How Portland Gear's Marcus Harvey Used Instagram to Build His Brand & How You Can Too

There's no doubt that Marcus Harvey knows Instagram. 

Two years ago the 25-year-old University of Oregon graduate built the @portland Instagram page which has since grown to 209,000+ followers. On Black Friday of 2014, Marcus unveiled @portlandgear where Harvey sold over 200 shirts to four counties and 10 states on the first day, grossing $5,000 in sales without spending any money on advertising. His only marketing tool, Instagram.

We sat down with Harvey to chat about how he grew his brands to a collective following of 243,000 and how emerging designers can use Instagram to grow their brand as well.  

LAPTOPS & SMALLTALK: HOW DID PORTLAND GEAR BEGIN? WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION?
MARCUS HARVEY: I started the @portland Instagram page about a two years ago and have since grown it to 209,000 followers. In doing apparel design in college I knew how to build a brand and do logo work, so I came out with gear on the @portland IG page for Black Friday. I had all of these people who loved Portland, so I figured they might want a shirt to show it!

 

L&S: HOW HAS PORTLAND GEAR EVOLVED SINCE YOU FIRST BEGAN? 
HARVEY: We opened a store over on SW 19th Ave, we’ve added more SKU’s, bought a vintage Volkswagon bus and have been touring around the city doing every pop-up shop and street market we can. 
 

L&S: HOW HAS THE USE OF SOCIAL MEDIA HELPED TO GROW YOUR BRAND?
HARVEY: I’ve pretty much relied strictly on social media. Since I launched the brand I’ve kept it as Instagram focused as possible. People love to take photos and share them, so I created a product that people would want to shoot photos of, and a community people would want to engage with. We are heavy on IG, but have since launched the Facebook page, and Snapchat to add to the portfolio .

 

L&S: WHAT ARE SOME FASHION/BUSINESS RESOURCES YOU CURRENTLY OR PREVIOUSLY USE/USED THAT YOU FOUND HELPFUL? (LOCAL AND NON-LOCAL) 
HARVEY: All of my inspiration and help comes from studying other brands. I’ll spend hours looking at companies and try to figure out what they did to get where they are. That being grass roots starting in the skateparks, or brands who just have big names attached to back them. I try to find not only what brands are doing wrong that I could improve on, but what they do right and why it works.

L&S: WHAT ARE SOME TIPS YOU CAN GIVE TO EMERGING DESIGNERS/CREATORS ABOUT USING SOCIAL MEDIA TO GROW THEIR OWN BUSINESS?
HARVEY: Engage, have curated content and be consistent. People need to know what your brand looks and feels like. It needs to have a voice. That all comes from giving them content they can rely on. You never know when a follower is going to come, so they better be able to look at your pages and see exactly what you represent. Take the time to comment everyone back, and engage when people are engaging with you. If someone's going to take the time to go on a hike with my shirt, wear it, and take a photo to share, you bet I’ll comment on it and tell them how awesome they are. The more you can acknowledge your consumer, the more you’ll sell.

L&S: WHAT'S THE BIGGEST LESSON YOU'VE LEARNED SINCE STARTING PORTLAND GEAR?
HARVEY: The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that it’s a long road. Brands that you see and know have been around for years and years. You can’t just expect that right off the bat it will be easy. You have to stay in the game and really invest in yourself. It takes someone wearing your shirt 3 times maybe before any of their friends notice it. Then that person will take some time to head to the website and buy one. Of if they buy a shirt and wear it every day, they will want to buy something more, but that will take them time to get there. If you’re going to commit to doing something, just do it.

L&S: WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE STARTING A CLOTHING LINE/BUSINESS?
HARVEY: If you’re willing to work hard, put your name on the line, and not give up I say do it. The road is challenging but fun. It’s amazing seeing people wear Portland gear all over the world. Sometimes I have to take a step back and think how cool that some tees that are printed in Portland are being worn all over the world, every day. You’ve got to love business, love people, love the process. If you can say to yourself you’re ready, then get to it!