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I recently caught up with Ambsn, the young brand from Central California that moved a few months ago to San Clemente and shortened its name from Ambission.
The brand is small, with revenue under $500,000, but founders Dustin and Dylan Odbert have managed to attract a following of important supporters and some impressive coups.
Most notably, SIMA President Dick Baker and industry consultant Bob Mignogna have taken the brand under their wings, helping Dustin and Dylan firm up a business plan and giving them other advice.
"They are two very talented young guys who are completely committed to their business," Dick said. "They also have great product. Their T-shirts are absolutely fresh and unique and different."
Dick saw the appeal of the brand first hand when Dustin and Dylan sent some Ambsn product to Dick's house. Dick's two teenage boys loved it, and lately, that's all they wear, Dick said.
Dustin, 27, and Dylan, 23, have attracted other important supporters, including Mike Hischier, the owner of three Wavelengths stores and one Poncho's store in Central California.
Hischier said he has carried Ambsn for three years and that the brand has done well in the stores.
"I've been in this business 29 years, and they are a breath of fresh air," he said. "They are some of the most talented designers I've seen. They are creative in their own way - they are just not researching and duplicating what they see. They could do well anywhere."
The brothers moved to San Clemente because they felt there were more opportunities to grow the brand and learn more about the industry from its global headquarters in Orange County. Plus, it's a lot easier to deal with vendors that make Ambsn's product in Los Angeles instead of having to drive four hours, Dustin said.
Ambsn has landed some strong accounts, including Yellow Rat Bastard, Villains, The Closet, Thalia Surf Shop, Hobie, Sun Diego, Swell and Hansen's. Becker Surfboards also recently placed a T-shirt order for spring, Dustin said.
Currently, Ambsn is offering 18 T-shirts, three fleece styles, three wovens, two boardshorts and two walk shorts.
A plaid Henley woven (worn by Dustin in the photo) with a subtle gold metallic thread called Lurex received a particularly strong response from retailers at ASR, as did the T-shirts, Dustin said.
At this point, Ambsn is self-financed. The two brothers have had some interest from investors and other business offers and are evaluating the best way to proceed, Dustin said.
While they have a lot of passion and commitment, getting a brand off the ground is challenging.
"Like any small brand, they need financing, infrastructure, a sourcing strategy and all the rest that goes with it," Dick said.
Andy Tompkins, group show director of ASR, expects to see more of Ambsn in the future.
"With the Odbert brothers' enthusiasm, creativity and innate business sense, we've seen Ambsn progress from a promising brand with quality, creative t-shirts to a cut and sew brand in the three years they've been at ASR," he said.
"Every six months AMBSN makes significant ground in a healthy mix of leading specialty shops. This September they'll continue their product evolution by exhibiting on the CLASS @ ASR sales floor."