Building a brand with Illegal Apparel – Cartel Supply Co

Illegal Apparel’s Frank Augustine On The Beginnings Of Building His Brand

We sat down a few weeks ago to catch up with Illegal Apparel’s Founder Frank Augustine on the beginnings of building his brand and where he plans on going with it. 


What was your first job/how did you get your current role?

As a kid, I was always into building stuff, snowboarding, and creating things. When I was 9 or 10 I created a fake skateboard company called Everyone. I remember writing on a blank skateboard wheel Everyone with a sharpie. I never sold anything, it was kind of just a fake company... then I'm not sure what sparked it. I'm not sure what triggered it if I could go back. Just over a couple weeks, it came together.




What were you doing before illegal-at the age of 20 you're running a full clothing store?

I worked; I've been working since I was 12. So I started as a caddie at a country club, actually, Saint Claire Country Club every Saturday and Sunday just to have money I guess. I have an older brother and two younger sisters so it was obviously hard for my parents to get me everything I wanted; though they did their best...No I had to work...I definitely worked since I was 12. When I turned 16 I got my first restaurant job, I think I was a senior in high school when I started busting tables at a restaurant, that sucked, then I moved to another restaurant, like a nicer more upscale one, made a little more money, but I was still busting tables. I did that for about 6 months, then got in an argument with the chef and left there. The last place I worked prior to going full time with Illegal was Mindful Brewing as a bartender and eventually ended up taking over their social media for a few months. I feel like I still want to have that, it feels weird being like I have to be here at a certain time, but I've definitely had a lot of things going on.

While you were there, did you start illegal, or was it started before that?

I started Illegal when I was 15 while working at a snowboard shop. 



Did you start it online?

For the first year, it was just a website, but I wasn't making sales, I didn't really know how. Obviously, I threw product on there, whether it was legit who knows, or if people trusted my site, I don't know [laughs] but I basically just sold t-shirts at school. Every class I'd talk to kids at my table and show them my stuff. I was pretty much selling something every day for a whole month at school, so I was slanging it for sure. I got my first online order about six months after setting it up online.

We're you bootstrapping at this time/how'd you build this up?

It's been self-funded through me working, there's no way we could have this store unless I put my money into it. The number I put into it is pretty absurd, it's crazy, but it's not a thing to me, I don't look at it as I'm spending money, I look at it as I'm doing this because I love Illegal and I see potential in it. But yea it's self-funded by me working...Some people don't think you should work when you own a business, but that's so false. 

Why the name Illegal?

We thought of it randomly first, it was me and my brother, one of my best friends, and another buddy. We had an idea of a clothing brand because we all skied and snowboarded so my brother and I were thinking of a name. Originally we thought of it and I wasn't about it because it could mean so many things. Originally it was just illegal outerwear, I thought that sounded perfect, but then brother said we should change it so we changed it to illegal apparel, then we changed it to just illegal. During that winter I caddied in the summer, and I asked them if they still wanted to do it and no one budged so I ordered my first t-shirts from there...This was illegal so I decided to come up with something and asked: "what's illegal?" " be illegal" "hustle for your happiness" the name drawls you in but the message is what attaches to people.


Why did you decide to not go to college, not go the traditional route at age 18?

It didn't make sense at all. The status quo of where we grew up, it's really an image that people wanted to obtain. I was one of 5 or 10 out of a class of over 376 that didn't go to college. The majority of those kids stopped going. They were forced into it, half of the kids weren't ready for it, I wasn't ready for college, I was like nah that's not me at all I can't do it. I just said screw it, I can do it without it and for the first couple of months, I thought school sounded cool but I haven't thought about it in a while.
I remember my guidance counselor told me she was like "oh you're not going to go to school but you want to own a business, you know accounting is one of the first classes you need to learn?


When was your first "Show-out Saturday's" concert?

 Crash rarri, an artist from Ohio in July as a meet and great show. After that one of my friends, I forget who it was, but mentioned that we should do this every weekend. There are so many young and new artists coming out of Pittsburgh right now that it's been great and its fun because we provide a platform and something we can bring the city here to highlight new talent. We knew that guy and sent him some gear and that sort of sparked it

How did logic get hooked up with your gear?

One of his artists Damien Lamar Hudson artist's that is associated with him came to our booth during a festival and was curious about the hoodie. We ended up hooking him up with some stuff and we ended up giving him some gear to give to Logic.

What are some apps that you use daily for business?

Obviously Instagram and social media, and making to-do list every day. Something about the physical thing or put it on a whiteboard. I heard this from Andy Frisella and it's called the power list. You have five things, and you make one every single day and you cross them off as you go.

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