Straight Down: Q&A With CEO Mike Rowley
Based in San Luis Obispo, Straight Down is a golf/lifestyle apparel brand founded by Mike Rowley. The company strives to stand out in the consumer’s closet, being one of the first choices off the rack. We caught up with Rowley to discuss the birth and steady growth of the Southern California-based company.
What is Straight Down?
Straight Down is a fashion lifestyle clothing brand that serves to the green grass market throughout all of North America and other parts of the world. We are a lifestyle brand.
What is your professional background?
Well, you ready? I played water polo in college at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and was working my way through the coaching ranks when I hosted the Junior Olympics in 1987. So, I made up a tee shirt for the event and ended up selling thousands of them during that weekend. Afterwards, I said to myself ‘I need to do something with this.’
Did you have a golf background?
I came from a golfing family. My uncle and my grandfather were really solid players in the Southern California circuit. In fact, my grandfather Fay Coleman won the SCGA Amateur Championship in 1928 and 1930. He used to play a lot of his practice rounds with Bobby Jones, Sam Snead, Ben Hogan and all of those guys.
How does your brand differentiate itself from the rest of the competition?
We try to do it with product. We have a couple of trailer events that we started about 10 years ago now and you’re starting to see other companies now using the same concept. Our whole team is always looking out of the windshield and never the rear view mirror.
Does the brand reflect your SoCal roots?
Yeah, that’s my DNA. If we were playing a football game, our brand only operates within the 40-yard lines. We don’t like to get too crazy with new ideas because the wheel has already been made, we just need to get out ahead of the game with things like colors and stitching.
Biggest hurdle faced up to this point?
There are different levels of hurdles. In the early days, the biggest issue was capital and trying to figure out how to do it all. When capital was no longer an issue during these past 15 years, the hurdle was trying to get the right people employed here that have the same vision as the company. Companies are built on people, not product.
What’s been the most rewarding moment?
I love when we find a product that people love. When people get dressed in the morning, we want to be one of their ‘go-to’ picks. In an individual’s closet, only about 20 percent of the clothes in there are ever worn and it’s rewarding to be considered in that percentage.
What does the future hold for Straight Down?
I would love to stay at the pace we are going now. We’re growing at a pace that’s not too fast and certainly not too slow. In the next five or ten years, we’re going to have tremendous growth through good economy and bad. We have to stay very innovative in our styling and our relationships with the customers. It’ll be important to be good listeners and watchers of the market. We will continue to build this company one product at a time.
Check out the Straight Down product at straightdown.com.