This is part two of a three-part series about meeting Dennis James, introducing him to Atlas Menswear, and being a vendor at his bodybuilding show.
In every business there are ups and downs. There are times that get you excited and other times you wish you could just skip through. The short first year of Atlas Menswear has certainly been no exception. Starting a business in the exact month that a pandemic forced the world to shut down has given me many challenges to work through. This story, however, is about some of the bright spots in the journey and one of the coolest things to happen during my start-up phase so far.
Getting Atlas in front of my target niche has always been one of my biggest challenges. Looking at the big picture, during my first year, I hadn’t even scratched the surface of my potential market. The feedback I was getting though, was nearly all positive. People loved the Atlas shirts. Everyone told me they were so happy that someone was finally doing this and that it felt like the shirts were tailor made for them. They weren’t far off. The advantage of working in a niche is that you can focus on doing one thing and you can do it better than anyone else.
I was fortunate enough to begin working with Dennis James, a legend in the bodybuilding world. Atlas Menswear shirts are not only for bodybuilders; they are designed to fit any athletically built man, but the Atlas brand is a natural fit in the bodybuilding world. Dennis has been amazing in helping spread awareness of the Atlas brand. Since the day I sent him an Atlas shirt he has made social media posts, he has mentioned the brand on his Instagram livestream, and he’s even offered me ideas on growing the brand. I have since sent him more shirts in different colors to show my appreciation and keep him engaged.
In a package I sent him containing some of our shirts, I sent one of our XXXXL shirts (that 4 X’s). This is our biggest shirt and made for a very rare, and highly sought after, physique. To be honest, I haven’t found someone that could fill out the 4XL and look good in it. These shirts aren’t designed to be worn by an offensive lineman type of body. Just like all of our sizes, they’re made to be fitted on a muscular physique with a tailored look – a taper to the waist being the most exclusive feature. Someone with shoulders big enough to fit our 4XL is likely to be big all over and not have the aesthetically pleasing physique to fit into the shirt in other areas. I explained this to Dennis and he simply replied, “I have someone in mind”. I didn’t know who he was thinking of but by this time, I understood I could trust that he knew what he was talking about.
A few weeks went by and 2020 was drawing to a close. The Mr. Olympia competition was moved from Las Vegas to Florida and joined the many departures from the norm in 2020. I had reserved a booth at the last-minute Olympia expo (you can read more about that here) and was excited for my first opportunity to directly interact with my target market. 2020 had forced everyone out of their normal routines and people were anxious for a return to the familiarity of life before the 2020 pandemic. People in the bodybuilding world were closely following the lead up to the Mr. Olympia contest because it provided a necessary distraction to the chaos that was so prevalent that year. One story that kept making its way on YouTube channels was the fact that Mamdouh Elssbiay, also known as “Big Ramy” had come to the United States early and was staying with, none other than Dennis James. Dennis has always been quick to point out that he wasn’t Ramy’s coach and gives credit to Chad Nichols who coached Big Ramy for the 2020 Olympia. Dennis was just helping a friend by letting him stay at his house. It would be easy for a casual observer to think Dennis was Ramy’s coach because numerous videos of Dennis working with Ramy in the weight room were making their rounds across social media. I’ve never had the opportunity to work out with Dennis but the intensity he brings to the weight room was very clear in the videos. There was a definite buzz about this possibly being Ramy’s year to win the Olympia title.
One day, not long before the kickoff of the Mr. Olympia contest, I got an Instagram message from Dennis. I opened it up and couldn’t believe what I saw. There on my phone was a picture of a shredded Big Ramy – wearing an Atlas Menswear shirt. It was taken by Dennis in his house and although Ramy wasn’t exactly posed for the camera, it looked amazing on him. The shirt performed as well as I had hoped it would on such an iconic physique.
Big Ramy’s round shoulders were accentuated and the taper from his lats to his waist was on display in the shirt. Big Ramy was wearing my clothing and couldn’t be happier! Little did I know that in a few days, Big Ramy would earn the top spot and take the title at the biggest bodybuilding show in the world. I was in my hotel room in Florida, watching the Olympia unfold. When they finally announced Big Ramy took first place, I was jumping and cheering for him because I had that connection with him. In no way did my situation compare to what Ramy had just accomplished, but on that night, I felt like a champion too.
As I’m writing this during the summer of 2021, I’m hopeful that Ramy will return better than ever and defend his title. I’m forever a fan of his because of the simple pictures he took in one of my company’s shirts. I know the Mr. Olympia champion has clothing brands constantly sending him items with the small hope they’ll see him in their clothing. I am so grateful that I was one of the few who were able to see that dream come to fruition.