Episode 114

Building a Lasting Brand and Marketing in a Crisis

Ryan & Andrew Beltran - Original Grain Watches
April 8, 2020
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Original Grain has an origin story that’s as cool as it’s products…and as cool as it’s founders. In this interview we tackle some critically important topics for all DTC brands.  We discuss building a product that has an authentic story that resonates.  We look at the Original Grain approach to sourcing and designing that next winning product. We hear the Original Grain example of launching successful kickstarter campaigns, and we talk about marketing during a crisis and much more.   

Brother’s Ryan and Andrew Beltran grew up playing basketball together and starting businesses together from painting houses to mowing lawns. In 2013 while living in Hong Kong, Ryan had the idea for wood and steel watches.  The brothers took that inspiration and started what is now a leader in the watch and accessories space.  

Here’s a look at what you’ll learn in this episode:

  • How a chance meeting at a nearly failed event lead to their most successful watch line to date
  • How wooing an investor (I love this story - and it embodies the entrepreneur’s spirit) led to some of their most popular collector’s edition watches
  • How Original Grain is going up-stream while strengthening it’s core watch offerings
  • How they plan to market and stay strong during the COVID-19 storm 
  • How to build an authentic voice and truly connect with customers even when being together physically is impossible
  • What’s ahead for Original Grain

Connect with Guests:

Ryan Beltran - Co-Founder at Original Grain, Inc.

Via LinkedIn

Andrew Beltran - Co-Founder at Original Grain, Inc.

Via LinkedIn

Original Grain - The Premier Maker of Wood & Steel Watches

Via LinkedIn

Via Facebook

Via Twitter

Via Instagram

Via YouTube


Mention in this episode:

Everlane - Modern Basics. Radical Transparency.


Episode Transcript

Brett:

Well, hello, and welcome to another edition of the eCommerce Evolution Podcast. I'm your host. Brett Curry, CEO of OMG Commerce. Today, I have a treat for you. We are going to hear just a fantastic eCommerce brand story. I've got two co-founders of an amazing company on the show today. These are guys that I know. I know their product and their company intimately. We actually help the with some of their marketing, so I've gotten to know them over the years. I'm just delighted that you'll get to hear behind the scenes of their story. Lots of lessons that you can learn. I think you'll be inspired for maybe your next evolution as a company. So, all kinds of good stuff.

Brett:

Hey, Brett Curry here. Before we dive into today's topic, I want to talk quickly about YouTube ads. People ask me all the time, what makes for a great YouTube ad? It's true, the ad is the hardest part for getting YouTube to work. Now, I love the campaign structure. I love audience targeting and I love tinkering with bids and using the smart bid algorithm, and I even like budget management. I like all that behind the scenes stuff. But I've seen it time and time again, where the exact same campaign structure, just limps along with a mediocre video. But you get the right video with the right message, that resonates with people, and that same campaign structure just takes off. It scales.

Brett:

Over the last couple of years, my team and I, we've been collecting good YouTube ads. We've been watching, we've been paying attention and looking at our own clients, looking at the numbers, finding what are ads that resonate and work on YouTube? So, we started building this little guy. This little guy that we use internally. We started categorizing ads and giving them fun names like The Manifesto and the UGC Mashup, and the Have It All. We started breaking down what elements in these videos make them work?

Brett:

I was speaking at a recent event, and I just happened to mention that this resource existed, and people started clamoring for it. Everybody was like, "Hey, I want to see what we got. I want to see that resource. I want to see all these successful ads." So, that's what we've done. We put together this resource first time ever. We're going to share it with a broader audience. It's free. Check it out and get our list of winning YouTube ad formulas, with lots of examples. Let this be your inspiration for your next killer YouTube ad.

Brett:

So, this is a free resource. We'll link to it in the show notes to this show, but you can also go to omgcommerce.com. Click on resources and then guides, and it's the YouTube ad templates and guide. Check it out and I hope it inspires your next killer YouTube ad campaign. Now, back to the show. I would like to welcome to the show co-founders of Original Grain Watches, Andrew and Ryan Beltran. Ryan and Andrew, how's it going fellas?

Andrew:

Hey.

Ryan:

Yeah.

Andrew:

Hell of an introduction. I like it.

Brett:

Yeah. I'm really excited to have you guys. In all sincerity, I am a fanboy of the watches. We can talk about specifics later. I own a watch, my son owns a watch. We are big, big fans. So, lots we can dive into. I think it would be interesting to hear the story of how you guy got started, and we'll also talk about what's going on in the world today. Because as we record this, I think we're all in Coronavirus lockdown.

Ryan:

Yeah. We're in the thick of it here. Yeah.

Brett:

This is interesting times, so I there's some things we can talk about to help folks navigate the waters right now. If you would guys, tell us the origin story. Why start a watch company? You guys started in 2013, correct?

Ryan:

Yeah, 2013. We actually launched with a kick-starter through crowdfunding but well, we're brothers, so I guess the story starts back in 1991, when Andrew was born. We're two years apart.

Brett:

Two years. So you're the older, wiser brother. Is that right Ryan?

Ryan:

Yeah, I'm the older, wiser. Andrew got the looks and the height, so I don't know. You've got to get something here.

Brett:

Andrew's showing the profile, showing the beard. That's amazing. So, seriously though, but as you guys were growing up, did you talk about being in business together? Did you guys have a lemonade stand or something like that?

