108: Connecting with My Co-Founder with Gihan Amarasiriwardena

On this episode of Build Your Network, Host Travis Chappell interviews Gihan Amarasiriwardena, co-founder, and president of Ministry of Supply.

Here’s what Travis and Gihan discuss in this episode:

  • About Gihan Amarasiriwardena
    • Started Ministry of Supply to make the clothes you have to wear to work more comfortable.
      • Started on Kickstarter with a dress shirt.
      • Have since expanded to a full line and some women’s wear.
    • One of their most exciting projects is an intelligent heated jacket.
      • Contains a smart thermostat to preemptively keep you the right temperature.
    • What’s been the most unforeseen challenge you’ve run into with this clothing line.
      • They’re creating a new category with clothing that can be confused by the performance aspect.
      • You need a customer that’s familiar with performance materials already.
      • You need manufacturers who can create the clothes with the right materials.
    • What’s your bestselling item to date?
      • Their flagship dress shirts.
        • Moisture-wicking, wrinkle-free, low maintenance.
      • Where are you selling?
        • The majority is online, however, they’re in seven stores across the country.
        • These are in Ministry of Supply stores in Boston, New York, D.C. L.A., Chicago, and Atlanta.
      • With your impressive background, what made you get into clothes?
        • He grew up as a Boy Scout sewing his own rain jackets and sleeping bags.
          • He then started selling those products.
        • He wanted to learn about the materials.
        • He realized that comfort and performance didn’t exist in the professional world.
        • A professor connected him with his partner because they were both hacking clothes.
          • They met at the entrepreneurial center, it was the melting pot of the different areas of study.
        • What do you feel about the future of school and college in regard to entrepreneurship?
          • There are a lot of technical skills that are best learned through practice.
          • Most skills you need to be successful as an entrepreneur, you can learn on the go.
          • It’s not education in a degree sense, it’s project-based and problem-based learning.
        • Do you believe that what you know or who you know is more important and why?
          • Definitely, who you know, you’re the average of the five people you’re closest with.
          • Hopefully, you’ve got people around you who allow you to springboard.
          • You want to find the balance of people who are likeminded and also complementary in their experience and perspectives.
          • Everything’s a remix and someone’s probably solved the same problem before in a different field.
        • Was your time in college best served because of the connections that you made?
          • Yes, it was a creative environment.
          • If you are inherently inventive, being in an environment with similar people will amplify and support that.
        • What’s one of the biggest things you’ve learned in being a partner and a co-founder with someone?
          • Co-founder dynamics are so critical.
          • Having a shared passion allows you to know that you’re both moving in the same direction.
          • De-coupling leadership from management and making, it’s best for the company if there are a maker-leader and a manager-leader.
        • How has the ability to think long-term helped you to build relationships?
          • Don’t put pressure on the first interaction, that relationship builds over time.
          • Sometimes the best and deepest networking is forged in the trial-type situations.
          • Some of the people that he didn’t connect with initially turned into close life-long friends.
        • Who is the best networker that you know and why?
          • His co-founder.
          • He does networking the way the word comes to mind when you think of it.
          • What comes out is truly empathetic relationships.
        • Are you an introvert or extrovert?
          • He leans more introverted, but mostly toward the middle of the spectrum.
        • What are some fears that networking has helped you overcome?
          • Networking is not bragging but sharing.

The Random Round:

      • What profession other than your own do you think it would be fun to attempt?
        • Astronaut
      • If you could sit on a park bench with anyone for an hour who would it be, and why?
        • The Wright Brothers
        • Two humble mechanics who focused on solving one problem.
      • How do you like to consume content best, books, blogs, podcasts, or videos?
        • Audiobooks when running, YouTube for tutorials
      • What’s an audiobook you’ve listened to recently?
        • Fuzzy and the Techie
      • Give us a glimpse of your morning routine
        • Get up around 6 and run
        • Head to work
      • What is your go-to pump up song?
        • Go-Pro Hero HD3 music video
      • What are you not very good at?
        • Micro follow-ups
      • What is one place where we can find you online?
        • Ministryofsupply.com

Tweetable Quotes:

  • Most skills you need to be successful as an entrepreneur you can learn on the go.
  • If you are inherently inventive, being in an environment with similar people will amplify and support that.
  • Don’t put pressure on the first interaction, that relationship builds over time.
  • The name of the game is building real, genuine relationships with people.

Resources Mentioned:

Buildyournetwork.com– Podcast website

BYN.media/fb – Facebook Group

Ministry of Supply Website

The Fuzzy and the Techie – Book by Scott Hartley

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