Who would have predicted that a young man whose favorite pastime was painting T-shirts and creating hip-hop clothing in his garage would turn into a successful founder of a billion dollar fashion and media empire?
Marc Ecko, CEO of Marc Ecko Enterprises, came to Rutgers’ Barnes and Noble recently to share his story as a successful entrepreneur and promote his first book, Unlabel: Selling You Without Selling Out, released last month.
In his book, Ecko divulges how he turned a $5,000 investment into the billion-dollar fashion business Ecko Unltd. “Success is the hangover of a failure,” said Ecko, who added that unlike those who omit missteps from their success stories, he tried to be honest about his mistakes and challenges so that readers could relate and apply what he learned along the way to their own dreams.
“It is a business book for creators, inventors and entrepreneurs – designed to be educational,” said Ecko, who wants to inspire and motivate other people to “unlabel” and be authentic brands themselves.
Marc Ecko, 42, born Marc Louis Milecofsky, grew up in Lakewood. He began calling himself Ecko at Rutgers, while attending the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy. But the nickname originated before his birth when doctors informed his mother of his existence when they detected an echo while she was pregnant with his twin sister Marci.
In his third year at Rutgers, the school’s dean encouraged Ecko – who had spent more time dabbling in drawing and graffiti than studying pharmacy – to take a year off and pursue his passion. “You don’t want to be 40 with regrets,” the dean said.
Ecko took the advice and chased his dream by differentiating himself from others.
When Ecko was in search of the logo for his company, he saw that his competitors were using the same graffiti motifs. He wanted his design to be different.
Inspired by his father’s sand-drift collection of rhinos, he came up with a white silhouette of a left-facing rhino surrounded by an oval and set on a red background. “I went on a hunt for my logo. I felt very passionate about it,” Ecko said.Ecko faced struggles along the way. When he launched the logo, he received negative feedback from the buyers. But nothing stopped Ecko from making his brand known. With passion and persistency, Ecko began to put his rhino logo on T-shirts and slowly it became an authentic brand around the world.
Coming from a nontraditional fashion background, Ecko said he felt insecure, afraid of being looked down upon and not being accepted into the industry.
“It took me years of confidence living through these experiences of learning to be comfortable in my own skin,” Ecko said. “It is that kind of rough around the edges, made from scratch, air brushing T-shirts in my garage that actually helped to differentiate me. It served me well.”