Introducing Swag of the Month. “Born from the idea that we should all have a little swag,” reads Huberman’s LinkedIn profile listing his tenure with the startup, “Swag of the Month’s monthly membership was created so that all men would have the opportunity to a styled lifestyle with ease.”
The premise was simple: For $16.96 per month, members of the “Swag Team” would ship a hand-picked, name brand shirt to registered customers. Didn’t like the shirt? Not a problem. Free shipping and returns came with the monthly fee. With more than 100 clothing brands on board, Swag of the Month was in a position to climb to success.
Only a few months in the market, the startup raised $100,000 from Quattro Development to legitimize the previously bootstrapped business. Soon after, 3,000 registered subscribers climbed aboard and the operation continued to grow, but things never truly took off.
After only a year and a half, Huberman sold Swag of the Month and moved on. A quick Google search of the defunct startup only reveals a few articles praising the company’s efforts and a Twitter account with 22,000-plus followers that has gone silent, linked to a Facebook page that is no longer available.
“It was a time when we tried things, not really knowing what was going to happen,” he says plainly.
Swag of the Month is likely to be just a footnote in Huberman’s extensive resume today—he merely skims the topic when asked in the interview—but to those who pay attention to the details, it was foreshadowing for the success to come.
While Huberman and his business partner, Austin Smith, were building a company from pocket change, Trunk Club—an identical month-to-month, high-end retail company—had gained $11 million in funding through multiple venture capitalist firms. There were two similar startups competing for a foothold in the then-untapped market of online retail, but there could only be one winner. Trunk Club came out victorious. By 2014, the company was purchased by Nordstrom for $350 million.
It’s easy to say things could have been different for Swag of the Month given any number of altered circumstances: earlier entry to the market; increased seed money; better marketing, etc. But Huberman doesn’t count the short-lived tenure of his online retail startup a failure by any means. How can you? Startups aren’t easy, especially when you’re funding the entire project through pocket change. That’s not to say millions of dollars of seed money makes things any easier. Finding a niche in the market and adhering to scalability is a chess game. Ask anyone.
Throughout the process of developing any business, there’s something you learn about yourself that can’t be taught in a classroom. Even before Fame Wizard or Swag of the Month, Huberman had been self-taught and tireless in his pursuit to make it big.
In a self-reflective interview for the Santa Monica Daily Press in 2015, he explains his drive to succeed came long before his time at the University of Arizona.
“I have always been an ‘entrepreneur.’ From when I was 6 years old and I gathered up a bunch of my parents’ things in a trash bag and went out and sold them door-to-door, to jumping into the Beanie Babies craze at 10 with the sole goal of making money (bought a new guitar, a bicycle and later a car with that money), to the lemonade stand, I always wanted to build and grow things. I have been a serial entrepreneur … I love creating and taking risks.”
As a self-described serial entrepreneur, Huberman kept his head down and continued to work toward his goal of making it big.
For the next couple years, he became a journeyman as a consultant for companies looking to hasten growth. There was a brief stint with Science Media, the masterminds behind Dollar Shave Club, DogVacay, FameBit and Wishbone. Then there was a 10-month project where he took on the position of vice president of marketing to help a vitamin company pivot to become a women’s activewear brand.
Within two weeks, the company did $80,000 in revenue. Four months later, they reached $1 million. The company was Ellie Fashion Group, and while there was massive success on the table, the serial entrepreneur again decided to move on.
This time, however, as a journeyman with experience guiding companies, he was ready to bet on himself.