Joah Spearman | Not a business man

Joah Spearman, is a man of many hats. Serial entrepreneur, developer of the official Style event for SXSW, Joah talks to us about style, business and some advice we all need. Trust me take the time to read this one.

Biggie or Tupac?Tupac was a fellow poet so I’d have to pick him. But I wish Miles Davis as an option, he died before I could see him too.
Favorite Color? If I say green, don’t think it’s because money. I just like the spring.
Personal Heroes? Ben Franklin and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Favorite place to visit? Rio, Brazil is the best, but I’m planning Japan for the first time very soon and have a feeling it may win out. God bless the people out there.

Who are you and what do you do?I’m Joah Spearman and I do everything. I’m a Renaissance guy at heart and a writer of poetry, blogs (Diatribes by Joah, the Huffington Post) and books (Real Role Models). I own a pop-up sneaker boutique called Sneak Attack in Austin. I am the co-founder and executive producer of South by Southwest’s fashion showcase, Style X. I recently started a job as the Director of Operations and Strategic Initiatives for a tech company called Bazaarvoice. And I am a member of the Austin Music Commission, a seven-member board appointed by the City Council to advise on music issues.

Why did you start StyleX ? Everyone knows that SXSW is all about discovering what’s next in music, film or technology and I thought there was and is a natural place for style alongside those creative industries. Style X is a young, emerging designer’s chance to showcase their talent the same way an upstart rapper or band would at SXSW or a tech startup would during Interactive.

You do alot in many different fields. What do you say to those that say you are doing too much or a person should stick to one lane? Smart investors diversify their portfolios, right? Well, that’s what I’m doing. I’m diversifying. You know that line Jay-Z says, “I’m not a businessman, I’m a business man…” well I would liken my perspective on my work to that. I want to branch out and have a lot of different things contributing to the bottom line.

What is your take on where fashion and style are right now? Fashion is dying. Well, I wouldn’t say it’s dying, but I’d say that a lot of people who are interested in style, myself included, are ready to dig a hole and throw dirt on it. Style, on the other hand, is alive and flourishing.

Explain why you think “Fashion is dying”? Think about it. The major retailers don’t know what to do online and with e-commerce and they’re still being latent when it comes to picking up new trends like Gilt Groupe, Jack Threads and Karmaloop. Those are sites that companies like Nieman Marcus and Foot Locker should’ve started. It’s kind of like how Blockbuster passed on the original Netflix idea. Too late, now you’re nearly gone.

What does Style mean to you? Fashion is about who or what is in or out, but style is about who is doing and what they’re doing. People in fashion like to see something (on a runway, in a magazine, etc.), then re-create it for the rest of us humans. People who identify with style more than fashion are just creating. Then they let others see it.

Besides working on StyleX, does personal style have an dealings in your day to day life? I try to find new designers and potential partners every day. On the web, in convos, on trips. I travel the US a good bit to put a face to the name and represent Style X outside of Austin. Personal style is really important to me because it’s one of the best ways for me to both express myself and also to represent myself. My style, which I call street-prep, is based in hip-hop music while also being grounded in American legends like Miles Davis and F. Scott Fitzgerald and the like. In terms of representing who I am, well that is evident everyday when I go from a meeting at City Hall to discuss music or diversity issues facing Austin to doing a pop-up sneaker shop for Sneak Attack where I’m at a rap show with Talib Kweli or Big Boi and trying to educate people on how to where their new Nike Dunks. I own a lot of ties and jackets and suspenders, but also a lot of sneakers and streetwear tees. There’s that same diversity I was talking about earlier.

Do you think there is a way for Style & Tech to merge on a bigger level thank blogs and online shops? They already are. Companies like Lyst and Go Try it On and StyleCaster and StyleLikeU are some of the pioneers in the merging of style and tech and it’ll happen more and more as they get more closely aligned (mostly the high fashion people realizing what’s happening “below them”).

Best advice you have ever heard? There’s a great book by a guy named Bo Peabody called “Lucky or Smart” and I re-read that book every year. It’s just about a young entrepreneur who found success by creating his own luck as best he could. The best advice I could ever give anyone is to work hard, create opportunities and the luck will follow. Too many people think the luck comes before the hard work or the opportunities. And too many older people think you can simply settle into true success and happiness, when they couldn’t be further from the truth.

Lastly If you could go back 10 years and tell a young Joah one thing what would it be? Save 10% of your money every single year. No matter what. It doesn’t have to be every day or every week or even every month, but that 10% per year is going to help you focus on that new business idea or that trip you’ve always wanted to do that you have to put on hold when times are tough.



Corey Knight

Founder of A&H Group.