Behind Every Success is a Dozen Failures | with David Schottenstein

David Schottenstein has an intuitive ability to go after his goals without letting a fear of failure get in the way. As impressive as his bio is — he founded the fastest-growing custom clothing company in the United States, Astor and Black, at the age of 21; co-founded Viewabill in 2012; and today runs luxury eyewear company Privé Revaux — it would be much longer if it included all of his failures.

David grew up in Columbus, Ohio, with a very religious father, and he did not like the restrictions that Orthodox Judaism forced upon him his whole life. Around 13 years old, David had completely checked out of his religion, and his parents were supportive of that. He returned to religion later in life, but on his own terms.

Around that same age, David had convinced the family stockbroker that he had permission to trade on a custodial account. He was a voracious reader and so he was well-educated and made some good decisions early on. He also started a business relationship with someone to sell Cuban cigars. A few years later, his dad found out about the cigar business, with a mixture of anger and pride. He told him he had to focus completely on school and that business would always be there for him when he was done.

For David, life happened fast and happened young. He started thinking about business at 13. He met his wife at 16, married at 19, and had his first son at 20.

He first got the idea for Astor and Black at 16 and was able to bring it to fruition at 19. He was sitting in Venice and a kid walked into class wearing a beautiful, gorgeously tailored shirt. He asked him where he got his shirt and found out that they get them from this Hong Kong tailor that sells them for $40 a shirt, which was an incredible deal. He went through the process himself and realized that the product was great but the process was horrible. He wondered what he could do if he could hook up with these tailors and bring their great product to the US market, with a local salesforce, luxury experience, and recognizable brand.

Starting a business so young is a bit of a struggle; David didn’t have a lot of patience. He didn’t spend time making a game plan or properly vetting factories, and this led to several mistakes that hurt them. But youth also served him well. He was able to bring a sense of youthful energy to an industry that had been completely missing that. It quickly became recognized as a brand that everyone was wearing, and they continued to grow until they were purchased in 2011.

One of the lessons David learned from his successes and his failures is that, whatever he decides to dedicate himself to, he needs to both be able to make money from it and love doing it. Several of his business ventures had made him miserable and he doesn’t want to experience that again. That’s why he created Privé Revaux. There wasn’t anything in a low price range that had any sort of brand recognition or wasn’t embarrassing to wear, so he knew that it was a ripe business opportunity, and he already loved the luxury fashion space that he grew up in.

David would urge anyone interested in entrepreneurship not to be swayed by seeing the success of anyone. As a society, success is loud, but failure is a whisper. For every success we see, we don’t acknowledge the many failures that came before it. He would like to make a point of failure so that people aren’t afraid to do the things that need to be done to build a business — because anything worth building is also worth the risk of failing.

What Brett asks:

  • [04:20] Tell me about your early childhood life.
  • [10:04] Did your father understand when you stopped being religious?
  • [15:24] What did you do to get kicked out of boarding school?
  • [26:42] What was it like getting into business, getting married, and having kids so young?
  • [28:38] Where did the idea for your business come from?
  • [34:38] What were some of the challenges with taking on this business so young?
  • [41:13] What was your feeling on the Astor and Black exit?
  • [47:55] What is your process for deciding what you’re going to commit to?
  • [53:37] What was your thinking around celebrity endorsements?
  • [55:53] How do you approach fatherhood?

Lessons for intentional living:

  • For anyone looking to be an entrepreneur, failure is a must. It’s going to happen. There will be times where you want to throw in the towel. Don’t look at anyone’s success and think that’s the only thing they’ve ever done, because any entrepreneur who sees success has seen many, many more failures.