Posted on 2019-11-02
Michael Magnone is the co-founder of TM Fashion. This Montréal-based fashion distributor is pushing the limits of fashion, and the boundaries of his own personal limitations as an entrepreneur and a charity fundraiser. TM Fashion is one of of the fastest growing clothing designs in the world. Michael and his brother, Chris, started TM Fashion in 2005, though their entrepreneurial journey began much earlier.
“It started at a young age. My father was in the clothing industry and always had a passion for dressing a certain way, presenting yourself a certain way. When I graduated from University, the opportunity to be a salesperson for a brand was the first step. A sales rep in Ontario had a line for Québec and had offered it to me, to just start selling and that was the first initial intro into the clothing world.
“Initially it was just myself as a sales rep. After about 2 years of that, my brother graduated University and he came on and joined. The company consistently just evolved. In the beginning, we were sales reps for Québec then became sales reps for Canada and always just striving for more. A lot of that comes from inside, pushing limits, wanting to achieve more and being self-driven.”
Magnone and his brother are partners in family and in business. However, neither have become complacent, both brothers pushed for more. Their father had shaped their education in the fashion business by having them learn to cut patterns and work in boxing goods from a young age. Both learned the value of hard work and learning as you work.
“We’ve been a fast-growing company in the sense of going from a Québec-based sales company to a national sales company within a year. So, in 2002, I started as a sales agent and then in 2003, we started doing sales nationally, and in 2005 I became a distributor.
“We grew our business from sales in Québec to distributing for Canada, and then grew finally into North American distribution. This is a whole journey that took quite some time. And it has been an amazing experience. A lot of learning, just constant learning. Like, to get out there and understand the market.
“It’s great that we had the gung-ho energy and want to ‘go-go-go,’ but if you don’t understand the whole surroundings of what’s going on and what customer needs are, then it’s hard to execute. That was probably our strongest point; We were able to relate to the customers that we wanted to engage with.
“Throughout time, we’ve always found products that we relate to. Initially, the first one that we distributed was a wallet company. Most guys have a wallet, they get one in their life, or two, or three and they’re pretty good for a couple of years. We related to that for our age demographic, and we started implementing that into the stores that we sold to.
“So we believed in that brand, we liked its values and the design and the other clothing aspects that we picked up which was t-shirt lines, denim, they’d always be things that we saw ourselves wearing and we were able to sell them and implement them into the market and into our team in our company with the idea that this is something we believed in.
“It resonated with our souls and it resonated with our age group.”
“At age 22, I started the business, and I’m now 37. In the last 8 years we started playing on a higher-end market, where it was dress shirts, knitwear, suits, and it’s always just been about understanding what our market is looking for, or whom we would resonate with.”
Magnone believes that a salesperson or entrepreneur has to believe in their product “100%.” He wears his own lines, and if it’s something that he or his brother can wear, it’s something his clientele will pick up on.
“You can’t just sell ice to an eskimo. It has to resonate with us from the inside and that’s one of the things that we’ve been focusing on in TM Fashion.”
“Everything that we believed in and everyone brought on within company was because we said this person’s going to make a good fit, this person’s good for us, and our clothing brands. We understand it’s something we’re tied to.
“One of the denim brands we picked up was Rock Revival and they were giving 1% of sales back to the planet. That was just a good charity that we thought was like a story we could build on.”
Magnone believes in a healthy lifestyle, and wants to contribute to cleaner practices within fashion that are better for the environment. However, it’s not without its challenges. Trying to be a green fashion provider presented a difficulty that affected his company. “Ecologically sustainable clothing is really difficult to find, at this point. We did have a brand that we brought on because it was a made from bamboo… It was called ‘SundayRocks.‘”
“The brand only sold for a couple of years. It was during that time that we started looking at giving back and doing better for the planet and looking for organic cottons and sustainable resources. SundayRocks was one of those brands with its bamboo composition.” Unfortunately, that brand didn’t change it’s style or colour scheme, so after two years, they discontinued the line.
Despite that setback, Magnone persevered. Despite having grown up in as a business-owner’s son, he recognizes that sometimes, an entrepreneur is sometimes the product of inspiration, as well as a deep-set, personality drive one is born with. As the parent of two small children, he says he wonders if they have a path set out for them, or if he can guide them.
“A lot of the books that I’m reading show that kids can be molded and influenced by the way you interact with them. I believe my parents raised my brother and I to become entrepreneurs, but I think that’s also what lies within; it’s what you’re born with.
“There’s that person that’s going to take that risk and just throw caution to the wind, ‘what’s going to happen? Not sure about it? Well you know what, let’s just go for it!’ And I think that that side of [entrepreneurship] is just innate.”
Magnone realized he could be an entrepreneur as early as the age of 14, when he started his own little tennis academy. However, the young businessman couldn’t have continued along that path without the encouragement of his parents and the support of people around him. Magnone remains grateful to this day for the emotional support he received from his family.
“When I started the clothing company, there was a lot of support from our parents in the aspect of not having to worry about certain simple things. The week I came home from University, I realized how lucky I was to have food in the fridge, clean sheets, and clean clothes… I’d [say] ‘thank you, mom, so much, for what you’re doing.’ That also transitioned when I was starting the business, those weren’t things that I had to worry about.
