Courier Weekly Friday 13 November 2020

Jared Ray Johnson and Adam Klein were grad students at MIT before realising they cared more about physical products than software. The result? An outdoor lifestyle brand called Season Three. This week, they share their journey.

Courier Weekly Friday 13 November 2020

Courier Weekly Friday 13 November 2020

Once upon a time, Jared Ray Johnson and Adam Klein were grad students at MIT, before realising they cared more about physical products than software. The result? An outdoor lifestyle brand called Season Three. They share their journey – from manufacturing in northern Italy to big opportunities in the outdoor space.

DANNY GIACOPELLI:  Hey guys, Danny here, Courier's editorial director. You're listening to the Courier Weekly. 

Once upon a time, Jared Ray Johnson and Adam Klein were grad students at MIT. And at some point along the way, they both realised that they cared a lot more about physical products than software. 

After digging around for business ideas, and researching the outdoor apparel space, the two reckoned that they could make a better, or at least a more interesting version of the old school European hiking boot. The result is their brand SEASON THREE, which goes against the grain in a bunch of ways. 

First, it's a heritage brand, but a modern one, without going for the bearded mountain man aesthetic. It's also genderless with one boot model. And that's it. Well, today on the Courier Weekly, Jared and Adam join me from Brooklyn, where they're based, to really dig into everything from coming up with the idea, manufacturing with a small family owned factory in northern Italy. And, why hiking in the outdoors isn't just for upper middle class white people. 

JARED RAY JOHNSON: We met at MIT, we were among the first people that each other met in the incoming class, going back for graduate school, we both got our MBA degrees there. I mean, I think there was a lot that we had in common. We came in both from New York, Adam's a born and raised New Yorker, and I had been living in New York for like six years before. 

So we both came in with a lot of similar interests, we both as New Yorkers kind of have a distaste for Boston and Massachusetts. But we realised early on that despite the fact that, you know, we were surrounded by this world of technology, and emerging technology – blockchain VR, all of these buzzwords, they were like, hot in 2017 when we started. 

Like, the two of us bonded over well made products. So, you know, those were one of the first things we did together – there was an early trip to Iceland, before we started classes. And on that trip, it's like, we're discussing like, boots and jackets, and gore tex and merino wool, we're discussing all these things, because we realised that each other had a fascination in this space. So I think, you know, it was inevitable that we would try to try our hand at something together. Because we came in as people that had, I would say, interests different than most people at MIT. 

DANNY: But what did you guys go to MIT for? I mean, I know it was business school, but did you go there to say, I'm gonna do my time here, learn how to start a business and then start something? Or did you want to become a mid level manager at like, General Motors or something like that?

ADAM: [Laughing] Definitely not a mid level manager of General Motors. I don't think that thought has ever popped into my brain for one second my entire life. I came from banking and was – to answer your question was kind of thinking for myself as some kind of career reset. I was definitely more and still am more of a generalist than like a crazy down and dirty expert in any one thing. I kind of wanted a career reset, I just was doing things that while sometimes profitable sometimes, you know, made a lot of money, it just as Jared has mentioned, like, it didn't really pique my interest in terms of what I wanted to do with my life. 

I was always drawn to like physical products and like something I could, you know, touch and really point to and be like, 'Oh, I made that' or I contributed one small part in making that. And that's what drove me at least to season three. But yeah, for B school, it was kind of just a career reset. I didn't go in with having like, any very specific thoughts on like, I wanted to start a business. Because I've worked in startups pretty much my entire life, it was more of, I just want to go explore. 

I was on the older side, I was 32 at the time, and just like I got the rest of my life ahead of me, why not take two years, take a beat and just figure out kind of what's next. Because as Jared was mentioning before, like, we could always pivot, go into technology and go into things, like that didn't kind of occur. And we just – at least for me, I felt the MIT moniker at the very least no one would ever ask, like, 'why did you go there? Like, why was that a choice?' It seems pretty self explanatory, for the most part.

JARED: It's similar for me, like, I wasn't – it's interesting, the two of us, we weren't dead set on entrepreneurship. Like, I came in, and was like, 'Look, I have all these interests', I knew that there was something in design and physical products that like I wanted to try my hand. And like, while I was too working in finance in New York City before going back to school, and like I was taking drawing classes in the evenings, like I would show up in my suit at the SBA on 23rd, an Art Students League on 57th. And like, go in and do charcoal drawings and get like dust all over my suit, like a pretty crazy thing. 