Andrew:

Yeah. I was talking about this last night. We had a few of those small businesses as kids, whether it was mowing lawns or even power washing houses.

Brett:

business. The lawn mowing business.

Andrew:

Every summer we were painting houses and working together. We were a tandem. We always did everything together. Ryan always led the charge. I was always hanging out with the older kids so I felt cool. But yeah, we would play ball together. Grew up playing sports. Coming from a small town in Oregon, there wasn't this whole, "Okay, we're going to launch a global watch company." We did envision, growing up, raising families together, so it was a natural evolution, I think, as we grew up.

Brett:

It's amazing. I love the service based industry. It's a great business to get started on, mowing lawns as a kid. My son did, to build some revenue. Pure cash business. You said you played ball together. I'm just curious. I'm into sports as well. What kind of ball did you play?

Andrew:

It was basketball growing up. Our step dad coached us and then I played on Ryan's team all the way till high school, and then we had some glory days there. High School. Some good news articles, Beltran brothers lead the way.

Brett:

Is that right?

Andrew:

Yeah.

Ryan:

Yeah.

Brett:

state appearances and stuff like that?

Ryan:

Yeah.

Andrew:

Yeah. Yeah.

Brett:

No kidding. I did not know this about you. I've got to watch myself because if I'm not careful, we'll do just a basketball podcast.

Ryan:

Xs and Os, and we're talking about and back cuts.

Brett:

Exactly. I played in high school. I was at your level, I don't think, but I played and then I actually coach my son's basketball team.

Ryan:

That's nice.

Brett:

Varsity team. It was really intense. Last two years I coached. It was a lot of fun. Basketball is a huge part of our life as well.

Ryan:

That's awesome.

Brett:

Cool. You guys mowed lawns, painted houses, wanted to raise a family together. Walk us through, where did this idea for a global watch company, where did that come from?

Ryan:

Yeah. That one, fast forward to like 20 years actually, on the dot ... I never start with the 1991 thing. That was a new thing for this show, but I like it.

Brett:

I like it.

Ryan:

I'm going to use it.

Brett:

You heard it here first. Okay.

Ryan:

Yeah. Actually, in 2011, I moved to Hong Kong, Southern China, really actually Mainland after I graduated college. Went to University of Oregon in our hometown, we did, and decided that I wanted to try this entrepreneurial thing for real, start a brand, and I knew that majority of products were made in China. I felt like it was like a scene from Blow, go to the source, but not for that, for product. I'm like, "Let's just see what happens." I spent three years on the ground there, and about a year into that stay, I came across a product, which was a wood watch, and I thought, "Oh, this is really cool. It's different." It reminded me of home, growing up in the Northwest, the wood thing. But, "This can be a lot better. How can I innovate on this a little better?" Thought, "Why not just incorporate wood as a material, rather than just get ... " Felt a little gimmicky to me, a wood watch-

Brett:

A fully wood watch. Yeah. I've felt some fully wood watches and they do feel a little gimmicky. They don't feel very weight or very real.

Ryan:

Yeah. A trendy product more so, than something there to stay. That's how the idea sparked. Andrew, I'll let you take the next part of it because it was really interesting how it happened. He was coming through on a deployment and ..

Andrew:

Okay. It's like a little bit acts of fate launched this whole thing. After high school, I joined marine corps. I was actually on the way home from a deployment, and we had two days to stop in Hong Kong. At that time, Ryan had just been to the Canton Fair, which is one of the biggest trade shows in the world.

Brett:

I would love to go. It's on my bucket list. I've not been but I definitely will at some point.

Ryan:

Got to go.

Andrew:

Yeah. When I showed up, he was really excited. He has showed me a prototype of something that we could do, and right away I was initially just totally attracted to the watch. It definitely reminded me of home in the Northwest where we grew up. Just that wood heritage and craftsmanship, and I knew right away that was something I loved and he loved it as well. But he needed some cash to get started. Ryan, you might want to jump in. You tell that story pretty-

Ryan:

I was like, "Hey little brother. You've got some extra cash?" He actually did, he was in the marines. He had been on deployment. You don't spend any money.

Brett:

You don't have to pay taxes. Cool stuff like that.

Ryan:

We were both back home that summer. I think he stopped in May and June and July, that summer, 2012, so out there. I came home. We met up. We were out on the lake. We were talking, "Let's do this thing. Can I get eight or 10 grand? I think it was eight grand actually. That was what it was." We bought a first load round of ... We were going to place a PO and a few months later I go, "What if we were to launch a Kickstarter?" He's like, "What's a Kickstarter?" He's like, "What's a kick starter?" I go, "It's this new platform, it's crowd-funding. People back your project." It was new. It was becoming a thing. It was a little bit of right time, right place there. We decided that's how we were going to launch. So we threw it up on Kickstarter and 30 days later, we had raised 390 grand.

Brett:

That's crazy.

Ryan:

It was like, "It looks like we got a business."

Brett:

Yeah. So, two quick things. One, describe the watches. I know we talked about it a little bit, but describe the watch and/or show one if you have one, for those that are watching the video. Okay. Andrew, which one is that? Is that the

Andrew:

This is our new Whiskey Barrel Line actually.

Brett:

Whiskey Barrel, yeah.

Andrew:

We redesigned this collection, integrating wood in steel, as always. Reclaimed materials is our best selling collections, which has that heritage. Whether it's Whiskey Barrels, reclaimed craft beer. We do some military ammunition crates. We also have a line of MLB watches reclaimed from old baseball bats, or even stadium surplus, where we've taken wood from the 1923 Yankee Stadium chairs.

