Brian Millz Interview
Brian Millz is the owner/operator of the website: www.upscalestripper.com.
The business is devoted to selling costumes to dancers, but, not exclusively.
We’ll let Brian explain.
Q – When you title a business upscale stripper, it means to me that you’re trying to cater to a certain type of dancer, say one that performs at a Gentleman’s Club as opposed to a neighbourhood bar. Would that be correct?
A – Well, you know it’s more like because dancers have a bad image or they get slack fro being dancers, so, it was to make it more classy.
Q – Would Feature Dancers order from your co.?
A – Yeah. We’ve had some Adult Film Stars and pretty famous Exotic Dancers that order from us.
Q – How’d you get involved in this business? Did you work in a strip club in some capacity?
A – I worked at a club as the manager. The girls were having a tough time finding clothing and shoes so I thought maybe I could figure out how to do it. I went to the lingerie show in Las Vegas and I found all the vendors and started buying products from them.
Q – So, you’re more of a distributor than an actual designer of clothes?
A – Yeah. We don’t design pretty much anything. We buy it wholesale and them re-sell it.
Q – Now you have another business line as well, Upscale Costumes. Which came first Upscale Stripper or Upscale Costumes?
A – Upscale Stripper came first and then because we did so well doing Halloween we decided to make a site that was a little bit more friendly to the mainstream customers. Some people would get nervous when they ordered from us ‘cause they were afraid the packaging is gonna say Stripper on it or something. So, we decided let’s just make a site that people won’t get nervous from ordering from.
Q – Did it take a lot of money to launch this project?
A – No. Actually I was lucky because my business partner is a graphic designer and he does IT (Information Technology). Usually the most expensive part is building the website, but, lucky for us he knew how to do all that. So, it wasn’t much investment other than the merchandise.
Q – How has business been? Have you been hurt by the economy?
A – Luckily in this business it’s economy proof because actually when the economy goes down this business goes up.
Q – How’s that?
A – We notice a lot of guys order outfits. It’s probably most likely for their wives. People can’t afford to go on a vacation so, why not stay home and have some fun?! So, they’ll buy sexy outfits, sexy shoes and just stay home.
Q – And put on your own strip show for a night.
A – Exactly. If you can’t go to a strip club, bring it to yourself. Bring it home.
Q – I don’t understand with the downturn in the economy how dancers can make any money. Businesses are closing down everywhere you turn.
A – You can kind of tell by Las Vegas. A lot of the dancers will fly out to Las Vegas for the weekend and work and go back to their normal clubs wherever they’re located. Actually in Vegas it was pretty bad there for awhile. So, these girls coming into Vegas weren’t making the money they used to. It was affecting their weekly lives. That went on for about a year, but, recently when I went back to Vegas, I go into the clubs just to see what kind of crowd they got and I can tell it’s picking up again. So, it shouldn’t be much longer before these girls will start making a lot more money again.
Q – Do you have competition in your field?
A – We have competition. We’re definitely not the largest. We’re pretty much one of the newest ones but, we’re already made a name for ourselves. A lot of our competition is trying to copy us on some of the things we do. We try to diversify a little bit. We started out mostly selling to strippers but now we’re selling mostly to Go-Go dancers.
Q – There’s a market for Go-Go dancers?
A – Yeah. It’s huge, probably bigger than strippers right now.
Q – We’re talking dancers with the two piece outfits.
A – Yeah. They’re kind of evolved over the years, but, the concept is still the same. Basically clubs hire them, or events, not to strip, just to dance, and kind of get the crowd excited a little bit.
Q – We’re talking the look of the Hullabaloo or Shindig! Dancers?
A – Yeah, same thing. A little more sexier now, a little bit less clothing but, the same concept. It’s coming back strong. That’s probably what makes us the most sales actually.
Q – When you were first starting, did you actually visit strip clubs to show dancers what apparel you had to offer?
A – Well, we kind of took the more technological approach. Instead of doing manual leg work we focused on like Search Engine Optimization to make our site pop up first on Google or pretty high on Google, Yahoo, Bing. And so we focused all of our profits and bought programs and software that helped us. So now if you go Google or wherever and you search for anything stripper related or go-go dancer related, we pop up on the first page. That’s the best marketing you can do right there.
Q – And strippers would go online to Upscalestripper.com rather than a place like say Victoria Secret?
