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20 Jun

Ep. 109 – Joe Kudla – Entrepreneur & Founder of Vuori High Performance Activewear

“When people ask why we’ve been able to get off such a fast start, I always credit the fact that our product is very aligned with our brand. We were very conscientious about defining what the Vuori brand is, what it was that we stood for. What were those values? Who was our customer and what was our customer going to use this product for?”

Joe Kudla – Entrepreneur & Founder of Vuori High Performance Activewear; Building a sustainable brand; Creating community; Being customer-centric.

**SPECIAL DISCOUNT TO LISTENERS** –> Go to http://www.vuoriclothing.com and use CODE: THEHUSTLE

Segment 1: (Length :04:00) – General Updates; Introduction to Joe Kudla and his journey as an entrepreneur; Launching a brand that resonated with the more active male lifestyle.

Joe’s finer points:

“I was a competitive athlete. I beat up my body really bad playing football and lacrosse pretty much my whole life. I got into yoga as really the first restorative thing I’ve ever done for my body and I really fell in love with the practice and being somebody who’s always loved product and loved design, I’m always kind of curious what’s happening in the landscape and who’s doing what.”

At the time I was wearing a lot of Lulu Lemon products because they made really quality really unmatched in the industry but from a kind of style and aesthetic standpoint, it didn't really resonate with me. It really always felt like my girlfriend's thing.

“We used to wear surf brands to yoga. We’d wear board shorts and while they were great, they’d have some stretch, they weren’t really designed the move and stretch in the way that you do when you’re practicing yoga.”

“I became part of the San Diego yoga community and made a lot of friends. My friends were all yoga teachers and health practitioners and professional surfers and triathletes and we live in this really cool aspirational town called Encinitas where there’s a yoga studio on every block.”

“It’s just a really cool place and this brand was kind of sitting there right before us and we felt like there was a missing opportunity to go after create great products for guys that were living very diverse active lifestyles, whether they were going to yoga or they were getting in the water going for a surf or a paddle or hiking or rock climbing or just going to the gym and training.”

We wanted to build product that was built to move and sweat in but styled for life.

“I met a good friend of mine, a guy named Chris Miller who is on our board and has been a really great mentor of mine. Chris and I kind of planted the seed and we would always sit around and talk about this idea for a brand and he had launched a couple previous brands that had been successful. We eventually just decided it was time and we took that next step and went for it.”

“Yeah, this was my first struggle if you want. I’m in my early thirties, I’m struggling with depression, even though very successful, I’m reading all of those books, I’m unable to understand them, and it hit me that one of the reasons why I didn’t understand them is because I actually don’t know what I’m looking for.”

Segment 2: (Length :08:00) – Talking with Joe Kudla; Previous entrepreneurial experience; Going all in for something you believe in; Being honest about the opportunity; Knowing the market before jumping into it.

Joe’s finer points:

“I’ve started a couple different companies in the past. Not all of them have been successful but the staffing company that I was working at at the time that I decided to launch was a success but while I was doing that I had invested in a couple of different apparel projects.”

“Again, always loved creativity and product and design so I was funding some of these smaller businesses and I would take a little bit of an active role in management as much as I could and I always realized that unless I jump in with two feet these things just weren’t going to go for me.”

I had to come to a crossroads where I had built this kind of cushy lifestyle where I was comfortable. The bills were paid. I had disposable income and I was traveling in my late 20s and early 30s living a pretty good lifestyle but it wasn't 100% aligned with my heart and my passion.

“When this opportunity became really clear for me, I decided it was time to kind of cut the bow lines and jump in with two feet and I really believed strongly that as an entrepreneur you have to cut those bow lines and jump in and go all in if you want to make it go. That’s what we did and I’m really grateful for that decision.”

“I always picture myself on my death bed and I’m like if I am 90 years old sitting there and I look back on my life and I said, “I took the safe road,” am I going to be happy with myself? The answer was always no so it was always easy for me to decide I’ve got to do this for me but that’s also my personality and not everybody is wired that way.”

“I think as an entrepreneur it’s really important that you’re honest about the opportunity and do research.”

“When we started Vuori, we looked at the men’s yoga space as kind of a jumping off point for us and we realized at there was over 7 million guys practicing yoga in the United States. That was about 30% of participating because it’s predominantly a female driven activity but it was a fastest growing demographic.”

When I looked at the players in the space and nobody was really addressing the guy like me who was into yoga but was also into a lot of other things - to me, that just looked like a lot of white space.

“At the same time, we also looked at for comparative purposes, the surf market. There’s only like 4 million active participants in the United States and there’s like 100 brands competing for that customer. That equation just looked like there’s definitely an opportunity here. I did a lot of diligence and was really clear on that before just jumping in.”

