AMP Plus Entrepreneurs

Women’s clothing good fit for entrepreneurial brothers

In a visit to AMP’s offices, Bryan Howe explains how the “Altimize” app works. 

LITTLE ROCK (NOVEMBER 3, 2016) ~ For entrepreneurial twin brothers Bryan and Ethan Howe, women’s clothing is a pretty good – if unexpected – fit.

“That’s a business,” Bryan says, “I never thought I would get into.”

bryan-and-ethan-howe

Ethan (left) and Bryan (right) Howe as children.

Bryan Howe is one of the smart, young brainiac types who hangs at Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub, which promotes itself as the nerve center for high-tech innovation in Arkansas.

Ethan, Bryan’s fraternal twin, lives in Orlando, Florida, where he is a financial analyst for the Walt Disney Company.

Together, the 25-year-olds are deep into the high-tech end of selling clothes and apparel for men and women.

They do this through Altimize, a company they launched initially to sell “investor-centric” apps that their father, Rich Howe, suggested. They took their father’s idea and gave it a millennial tweak.

The family, natives of Vancouver, arrived in Arkansas when Acxiom’s Charles Morgan hired

Rich Howe as chief of marketing for the Little Rock-based IT services firm. The twins were in the eighth grade. They played football for Pulaski Academy.

Mr. Howe left Acxiom eight years ago to take over Inuvo, a $70 million publicly traded online marketing company. Mr. Howe built an app for Inuvo’s investors. Bryan, who as a teenager taught himself to build apps just for fun, offered to tidy up his dad’s work.

“The user experience was all right,” Bryan said, “but I wanted to make it a little bit cleaner, make it a little bit better.”

Mr. Howe, impressed with Bryan’s work, prodded his boys to start a company.  He wanted his sons to learn everything about running a business, from developing a product and a clientele to banking and profit-and-loss statements.

They accepted the challenge and started Altimize, intending to sell those investor-centric apps for publicly-traded companies that their dad had suggested.

Rich Howe (AMP photo by Joe Kramer)

Rich Howe (AMP photo by Joe Kramer)

 

Optimizing a name

The name of their company is part made up, part “optimize.” “I was just sitting in my living room and thinking of words to play around with,” Bryan said, “and I thought of the word ‘optimize’ and checked to see if the domain ‘altimize’ was available.

“I just needed something that was short, easy to say, and was available as a domain.”

It wasn’t long before the Altimize brothers realized their dad’s product wasn’t precisely what they wanted to do.

So they built apps for various customers, including the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub, where Bryan found low-cost work space as a home base for their new venture.

The phone app they built for the Innovation Hub allows users to pay fees, reserve conference space, and access basic information.

The wanted to find their own niche market, however, and a little research pointed them to women’s apparel.

“In a world where 80 percent of sales comes from a mobile device, it makes sense to capitalize on this thing that we use the most every single day,” Bryan said.

“I realized that was our winning niche,” Bryan said. “I redid the whole brand, redid the website, strictly focused on retail, and that’s what we’ve been doing ever since.”

Altimize, Bryan says, “helps the little guys be like the big guys.”

Altimize is working with 12 women’s retail clothing clients who want to interface a phone app with online stores, which allows shoppers to shop from a cell phone.

Altimize’s early “little guys” include Riffraff in Fayetteville and Kiki LaRue, a boutique in Roanoke, Texas.

Bryan is an aggressive marketer, which attracted Shannon Jones, creative marketing director at Kiki LaRue.

Within two weeks of contacting Altimize, Kiki LaRue’s app was ready for customers’ cell phones.

“Because most people shop on their phones rather than a desktop or tablet, we try to promote [the app] the best we can,” Ms. Jones said. “There’s nothing better than a fun shopping experience.”

Creative opposites, good partners

Bryan handles the “creative” side of Altimize, and Ethan handles the business.

“We’ve always been opposites,” said Bryan, who hunts and fishes. He attended the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, where he majored in forestry. He studied marine biology at the University of Southern Mississippi, then finished up with a biology degree at UALR.

“I guess my secret passion was always conservation and some sort of wildlife,” he said.

Ethan’s interest always lay in numbers. He earned a finance degree from the University of South Florida in Tampa. In an emergency, he can build an app, but mostly he deals with taxes, payroll, accounting, and incorporation issues.

“Running a business is complicated,” Ethan said. “There are a lot of moving parts, a lot of moving pieces, and the number of things that the two of us have to take care of, it’s almost not possible for one person to take care of all of it.”

That will become even more true as the brothers add new clients such as two of their most recent, Impeccable Pig in Dallas and Los Angeles-based Sorrella.

“I didn’t really have the expectation … we were going to (get) a real business out of it,” Ethan said. “I think it surprised all of us.”

About the author

Kim Dishongh

Kim Dishongh

Kimberly Dishongh is a writer/reporter whose work has appeared in several Arkansas publications as well as in Newsweek, USA Today and others.

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