Doobie Duke Sims spent years fueled by $3 dinners — two slices of pizza and a Coke — and sleeping in vans while touring with his band Shinobi Ninja.
That phase of life “was beautiful,” but it certainly doesn’t resemble his day-to-day life anymore. Today, Sims runs Snow Milk, a streetwear brand he started out of a Brooklyn, New York, studio basement in 2020.
That year, Sims only brought in $50 from a single T-shirt, he says. But in December 2022, after about two years of taking his thrift-inspired clothing designs to street festivals and flea markets, Snow Milk brought in $96,000 in revenue, according to documents reviewed by CNBC Make It.
It remains the company’s highest-earning month — Snow Milk has sold just over $260,000 worth of apparel in the five months since, says Sims — but it’s a positive indicator that things are moving in the right direction.
Sims started printing clothes after his daughter was born in 2018. He knew he needed a job that traveled less and paid him more consistently, so he logged onto Craigslist to search for a side hustle that could monetize any one of his creative skills.
He already had experience with Photoshop, so he responded to a listing offering a fully equipped print shop in the basement of a dance studio. At first, he used the space to make T-shirts for his band and other music groups. After teaching himself to screen-print, he realized he had the skills and tools to start his own company.
Snow Milk’s logo came from a literal dream, wherein Sims pictured snow bursting out of a milk carton, he says. He bought clothing without patterns or logos at thrift stores, and screen-printed his designs onto them.
But starting a streetwear label from scratch was hard, especially for someone without business experience during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. He sold just one shirt on eBay the entire year.
The next summer, Sims took his designs to street fairs in New York’s Washington Square Park, building some word-of-mouth marketing in the process. It translated to $15,000 in 2021 sales, allowing him to build an online store and hire employees. Today, Sims’ 11-person staff makes a combined $10,000 per week, he says.
Designing clothes is the easy part, Sims says: “I can be inspired by anything. Clothing, for me, is just another medium of producing rhythm.”
Creating a business plan, however, is much more complicated. Sims took breaks from designing to watch YouTube videos on how to run a business, he says.
Currently, he’s still learning how to cut costs without sacrificing too much on quality, so he can maximize profits — most of which go back into the business, he adds. Last year, he only paid himself $12,530, relying on music-producing gigs for the rest of his income.
“Coming from music, I didn’t know anything about profit margins or costs of goods,” Sims says. “I know bridges and verses and choruses. [I had to learn about] spreadsheets and QuickBooks and payroll and insurance.”
Watch the video at the top of this page to learn more about how Sims harnessed his creative skills into creating a full-fledged streetwear brand, and how he wants to grow Snow Milk in the future.