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When she gets knocked down, Demi Marchese stands back up. It’s with that determination to keep adapting that helped her build 12th Tribe, an e-commerce fashion brand dedicated to providing unique, quality clothing items and genuine customer service to customers. At only 24, Demi has built a business founded on her own personal principles, and learned all about the reward of perseverance.
Educational Background: San Diego State University, Communications
When you started selling vintage jean shorts did you intend for it to grow into 12th Tribe?
Definitely not. I began finding these one-of-a kind items, such as the shorts, and began posting them on a small website I built. I was just doing it for fun as I sent out resumes after college. It was just a side project that I was very passionate about. I introduced a type of denim and clothing my friends hadn’t found before and were really drawn to the items I had been curating on my site.
What do you think contributed the most to the significant growth 12th Tribe has experienced in the last two years?
It has been me on all ends of the business and it has allowed me to genuinely connect with every girl who shops with us. That is something very unique compared to large department store brands who have hundreds of people working. You aren’t likely to speak with the same person if you’re shopping online.
I have a lot of returning customers because we are now even text friends! I even met one of them in a whole foods parking lot before I had an office because they wanted an outfit so bad. I’ve focused on relationships with my customers from the beginning and continue to add a personal touch through the brand to remind them that we are real people behind the screen.
You’ve worked with big names like Bea Miller and Nick Jonas, just to name a couple. What did you learn from those experiences?
I moved to LA and launched 12th Tribe. At that same time I was trying to decide if I wanted to do wardrobe styling as well, so I dove into that for a little bit. I was able to use this outlet as a little PR for the tribe and connect with a few celebrities to introduce the brand. This opportunity taught me how to be innovative with opportunities. It also reminded me to be open minded to facing the uncomfortable. I had never done celebrity styling, but I found it’s important to transplant yourself into new situations and opportunities no matter what, especially if it’s something new.
What do you think is most important when it comes to social media and building your following?
Stay authentic and create content that is your own. So many brands repost other brands’ content to push product and we do our very best to create all unique, self-branded content. I also think it’s very important to keep a story and personality intertwined with your social channels. Since I launched the brand myself, I’ve continued to stay involved with social media, connecting with my audience and reminding them it is real girls behind the scenes listening to who they are and what they want.
You took your disappointment from your cancelled interview with Nasty Gal and used it to fuel the creation of 12th Tribe. What advice do you have for others who are dealing with a big let down and uncertainty about the future?
The more time you spend dwelling on a missed opportunity the more opportunities you are going to miss. You are going to be told no, or left hanging, so many times in your life and the reality is, it’s life. You have to move on, don’t look back, and instead find something to keep you distracted. Lucky for me, I let my passion keep me occupied and my passion turned into a full-time career. And, looking at where that dream job is now… I can’t say I’m too bummed on it anymore.
You personally travel to various countries to find items for 12th Tribe. Why is it so important for you to do this in person? When you’re curating this collection in other countries, do you have a set standard you’re adhering to in regards to whether or not the items are ethically made?
One mission I live by is that we are on a continual treasure hunt. For me, traveling and finding unique items around the world or creating content in new places is a part of that story. I am genuinely inspired and fueled with light when I travel to new places. Whether it’s the decor, colors, people, or fashion, I come back with a whole new perspective. When I’m feeling really stuck, I tend to travel more, and I find the return always catapults the tribe a few steps forward creatively. It’s a little bit of a detox, or reset in a sense.
You’ve busted it the last two years to build 12th Tribe into the impressive business it is and given it the majority of your time. For a lot of people it’s the time sacrifice that stops them from doing something they dream of. What advice would you give to others who want to start a business or side hustle, but can’t find the courage to make the leap?
Many people are fearful of failure. What if it doesn’t work, what if I lose money, what if I fail. I have learned that fear is: False Evidence Appearing Real. What that means is the negative ideas you build up in your head are ideas you create. They are not real. As you begin to think about all the bad things that can happen, remember these are only thoughts and only if you think about them will they manifest into reality.
Will Smith says it perfectly: “Fear is not real. The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future. It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not at present and may not ever exist. That is near insanity. Do not misunderstand me danger is very real but fear is a choice.”
You can continue to talk yourself out of anything, however you have to remember how short life is. What would be worse? Trying and failing or not trying at all? As far as time — I’ve definitely sacrificed a lot of time, however after a lot of hard work I now have a lot of freedom with my time and that is invaluable. Work hard now and play real hard later.
What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned since starting 12th Tribe?
Wow! How do I narrow this one down?! I learn 400 things a day! Hmm.. I think the most important thing is that balance is key. I had a scary incident last year as my schedule really began to take over my life. My health started to take a turn and before I knew it I was in the hospital. My life flashed before my eyes and after that moment I realized how precious it is to slow down and enjoy the ride. You can begin to work really really hard at something, but if you don’t slow down, enjoy what you have and integrate balance into the mix you will miss a lot of exciting moments.
Were there any major snags or roadblocks that you had to overcome? How did you overcome them?
I think I may be going through one of the biggest right now. 12th Tribe has been growing exponentially over the last year. We are in the stages of hiring, creating a fulfillment team, and I’m learning how to scale. I never expected my business to grow like it has, and while I’m very humbled and thankful, with it comes many roadblocks. To overcome these obstacles, I do have some close friends who are mentors to me. I connect with entrepreneurs for advice, read books, listen to podcasts and really dive into learning different strategies to overcome any problems. There is someone who has had the same road block as you before and it’s just a matter of connecting with the right people to figure it out.
If I don’t go to the gym in the mornings around 6, I typically start working around 7:30-8 a.m. I always make my egg whites and toast in the morning to fuel up, but then I head straight into the office and begin my day. I have about 29 tabs open on one computer and 15 apps running on my phone. I have my hands in just about every aspect of the business so it can range from buying, photo shoots, business development meetings, social media…you name it. We are a small team so I’m in it all. I typically wrap up from the office and head straight to the gym for an hour and a half or so. It’s a must for me. I get lost in some music, work out, and turn my phone notifications off. For a whole hour and a half! It’s a really beautiful thing sometimes. I typically wrap up the night with a few more hours of work, light read, and fall asleep to meditation by Equinox. They have an amazing app called Headstrong.
What is your favorite part of your work and business?
I’m a creative. I love doing lifestyle photo shoots, getting out of the office and putting together shoots in locations that you would think is in Bali, but is actually right in LA. There are so many hidden gems. When we find those and create a little bit of magic, it’s an exhilarating feeling. I also love my customers! They definitely make my day when they send us their Snapchats, IG DMs, or even text messages wearing their outfit from the Tribe — it lights me up. We also just launched an ambassador program that I’m very excited about. My mission with 12th Tribe has been to bring girls together and with this program it’s truly starting to come to life. It’s only been a week, but we have an amazing response and have already seen girls around the country connect on another level. It’s such a cool feeling having girls around the world connect with you and your brand with so much passion behind it.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I love being outside! Traveling is a given. I’m a big explorer. My boyfriend and I don’t sit still on the weekends when we have a free day or two. We will just go on a drive along the coast, or a spontaneous trip to Santa Barbara. I’m also very close with my family, so I love to see them whenever I can.