By: Sage Reeds
Interviewer: Did you grow up around entrepreneurship? Is that where you got the business mindset from?
Milan: I didn't grow up around it, but I did grow up around hustling. Well, illegal hustling, but that’s still a form of entrepreneurship. I took what I learned from watching the hustlers around me, and I made those same principles work legally. Over the years, I had to learn how to be business minded as the brand got bigger, but it wasn’t until I visited my dad in prison that the game totally changed for me. In 2015, I was making money, selling out of my merch, and most people would say that Milano Di Rouge was doing well. I didn’t see a lot of that money though, and I couldn’t understand why. When I told my dad, he asked about my process. He wanted to know the ins and outs of how I ran the business. When I went through the process with him and got to the part about my restocks, he stopped me. He said the problem was that I kept selling out of products. He said that the first rule in business is to never sell out and to use your profits to buy even more product. When he sold drugs, he never allowed himself to run out, and that’s how he kept his clientele and kept the money flowing. Once he told me that, I ran with it, and it has helped me scale ever since.
Interviewer: What is the essence of Milano?
Milan: At the core, Milano Di Rouge is all about inspiring dreamers to make their dreams reality, but we’re also really big on making sure these same dreamers have access to affordable, high-quality and luxurious streetwear. It’s also important to us that we have unisex clothing that appeals to both him and her because I’ve always believed that what a man can wear, a woman should be able to wear too. We’re also big on continuous learning. That’s why we constantly work to improve the quality of our garments. If you compare Milano from 2012 and the Milano of today, you’ll see the difference. I pride myself on the fact that my team is made up of lifelong students who are always looking to improve our products. All of these things put together make up our essence and give insight into who we are as a brand.
Interviewer: If you had to choose one word to describe how you got this far, what would you choose? Why?
Milan: Christ. I'm such a big believer. I don't even know how I would've had the strength to go on if it weren’t for him. There have been so many obstacles on my journey, but God pulls through every time. He really helps me through everything.
Interviewer: What are your current dreams for Milano Di Rouge?
Milan: Man, I have so many plans for this brand, but for now I’ll say that my biggest dream is to continue growing. I never really share my wildest dreams publicly because I love to just pop out. I don’t like when people see me coming. It’s a part of my personality, and I think it’s the mentality that I developed from living in the hood. I’ve always been taught that real niggas move in silence, so I stick by that. I’m also big on under promising and over delivering. If I do share a dream, I share very little because I want to deliver something that you didn’t see coming.
Interviewer: What type of mindset did you have to develop in order to run such a successful empire?
Milan: I had to learn to block out all the noise. I learned early on when I started Milano that people will create false competition and false narratives to get you to believe certain things, and if you are weak-willed, you will believe them. People love talking shit about me, talking down on my brand and my journey, but I’ve had to develop a strong mind and a habit of forming my own opinions about myself, the people around me and my journey. Also, with more money comes more problems, but I believe that all problems come with a solution and a lesson. That’s another type of mindset that I’ve had to develop. A solutions-oriented one. Since I’m not big on stress, I make sure that I don’t dwell too long on problems. I want solutions. I teach this to my team too, and I think that’s how I am able to run this business with very little stress.
Interviewer: When you started, did you know that Milano Di Rouge would grow into the empire that it is?
Milan: Nope. I had no idea, but I knew I wanted it to be big. I just didn’t know how it would get there, and I didn’t know that it would really grow to be this size. All I did was dream about the kind of woman that I would need to become in order to run a big business, and God ordered my steps. When I first started, I just kept having this dream about me being in my penthouse on my balcony, drinking wine in my robe. That was my vision of a successful woman, and that’s the woman who I saw as the leader of Milano Di Rouge. Today, I’m in a mansion that God gave me, and I run a growing empire, which shows that he always has so much more in store for us if we just trust him. Sometimes, we think we’re dreaming big, but God always has something so much bigger. I didn't dream about it being like this, but he opened doors and prepared me for everything. That's why I'm never worried about doors closing because God won’t let things miss me if they are truly for me.
Interviewer: Share a failure that you’ve had in business. What lessons did you learn from it?
Milan: Wow. H&M has been the biggest one so far. In 2018, we stopped buying shirts from wholesalers because the quality wasn’t up to our standards anymore. So, we started buying them from H&M. We left the tag inside because honestly, we didn’t see anything wrong with it. Most t-shirt brands use other companies’ t-shirts and put their logos on it, so I didn’t see the issue. Anyway, one particular customer bought a shirt, saw the tag in it and made a viral video, which led thousands of people to talk shit about me and the brand. I learned so much from that experience, but the biggest lesson that I learned was that it was time for me to move different and to think bigger. It was time for me to learn how to get our garments made from scratch, and that’s what I did. Today, everything is manufactured. No exceptions. Another lesson that I learned was to grow tougher skin. When you grow up in the hood, you can almost always prepare to get dragged down when you are getting ready to grow. That’s all it was. I was growing beyond people’s expectations, and I got dragged for it. Today, shit like that doesn’t really bother me too much.
Interviewer: What are you most proud of when you think of Milano Di Rouge?
Milan: Everything! I just be thanking God. I’m proud of myself for having a vision, sticking to my vision and being true to my vision. Watching Milano grow is like watching my baby grow. This was my baby before my Czari became my baby, so it holds a really special place in my heart. It has seen many ups and downs, wins and losses, people who were blessings and people who were lessons. It has even grown through COVID! When it hit, I didn't know if Milano would survive. I had to close the store abruptly until further notice, and though it was nerve-wracking and hard, I kept believing in God’s plan. I kept being faithful. I continued to pay my staff for two months, had them transition into customer service roles if they wanted to and kept hope alive. To think that we grew through that is a blessing.
Interviewer: What lessons did you learn when you first launched Milano Di Rouge? Do those lessons still apply now that you’re nine years in?
Milan: The biggest lesson of them all is if you want something bad enough, the answer will not be that hard to find. When I first started, I asked people who had t-shirt brands where they got their shirts from because I wanted to start my own brand. They sent me all over the place and had me going everywhere paying crazy retail prices. After a while, I realized how expensive it was after someone told me to find a manufacturer. They told me that manufacturers will give me the same product for half the price. Once I found a manufacturer and went to them, would you believe that I saw one of the same guys who sent me to get the shirts at retail prices? That’s when I realized that he didn’t want to give me his connect, and honestly, when I look back, I don’t blame him. He wasn’t obligated to give me anything. It was my responsibility to go out there and find the answer.