Michael Cherman was always a hustler. His nickname in high school was Mikey Merchandise because he was selling t-shirts out of his car.
He said, “I was just a kid, that if you sat down with me and said, ‘I want you to draw a dragon, dunking a basketball, on the back of a jacket.’ I would have it done for you in five minutes and I’d spin my computer around and be like, ‘This is what it would look like. In a couple of weeks, you’ll have that piece and it will be done.’”
After high school, he attended the Parson School Of Design but dropped out after a year. He had to figure out a way to support himself or he’d have to move back home.
He started working at a store in SoHo, called Good Wood, where he learned his chops.
Cherman said, “Every day I was in the basement: Embroidering, screen-printing, digital printing, etc. You name it and I was just going through the process of learning how to do it. The 10,000 hours of just designing, the 10,000 hours of making and the 10,000 hours of just creating.
But that process is so rare in this industry that I think that a lot of people just sit behind a computer all day and just send the orders to China.”
That job led to a position at Nike, where he worked with celebrities and basketball players on influencer marketing.
When the location closed, he bought a bunch of their machines and started the brand, ICNY.
The company was born after being hit by a car, while riding a bike in New York City at night. He saw a need for reflective clothing. So, he started out by making reflective socks. That led to a whole company built around reflective clothing.
The company was a success but he ended up getting fired by his investor.
All of that hard work went down the tubes.
While others would just get a job, and remain bitter for the rest of their lives, Cherman decided to give it another try. This time he wasn’t taking on any investors. He bet on himself.
He said, “I started Market on a credit card. I made five t-shirts and five hats and put them on a credit card. I maxed out the credit card to $20,000 and I rolled the dice. I went to the first ComplexCon and I just remember that first day, doing $15,000, and the next day we did another $15,000.
I remember going back to the hotel room, with my girlfriend, and we were on the bed throwing all this money up. It was one of those moments, after all the pain and all the struggle and questioning myself, that I could finally say, ‘I can do this.’”
Market quickly became a sought-after streetwear brand. Known for their signature smiley face logos, their innovative designs and their incredible collaborations with everyone from Crocs to The Beatles, he has managed to stay on top in the incredibly competitive fashion business.
It comes from a deep passion within him.
Cherman said, “I truly, deep down, just want to make t-shirts every day. I want to be creative every day. I’m grateful to do it. And if I can help the people around me, and inspire them a little bit, that’s the dream.”
Cherman’s advice for young entrepreneurs?
He said, “I think that being an entrepreneur, or just being an employee, is not easy. And I remind everyone out there that it is one day at a time and that you need to wake up every day with a renewed sense of why you’re doing what you’re doing. It’s easy to self-doubt yourself and your biggest enemy is you. You have to believe in yourself before anyone else will.”