Interview by: Cal Larsen
“I am me. You are who you are.”
That is the message Alec Mancheski wants me, and everybody he meets, to take away upon meeting him and seeing his product. Although unsure of what his official title is quite yet, the hungry, determined, creative and, most importantly, passionate Alec is on a mission to change the world.
At just 20 years old Mancheski created his own clothing line, iame, and bases it all off of the concepts “confidence” and “self-love.”
In an age of judgment and low self-esteem due to a myriad of factors, iame targets everybody and encourages him or herself to be confident with who they are.
“Love yourself for who you are, you’ll live life so much happier,” Mancheski said. “What you think is negative about you is not negative. Make it positive and embrace it.”
A model at the age of 14, the Stevens Point, Wisconsin native spent a lot of his time traveling to Chicago to model. Sitting in a chair, looking down the hallway, he tells me how he remembers missing things such as football practices, games and spending time with friends. Things a 14-year-old should not miss.
When Mancheski turned 18, bigger things called and he went east to model in New York City, March to August.
“Modeling is all about judgment. Your body’s good for this type of stuff, not this. You can’t do runway you’re too muscular, you’re too big, stuff like that,” Mancheski said. “I just thought ‘I am who I am no matter what. You are who you are no matter what.’ That’s how everybody should see themselves, there’s nothing wrong with how you were made or created.”
What occurred in New York left Alec in a mental state he had never experienced before. Claiming he felt like he wasn’t good enough and a failure, he was scrambling to feel how he had before his modeling career.
His outlet became clothing.
“I created iame. I put it on clothing,” Mancheski said. “I’ve always been passionate about clothing.”
Making sure to share the fact he was awarded “Best Dressed” in high school, Alec laughs for a while, before telling me his passion for clothes is nothing new.
Starting a business at a young age comes with ups and downs. Without business experience it can be mostly downs. Factor in the judgment from people who may think it’s a waste of time and it makes being a young entrepreneur even harder.
Mancheski doesn’t worry about that.
“I think I’ve come a very long way in learning the business and what goes on,” Mancheski said. “I have plenty to learn, there’s always more to learn. I’m super interested in it and want to learn as much as I can because I’m in love with it.”
Seated across from me in multiple iame wristbands and an iame sweatshirt, legs crossed over one another, Mancheski opens up about all aspects of his life. Including his dropping out of school.
Previously attending the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, Mancheski went home two weekends in a row to work on iame and was putting so much energy into it that he eventually reached the point where school gave him nothing and he wanted to pump his heart and soul into his brainchild.
“Honestly, I feel so strongly about iame, I feel like I have such a passion that I just understand and know that its what I love to do and its going to work out,” Mancheski said. “I truly believe that it’s going to work out.”
Everybody loves a success story. And to the people telling Mancheski that he’s foolish for giving up his education? He hears them; definitely, he then strives to show them otherwise.
“Hopefully in eight to ten years I can say ‘see? I told you.”
What’s unique about Alec, which I learned quickly in our conversation, is his motivation behind iame.
A 20-year-old, attractive, well-liked kid clearly is creating a company for wealth and fame. Not Mancheski, he swears on his mother.
For Alec, iame is about making the world a better place. That’s it.
“I want it to carry the message of loving yourself and loving who you are, through the brand,” Mancheski said. “Clothing and the message can merge together and make it happen.”
Less than one year into fruition, Alec claims he never had any expectations with the company. Most of his sales right now come from friends, family, word of mouth, or Mancheski going door-to-door himself.
Alec doesn’t even have a shipping center. It’s all him. He has everything in inventory and packages and ships it all himself. The icing on the cake for Mancheski comes in the materials he uses for shipping. Paper and cardboard, never plastic, (the environment is another personal care of his.)
Let’s say a customer is on the receiving end of an iame product, Mancheski has grown a hobby for writing personal letters and shipping them out with each product.
“Customers love it. They contact me and tell me how awesome it is. It makes me feel good,” Mancheski said.
After a while of speaking to Mancheski, I’ve learned a lot; More than things strictly about himself.
- I learned iame has an Instagram and Facebook account that he actively engages with customers on, not strictly product promotion.
- I learned beyond a small loan from his mom, every dime put into iame has come from Mancheski.
- I learned that clothing quality is one of the most important parts of his company. He once sent an order back to his production center because he refused to sell it to people.
- I learned that he created an iame movement, a platform in which a customer can take a survey, submit a photo of themselves and others can read what that individual has overcome in his or her life.
It’s evident that Mancheski wants to make people happier and the world a better place.
“I wouldn’t say I had any expectations, I’m just rolling with it. The reason why is because I think the message is so powerful that it needs to be spread,” Mancheski said. “I’m not worried about growth; I’m doing it because it makes me happy. I’m doing it because I love it.”
As the conversation carried on, Mancheski’s passion never once wavered. Every question he answered, every tangent he went on it all came back to why he started the company and what he is hoping to do.
In fact, after telling me he doesn’t know what his official title would or should be, near the end he tells me he’s “very much so” an entrepreneur. By definition I knew that, but if someone doesn’t have the passion required to stick through a young, recently started company, do they feel like an entrepreneur?
The official definition of “entrepreneur” is: “A person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so.”
By all accounts, Mancheski falls under that group.
There is one phrase right at the end that Mancheski hammers home to me, and the people he meets. “Follow your dreams.”
We hear it all the time. Mancheski embodies that phrase, though.
A teenage model in New York City? He didn’t love it so he returned home. A student with a college diploma on the horizon? School didn’t give him the feeling he desired, so he dropped out.
“iame came about and I loved it. I took the biggest risk, I dropped out of school,” Mancheski says. “Find what you love to do and take the chance. Risk it. If you love it and you put enough passion into it and give enough energy into making it work, it will work.”
With a million more questions to ask, I face the young entrepreneur, curious as to why failure or judgment didn’t scare him off. He takes a breath, looks my way and simply says “iame.”
His company. A clothing line with a message so strong it helped its own creator get through his fears.
“Why does it matter to you what I’m doing?” Mancheski asks his hypothetical, yet very real, naysayers.
“I’m living my life and starting this, you’re doing what you’re doing,” Mancheski says. “It all comes to me and I put it out there. There’s literally no more ‘what are people thinking about me’.”
For a 20-year-old who had many things going for him, has faced a few challenges, changed a few minds and has the hope he can better the world through his first love, Mancheski is one of the most passionate people I’ve met.
There’s something in the Wisconsite’s eye that lights up when someone asks about iame.
He wants me to know one thing before he takes off.
“I am me.”