Brett:

Amazing. So cool.

Andrew:

A lot of limited edition batch runs, and then we're able to price accordingly, to a limited edition, or just the mechanics of the watch.

Brett:

Love it. Ryan, what are you wearing right now?

Ryan:

I'm rocking one of our automatics. This our game master line.

Brett:

That's the new design.

Ryan:

Yeah.

Brett:

Inspired by Italian sports cars? Do I have that right?

Ryan:

It's the DT40. Our recent hire, well, he's been with us for about a year now. He's our lead watch designer. He's from Detroit. He's working on our first line. We want it to be a little higher end. This one starts at like 600, and this automatic version goes for like 850. We wanted to do something that was inspired by automotive. He's from Detroit, right? Was inspired from the GT40, which is an iconic race car. Ford versus Ferrari, that movie that just came out based on that.

Brett:

Amazing movie. Amazing movie. Yeah.

Ryan:

Great. I love it. Actually, the real watch is so good, but, yeah.

Brett:

I wanted to say as a side not now, obviously no one can visit now because of lockdown, but you guys have an amazing little showroom. Obviously an online business, but amazing little showroom, and your offices there in San Diego are fantastic. The coolest vibe. You've got nitro brewed coffee on tap, you've got the watches out. I don't know if it's your motorcycle, or somebody on the team's motorcycle, but is there a story behind that motorcycle that's in the office? Because that is just rad.

Andrew:

That motorcycle is now being crashed, but-

Ryan:

It actually has.

Andrew:

It's try on. It's a beautiful bike. It looks vintage, but it's fairly new actually, but it's

Brett:

Okay, yeah. I thought it was vintage.

Ryan:

It's pretty rad, yeah.

Andrew:

We have a few paintings. Louis Vuitton's board and . It's that new age office space. Very open and a little warehouse, so definitely a lot of wood accents. It definitely represents our brand really well and everyone enjoys coming into work, which is what we want.

Brett:

Yeah. Awesome. So, people have a picture of the watch, and if they're watching the videos, they've seen the watches. So, the Kickstarter, what did you do? Because you started with, "Hey, let's see if we can figure out how to make this work with $8,000, then you pivoted to Kickstarter and you got $390,000. Why did you get so much? Why did it work?

Ryan:

I think, and Andrew, chime in after I go, but I think a lot of it, and I've always said this, was just the uniqueness of the product. It was a right time, right place moment, in terms of the platform, and the fact that we were actually featured on the home page for the entirety of the campaign, more or less, which in this day and age, doesn't happen. Actually, I don't even think Kickstarter would allow that. But the way ours had worked, and the way that our campaign was trending, it was just there. We got a lot of organic traffic, but look, there's always a little element of luck, if you will. But I think a lot of it's just our ability to take that risk and build something that was new.

Ryan:

The authenticity, I know that's a buzz word, but of the story was there, and I think Andrew and I did a good job of explaining why this product ... What's inspiration. The design, like I said, was definitely unique, and we're selling a quality product, for a decent amount of price at the time on Kickstarter. So, I think that had a lot to do with what led to the success of the campaign.

Andrew:

For sure. I'll try to add to it because that was our first campaign, and then we followed it up with a second campaign that actually did a little bit better. During the campaign, we struggled a little bit to ... Being competitive, we needed to beat the first campaign, even though , but we had to. We really started understanding digital advertising and driving traffic to the campaign, because we weren't getting that organic traffic from the home page. We were getting certain features. We have little spikes, but how are we going to contain consistent flow of traffic?

Andrew:

Which I do recommend a lot of first time entrepreneurs. It's nice to start on a platform like that because you really can cover your bases and your model without going out and blowing a ton of money. It allows you operationally, getting control of everything that's happening. All the customer service, all the flows and the macros that you need to build about, bouncing around a little bit. But that was what was unique about the second campaign. It felt like we really had something that we could sustain outside of this Kickstarter platform-

Ryan:

Yeah, through paid traffic.

Brett:

Primarily Facebook ads, at that time, I would assume?

Ryan:

Yeah.

Brett:

Did you guys rely heavily on a video telling the story of the product? Was that the main piece on Kickstarter?

Andrew:

Yeah.

Ryan:

Yeah.

Andrew:

It's funny because our first video, Ryan actually shot, cut, and edited the whole thing.

Ryan:

Beautiful.

Andrew:

And then second time around, we had a professional come in and do their thing. That's when really, we took our content to the next level as well. Started hiring out some creatives on the team. One of our first hires took the brand to the next level, visually.

Brett:

Nice. You hinted at this a little bit, Andrew. You talked about a few things. But let's talk about the reclaimed wood aspect of the watch. Was that an idea from the very beginning? Ryan, you talked about wood and steel, and mixing these, and not just this gimmicky feeling, just all wood watch, but wood and steel. Was the idea, from the beginning, to use reclaimed wood, or did that evolve later?

Andrew:

You want to take that up Ryan?

Ryan:

Sure. Yeah. To be totally honest, I don't think we had thought about reclaimed wood. I think initially, we were thinking exotic, unique, rare, hard woods. Obviously sustainable woods. There's a lot of woods that we figured out through the process that they can't find because they're so rare, or you can't source because they're the endangered species, like a Brazilian Rosewood for example. Extremely endangered. You can't get it, nor would we. But with anything, once you start, and you start to go down the path, and you start looking at different materials, Andrew and I think, pretty early on, I would say about six to eight months into it, we started looking at what would be other cool wood materials be?

