To embrace and acknowledge the contributions to this country by our diverse population, and to honor and celebrate Black and Woman’s History Month, Peter Bonnell on the Dun & Bradstreet Emerging Business team conducted a series of interviews with minority and women business owners. The interviews can be found on Dun & Bradstreet B2B’s Minority-Owned and Women-Owned Business Resource pages.
Many people want to be the first: the first to go to space, to walk on the moon, to sail around the world, to climb the tallest mountain, and so on. You can imagine how proud Steven Burton is then to be the first full-time business owner in his family.
“I’m very proud to be a minority business owner,” Burton said. “I feel like just the aspect of being here and trying to build an empire inspires others like me. I hope that my story can inspire others to start a business.” Tweet This
Burton started his ecommerce business Perfect Tux out of a desire to provide for his family. He took what he knew and set out to be the first. “I asked myself what do I know really, really well that I could use as a foundation to grow my business aspirations,” he said. “The answer was ecommerce & formal wear.”
Embodying the Entrepreneurial Spirit
Perfect Tux throws out the traditional tux rental model in favor of reasonably priced, unique and trendy items. Burton calls himself a lifetime entrepreneur, having started his first e-commerce business at 18. He has experienced success in other areas as well, having earned a Gold Record as a songwriter. He also created a licensing company that provided music for movies and TV, on networks including FX, BET, Lifetime, Hallmark, Disney, Pixl HD, and more.
“Many African Americans – we’re not really taught to be business owners – we don’t have a lot of mentors like us that we can talk to, bounce ideas off of. So the things that inspired me were books and YouTube clips, podcasts, etc.” Burton said.
“My ultimate goal is to create jobs within the African American community and inspire the youth to be owners. And also show them you can find wealth and success in other things besides music, sports, and entertainment.”
Paying it Forward
As a “lifetime entrepreneur” Burton has more than a little advice for prospective business owners.
“My best piece of advice would be to think about starting a business in steps,” Burton said. “Looking back on my life in the past 5-7 years, it took a desire to improve my credit, which lead me to a desire to make better financial decisions, which then lead me to a desire to build wealth. By the time I knew what I wanted to do, my now excellent credit along with a little savings allowed me to invest in my business and myself.”
But while he set himself up well financially before starting Perfect Tux, Burton still recommends the tried and true entrepreneurial advice of “Just do it!”
“You have to take a leap of faith and jump. You’ll be surprised at how much you can accomplish once you get going. But if you don’t start, you’ll never know. Once you get passed the ‘dream’ phase and into the ‘action’ phase things start to unfold for you.”
Making Things Happen
Though Burton has been in the action phase for quite some time, that doesn’t mean he’s stopped dreaming.
“I hope to someday be the Zappos of formal wear,” he said. “When you think of formal wear online, I want our name to be the first thing you think about. I also plan to bring some innovative ideas to the formal wear industry and continue to make customers more comfortable in buying formal wear online.”
In the short term, though, Burton wants to continue creating awareness for the Perfect Tux brand, which for him means broadening his marketing strategies, putting products in other online marketplaces, and hiring more team members.
“My strengths are being very analytical and understanding data to drive conversions,” he said. “I’ve been doing this since I was 18 and I don’t think it’s luck I’ve found success in Perfect Tux. I also think the hustle that the black community has is a positive attribute.”
How it’s Done
So, how has Burton scaled Perfect Tux into a successful online business? By combining his prior knowledge of ecommerce with a drive to learn more about what he admits he doesn’t know well.
“I tried to minimize mistakes by starting a business I was very familiar with and also by having a vast understanding of ecommerce, and by building the right ecommerce platform,” he said. “So far I haven’t really had any major failures – knock on wood – but [finding success] was more about making adjustments to things that weren’t working as soon as possible.”
“Learning new things that I wasn’t an expert in was a challenge. For example, online marketing was tough. You can waste a whole lot of money very fast if you don’t know what you are doing.”
Burton’s ability to learn online marketing, drive traffic to his site and maximize his ROI may come largely from his natural sense of curiosity.
“I can’t say I was taught how to read and apply data, but for some reason I naturally like to find the reason behind users’ actions,” he said. “So if I create a page and I see users aren’t navigating the page like I would like them to, I ask myself ‘Why is that? What makes them go left instead of right?’ I’ll look at all the data and A/B test things until I get the user moving how I want them to. Or just find out something new about them. It’s a lot of intuition, but also a lot of testing and waiting on the results.”
Clearly, something Burton is doing is working for Perfect Tux, and his relentless curiosity may just help make his business “the first” to advance the formal wear industry.
“I think [becoming a trend leader] could be a goal for Perfect Tux,” he said. “The majority of the formal wear industry has a very old school way of thinking and conducting business. No one has really run to the front of the pack using technology and understanding the new online shopper.”
If Burton continues to embody the spirit of the entrepreneur and grow his already successful business, we’re sure he’ll accomplish many of his goals, including inspiring others like himself to start a business and be “the first.”
Photo Credit: Perfect Tux