Marcus Troy is like a breath of fresh air and a shot of inspiration for anyone who’s ever experienced blogger fatigue from seeing the same people do and write about the same things over and over again.
The Montreal native may have originally launched MarcusTroy.com in 2008 as a social experiment, but six years later he’s a top arbiter of style, a permanent fixture on any notable list of menswear lifestyle experts and a serial entrepreneur.
Whether he’s inviting a convoy of influencers to test drive Bentley’s in Paris, dining in castles halfway around the world, building a mobile app inspired by the #KicksOnAPlane hashtag to encourage people to share their footwear while traveling, or taking all of us on a cultural journey through Malaysia as a part of his travel business, Marcus is constantly creating the blueprint on how to collaborate with brands in creative and unorthodox ways expanding the boundary of what’s possible with each new experience.
I recently caught up with Marcus to learn more about the things that make him tick and his evolving approach to blogging and business.
Hashtags+Stilettos (H+S): It’s been 6 years since you launched MarcusTroy.com. What has been the most surprising part of your journey thus far?
Marcus Troy (MT): What most people don’t know is that for me, MarcusTroy.com was a social experiment. I wanted to see how far this would go without me ever having to explain my validity in- or knowledge of the game. And, I wanted to just share my opinion.
Once upon a time, you would get a free t-shirt in the mail. And then it was shoes which made me think about how far it could really go. So what’s been surprising is that 6 years later, people are getting free trips and free cars and all types of brands and companies are spending their budgets working with guys like myself. It’s incredible that we’ve become the new influencers and that consumers look to us before they make their purchase decisions. It’s also incredible to think that there are people who are going to start a blog or create a platform today that will be bigger than me, you and others in a few years.
Another surprise has been the fact that I’ve been able to build an audience for MarcusTroy.com and I don’t live where the magic happens. I live in Montreal. So when people who live in major cities say they can’t do something I don’t understand.
H+S: Where did you work prior to launching MarcusTroy.com?
MT: I’ve always worked with brands and in fashion. I used to work for a company that was a big retailer in Canada. I worked in the head office in footwear buying and merchandising. My love for fashion started with me working in retail. I loved interacting with people and helping them find the best product for them whether it was footwear or clothing. [Working in retail] is where you get to develop your taste and style and that’s why my aspiration once this is all said and done is to open up a shop so I can experience that again.
H+S: Before launching your site, you started an online magazine with a friend. Were you always interested in writing? Or, was it more about storytelling and creating a platform?
MT: Initially, when I talked to my friend I didn’t think it made sense to launch another online magazine. I had a global approach to life and it wasn’t necessarily about writing or telling stories; for me it was about sharing. That was my first goal. So I was looking for a way to share how to eat, where to eat, how to shop, what to buy and it’s easier to do that [on a large scale] online.
MT: I never saw or defined myself as a blogger. I just knew that I was sharing things that I liked and if you share it online in a certain way or on a certain platform it’s called blogging; which is fine. I’m a creative. I own a media company (MarcusTroy.com falls under Marcus Troy Inc.). I’m an investor in an app called Localeur and I like to create content. So I don’t let titles get in the way of the work. Whatever title people give me whether it’s ‘blogger,’ ‘cultural participant,’ ‘influencer,’ etc., as long as it helps me navigate the industry and continue to be creative, then I’m fine with it.
And I’ve never pitched a brand. Everything I’ve done has been done organically so I could be having a conversation with someone and they’ll suggest we collaborate or work on something together and that’s when I’ll come up with an idea.
At the end of the day, I just want to do cool things with cool people.
H+S: Speaking of doing cool things with cool people, your blog seems to be big business these days. You’ve partnered with marquee brands such as Bentley, Nike, Samsung and others. Do you have an agency component where you work closely with them to cook up these experiences? Or, is it still approached from an editorial-first standpoint?
MT: During the first half of my blogging career, I managed every brand partnership myself because I’m very specific with how I do things. But now that the amount of opportunities [has increased], I give it to my brand management team because it’s very hard to be the talent, the negotiator and the person who has to say ‘no’ sometimes.
H+S: Who else is on the Marcus Troy team?
MT: For years it was only me.
I have a lawyer and an [accountant]. I don’t have an agent or a publicist. I have two people who work on the editorial side with my blessing on what I like and what I don’t like. Eventually, I want to move away from being the singular voice on the site. I also have a video team that I work with and another team of people who work on developing the different MT sites and designs.
H+S: You’ve launched several brand extensions such as KicksOnAPlane, TravelWithUs, the MarcusTroy.com app, etc. How do you know when you’ve got an idea that warrants its own platform?
MT: I’m an ideas person and I get these urges to try things and give them to the world because I think it could be cool. I don’t pay attention to what people are doing or what they’re saying. For instance, I thought that I should have my own app, so I invested money to create one. Then, I created the Kicks On a Plane app because I had been using that hashtag and people seemed to like it and they began using it too. TravelWithUs is another project we’re passionate about it and we wanted to have it on its’ own platform.