Ryan:

We're actually starting to expand into other non wood natural materials, grain. It doesn't have to be just wood. We're going to look at that, so we can dive into that a little bit as well. The first one, we've been thinking about reclaimed Whiskey Barrels. I actually was at this trade show, It's Magic, in Las Vegas. I always tell the story for a couple of reasons. But one of the biggest reasons is because you never know what's going to come of an opportunity. So, for all the entrepreneurs out there, myself included, sometimes you put yourselves in these positions where you're like, "Man, this sucks."

Ryan:

We were at this trade show for three days. We got like two retail ... This is year one, right? We got a lot of our posters on the wall and a handful of walk-in boxes of watches. We didn't know what we were doing. Levis meanwhile's across the way and they've got like $100,000 billed out in lucky jeans. We were like, "Okay. This is how you do it." We didn't know. We got a few clients , and it was day three, and Andrew and I were like, "This is a waste of time and money. What was the deal?" This guy walks buy and he represented Jim Beam Whiskey, and he was like, "I really think we should do something together, because this is cool. Have you ever thought about reclaiming whiskey barrels?" We were like, "Well, actually, we have." And he goes, "Let's do something." That gave us that push to, "Well, if Jim Beam is interested in this, then that's pretty cool."

Brett:

brand is coming to us and saying, "Let's do a deal," that's a real proof of concept there. Yeah.

Ryan:

Yeah. That's how initially it was catalyst for the reclaim thing, and then ... I don't know Andrew, if you've got anything more to add, but it's definitely just sparked this whole wave of unique cool, interesting reclaimed material.

Andrew:

Yeah. It's the most fun to market. It's the most fun to go out and find as well, and gather up your resources, and get behind. The whole team gets really stoked when we're ... Recently, we were working on a new pilot. Not that this was going to be the source that we use, but we had to find some materials, just to even work with our suppliers. Our design is driving up to LA on this dirt road. It's an experience in itself, to find some of these materials. It's what gets you out of the bed in the morning. It's like, "Okay, what can we create?"

Brett:

Yeah. It's really what gets people excited about the product as well. I want to talk about some of the other reclaimed wood aspects in a minute. But I want to touch on something you just said Ryan. I think this applies to any business, right? Whether it's eCommerce, or we run a service based business, an agency. I can't underscore enough live events or just being with your customer, or with other people in the industry. Because if we look at some of the breakthroughs we've had as an agency, they've always almost come at events, because of people we've met, ideas that were sparked, something we saw. There's something about that physical event. When you're there, you see things. The rest of the world is shut out. It's just magical. Even if you show up at an event and you're being outdone by Levis and lucky jeans, if you're open, you'll still probably get an idea or two, that can be absolute gold for your business.

Ryan:

I love that. I've always been a huge believer in just showing up. I think that's a Mark Twain quote or something about it, because 90% of life is just..

Brett:

Just showing up. Showing up and having an open mind. Yeah. Cool. The whiskey barrel collection, which Andrew's sporting right now, right? You've got the Whiskey Barrel?

Andrew:

Yeah.

Brett:

So cool. There's something raw ad powerful about a whiskey barrel. It's something you'd want to wear and then tell people about. You know, there are some watches you wear and you're like, "It's just a watch." But that, you want to talk about. I actually own the Koa wood watch. It's black. That's why I got it, because I wanted a black watch. I didn't have one. Talk through some of the woods, and what's been successful, and any lesson there. And anything that you tried, that wasn't successful. I think sometimes there are lessons there. But then I also want to talk about your collectors pieces in a minute too.

Ryan:

For sure. Andrew, you want to take it?

Andrew:

Yeah, I can jump in regards to some of the best sellers. We touched on it before, but definitely the reclaimed materials. Things that have unique stories. The whole Hawaiian Koa, that's our tribute piece to Hawaii. We've done some unique things with the wood, but as well with the steel. That's a stone wash steel, which that's new to the market. That's something we essentially created. That's supposed to embody the lava rocks of Hawaii. So it's got that stone accent on the steel.

Andrew:

The different other materials, whether it be the military, I would say that's been a fun collection. Obviously I'm really tied to that one, considering my service, but that was something we learned on, I would say. Although a very unique collection, we offered a ton of styles. There was five styles when we originally launched with different leather bands. One was gold, one was stone wash. One was reclaimed from a pilot jacket.

Brett:

Interesting. The leather band was from a bomber jacket?

Andrew:

Yeah. It came with the watch. With the steel band, we had additional leather band. It was just a lot to communicate to the customer, rather than just triggering in, "This is our pilot jacket. We're going to reclaim series." This is a lot of communication. Everything deserves a spot in the sun, and it was too much to describe. That was a big learning lesson. Narrowing down.

Brett:

So, the pilot watch. The reclaimed bomber jacket, that didn't do as well, maybe, as others, because of the story which maybe didn't land? It was a little too complicated?

Andrew:

I would say we learned that a few styles didn't land, but we were pretty broad.

Brett:

Got it.

Ryan:

Yeah. I think from a marketing perspective, what Andrew's saying is don't over-complicate it. Maybe hone in on ... Because consumers really can only take so much at a time.

Brett:

For sure.

