Greg Chambers went from working in merchant solutions on the 25th floor of the First National Bank Tower to starting Mad Gringo, a tropical clothing line for men, in the basement of a Dundee business. Photo by Andrea Ciurej.
Before starting a tropical clothing line in a state with no palm trees, Greg Chambers worked as a regional sales manager looking to get in touch with his inner “mad gringo.”
Chambers, employed with First National Bank of Omaha at the time, was far from tropical as he adorned himself in a suit and tie everyday, making his inner “mad gringo” go loco.
“It was great, but at the same time, it was not exactly what I was hoping to do with the rest of my life,” Chambers said. “[I] got a little fed up [and] needed to go find myself on the beach.”
After about four years with First National, Chambers headed to the shores of Mexico in search of himself and a new perspective on life.
There, he found a successful oyster shucker with no secret to living a carefree life other than “going slow.”
“He was exactly the opposite of what I was at that point, which was pretty pasty and tanned by the fluorescent lights,” he said. “He was just shucking oysters, going slow and trying to take our money.”
“I decided if a guy like that can make it and live that kind of life, then I should be doing something different, too,” said Chambers, who associates himself as “Mad Greg.”
Chambers said tropical shirts are a way for the company’s target market of corporate 30- to 50-year-old men to keep their inner “mad gringos” happy.
“The tropical shirt just had such a moniker attached to it,” he said. “It became this iconic representation of the ‘go slow’ philosophy.”
Mad Gringo used to produce clothing for women and even pets, but the company has narrowed their target audience since their launch in 2007.
“Our core customer is this guy who is struggling, drives to work everyday and has a Volkswagen Passat station wagon,” he said. “He needs a little help and he needs a little humor in his day.”
However, Mad Gringo is made for anyone aching for a change.
“If you wear the party shirt too many times people are like, ‘Enough with the party shirt,’” he said. “That’s a good time to put on a Mad Gringo shirt.”
A selection of Mad Gringo Go Slow Tropical Shirts. Screenshot from madgringo.com.
Originally sold only online, Mad Gringo is making appearances in 250 retail stores nationwide.
“Omaha’s not really our biggest market,” Chambers said. “[I thought], ‘Let’s open this up to the world. Let’s become a global microbrand.’”
Chambers hopes to eventually sell Mad Gringo products in more than 1,000 specialty resort stores, followed by building the company’s online presence.
“In men’s retail, there’s not a lot of stuff going on,” he said. “The retailers had a huge success with it right away.”
“Go slow,” he said, “and if you can’t really go slow, just go slower.”
Chambers has high hopes of expanding sales in retail, but the direction of the company is unknown.
He said the company has received funding from individuals associated with the Nebraska Angels, but not the angel investing group itself, as well as a group of local business leaders.
A graphic from a Mad Gringo Go Slow T-shirt. Screenshot from madgringo.com.
“I don’t know exactly where it is going to go,” he said. “Right now, we are just focused on [helping] our target market.”
Chambers admitted that he had never worn a tropical shirt before starting his company.
Exchanging a tropical shirt for a suit was worth the risk, though.
“People I didn’t know started saying, ‘Hey, nice shirt,’” he said. “I started thinking, ‘Gosh, this is almost better than a nice tie.’”
Chambers finally found his inner “mad gringo” in the process.
“My inner gringo just has people making me laugh and doing a lot of nothing,” he said. “I’m perfectly happy just sitting around and taking a nap.”
More on Mad Gringo
Founder: Greg Chambers
Headquarters: Omaha (5015 Underwood Avenue)
Mad Greg’s Take
What is your advice for entrepreneurs who are starting businesses in Omaha?
Start with a plan. You want to execute on it, get a little bit of money from somewhere–dig it out of a friend’s family, wherever–go out and test the concept. Once the concept starts showing some life, it’ll probably go a different direction than you would expect. Get out there and make it happen. You’d be surprised at how many people around here actually want to help.
What is your advice on keeping your inner “mad gringo” happy?
- When the doors open on the elevator, brandish your pen like a sword and announce “Arr! Prepare to be boarded!” This works at the company refrigerator, too.
- Skip the socks this afternoon. Socks are the neckties of feet.
- When your boss approaches you with another idea, tell him or her how great the idea is, but don’t offer to follow through. Just keep mentioning what a great idea it is. Then, go back to what you were doing. He or she may look confused for a minute, but they’ll eventually walk away.
- Take a nap, even if you have to run out to the parking garage to do it.
- Watch a sunset, today.