"We kept asking ourselves if we were having fun yet, and after 24 months of 20-hour days, we discovered that the answer was 'yes.' But we learned that no matter how good an idea looks, nothing is ever as good as it seems, and it always takes a lot more money and time than you thought it would to get something started."
Underestimating the money it took to get started was probably the partners' biggest blunder, he said.
To help the business grow, Clark and Carr eschewed salaries for the first two years, living on the proceeds of the sale of their Wild West stock. And they consistently have plowed a lot of their profits back into the business.
Late last year they added a second set of products, obtaining licensing rights to a relatively new brand of surf wear from Rusty, a San Diego surfboard designer-manufacturer.
And this year, they signed a deal with Newport Surf 'N Sports, a Newport Beach surf shop, to create, manufacture, sell and distribute a lower-cost, less adventuresome line of surf wear.
To handle the three different lines, C&C serves as holding company for two separate operating units. Employees wear color-coded badges that limit their access to various parts of the company's facility and prominently posted signs remind them that those working for the Rusty line are not allowed into the Gotcha parts of the building.
It all seems confusing and will get even more complex. Clark said that C&C ultimately would like to be licensee for five or six brands and to become diversified "so that we have more than just surf wear."
But the two kids from Indio are having fun, and as far as Clark is concerned, leaving General Mills and the relative safety of the corporate umbrella was the best move they ever made.
"The difference between owning the business and working for someone else is huge. There is just enormous satisfaction in not having the ambiguity and discontinuity you have to deal with in a big corporation, where easy things get complex," Clark said, adding:
"I can't solve every problem that we have in this business, but I have good people who bring me the solutions, and the satisfaction is in being able to say, 'You're right, let's do it!' "