothing worse than sitting on your ass while everything you have ever worked for is being destroyed.
What can people do to support small businesses like yourself?
I think the best way is to stay away from large big-box retailers and instead shop with local small businesses in your area.You won’t be strengthening the bottom line of large corporations but will literally be supporting individuals, people and families. My business is how I feed, shelter and provide for my family.
What is your most-used emoji?
Not a big user of emoji’s…I’m more of a GIF guy…My favorite GIF is Guy Fieri eating a slice of pizza and then pointing at the camera…kind of like he’ssayin’, “right on!”
What was the worst haircut you ever had?
I attended college at the Virginia Military Institute and they shave your head bald on the first day of matriculation…and trust me when I say that I do not look remotely attractive with a bald head.
Who was your childhood actor/actress crush?
Believe it or not, I had a thing for Punky Brewster. Thought she wassmokin’ hot back when I was 10.
What’s the most embarrassing fashion trend you used to rock?
Levi’s stone washed 501 jeans…They were like bleached completelywhite,….I look back at old pictures and cringe…geeeze what was I thinking!
You have your own late-night talk show, who do you invite as your first guest?
Pauly Shore…he is a riot!!
If a movie was made of your life what genre would it be, who would play you?
It would definitely be a comedy…Ihave a tendency to find the humor in things. I’d probably chooseDuane Chapman, aka “Dog the Bounty Hunter” to play me….better looking andlove the intensity he brings on camera.
You have to sing karaoke, what song do you pick?
I think I could really nail “Jealous Again” by the Black Crowes…”Don’t you think I want to, don’t you think I would, don’t you think I’d tell you baby if I only could…”
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Never follow the crowd. Do something different. Be your own boss.
When you die, what do you want to be remembered for?
Not really into the whole fame aspect of things or doing something significantly important. I simply want my little girls to remember me as the most amazing, fun and adventurous Dad they ever had. But I suppose I’d want people to remember me as kind, fun and generous.
What would the title of your autobiography be?
Don’t Get A F*****G Tattoo….And other life lessons and tips from a storied entrepreneur. Don’t have anything against tattoos, I just think there is a select group of people who can pull them off and if you don’t fall in that category, you shouldn’t get one…..artists, hipsters, USMC, Navy Seals, MMA/UFC, The Rock…but atweety bird on your ankle tells me that you’ve made some poor choices in your life.
What was the worst job you ever had?
I worked on a cattle ranch in Colorado during college and loved every minute of it. But…I spent an entire week shoveling shit out of cattle stalls in Moffat, CO. Thewind was blowing 20-30 mphacross the Colorado plainsand when I’d throw all the manure out, the wind blew it back in my face. By the end of the day I was heavily dusted in cow excrement.Every job that I had after that was a walk in the park.
Which band/artist-dead or alive would play at your funeral?
Don’t think I have a particular bandbut want a New OrleansSecond line band toplay “When the Saints Go Marching In” at the end of my funeral.
What’s your favorite place of all the places you’ve traveled that feels like home and is not where you currently live?
Charleston, SC is my favorite place to visit. Love the food, history, architecture, and beauty of that town. I’ve got a soft spot for the South and Charleston encapsulates all of it.
What’s one thing we don’t know about you?
I used to play the bagpipes. My parents would tell me that I’d appreciate it when I’m older but that hasn’t happened. There has never been a morning where I woke up and thought, “I’m going to pick up my old pipes and play “Scotland the Brave” for the entire city of Houston to hear.” Wish I had picked up the guitar or learned piano…little more practical.
If you could hang out with any fictional character, who would you choose and why?
I am officially stumped on this one…
If you could choose any person from history to be your imaginary friend, who would it be and why?
This person is probably overused butTeddy Roosevelt…the man lived an interesting and adventurous life.
What is your favorite curse word?
I am the king of F-bombs.It is my go-to curse word in every situation.Of course, I turn it off when I’m around my girls.Tryin’ to keep it clean.
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
I think I’d have a decent shot at becoming a professional stunt driver.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Perfect happiness would be me on a 40’ HinckleyPicnic boat cruising through the low country marshes of South Carolina with my wife and two beautiful, amazing daughters. A little “Toots & theMaytals” playing in the background with some Sauvignon Blanc nicely chilled in the cooler. No worries. No stress. Just enjoying being around the people I care about the most.
What is your greatest fear?
My greatest fear is dying before I get to walk my girls down the aisle.