Ryan:

And I totally get that. I'm that same way. It's like, "Whoa," decision paralysis or whatever. I'm like, "I just need to understand what this is." We've still been successful. We still have it in the lineup. We figured out which colorways and which stories resonated. But reclaimed, I wouldn't say obviously, but has been the most successful. Whiskey, to date, is our number one seller. It's also been around the longest. We're trying to find that next whiskey barrel. It's something we talk about in the office a lot, and something else that can even scale, from a business perspective, that maybe isn't so rare, that it just ...

Ryan:

Because the cool thing about the whiskey barrel thing, other than the fact that I do genuinely believe that it's a cool story that a lot of people resonate, but it's a relatively endless supply of the material, and it's sustainable, because we're not having to go out and cut down trees or anything. I'm not saying that we do that anyway, but the whiskey barrels, they're reclaimed from Missouri and Kentucky. They're done with the barrels, they've already aged the bourbons for four years, and they don't know what to do with them because bourbon can't go back into a used barrel. Actually, the American law says that. I think it's an old, old law from 100 years ago. So they just don't know what to do with it. They're just like, "We could sell them to France for," which is what they do a lot of the time, "or we just dispose them."

Brett:

Wow. It's sustainable. It's amazing story and it's a super cool product. Let's talk a little bit about when I was there ar your office and I saw the watch made from, and you mentioned it Andrew, the 1923 Yankee Stadium seats, and one I think from Fenway Park, potentially. Where did the idea for that come, and how did you market those? How did you make those successful?

Andrew:

I'll jump in. That's actually a beautiful story. It actually ties back to an investor relationship that we're trying to build. We actually just made him a one-off sample the Yankees. We had ordered a chair on eBay, made him a one-off sample for his birthday.

Brett:

What inspired you guys to order a chair off of eBay?

Andrew:

He was wearing Panorize every time we'd see him. He would never wear a original grain watch. But he was from New York, and so we were like, "Hey"

Brett:

So you bought the chair for this reason?

Andrew:

For this watch.

Brett:

There are some lessons there. You're going after an investor, do something crazy. Go buy a chair on eBay, from Yankee Stadium. Okay. Awesome. I'm super intrigued now.

Andrew:

We bought it, made him a one-off sample. I remember meeting him at the airport. He was literally flying to New York. Met him in the airport and gave him the watch. He was like, "What the hell?" Went home. But I think when he was sitting on the airplane, he was like, "Wow." He wrote an email and he was like, "I can't wait to hand this down to my son." I've already picked this out for my youngest. It's like, "This is-"

Brett:

For his favorite son?

Andrew:

Yeah. Time pieces are heritage. They're meant to be passed down, generationally. The fact that we could create something that had that sentimental value, it was like, "Wow, how do we tap into the emotions of the customer?" That goes along with the reclaim stories that we've created. But that's how the MLB thing had kicked off as a whole. We were just making a one-off sample and then sooner or later, now it's like a whole MLB licensing program that we have, that drops as MLB starts, and then as soon as the champion's crowned, we drop another watch. Those are those seasonal spikes we're also able to market and get in front of people at the right time.

Brett:

So were you able to get more Yankee Stadium chairs after that?

Andrew:

Actually, we found with the Cubs, but the Cubs was really hard to get more. The Yankees weren't too bad. But the sources are crazy. It requires certificate authenticity and you'll find a lot of construction guys will have them. It's interesting sourcing some of that wood. Yeah. It's always-

Ryan:

The Yankee Stadium was rebuilt in 2009 or whatever it was, so the guys who worked on the demolition would have a lot of those chairs.

Brett:

Grab a chair on your way out, on your way home man.

Ryan:

Yeah.

Brett:

That's crazy. So smart. So you took the idea. What a good entrepreneurial lesson. You're trying to find a way. How do break through the clutter? How do we get this potential investor to wear our watch and to think it's cool? You buy a chair. You make this watch. And his response is, "Holy cow. This is amazing. I'm going to give it to my son. It's so meaningful." Then you think, "Business opportunity. Let's capitalize on this one."

Ryan:

Let's scale it a little bit. Yeah.

Brett:

Yeah. And so, you guys did one for Fenway Park as well, right? Or was it-

Andrew:

It was Wrigley, and now Yankee Stadium, and then Fenway came next. Then we ended up doing reclaimed baseball bats, so that we could touch the whole MLB. So, we did a bunch of different teams. I think 14 teams last year. We have another collection coming out this year, where we're actually using Rawlings Leather. They're going to be a Leather based watch.

Brett:

For the face of the watch, we'll have the reclaimed baseball bat and then the band will be Rawlings Leather? That is freaking cool.

Ryan:

Yeah.

Brett:

Okay. That's awesome.

Andrew:

Yeah. And a collector's piece at this point, yeah.

Brett:

Yeah, cool. Any other ideas or iterations that will come from that? That seems like a great next evolution. One of the things that we talked about is we're working with your company and helping to grow it and market it, there are some people, and I would count myself in this crowd, I like watches. I would be happy to own lots and lots of watches. Is part of the motivation here, "How can we potentially sell more than one item to an individual customer?" So you have some of these collector items where, "Okay, not, maybe I've got my Whiskey Barrel watch, which is my daily watch, but I'm a huge Kansas City Royals fan, so I'm going to buy the Royals watches. Is that the motivation there, or is it more MLB is a totally different market for you?

Ryan:

Yeah. If I could take that, it's twofold. I definitely feel like the opportunity was for us to expand on the success of those three teams, the Cubs, Yankees, and the Red Sox.

