Thirty years ago, I wanted to open a shoe company with limited money. From experience I knew one had to get in quickly because so often new companies run out of cash flow before they get the chance to conduct business. I also knew it was easier to get credit from factories in Europe that needed the business than from American banks that didn't. So I lined up the factories, went to Europe, designed a collection of shoes, and returned to the states to sell them.
At the time, a shoe company had two options. You could get a room at the Hilton and become 1 of about 1100 shoe companies selling their goods. This didn't provide the identity or image I felt necessary for a new company, and it cost a lot more money than I had to spend. The other way was to do what the big companies did and get a fancy showroom in Midtown Manhattan not far from the Hilton. More identity, but much more money too.
I had an idea.
I called a friend in the trucking business and asked to borrow one of his trucks to park in Midtown Manhattan. He said, "Sure, but good luck getting permission." I went to the Mayor's office (Mayor Koch at the time) and asked how one gets permission to park a forty-foot trailer truck in Midtown Manhattan. He said one doesn't. The only people the city gives parking permits to are production companies shooting full-length motion pictures and utility companies like Con Edison or AT&T. So that day I went to the stationery store and changed our company letterhead from Kenneth Cole, Inc. to Kenneth Cole Productions, Inc. and the next day I applied for a permit to shoot a full-length film entitled "The Birth of a Shoe Company."
With Kenneth Cole Productions painted on the side of the truck, we parked at 1370 6th Avenue, across from the New York Hilton, the day of the shoe show. We opened for business with a fully-furnished forty-foot trailer, a director (sometimes there was film in the camera, sometimes there wasn't), models as actresses, and two of New York's finest, compliments of Mayor Koch, as our doormen. We sold forty thousand pairs of shoes in just three and a half days (the entire available production) and we were off and running.
To this day, the company is still named Kenneth Cole Productions, Inc. and serves as a reminder to the importance of resourcefulness, creativity, and pushing the boundaries of convention.