cultureisland: tell us more about you.
ben: i am an entrepeneur. i used to beat around the bush on this one. i'd tell people i work in real estate development and then they'd pry for information on other projects i was working on. i guess i have trouble admitting that i'm just an entrepreneur -- it's a weird thing to be. i grew up in minneapolis and always was motivated by money; a natural sales person, but again didn't want to admit that. i wanted to do big things, but never really had a road map. i just tried things that felt right. in high school, i started a car detailing company, advant detail. i promoted the business to customers at the drive-thru starbucks where i also worked. in college, i studied city planning and business at the university of arizona.
cultureisland: tell us more about benjo's.
ben: benjo's wants to make accessories for inimitable people. benjo's lends an accessible premium means of expressing distinct style. i was in rome, wearing a friend's grandfather's shoes when my shoelace broke. i was jet lagged and irritated and walked into one of the nearby shoe repair shops. they had black, brown and red laces. i bought the red ones. everywhere i went, people asked where i got my shoes or shoelaces. when it came time to replace that pair, i found it impossible to find red or colorful laces anywhere so i called a friend of mine who works in textiles. he gave me some people to call for waxed cotton laces. i called around and when i couldn't get a sample pair of red 30" laces. i was forced to buy 10,000 pairs. i called people who had told me they'd carry them in their stores and the rest was history. i also designed the logo in a word document.
cultureisland: who is the benjo's customer?
ben: i think they're sophisticated and confident, individual and want to do their own thing.
cultureisland: what plans do you have to grow the benjo's brand?
ben: i need to fundraise. that's the next step and then we will really grow.
cultureisland: what are your favorite places to shop, eat and hang out around minneapolis?
ben: for restaurants, try tilia - steven brown's 40-seat flagship. incredible and well rounded. no reservations so go for lunch or get there early. also, great brunch. not fancy. just really good. lucias is a staple. three restaurants, the bakery for a coffee or quick breakfast. great soups and salads at lunch. for fancier lunch or brunch go to the restaurant. for dinner go to the wine bar for both the dinner and bar menus. a reservation is only necessary for the restaurant. france 44 cheese shop - authentic and cute european deli. retail cheese and meats as well as soups and provisions. order one of their sandwiches to stay or go. and ngon bistro - le coloniel style vietnamese fare, but better! mostly local and provisions, wonderful bar program. order well! i like to shop at askov finlayson for all of my odds and ends and black blu for denim, sweaters and outerwear. for women, go to mille mercantile for jewelry and this and that. room number 3 for cozy sexy clothes and idun for the best women's lines right now.
cultureisland: what are some of your favorite websites or magazines for style inspiration?
ben: this is a great question because i should probably work on this list. i'm becoming a stranger to the internet. we used to be so close and now, i feel like we grew apart. i have a long list of tumblrs that i look at in archive view, so i guess i don't really "follow" them. now that i'm looking through them, i'm realizing that while there are great images and cool stuff, there is a ton of nudity out there; i need more stuff, like stuff i can buy or find inspiring. william yan, enthusiam documented, one documented obsession, nickel cobalt, and gearheads (i love cars, such beautiful machinery), simplypi, a bit of color, je te veux, and spooky home but i wish i had better home ones because we are doing a lot of work on the house right now. magazines - this has gotten out of hand! kinfolk and cereal. i got a subscription to one called apartamento a couple of months ago. i like all of the food magazines but don't have a favorite. the off duty section of the wsj is a personal favorite. i'd love for them to feature benjos sometime. oh, ny magazine is one of the best deliveries of the week. i like knowing what's going on and it makes me want to open a ton of restaurants.
cultureisland: tell us more about the images in the winter lookbook (above).
ben: i work with an amazing photographer, dylan james nelson. he's more of a fine arts photographer, but i have been trying to get him to open up to commercial work. he is brilliant along the lines of alec soth or john spinks and will go very far. we have a few of his pieces in our home in minneapolis too. i asked him to do a series of images that represent our core colors, so you'll see red images, purple, green etc. i thought it was cool. maybe we will get rid of the fish soon. i went to zambia this summer and maybe will use some of those images this winter.