Brett:

Which is the perfect ones to start with by the way. Those are the ones with the most rabid fan bases and huge markets. That was super smart.

Ryan:

We've seen, and I think if you look at licensing industry, trend reports and stuff, you see that the majority of the merchandise is sold in the big market teams. Dodgers, things like. LA. You know what I mean? And it starts to trickle down beyond that. We learned that lesson too, when we rolled out , so there are going to be a few less teams actually on this 2020 version, with..

Ryan:

I think additionally, to your point about retention and lifetime value on customers, 100%, I think that's something in the watch category that's a tougher code to crack because unlike apparel or other categories, beauty, consumable products, things like that, where they go from a t-shirt to jeans, or another color, it's a little more affordable to begin with, the beauty, the consumable. A lot of people like to collect watches from multiple different brands. But if we can suck them into our brand, and we have a pretty good ... We're above 20%, I think, on repeat purchase.

Brett:

Which for your category, is outstanding.

Ryan:

I think it's pretty good. Yeah. Finding more ways, to your point Brett, on how to increase LTV, is I think something we're looking pretty hard at right now, because we've got a pretty good base. Right now in particular, with the COVID, that seems like probably the best place to go right now, honestly.

Brett:

I 100% agree. I'm in a couple of different mastermind groups. Shout out to Ezra Firestone and Blue Ribbon, and also the guys at War Room, Ryan , and Ronald Fraser, but we've had several meetings lately just talking about how do we handle the COVID-19 scare? How are we marketing? A couple of things for people to keep in mind. One, there's still a lot of consumers out there that are doing just fine financially, and they want to buy something. So, shopping is therapeutic.

Brett:

Buying something, and in your case, your product is a great gift item. Buying a gift for my spouse, that makes me feel good. Don't just be quiet because you think you should be. People want to buy stuff. You want to feel normal as much as they can right now, to a larger degree. Reach out to your customers. Do something unique. Do something special. Offer discounts to help people out. Stuff like that. Do you want to talk about anything you guys are doing now, that's relevant?

Ryan:

Andrew, do you want to take that? We actually just had our leadership call with out team right before this, at 11:00. Yeah, Andrew.

Andrew:

Yeah. We've been coming up with a lot of creative ways on how to connect with the audience, and it starts with customer care at this point. That's top of mind. How you're going to represent yourself during COVID is what people are going to, and this isn't factual, but I believe it's how people are potentially going to remember you beyond COVID. I'm not trying to take advantage of people by any means. We're going to start inviting people into our own house. We're going to be doing live interactions here, product demonstrations, potentially Zoom meetings as well, similar to this. Bringing people closer, Bringing in the family. Customer care. Setting expectations through emails, handwritten letters, all that's so important.

Andrew:

There's a lot of confusion out there. Are people shipping? Are they not? Am I going to get my watch? Setting the expectation I think is probably one of the most important things, and then just relating on a real level. Humanizing has always been important. I think now more than ever. Just being comfortable with uncertain times. It's crazy. We went through this as a nation, but it's important. I love seeing people get creative by doing Instagram lives and inviting people in, so we're going to be doing a ton of that for the next few weeks.

Brett:

I'm really excited about a lot of that and I want to hear a little more about it. I think it's really important, if you can keep in mind that one, people need that connection now more than ever, they want it from a brand too. If you've got this authentic, cool, brand, you can still connect with someone in a meaningful way. As we approach as marketers, as business people, as leaders, as entrepreneurs, if we're confident in the face of crisis, that does spill over. That creates a net positive impact. Yes, it's scary. Yes, there's bad things going on, but we will make it through, right? I think eCommerce will be better for it in the long run, and then some other things that are positive. So, you want to talk any more about the events and stuff that you're doing Ryan? That sounded really cool. Like Instagram lives and ... So you're going to do that from your houses obviously?

Ryan:

Yeah. Like I said, we were both at the opposite, six feet away, yesterday.

Brett:

You're brothers.

Ryan:

We're brothers. Taylor, our VP, you know Taylor, she was like, "I want you guys to do these lives, but you guys can't be together." I go, "Well, actually, we're together right now." She's like, "Okay, well, that worked." We'll see. I mean, whether we are or not, I'm super excited about doing that. I've seen a lot of brands that I consider leaders in the industry for eCommerce, like an Everlane for example, they just do such a good job as a whole. Their whole thing is about transparency.

Ryan:

They want to be transparent through this. We've been seeing what people are doing and we're like, "Man, we were already planning to," but it's been really cool to see those brands do that. So, yeah, I'm excited about it. I think it's a good reminder, this whole thing, to not get back to basics, but remember some of those things that sometimes just start to fade. I'm not saying that our customers ever did, but yeah, I'm excited about tapping into that, for sure.

Brett:

It's interesting, there's also been this ... I've heard a few people mention this. We've come off of so many great years in a row. Some of us can get fat and happy. I don't think it was happening a lot. You guys were hungry, where hungry, but you can get comfortable with things. This is really forcing us to say, "Okay, we got our game. We've got to connect in a way we've never connected before." I think that's leading to some good changes.

Brett:

One thing I will mention, this is advice that I give all the time, is if you want to see what people are doing right now, and good markers, you mentioned Everlane, Ezra Firestone, that's another good one, you know those email lists. Go follow them on Instagram. Follow them on Facebook. See what they do. Do the same with you guys. If you guys are getting ready to do some cool stuff, go to originalgrain.com. Sign up on the email list so you can get notified of stuff they're doing. Follow these guys on Instagram. Actually, do you want to talk about some of the ways people can connect with you?