Segment 3: (Length :10:00) – Building a brand that extends beyond the product; Investing in community; Creating a movement; Being customer-centric all the way through .

Joe’s finer points:

One distinction to make is I believe personally that there’s a difference between a brand and a clothing line and I think what we’re trying to do is to build a brand and that extends beyond the product that we make to an investment in community, an investment in promotion of a lifestyle and building an inclusive group where people are welcome to kind of align and find a common set of values.

I think that there is a distinction there. There are a lot of quote-unquote brands that launch with just the focus on a product differentiation and that's great. You can build a really successful business there but our goal is we have a bigger vision for Vuori and it extends beyond the product.

“When people ask why we’ve been able to get off such a fast start, I always credit the fact that our product is very aligned with our brand. We were very conscientious about defining what the Vuori brand is, what it was that we stood for. What were those values? Who was our customer and what was our customer going to use this product for?”

“For us, our philosophy is built for movement, styled for life. It’s got to be, first and foremost, the best premium performance materials on the market so that’s a product that is going to breathe well, move with your body, wick moisture and fight odor and keep you smelling fresh after a long workout.”

“Secondly on more of the style side of things, we’ve got to aesthetically build it in a way that fits into everyday life so if you wanted to throw them on the weekend and walk around the neighborhood or go meet a friend for lunch you’re going to feel really comfortable. You’re wearing something stylish, comfortable and it doesn’t look like you just walked out of the gym. To us, that was aligning product with brand.”

That's the beauty of business today is that we have an opportunity, as as brand, to communicate directly with our customer. We know who they are. We know their purchasing behaviors. We can get feedback from them and engage them in a feedback loop and for us we've developed our investment in happiness, which is our product guarantee and it's really simple.

“If for any reason you don’t like it, send it back, no questions asked and we lead with that as a communication. We really believe in our product so it all starts with product.”

“Product’s got to be great. It’s got to deliver on its promise and we’re very diligent about that. We care so much about our product and we care so much about our customers. When you merge the two of those you’ve got a winning recipe.”

“For us, we engaged our customers through email. We have a very diligent customer service department that is very focused on taking good care of our customers and making sure that their needs are met.”

We believe in our product but we're not perfect, especially as a new emerging brand. There have been challenges for certain items, new releases and there will continue to be but ultimately if you're committed to great relationships with your customers and taking good care of them then I think in the end you can build a great relationship and get them to reengage with your brand over time.

“I think a lot of people over complicate business and people go to fancy schools and they study and with a lot of information can come complication and ultimately you just got to boil it down to good common sense. Make a great product and use common sense and be passionate and I think you’ve got something.”

Segment 4: (Length :03:00) – Hustler Thought of the Day:

Roll the dice. If you’re going to try, go all way. Otherwise don’t even start.

**SPECIAL DISCOUNT TO LISTENERS** –> Go to http://www.vuoriclothing.com and use CODE: THEHUSTLE

GENERAL NOTES:

Joe Kudla – Founder of Vuori

  • Vuori is a San Diego-based outdoor and lifestyle brand brand best-known for its offering of high-performance activewear that is both beach and weekend-ready.
  • The two year-old brand will be in 600 doors by year end–a rapacious growth rate–thanks to deals with top retailers like REI. Sales are up 370 percent from 2015 to 2016 and are on track to more than double this year. Repurchase rate hovers near 50%.
  • Joe grew up an athlete skiing, playing football, surfing and playing Lacrosse in college while getting his degree in accounting from the University of San Diego. Shortly after he received an amazing opportunity to travel the world as a fashion model for brands such as Dolce & Gabanna, Vercace and BCBG.
  • When returning to the U.S. he worked in finance for several years as a CPA for Ernst & Young.  After seeing a missed opportunity in the market, he launched his first business, a professional staffing company, Vacco. This business was hugely successful and was named San Diego’s third fastest growing company by the San Diego Business Journal at the time.
  • Simultaneously Joe was heavily involved in his local community and received his teaching certification in yoga, and while he does not teach, the restorative nature to counterbalance years of performance sports brought a new perspective into life.
  • Unable to find clothing he enjoyed wearing across multiple performance platforms he quickly realized there was a need to bring premium, modern design in the performance category for men. Hence, Vuori was created.

 

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Matt Gottesman

<p>Matt Gottesman is a global digital strategist and technology advisor, creator and editor-in-chief of Hustle & Deal Flow™ – an online magazine dedicated to the world’s entrepreneurs, creators and makers, a Social Media Influencer and a consultant on New Media and go-to-market strategies for investments in digital marketing, technology, websites, mobile applications, eCommerce, social media and content.</p>

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