Metro-East News

This Highland man wants his clothing line to motivate you to be successful

Danny Smith is building his new clothing brand piece by piece, even as he’s working two other jobs.

Smith, 28, of Highland, approached the Illinois Small Business Development Center at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville in 2015 for help in setting his vision down on paper as a solid business plan. He launched the clothing brand Built by Battle a year later, with the hopes of inspiring others to tackle their personal battles and succeed.

“We all have battles in our lives,” Smith said. “It’s how we choose to face those battles that define who we truly are.”

The brand is offered online-only at this time, with men’s and women’s cotton shirts, hoodies, leggings and other items displaying the signature brand.

Jo Ann DiMaggio May worked with Smith to develop his business plan and attend the low-cost training on starting a business in Illinois, connecting him to an intellectual property attorney, videographer and other resources.

“He is connecting with many great people and creating brand awareness,” May said. “Danny is proof that we can overcome (our battles) and succeed if we work hard and build a support team around us. I am so excited for Danny and Built by Battle.”

Q: Tell us what Built By Battle does.

A: “It’s a clothing brand of fitness wear and casual wear. My goal is to make it like Nike and Under Armour… I make sure everything is sweatshop-free and made in America. I want this to be a global thing, and eventually I will branch out, but I will always work with companies that treat their employees fairly.” 

Q: What’s the philosophy behind Built by Battle?

A: “It’s all about bettering yourself and helping others, getting your mentality in the right frame for success, whatever that means to you. By seeing the logo in the closet, I want it to spark something in their heads… they’ll get that sense of motivation.” 

Q: What was your personal battle?

A: “About four years ago I started working out, as I realized that investing in yourself can help your mentality so much. Before that I was an average joe, hung out in the bar… I’ve been in a lot of different bands, been into music since I was a kid. It was the point where where I didn’t know what to do with myself, set in on depression, and I started working on myself. It just snowballed from there… I stayed in that mentality that (I’m) not going to give up.

“There are so many people not happy with where they’re at, but they don’t know where to go. They never stop and look at themselves, how they can improve themselves. By bettering yourself, you can be your best for the people you care about. I realized how important that concept is for me… I’m 100 percent financing this myself by working extra jobs. I’ve had up to four jobs; now I’m down to two because the brand is starting to take off.”

Q: What did the Small Business Development Center do for you?

A: “They helped me develop a business plan, gave me some contacts for videography, photography, my attorney, as well as some financial people, investors and people who have helped me meet with them. I haven’t taken any investors yet, though — I want to see how far I can go working my butt off seven days a week.”

Q: How is the business going right now?

A: “This is my first business, and I have no formal education. But this is the first year, and to have sales every week has been pretty good. I think that shows that the networking is working really well. I believe it shows the message is wanted, they want what this stands for.”

Q: What are your hopes for the new year in Built By Battle?

A: “On Jan. 1, I am launching a social media representative program, a brand-ambassador thing. My social media has grown quite a bit in the last few months. It will provide more value to people… I hope (the ambassadors) learn a lot about personal development. It’s not just about trying to help me sell stuff. It’s the last thing on the list. This is about creating a culture of people wanting to better themselves, and not just saying that, but doing it. I will have my first speaking event in January… Next year is going to be a lot of growth and trying to get the name out there as much as possible. I’m curious to see how big an impact that will have.”

Elizabeth Donald: 618-239-2507, @BNDedonald

Built by Battle

  • What is it: Online clothing retailer,
  • Owner: Danny Smith, 28, of Highland
  • Motto: “By bettering yourself, you can be your best for the people you care about.”