Andrew:

Yeah. Our social is @originalgrain. Our website, originalgrain.com. As you mentioned, we're sending out emails every couple of days and providing updates, whether on new products, as well as just the virtual live demonstrations that we're going to be doing, so you can sign up for those and be in the know.

Brett:

I think you guys do so many things well. Your video content is great. We're running some of your videos on YouTube and they're doing well. There's a lot that someone can learn by checking out what you guys are doing. Maybe a couple of things here, as we're running up against time a little bit. But Ryan, you're showing the automatic watch, and that's a higher price point. Your standard watches are in the $300-$400 ranger. The collectors watches I know are more. You said the automatic you have there is 850. Was that strategic in ... Obviously I know everything you do has a strategy behind it, but were you thinking, again, just raising the LTV? Expanding into new markets? What was the thought process behind that?

Ryan:

Yeah. I think one thing we've always played in that $250-$400 range since we launched. What we didn't want to do was race to the bottom, where it feels like a lot of the GTC or ... I want to say BTC. That's not right. But the more entry level products, regardless of being direct consumer or , or whatever, are doing. We want to stick to our guns, which is hard to do sometimes. I mean, let me tell you. We run promotions and discounts, and all that, but I think, at least on a MSRP level, we didn't want to just start rolling out watches at 150 bucks, and put ourselves down there. I think it was strategic to move up a little bit.

Ryan:

We have a lot of watches coming out in that $250 to $400 range this year, right where our bread and butter is. But when we hired Scott a year ago, he helped us map out and created this little matrix of where we are in terms of style. We didn't have a pilot watch. Andrew talked about that. We wanted to do a pilot, but where it is that fit in terms of price point ... If you chart it out, you see where there are some holes to fill. I think from a merchandising perspective, it rounds you out and it allows the customer to see a little more breadth. As all marketers know, sometimes seeing a $400 watch paired against an $800 watch makes that $400 watch look more affordable.

Brett:

Absolutely.

Ryan:

There's some strategy there for sure. I mean, our $850 automatic is the same value in terms of the build and the movement, it being a Swiss automatic, so we price that right. Yeah. I think that's how we've looked at our product roadmap.

Brett:

I love that. There is definitely something to be said, I think. I know some of the merchants that do this, where they create some really high prices offerings almost with the primary goal of creating less resistance for their core offer, right?

Ryan:

Sure.

Brett:

For you guys, it sounds like digital watches, it's a great offer. It's a fantastic watch, but it's also, and you mentioned it, it's going to make your core product feel more and be perceived more as more valuable. That's awesome.

Ryan:

Yeah. 100%. Yeah.

Brett:

Cool.

Ryan:

We're doing a lot in terms of refreshing watches this year too, so taking some of our own bestsellers, which is a little scary. and I laugh sometimes. We're like, "Because you've got this good thing going, you don't want to ... If it isn't broke, don't fix it." But we just believe in product at the end of the day. I've always been a product is king guy, and I just want our product to always get better. If we can do that, we're going to do it. Andrew and I are aligned on that. So, we want to raise the tide on that new barrel line that he's wearing. Number one selling watch. We changed it. It still pays homage to the original design but it's a better product. It's risky. Yeah.

Brett:

Given the insights on what you do, any time you're innovating and creating, and making something brand new, it's risky. It's risky like, "Will the market embrace this?" You guys talked about in the military line, where something was maybe to complex and in land, and others did. How do you guys approach that product design piece? Do you get a lot of feedback along the way, from a lot of different people, or is it more like you're just bringing in your artists, like your version of Johnny I've from Apple, like you guys are making him doing it? What does that look like?

Andrew:

I'll jump in a little bit. I know Ryan's super involved as well, with the product design. Ryan and I had our own method about two years ago, and then as soon as we hired on Scott or head designer now, the process has changed so much, and it's been beautiful to next to him, to really understand how someone approaches a design. He doesn't just jump in and start drawing. He's pulling in so much inspiration amongst the community. What is the reason for this watch? Whether it fits in certain buckets, and bringing in examples of different collections that embody that.

Andrew:

It's a 3D printing different sizes. 3D print in four different sizes, check before it even goes to the supplier. That's sped up some of our production lead time. The amount of back and forth between samples. To really work side by side with a real designer has definitely changed the came for us because our approach before was fairly ... Ryan and I designed a watch on a train ride, on the way to a supplier, and that's a real story.

Ryan:

That's a real thing.

Andrew:

That's really .. We have that finished sample. It actually just showed up a few months ago and everyone was like, "Why don't we make this watch?

Ryan:

Ryan was like, "There's no way." It's a really retro watch that we had designed literally on-

Brett:

On a train. That's awesome.

Andrew:

It was a mess. Our process has changed a lot over the years, because we've brought in really good people around us. That goes towards our marketing process, all the way to design. That's my bid on that.

Brett:

Love it. Love it. How much are you looking for? Whatever wood, whatever design we use, the automatic is inspired by the GT iconic race car, you've got the NLB connection, Military Connection, Whiskey Barrel. How much is the potential story? How much is that influencing what you decide to build the next, did you start with story or did story evolve as you go, or what does that look like?

