Mike Risha is a sound engineer and co-owner of an athletic clothing line for women, Belle & Bell. At this years Agenda in Long Beach he was there with his new company Nothing&Company launching a new line of high-end eyewear. He took a moment out of his schedule to answer some of our thought provoking questions.
How has your experience been launching your new business?
It has been the craziest roller coaster I’ve ever been on. And you know what? I get sick on roller coasters, so I try to stay off them, haha. But this is one ride I am committed to, and no matter what, I want to do my best to enjoy it along the way.
Eyewear is so different then anything I’ve ever done. If I want to start a clothing line, I can basically wake up at 7am, design something, head to a clothing distributor, pick up some shirts, and have a friend print the shirts by 5pm…and boom I have a clothing line. Eyewear is like a 9 to 10 months process from design, sample making, to final product delivery. Which means I basically have to have 2 seasons of eyewear ready to go and in production before I even know if my first season is gonna work. So THAT’S where most of the stress comes from. I basically have to double down on this business. CRAZY.
Another scary part of this adventure is I had no business being in this business from the start. I come from a sound engineering background in music and film and I wanted to try something new. What do I know about pantoscopic tilt and lens base curves? I’ve always been the type that likes to get thrown into the fire to figure my way out, and I will do that with this project. I like the fact that I work outside the box of most of the brands around me, and as many funny looks I get when I have no idea what people are talking about, everything usually works out in my favor.
What has been your biggest obstacle getting to where you are now?
I think the biggest obstacle for most new small brands is making sure no money goes to waste. I don’t have any financial backing, I’m doing this all on my own dime, so I need to make sure every dime has a positive purpose… and I basically have to do that on the fly. Sometimes I don’t have more than a day or two to make a financial decision, so some of it is calculated gambling… almost like a tricky hand in poker where you have to know your percentages.
Another big obstacle is maximizing the help people offer my partner and me. There is a balance of not biting off the hand that feeds you, but I’m not afraid to try to lick that hand clean (gross, I know). I’ve had a hard time realizing that no one is going to be as passionate about this brand as its core people, no matter how much money is in play. I’m figuring it out though, slowly, but surely.
What does your average day look like?
I wake up around 7 or 8, and con myself out of working out. I’ve gotten good at that, probably my best skill, (wish I could put that on a resume). Some days I wake up with an idea and head straight to the computer, and next thing I know it is 6pm. I can completely blow through a day working on it, and be so motivated to finish it that I don’t get up to eat or anything… I just sit at my desk and let my brain go. Other days I will get into the office, and handle all the duties I can: sort out social media, phone meetings or lunch with manufacturing, head out to new stores I want to work with, etc. I have everything I need to get this out to the world, so now is the time to do it.
If you could collaborate with anyone who would it be?
Oh man. There are so many I brands I wanna work with. But again, I think outside the box. I’ve always thought it would be funny to do a pair of shades with another eyewear brand. Why not? Yeah it’s unorthodox, but again, why not? It would probably get some good hype and press and a lot of “WTF?”, but there are no rules in this game for me, because I find that it is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. I also want to do a collaboration with a weird blog or something. Why does it have to be another brand? I just want to have fun and do weird shit. As far as traditional collaborations, I don’t really know as it just has to be one of those things that happens organically. I hate trying to force those things, as they are usually so easy to spot when they are. “Oh look, two brands trying to promote each other, cool”. Meh. Not my thing. I’m more of “WTF do these two things have to do with each other?” Haha.
Where do you find inspiration?
My inspiration comes from wanting to finish what I start. Everyone has ideas and of course, opinions. Everyone tries to be a backseat CEO. Everyone thinks they know best, but they like to do it from the zero-risk side of things. They don’t want to actually do it. They just think they know how they would do it, and they LOVE to tell you about that. I took my idea and actually wrote the check to make it happen. I’ve written a lot of checks actually, and it feels more like I’ve taken a bucket, filled it with money from time to time, and thrown that bucket at people. I just want to start something, and finish it. I want to succeed on my own terms, and be my own boss. I want to learn from my mistakes, conquer my stress and fears, and commit to my goals.
Now in terms of brand inspiration, again it comes from being and thinking completely out of the box. I just want to do things differently because I have no idea what the traditional things are to do. That’s what makes it fun. I don’t have to follow “the way it’s done” because I could give a shit. It’s seriously just more entertaining that way. Our brand is Nothing&Company. It’s nothing without the people who wear it. It’s a brand for the brand-less, for people (like me) that are too grown up to care about what people label them as.
Are you reading anything at the moment?
What is your favorite post work destination?
Lately it’s been to my mom’s house for a good home cooked Lebanese meal. I’ve been digging spending time with the family, as I didn’t really do much of it in my 20’s. Family is important, and I want to enjoy my time with them. Other than that, my closest friends and I usually try to meet every Thursday at local pub for a drink or two to talk about life and the week.
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grow up?
I’m still a kid in my mind, so I have no idea how to answer that. I’m still growing up. I may have a lot grey in my beard now, but I still enjoy fucking off work and heading up to the mountains to snowboard whenever I can. I guess I always just wanted to be successful, and I wanted to do it on my own terms. I’m still growing into that, and hopefully this Eyewear brand will be the legacy I leave on this planet.