CJ Pasley: Show Me Love

 
 

There is tons of talent in St. Louis, but unfortunately a lot of it goes unseen.… That’s where Show Me Love comes in. With fashion shows to highlight the latest and up and coming designers, SML is a production company that focuses on bringing our innovative young generation to light.


OTM: What does SML do?

CJ: SML is a production company; it stands for Show Me Love. The name came from us being from St. Louis (the Show Me State). Coming from the city, people look at us as “haters,”  as in not showing enough love. With SML, we try to be the antithesis to that. We focus on hosting different fashion shows. We put on different fashion shows for the community to build their connections so everyone can come to one area and bond at a positive event.

OTM: Why is that important to you?

CJ: Personally, it’s important to me because I feel like young entrepreneurs, college students, and  young individuals who are trying to get it don’t have the opportunity to really go out there and have a professional platform to market themselves to outside eyes. So if we can provide that platform for them, then we  give them an opportunity. I feel like it’s great for everybody to win.

 

OTM: So you started to basically help people out in St. Louis?

CJ: Yeah. When I first started it, I was in high school. Really how I got into marketing was I used to called CJ Da Juiceman. I went to Lutheran North High School, not too far away from Ferguson and they took away all the good drinks. I knew that was a problem, so I started selling juices like Hawaiian Punch out the locker room. I’m not going to say any names, but I sold them to teachers too. And that’s how I got into marketing. I went into the fashion because I created my own sweatshirt. It was just a screen print sweatshirt that said T.G.I.F, which stands for Thank God I’m Fresh. I put a picture of it on Instagram (this is when Instagram first came out) and I got 40 likes on it so I thought I was popping. My next thought was, ‘I have to sell it now’. I knew I couldn’t sell it right off the bat. Instead, we wanted to do our own fashion show. But we didn’t just want to highlight our own clothes, we wanted other designers in that show and we wanted to incorporate musicians to make it an all-around culture.

You never know who you’re connecting with because that one person could know  the right people for  you.

OTM: How did go about networking?

CJ: I’m a social butterfly. I’ll go up to any individual and talk to them, I don’t mind doing that. Instagram and other social media was very easy to use and reach out to people. Also going to college in Chicago opened the door for more connections. Some of my friends live in Chicago and they all go to different universities. We were able to collab  and we were able to network with a lot of individuals.

OTM: So you didn’t reach out to big named people, more so just word of mouth?

CJ: Word of mouth. The first person I was introduced to, that helped me get started, was my friend Taylor Humphrey. She reached out to one of her friends which was Jacqueline Craig, she owns a production company in St. Louis called Black Seance. She knew that I was a hard worker and she introduced me into this industry. So just reaching out to one person and letting her know my vision connected me with someone else. After that, it was just meeting more designers. I started getting model calls, and Jacqueline also laid out the structure to make sure I handled everything correctly because I didn’t know anything about a fashion show. I was just trying to sell a hoodie. 
You never know who you’re connecting with because that one person could know  the right people for  you.

OTM: What would you say was the hardest part about starting your own business?

CJ: It was a lot, it was tough. The hardest part is consistency and executing. Over the summer, I did an internship with the Marcus Graham Project in Dallas and we worked with other brands that I look up to,  like Beats by Dre and REVOLT TV. I realized the same stuff that they’re doing is the same stuff we’re doing. And for  stuff they want to know, they ask people like us (the younger generation). They actually take those suggestions into consideration. Looking up to those brands and applying what they do to my brand is very doable.

OTM: How did you fund the business when you first started?

CJ: It was hard. I worked a job, used money from selling juices, and sold sweatshirts that I made. My team also helped out big time-- we would all pitch in for the fashion shows. As the years went on, we had sponsors. It’s a constant growth -- it never stops.

OTM: How does SML make money? Where does most of the revenue come from?

CJ: It comes from ticket sales from the fashion shows. I just recently graduated, most of the team is still in college, and entrepreneurs got bills. We all invest so much into the brand so we are aware of return on the investment won't involve a lot of money starting out , it’s the experience that we get out of it. We also like to focus on giving back to different organizations.

OTM: What would you say was the biggest success for SML?

CJ: Our last show was our biggest success. We knew we could do it, but it was very challenging. Four months into it, we debated for a week whether we were going to go through with it. The show was called Synergy which means two more forces come together to do something greater than what they can do alone. Me and my friends all go to school in Chicago, so we held a show in Chicago on a Saturday. On Sunday, we brought all the designers to St. Louis and held another show. It was difficult but it all paid off in the end.

Stack your money. The money that you make off your first event can help you later on for future events. Some stuff that helped us pay for the last event was money I saved back when I was selling juices, as well as the sweatshirts. You never know when your going to need it.


OTM: Looking forward, what is your vision for SML?

CJ: The goal is first going back to the drawing board just to make sure that everyone is on the same page. We also want to get involved with college campuses as well,  whether that’s setting up boot camps for a semester and actually teaching people how to put on a full on production,  having model calls, model rehearsals and teaching the models what to look for when they’re trying to find a photographer. But we also want to keep focusing on St. Louis, Chicago, and the Midwest and constantly moving that way. Whether that’s fashion, music, or art.

OTM: What financial advice would you give to a young entrepreneur?

CJ: Stack your money. The money that you make off your first event can help you later on for future events. Some stuff that helped us pay for the last event was money I saved back when I was selling juices, as well as the sweatshirts. You never know when your going to need it.