Ryan:

That's a good questions. I think sometimes it does vary. At times, we just look at incorporating a cool material or reclaimed material into an existing platform or silhouette. Maybe for an existing watch silhouette, we just take the material and we integrate it into that design. The design lives and it breaths and it's there. At other times, if it's a completely new ... Let's say take the pilot for example. It's a new product that's rolling out in July. We knew we wanted ... That's an aesthetic. Scott, to Andrew's point, is pulling it an inspiration. It's what he does. He's been doing it for a decade, so he understands how to approach that project, but with an OG twist on it.

Ryan:

He's looking at that first, and then how he can incorporate some sort of material element into that. For us, there's two versions. There's a one story version, and that's using the type of material, the type that planes actually were made. I mean, it was at a really cool aerospace museum here in San Diego, and we went and toured it, and it's phenomenally where all the planes were made out of wood in the 20s and 30s, and 40s I think. Imagine flying in that.

Brett:

Just sneaking part of a wing, put it in your pocket once you head out.

Ryan:

Yeah. Cut a little off. He'll find ways to incorporate that into the design, and he's looking at tolerances, because we're talking about small, thin, pieces of wood. That's a challenge, from a manufacturing perspective. He's looking at that and how thin he can go, and how ... Yeah. I think there's two ways to go about it and it all varies based on the project and what the goal is from the start.

Brett:

It seems like one thing you guys have done really well, and then maybe this will be our final topic as we wrap up, it seems like you guys are really bright dudes, and you are innovative, and you have that entrepreneurial spirit. It seems like you do something on your own, and you learn and do it, and do it well, but then at some point, you bring on somebody, like a professional designer like Scott, or you brought on some internal teams like James. Guys and girls that are awesome. Any thoughts there? Any advice that you would give to other eCommerce stores? When does it make sense to do something yourself, versus hiring expert, versus outsourcing to an expert? Any insights on that?

Andrew:

I mean, I speak for myself in this. Ryan does an amazing job managing the team on the day to day. I really love setting the foundation and expectation for wherever that task may be. Tat comes from being a founder and a little bit of founderitis, that Ryan and I both probably carry. But setting expectation, setting the platform, the SOPs and then allowing people to jump in. The challenge for myself has really just been continuing to forge forward and not managing that person ... Getting the reporting correctly. That's been something that we've had to learn along the way. It's my first business. But also just forging forward and continuing to bring in newer business or new ideas, rather than sitting back and helicoptering over somebody you've already tasked out, to do what the foundational job is.

Andrew:

That's something that I definitely struggled with, over the last year, as we built our team out, was letting go and being able to ... But Ryan and I just had this conversation, like, "Wow, we should probably have our team produce these reports for us, because we're not getting those reports unless we flog in, which you've got to let go." There's been a lot of learning lessons, I think, over this business. Understanding how to manage people, what type of reporting you want presented to you, so you can really make a fine decision. You're doing it. You're still maintaining the weeds a little bit, but you need someone to produce those reports for you. I know that's something that has been big for me the last two months.

Brett:

I love it. I love it. Any thoughts on that Ryan, in terms of managing team, bringing on experts? That evolutions?

Ryan:

I think Andrew hit the nail on the head. We were both doing different things. I think that's why it worked so well. We're looking at starting other businesses and we want to partner on those as well because we both have different strengths. Andrew's a really good operator, and he knows how to set the foundation and get shit done. He's really good at that. I can't really do a ton on ... I mean, I can, but I struggle to get that initial task stuff done. I'm thinking more like longterm, big picture. So it's a really good balance that we bring in. I think we're both good people persons, but Andrew does a really good job of that as well. But, yeah, I love to do everything, and it's a double edged sword. You laughed Brett, because it's so hard to let go. I mean, Oh my gosh.

Brett:

It is. It is, but you have to. To reach new levels, you have to let go of certain things. Learning that balance of, "How do I coach and manage, and inspect what I expect?" and things like that. It's a goal. Those are transitions, for sure, we could do a whole podcast on that.

Ryan:

Yeah.

Brett:

But I've seen your team in action. Compliments to you. You guys have built a great team, and they're operating at a high level, so that's really cool. One of the things that I'll just wrap up on my final comment about you guys is I love that you're always on a quest to make the watches better. How do we do something new? Let's not just leave the Whiskey Barrel collection as it is. How do we make the next iteration and make it better? That drive to create the next better thing. Not everything is going to work, but you're going to find things that do work, and that do resonate, and that's going to lead to long term success. So, it's so exciting.

Ryan:

No doubt.

Brett:

Cool fellas. Any other asks or anything else you'd share with people? Check out the website, sign up on social, follow these guys, see what they're doing. Any other asks or any final thoughts or comments here as we wrap up?

Ryan:

I don't think so.

Brett:

Buy a watch guys. Seriously, you'll be way cooler. Buy one for yourself, buy one for your significant other. Go get a watch. I recommend it.

Ryan:

That's a perfect plug for our next month sale. It's our seven year anniversary next month, which is crazy. We're going to be doing our founder anniversary sale. We're actually going to do some sort of buy one get one in this time, so you hit the nail on the head for that.

Brett:

Cool. Perfect. We;'ll link to the show notes.

Ryan:

Thanks man.

Brett:

Yeah. Ryan, Andrew, thanks fellas. This was a blast. I really enjoyed it.

Andrew:

Thank you man. It was awesome.

Ryan:

Yeah, thank you Brett.

Brett:

All right. Very good. Well, as always, we would love to hear from you. We would love to get that review on iTunes, if you feel so inclined. With that, until next time, thank you for listening.

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