C. Ethan Smith of Roads Ahead et al.
Meet C. Ethan Smith, founder of Roads Ahead et al., an apparel company based in East Cleveland with one employee. The company features high quality clothing focused on positive, inspirational themes. Roads Ahead et al’s mission is to produce the next generation of creative clothing that represents people who are focused and goal-oriented.
How did you come to be an entrepreneur?
While earning my education degree I was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug and became a student entrepreneur, co-founding a small start-up that was based on an invention. Our company entered and competed in several national business plan competitions. I learned a great deal about entrepreneurship, which allowed me to co-found and successfully launch my business and become a semi-finalist in two business plan competitions.
What is the story behind the name Roads Ahead et al.?
I chose the name Roads Ahead et al. because it not only represents my journeys in life but also the journeys of others. Knowing that I wasn’t the only one taking various roads in life towards making dreams a reality, I chose to add the “et al.,” meaning “and others and elsewhere.”
What are some of the positive, inspirational themes reflected in your clothes?
One of our most popular graphic design T-shirts has been the journeyman tee. It depicts a man walking with a stick and a backpack and represents forward movement. Our compass logo tee is also a favorite, and is my favorite piece. It’s simple but has a lot of meaning and is a constant reminder to always move in a positive direction.
What environmental steps do you take in your clothing to reduce your carbon footprint?
Our supply chain is pretty eco-friendly. We use local businesses that are within six miles of us. If we order materials outside of Ohio we make sure to do ground shipping versus airfreight. We also seek to use materials that are eco-friendly and made in the U.S. Notably, we strive to lower our carbon footprint through the use of organic materials.
How many designers do you feature?
My nephew Michael Smith and I are the designers. My nephew just came on board doing designs that will be featured in 2014. We also plan on leveraging Northeast Ohio’s various universities to recruit young talent and broaden our design offerings and expose Ohio to the next generation of talented artist.
What do you love about doing business in Cleveland?
I love the fact that I know if my brand is successful in Cleveland, then it will be everywhere else. Clevelanders are genuinely honest people. If they don’t like it they will tell you, and if they do they will support you. I love the arts community in Cleveland. I also love the fact that we’re all learning to work together more so than ever before.
Who is your role model and why?
I don’t have just one role model, I have two: My mom and dad. My parents are multi-talented people who exposed me to so much. They were always hands-on when it came to my science projects too, which set the stage for me getting my first patent.
Interview by Karin Connelly