Image consulting field has grown over the years due to it's impact in changing appearances for the better. Joshua Davis is the owner and CEO of a six-figure image consulting company in Atlanta. He has worked with dozens of Tier 1 companies including Coca Cola and IBM to help make sure their executives are dressed to impress. He started his business out of his college dorm room — renting high-end pieces to his friends for dates and new job interviews. We had a chance to interview Joshua and asked about his story, how he started his business and the future of Monogram styling.
Tell us your story. Why did you start your business?
My first job was for a company that bought lost mail at auction. Most people are surprised to discover you can buy lost mail, and after working there a few months, I was shocked that anything got delivered.
If you've ever been to an auction, you know that nothing has value, at least not until the bidding. It's one place where price is determined by the participants, not an auctioneer or an MSRP. And, consequently, someone planning to resell the merchandise won't pay nearly as much as an end-user. As a buyer I quickly learned the lesson that nothing has intrinsic value — rather that is determined by our small microcosm of economy.
I worked there about a year before I left for college and blew all my money by second semester. Determined not to work a ‘real job' I remembered what I had learned at auction and started to buy and sell overstock designer clothes. There were clothes everywhere in my tiny dorm — in the closet, on the floor, on my bed, on my roommate's bed. By the end of senior year, I had an inventory worth more than $50k in Lacoste, Hugo Boss, Armani, Brioni and other high-end designers.
Friends started coming to me asking what to wear on dates, to banquets, and other events, and they would borrow ties and buy shirts. A a communications major, I always found time for the nonverbal communication classes, but I didn't make the connection between “my great passion and the world's deep need” until a friend of mine went through bankruptcy in 2009 walking around with the droopy shoulders a hung head. His wife asked me to get him some new clothes for interviews and, when he walked out of the fitting room that first time, he finally stood tall.
Unlike everything I bought at auction that only had attributed value based on how it could meet my needs, people are intrinsically valuable. I know that I don't have a traditional job. I'm an image consultant because I can help people recognize their intrinsic value and I help them project their self-worth. I give people presence and a platform from which they can be heard through their personal style.
How did you come up with your business name?
I try to help clients be the best version of themselves, rather than encouraging them to imitate me or anyone else. Part of our client process is handwritten communication, which often includes a personalized seal, or monogram, to close each envelope. Matt Shepperd from the Telegram Agency helped me put two and two together—and named the company Monogram Styling.
Tell us about your products and services. How do you help clients?
We offer 3 core services: Personal Styling, Personal Image Coaching, and Corporate Image Coaching.
Personal styling is more about interpreting or finding pieces when the client already has a clear vision for what they want. Image consulting is more holistic—it examines the client’s audience and goals, defines a new vision for that client, and then creates a strategy to help them get there.
Corporate image coaching is a turnkey solution that allows a business to ensure their team embodies the company's core beliefs at first glance, particularly when they are client or investor facing. This can include basic wardrobe training for new hires all the way to immersive image management for the C suite.
What makes you unique? What is your unique selling proposition (USP)?
Image Consultants are experts in our field. Expertise begins with knowing a lot about your craft and I spend a lot of time (and money) learning. I spend a month each year traveling internationally to meet with vendors and manufactures. That’s in addition to the time spent constantly reading everything from fashion historians to industry publications.
Converting that deep knowledge into actionable steps is the secret sauce behind our process. The way we learn about our clients and present their curated wardrobe is a luxury experience—the client doesn't need to have a sartorial vocabulary for us to understand their needs and wants. This business is 100 percent relational and we are very good at understanding how our clients want to communicate.
Where do you see your business in the next 3-5 years?
I hope to grow the company into a collective of like-minded stylists. I want to empower other artists who are great at their jobs with the resources to help an even broader range of clients.
Any advice you would give to entrepreneurs and business owners?
There is no such thing as a self-made man. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and don’t be afraid to fail. Find a mentor who has succeeded at the goals you’ve set for yourself and ask questions.
What is your favorite business quote and why?
When John D. Rockefeller was asked how much is enough, he responded by saying, “One more dollar.” It reminds me that wealth is a moving target and something that will never satiate one’s desires. It keeps my primary focus off profit and helps me enjoy a business that also happens to be my passion.
What have been some of your achievements that you are most proud of? Why?
A lot of my accomplishments — things like helping clients land their dream jobs/promotion/customers, are the private affairs of my clients and I am happy to stand in the dark.
I am proud that I've worked very hard to be the best at what I do. I’m expected to have knowledge a mile wide and a mile deep. Being able to master each of those verticals while staying relatable to my clients is what makes me so successful. If you’ve ever built or managed a large scale project, you’ve experienced how easy it is to get caught in the weeds with the plumbers and the electricians, the web developers and the database analysts—each of whom speak a very different language. You’ve experienced how crucial it is to have a guide who can translate, into layman's terms, what you need to worry about and where you should spend your time.
I am proud that we have developed the skills to guide our clients in a constantly evolving retail landscape, and that we have the opportunity to make their experience seamless and to redefine what it means to feel well dressed.
Anything else additional you want to tell our readers?
People are intrinsically valuable, but sometimes they lose sight of that. Feeling “well dressed” can remind a person that they are powerful, and frame them in a positive light with those they meet. Working with a image consultant can be like a fast pass to the front of the line— a client doesn’t have to do any of the research or hunting for the perfect item. So the first benefit is knowledge and the second is cost. Even though a person might pay a stylist for their services, they can save a person more than their fee by knowing sales, negotiating discounts, and knowing when to buy at the right time. They also save clients money by preventing the purchase of items that aren’t in their best interest.