More Than Just Monkey Business

    To combat the brand-name conformism so typical of today’s
    young business world, UCSD graduate student Jeff Horowitz aims to sell men
    clothing that exudes creativity and uniqueness.

    “We’re all monkeys when we dress up anyways, at heart,”
    Horowitz said.

    Individual style and custom-tailored designs define DressMonkey — an online clothing business co-founded by UCSD graduate student Jeff Horowitz that caters to the young, fashion-savvy professional. (Andrew Ruiz/Guardian)

    Horowitz is part founder and front-man of DressMonkey, an
    online business that caters to young male professionals, allowing the buyer to
    design and tailor their own blazer, from the color and fabric down to the
    number of pockets and buttons.

    Horowitz usually gets up at 8 a.m., takes care of online
    DressMonkey orders, goes to school, crams in homework during lunch and comes
    back home to his La Jolla apartment to go over strategy and sales with his
    business partner, Coley Dale, in Shanghai.

    “From the minute I wake up it’s either something school
    related or business related with a little bit of eating in between,” Horowitz
    said.

    Horowitz began as an undergraduate student at Claremont
    McKenna College
    .
    Since high school, when receiving a C prompted Horowitz to switch from Spanish
    to Chinese language classes, he had been attracted to Chinese culture. When in
    college, he always imagined going to China,
    and a trip abroad there during his junior year altered his future.

    Horowitz graduated from Claremont
    McKenna College

    in 2003 with a degree in government, and although he was offered a job as a
    financial adviser in Orange County
    fresh out of school he decided, instead, to go back to China.
    Horowitz saw the move as a unique way to expand his knowledge of the world.

    “I fell in love with the country,” Horowitz said. “I’ve
    always been interested in the culture and the language and the people. It was a
    great experience for me to go into business there and continue speaking the
    language and negotiate in Chinese.”

    Horowitz got a job at a logistics company in Shanghai,
    where he was the only foreigner in the entire business. Although he was there
    as a businessman, he could not help but notice the discrepancies in fashion
    between what he was used to and what was typical for the Chinese.

    “I got to witness a lot of interesting things,” he said. “I
    remember going into work and the Chinese would wear suit pants with white socks
    that were coming up over their pant legs. It opened up my eyes to the
    differences in style. I wish I took pictures of them.”

    These dissimilarities in style, along with the custom of
    tailored clothing so typical to Chinese fashion, prompted Horowitz and his
    former roommate Dale, who currently lives in Shanghai,
    to create DressMonkey. Horowitz and Dale, who met while they were abroad in China
    as juniors, had both gone back to China
    after their graduation in 2003. While roommates, they were both aspiring to
    become entrepreneurs.

    “We wanted to work for ourselves so we said, ‘Screw it,
    let’s quit our jobs and do this,’” Horowitz said.

    The company began as a clothing service for friends and
    family, and through advertisement and word of mouth, the business grew. People
    began to gravitate toward the concept of customizing their own clothes as well
    as the name of the business itself.

    The two friends created the company name while sitting on
    their couch, watching a movie. They zipped through possibilities such as
    Trendsetter and DressYourself; titles that simply did not satisfy or were
    already taken. With a slip of the tongue, DressMonkey was born. The philosophy
    behind the name is meant to encourage the young, conformist, cubicle-inhabiting
    businessman to find his unique style rather than relying on brand names, a
    trend that Horowitz had experienced while in China
    — where he had all his suits and blazers tailor-made.

    “I felt compelled to address what I thought had become a
    growing need for young professionals like myself: the creation of a more
    respected and fashionably-dressed office monkey,” said Horowitz.

    Owning a company that custom designs clothing, it comes as
    no surprise that Horowitz has dealt with some strange requests. For example, he
    had recently received an e-mail from a woman who wanted to recreate a specific
    polyester pattern that her son wore in the ’70s with a specified insignia.

    But dealing with out-there orders and customers isn’t
    Horowitz’s only responsibility; he also has to do his homework.

    Horowitz is currently working on obtaining his masters
    degree at the School of International
    Relations
    and Pacific Studies at UCSD with a
    regional concentration on China.
    Balancing demanding schoolwork with small-business ownership, while difficult,
    has been a positive experience for Horowitz. Although it has taken some
    adjustment, he finds that his classmates are of the same business oriented
    mindset, which definitely made the transition from the business world back to
    school easier.

    And, because Horowitz prefers a more direct and practical
    approach to learning rather than simply studying theory, he believes that IR/PS
    fits him well. The curriculum includes classes on strategic marketing, global
    economy, managerial economics and offers perspectives on both the micro and
    macro sides of the economy.

    Horowitz and his
    classmates work one-on-one with local companies, creating business models with
    them and working with real-life data sets. To Horowitz, this type of hands-on
    experience is valuable in anything business-related that he may decide to do
    after graduation. His regionalized program, in particular, combines the
    cultural and political sides of China
    to the overall business and management training aspect, which he believes will
    surely assist him in his DressMonkey endeavors.

    Although Horowitz and Dale don’t see DressMonkey expanding
    into a separate store anytime soon, they are looking into partnering with small
    boutiques or showcasing their suits in kiosk-type arrangements in New
    York City
    . They are also in the midst of designing
    clothing options for women.

    Horowitz plans to graduate this coming June, and although
    his future isn’t set in stone, he is considering working on DressMonkey full
    time.

    “I’d be selling myself and the company short if I didn’t
    devote my full time because there’s so much more we could do and there’s
    definitely room to grow,” he said.

    Despite the potential difficulties, Horowitz considers
    entrepreneurship as a viable option for anyone with the drive and patience to
    make it happen.

    “It’s easier than you think to sort of build on [your] idea
    and perhaps build a business based around [your] idea, based around [your]
    passion,” Horowitz said. “Don’t feel intimidated or think that this is
    something that only the smartest people in the world can do. That’s not true at
    all.”

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