Cara Hall Interview

Over the weekend I spoke with Cara Hall.  I first met Cara when we were both recruiting for our law schools.  Since then she has become an attorney and entrepeneur, co-founding AZU Brand LLC, a t-shirt design company.  In this interview Cara discusses the process in developing AZU, transferable skills-sets, what keeps her hungry, and more.

First off, can you give me a brief bio?

I attended Northeastern University in Boston, MA and majored in Music Industry.   While an undergrad, I had several entertainment industry internships, including a stint at Arista Records.

During my time in college I noticed the music industry was changing.  Illegal music downloading was becoming more prevalent and as a result record labels, publishing houses, and production companies were losing money.  During that time I was also managing a pop singer.

We were working with an entertainment lawyer located in New York, NY in efforts to attract major label attention.  In addition to being a partner in an entertainment law firm with Britney Spears’ manager, this attorney also produced movies and owned commercial properties.  I was inspired by his career path.  I realized the value in diversity and decided that a law degree was an excellent path to achieving that.

After graduating from Northeastern in 2005, I immediately enrolled in law school.  Three grueling years later, I graduated from Roger Williams University School of Law in 2008.  I sat for and passed the New York and Massachusetts bar exams and began practicing law for a small firm in New York City.  In June 2009, I founded the t-shirt company AZU Brand LLC with my two partners.

So you’re licensed in two states, but decided to start a t-shirt company?

While I am a licensed attorney in two states, I feel that the conventional practice of law will never completely fulfill me. My passion lies in creativity.  During the summer of 2009, I was working full-time for a firm, but I felt like something was missing.  Part of me wasn’t satisfied.  In order to fill that void, I went out on a limb and took a chance by starting a company.

What was the impetus behind starting the AZU Brand?  Also, what does AZU stand for?

I had been thinking about starting up a t-shirt company for about a year.  Originally, the idea struck me after graduating law school and taking the bar exams, but the timing wasn’t right.  I had put forth so much effort in becoming an attorney so my primary focus was to get a legal job.

After getting a legal job and working for a bit, I quickly realized that it wasn’t what I had set out to do and that I needed to follow my heart.  As a result, AZU was born.

AZU literally stands for “a zoo.” Because the company uses monkeys in all of its designs, we thought it only fitting to name the company after the place that they call home.

Can you detail the process, thought-to-implementation, that has gone into developing AZU?

When I first came up with the concept behind AZU, i.e. depicting monkeys doing human things and replacing humans in pop culture icons, I discussed the idea with a good friend of mine from college.  He has a strong background in business and marketing and so I wanted his opinion.

He loved the idea and immediately signed on to get this company off the ground.  A few months later, he introduced me to a good friend and former colleague of his who had successfully started up several companies. and currently owns and operates his own advertising agency.

The three of us sat down together and decided to go into business, monkey business to be exact (A.J. note: cue drums!).  We’ve been working hard at getting our company off the ground ever since.  We decided to register with the state of Connecticut as a Limited Liability Company because we felt that it was the best avenue for us with regard to legal liability and tax considerations.

As we develop new designs, we register them with the Library of Congress for copyright protection.  We have also made sure that we have an online presence.  We have an in-house IT team that developed our website.

Customers can check us out online at www.azubrand.com.  We also use social media forums, such as Facebook, to get the word out.  Additionally, we work with several key PR people in New York City.  The PR teams have been an integral part of the development of our company.  Through them we set up fashion shows and other events where we showcase our shirts and network with fashion industry insiders.

Cara, Mike B., and me recruiting in Mississippi

Has a t-shirt company always been something you had in mind?

I have had this idea in mind for the past year, but it wasn’t something I’ve always imagined doing.  I’m a dreamer, always coming up with new ideas.  One day, the prospect of starting up a t-shirt company just sort of came to me.  I’m definitely a creative person.  I’ve always been involved in the entertainment industry, whether it be producing music, managing talent, etc.  I also have a professional, corporate side.

AZU allows me to marry my legal and creative skills.  I get the best of both worlds.  There are the day-to-day challenges of owning and operating a business.  On the other hand, there is also the challenging aspect of coming up with new and innovative designs that will appeal to our customers.

Did the economy play a role?

Although I hate to admit it, the economy did play a role in my decision to start-up AZU.  Despite the fact that I was able to get a job as a lawyer, I saw many law firms laying off their employees.  The idea of working for someone else was seeming less and less desirable.  I knew it would take a long time to build up my own company, but the idea being in charge of my own destiny and not at the mercy of others makes it worth the risk.

Is there a difference between a passion versus a profession for you?

I’m an idealist so I believe that eventually I will reach a point where my passion is my profession and vice versa.  I believe that you should wake up every morning and be happy to go to work.  I want to love what I do and do it to the best of my ability.

Do you envision your primary profession being in the law?  At some point would you like to transition?

As I see my life right now, I don’t know that I’ll ever practice law in the conventional sense.  I will always use my legal skills, but may never be a “lawyer.”   When I really think about it, I may never settle down in one career.  I get bored easily and am always coming up with new ideas so I anticipate that I will probably try my hand at a few different things.  Fashion, music, movies, law or some combination thereof is most likely in the cards for me.

How important has networking been for you (in law and fashion)?

Whatever your chosen field, networking will always be an essential.  You can never do everything all on your own.  You must learn to connect with others and maintain those relationships.  Be prepared to rely on others and in return help others when you are in a position to do so.  I pride myself in having a broad network that spans many industries.  You never know where life is going to take you, so it is important to know all different types of people.

What role have mentors had in your life (again in law and fashion)?

I have all different kinds of mentors.  For every sector of my life, there are people who inspire me. In my personal life, my mother is a pillar of strength and perseverance.  When I think of the entertainment industry individuals, such as Oprah and Jay-Z, stand out to me.

They are as intelligent as they are talented and have risen from humble beginnings to become worldwide moguls.  I love the way they have transcended the notion that a person is simply a person.  They have become more that just “people,” they have become brands.

As my own career path has strayed from the traditional practice of law, I admire those such as Barack Obama, who have law degrees, but have gone on to excel in other fields by using their legal skills in non-legal arenas. 

Where do you see yourself in 5, 10, and 20 years?

Again I’m a self-professed dreamer.  I’m always imagining what could be.  I definitely have aspirations, but I try not to limit myself by putting a timeline on my goals.  I believe that doing so only sets you up for disappointment.  I try to focus more on what I can do day-to-day to further my goals.

For me, the sky is the limit and the limit is the sky.  I’ll get there when I get there, but for now my primary goal is to enjoy the ride.  Currently, I’m focused on growing AZU into a profitable, well-known brand, but I know that I’ll always have my hands in something else as well.

My first love will always be music so I would not be surprised if I go back to that in the coming years.  I could see myself managing talent, practicing entertainment law, producing music, producing movies, or writing articles/screenplays/books.  I’ll just have to wait and see what the future has in store for me.

What keeps you hungry?

Small tastes of success keep me hungry.  Having someone telling me that they love one of my designs makes me want to come up with five more on that level or better.  Participating in a fashion show or other event makes me want to line up three more events.  I’m a perfectionist and the type of person who always wants more.  That type of mentality lends itself to keep striving to reach the next level.

Lastly, are you looking for models?  I’m available for NY shoots.

We are always looking for models!  Be prepared to bring that “Blue Steel” to the shoot!

You can reach Cara at: cara@azubrand.com

//A.J.



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