A – Yeah. Victoria’s Secret is where they might buy their panties or bras but they’re not gonna buy their outfits to work in. Plus, it’s a little more expensive going into those stores. It’s tough for any retail stores these days because of online. You really can’t compete with the online pricing. Some girls will go to the stores because they need it right then and there. They can’t wait for it to be shipped. That’s where the stores have the advantage. Pretty much the online stores nowadays are killing it for everybody else.
Q – And you don’t actually have a walk-in store do you?
A – No. Not yet. We’re thinking probably next year to try something out like a small retail store, but, as of right now it’s all online.
Q – Where would you open such a store?
A – Probably Orange County (in California).
Q – I was always under the impression that Feature Dancers have their costumes Made To Order.
A – Some of ‘em do. Even on our website we have some custom items that they can order but for the most part they like to wear a different outfit every day, or even a few outfits throughout the day. They’re very expensive compared to the packaged outfits that we have. Our best-selling items are like between $20 - $30. They’ll buy those all day long, but the made-to-order can be anywhere from $100 - $300. If they have a special event they might splurge but for the most part they just go with the ones that pretty much are disposable. Sometimes we’ll get customers that will want this outfit with this color with this accessory. We don’t make it ourselves. We have contacts for cos. that do so, we’ll just subcontract the order out and then drop-ship it.
Q – I take it your tailors or seamstresses are in Orange County.
A – No, not necessarily. Our biggest one is in Arizona.
Q – Made in America.
A – Yeah. All of our custom stuff in made in the U.S.A.
Q – You say, “We didn’t grow up rich. We grew up low class”. You mean middle class don’t you?
A – No. For me we were like so poor. I was thinking what’s the opposite of low class it would be high class and then I said Upscale. That’s where I got the idea. There’s like Discountstripper.com which is kind of our competition. I thought what’s the opposite of discount? Upscale. It’s funny ‘cause some of the customers will call up and say, ‘There’s this other site discount stripper but why do I want to think of myself as a discount stripper? I want to think of myself as an Upscale Stripper. That’s why I’m ordering from you’.
Q – Did you ever take any marketing courses?
A – No. I was a screw-up for awhile. Then when I started working around all these girls I noticed that they’re making tons of money. I don’t have the ability to make money like that ‘cause I’m not a girl with a great body. So, I was thinking how can I get into this success of what they’re doing? They’re making money. They’re spending money. How can I get in between that somehow? And then I decided wow! I’ll start my own business and now I don’t have to work anymore. I work for myself. It’s just me and my partner. We have our office and our warehouse. We’re not filthy rich yet. We’ve only been around for maybe 2 years. We’re doing pretty good. This next year we’ve invested our money into a few projects, so we’re hoping it’s gonna pay off. If it does, it’s gonna be a nice pay off.
Q – Would they be stripper-related projects?
A – Yeah.
Q – Does your business partner have a background in strip clubs?
A – No. He was just always interested in technology. He never went to college. He would get interested in something and then figure out how to do it. Like our website upscalestripper.com and upscalecostumes.com he built that from scratch. People always say it’s probably the best-looking website in our industry.
Q – You have a warehouse in Alabama. Why Alabama? Why not Orange County?
A – Well, it’s cheap and kind of centralized. If we need to ship it to California or New York, it’s kind of in-between so nobody…..if we shipped everything from California if would take an extra few days to get to New York than it would be shipping it from Alabama. So, it’s kind of like a hub to get orders to people faster.
Q – How many people are employed at that warehouse in Alabama?
A – There’s only two.
Q – So, as you see it this is a growing business?
A – Yes. It’s only going to get bigger. Right now the economy is bad, but, it’s not going to be like that forever. Once the economy gets good again it’s gonna explode. Even with a bad economy every month we do better than the month before.
Q – How many businesses can say that?
A – Again, we’re not raking it in, but, we’re improving every month. There’s other websites that are just killin’ it compared to us, but, we have a little bit of an advantage over them because a lot of the owners were never in the industry before. They’re either like marketing people or IT (Information Technology) wizards, but, they don’t think like somebody in the industry. They’re always gonna be stuck in the box of trying to be Internet savvy and that’s it.
Q – Besides working as a club manager, did you do anything else along the way?
A – Well, I did work for one of the clothing manufacturers, for the stripper clothing. So, I learned a lot from that.
Q – What were you a Sales Rep?
A – Yeah, exactly. So, that’s where I got my marketing, just from learning from the people I dealt with.
Q – Are you accepting orders from around the world?
A – Right now we only ship to the U.S. and Canada. That’s another thing we plan to do so it’s gonna make our business grow, to ship internationally. That’s another thing on our to do list.
Official website: www.upscalestripper.com
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