I look at it like this: the world is in beta. Anything goes.
H+S: So many people talk about wishing they had a clone, you’re a twin so you kind of get to cheat a little bit in the sense that here’s this person who completely understands your vision and how you operate but also brings a unique eye and talent to the table. How has it been working with your brother? And, is he an automatic part of every deal that you put together?
MT: My brother is a genius in my eyes and working with him has been great. He’s an accomplished photographer and he has his own company. He does his own thing and we come together and collaborate on certain projects.
H+S: Where do you go or turn for inspiration?
MT: A lot of my ideas and inspiration comes from traveling. Travel cures ignorance.
H+S: What are some of your favorite menswear or lifestyle outlets?
MT: I don’t really have any any more. Everyone is doing the same thing. Back in the day we would hunt for new things and brands. We would go to actual places…like Tokyo because it was about being on the ground, going out and discovering [something new]. Now everyone gets the same press release and the same information.
I spend my own money on a lot of things. I love Chapter and ISAORA. I think that’s why I’m good at what I do…I actually support brands. I’m a consumer, I buy things and I love and cherish them that much more. I have a great relationship with NIKE and they gift me product, but I also buy from them. I was recently in Portland and I went to the NIKE outlet and spent a few hundred dollars because I thought the product was dope.
If you see something on MarcusTroy.com or if we experience something and share it on our platform and were paid, we’ll tell you that it was a gift or a paid sponsorship. You’ll never see me take money just to say something is good.
H+S: What advice would you give to an aspiring lifestyle blogger?
MT: I believe everyone is an influencer, but you can’t set out to be an influencer – that’s like giving yourself a nickname. Figure out your why; why do you want to do what you want to do? Some people want to get into the blogging game to get a free pair of Nikes. If that’s the case, I can just send you a pair and save you the trouble.
Lastly, I’d tell them to have a unique point of view and be creative.
H+S: What is the best business advice that you’ve ever received?
MT: Money is not made to be spent.
At first I didn’t understand what that meant. When I worked in retail, I spent my money on clothes and shoes. And now that I’m looking at buying buildings or apartment complexes or getting into the owner’s box I realize that buying a [bag], a belt or a watch to keep up with the Joneses doesn’t mean anything when you need a down payment for a building. I’m constantly thinking about how do we get into the owners box.
A friend who started this app called Localeur was trying to raise money. I’m very proud that I could give him money to invest in his idea. But I wish I had all of the money I spent on things over the years so that I could continue to invest it on something meaningful and create wealth for myself. A lot of people are running around looking good, smelling good and all they have is material things. It’s all about the mentality.
H+S: What are some of your biggest PR or brand pet peeves?
MT: I have a few. It bothers me when people go:
“Hi Marcus, I love your blog and everything you’re doing and I’m a big fan. I want to work on a project. Can you send me all of your site stats?”
Numbers do not equal influence. I haven’t checked my google analytics in months. It doesn’t concern me. It’s not a measure of influence; especially now that [people can buy] traffic and instagram followers. Influence is engagement. If you want to work with me, get to know me. And do your research so that you’ll know what you’re getting into.
Another pet peeve is people who pitch you the world and when you say you need a budget they can’t deliver. Have your budget together and then approach; unless you’re doing something that’s for charity or is organically connected to what I’m already doing.
I believe that you are what you negotiate. But don’t lowball me. I’m a man of integrity so if you say you have 50 grand and I know it can be done for 30, I’ll tell you that and suggest that we use the [remaining] 20 grand for something else. I’m very insecure about the work and I go above and beyond every time because I don’t want anyone to say that they’ve worked with Marcus Troy and the result was shitty.
H+S: What is one major goal that you haven’t accomplished yet?
MT: I want to open a retail store. I love customer service and helping people find quality goods that will last. And it would be dope to have a house brand that I design and all of my favorite brands in one place.
My favorite inspirational quote is… “Integrity is who you are and what you are when people are not looking.”
My favorite book is… Think and Grow Rich: A Black Choice by Dennis Kimbro.
I had the most fun writing or working on… I have the most fun whenever I get a chance to be creative.
I’m most proud of… my brother.
My dream interview would be with… I don’t have any dream interviews or experiences. For me, I try to make everything I do as great as possible every single time.
iPhone, Android or Blackberry? iPhone and Android.
My 3 favorite mobile apps are… iMDB, Instagram, KicksOnAPlane.
I have…unread emails in my inbox right now… Over 11,000.
A fun fact about me is… That I’m a twin. Funny story. I was just in Portland and one of the guys from GQ goes, “I didn’t know you were a twin, I saw a picture of you with dreads and I thought man Marcus is really taking this whole influencer thing to the next level.”
You can find me… On Twitter and Instagram @MarcusTroy and on the App Store.