“So there’s always that support staff behind me which made a big difference.”
Gratitude was a big factor in the success behind his company, but Magnone recognizes the hurdles that young business owners face, such as the unreal expectations of what owning and running one’s own company might involve. He suggests that tempering one’s enthusiasm and naivety by planning ahead, and staying true to your word.
“Sometimes…going into things as a young entrepreneur, everything’s green, everything’s amazing, everything’s going to be exactly what you expect it to be…but not everybody plays by those rules and that’s one of the things I have learned and I’m still learning.
“But everybody plays by the rules that they want to play by. You have to govern yourselves how you want to be represented.”
“There’s a couple of times that brands were either taken away, contracts were closed – not for any particular reasons – and those are hard lessons to learn. One of our first brands just decided ‘hey we’re not going to work with you’ and at that point, you’re kind of caught, but you learn, ‘okay next time I need a contract that says you’re going to work with me this long,’ and that’s going back quite some years.”
One challenge that Magnone had faced within the first year, was having a distributor pull six brands from his showroom at the same time. “I had no recourse…nothing was written out in paper.”
“It’s kind of tough, but it’s a good learning lesson. Then, probably about a year later, there was another company that decided to sell their distribution and stopped doing the sales. They took the brand and handed it back to a group, and I had already done the sales for the six months in advance, where it was fronted for the cost and business was done, but I got zero pay out of it.
“Those were just lessons that at that time were very painful but it also pushed myself and Chris to the next level – hey, instead of working for somebody else, let’s just do it for ourselves. And we started becoming a distributor because of that.”
Magnone knows about the benefits of learning through personal and others’ experiences. Where does he go for business support outside of his own family?
“I’m part of Entrepreneurs’ Organization, EO Montréal. My forum is chapter eleven in the Montréal Chapter. It’s been a great experience. Like-minded people that want to push their business and push themselves, sharing experiences in a very safe environment.
“Being part of EO has been really helpful, because quite often you can go through difficult times as a business owner and not know who you could lean on or pull experience from. Not all my friends have their own business.”
“My network of friends are good people… they’re not dealing with the same issues. [Some business owners’ problems] may be legally oriented, or customs-based, or could be anything that a business owner runs into. Being able to talk to people who have been in the same situation and can share their experiences has been really helpful.”
Outside of his professional ties, Magnone has been reading to keep his spirits up when the chips are down. “I’ve been reading a lot of books. This past year has been about learning for me at a very accelerated rate. One really simple book that could be great for any person that wants to be an entrepreneur and has that drive inside of them, is “Go For No! Yes Is The Answer, No is How You Get There.
I really resonated with the book because it said, ‘never end the sale or never stop your opportunity unless someone says the opportunity is done.’
“If we choose to just end something, it’s us saying ‘hey, I’m happy’, and not saying ‘hey, we’re actually done.’ Always want a little bit more. It’s a very short read, it’s a good read, and I think for an entrepreneur, everyone should read it.”
never set your sights just on one simple thing, always shoot further and further.
“I could have been happy with being a sales rep with just Québec, and then a sales rep for Canada, and then a distributor for Canada, and then a distributor for North America. But, it’s about always just going for a little bit more, but that might be just something inside me, personally.”
Magnone’s personal “Go For No” goal is to complete an IRONMAN Triathlon. Quite the challenge, considering that Magnone admits he doesn’t like running and doesn’t really swim.
“This year, I’m really fortunate my kids are super healthy and my business has done more that I could have dreamed of and I have a great team around me. So this year I actually decided to give back. I signed up to compete in a Triathlon in conjunction with raising funds for Smiletrain.org. I told myself, ‘You know what, I’m going to do a half marathon in about three weeks,’ but I wanted to go for as much as I could.
“Smiletrain.org provides life-changing surgery to underprivileged children who are born with a cleft lip or cleft palate. It was a simple goal: For every $250 I raise, a child will get surgery. I’ve been so blessed I thought I could do something to give back and also push myself to do this race.”
“Two things I’m doing at the same time: I’m learning to swim, I started to learn biking. I haven’t biked in a long time – and I’m starting to run, and this is all for June 25th (2017.) That is one of those things that’s ‘Going For No’. It’s not something that I would normally do, not even close, and it’s not a small goal. So I’m really happy that I’ve done that and with the support of my wife and the encouragement.”
When asked why he chose that specific charity, Magnone’s response is touching in its sincerity: “The first thing when you see somebody is their smile.”
“All children are born perfect and innocent, in my mind, if you can help them, give them their smile and allow them to eat and live a normal life, I think that makes a big difference.” Right now, Magnone is grateful for healthy children and being able to be present in their lives.
“I’ve been very fortunate. I think it’s just having a better balance in my life. My kids have really set that in my mind. I work quite late hours and I love what I do, but my first child really put in perspective how fast time goes by. Just enjoying the simple things in life, like lying on the ground and playing cards with my son makes me appreciate that.”