DANNY: And that was just a creative outlet for you just to kind of express yourself basically?

JARED: Yeah, but it was really trying to figure out how I could use that in my career because the creative aspects of what I did in finance were always the things I felt like 'oh, I feel like I'm at least okay at this like and can I get better?' So, I tried to beef up my skills with art school, and thinking like, is there a path that I can go down in this towards, I don't know, designing something or making something. 

And I think what happened for me is the picture of what to do never became clear for me. So I kind of found myself like, okay, I'll just go to Business School, because that's, like Adam said, it's a career reset, take some time to figure some stuff out. And I think that those same urges and interest are what kind of came out over time. 

DANNY: And then the result of you guys meeting up together, putting your brains together, SEASON THREE and that's it's an outdoor inspired lifestyle brand that you guys launched with, your kind of hero product is a boot. Your kind of modern take on a European hiking boot for street and for hiking. Why did you launch with boots first and not say, a wool jacket or something like that, or you know, some other kind of heritage inspired product? 

ADAM: I remember it clear as day. I would love to give you some like amazing answer to this. And like how deeply we thought about it. But that would be a lie. We were walking down the street after a class one day. 

DANNY: I hate fake made up origin stories anyway.

ADAM: Yeah, we were walking down the street. We did those for a while too like we've –  

DANNY: 'We were walking in a field and there was a lightning bolt and it came down – It's like, ah shut up'

ADAM: We were flying around for a long time with a lot of different like just random origin stories, all bits and pieces which are true, but then we extrapolate it out very far on. But the truth is, we were walking down the street, we're both kind of already had our summer internships lined up, it was April of 2018. And we were just walking down. Like we decided that we were going to at least do the research and pursue something in apparel footwear fashion. I literally said like, let's just make something. How would you feel about coats to the point on like, one on a heritage coat? Like, let's make coats, I love coats. I have a bunch of different coats for every like five degrees of weather. And Jared's like 'Well, actually, I would like to do a boot. I love footwear.' I'm like, I don't really give a shit, so sounds great. 

ADAM: And to answer your question, the reason we started with footwear is really we didn't fully understand how difficult building a boot was. 

DANNY: I was gonna ask you guys that because last year I interviewed the founder of Allbirds. And he was like, making a shoe is one of the most difficult things you could possibly do. Because there's like – it's a three dimensional thing. There's different sizes. You know, a millimetre difference means fitting or not fitting. 

ADAM: Exactly. And if I buy a T shirt, whether it's a smaller medium, like one's probably a bit too tight, one's probably a little bit too large. But you can make that work and walk outside. 

With shoes, there's something about people's feet that like – to your point, if it's a millimetre off, or something rubs the wrong way, like it's really annoying. And because of that, you know, so many more skews, like on a T shirt, you'd have like what extra small, small, medium, large, extra large give or take, we have 18 skews and certain sizing from the smallest, which would be a women's, even with a generalist product, we do different sizing because women have slightly more narrow feet than men do, obviously. So we start at a women's six and basically it goes straight through to a men's 13. I'm not skipping any sizes between those. 

It's very difficult, like you said, like the amount of materials and pulling together a supply chain to kind of get every piece that you need in an international supply chain at that. It's like we source merino wool from New Zealand, obviously, thankfully, we found actually the same as Allbirds' processor for Merino in Italy. And so everything's kind of local for us, which is one of the things we wanted to do, obviously, both for cost and for environmental concerns. 

But yeah, just pulling all that together. And figuring out this design and style and shape and fit took almost a year and a half, I think? Like it took a long time. 

DANNY: Did you guys raise some external money to do that kind of R&D process in the beginning or was that all savings and friends and family? 

JARED: No – the upfront developing the product was all bootstrapped. 

DANNY: That strikes me as extremely expensive, all of the trial and error. 

JARED: It was but I think, for us, depending on how much people know about business school, this will make sense or it won't. But a lot of times people save up money to go to business school because all they really do during that two years is just go on foreign trips and spend a lot of money. So that was the sacrifice for the two of us. Like, the trips that we went on were to Italy to visit our factory. 

ADAM: It's still fun, though. 

JARED: Yeah, it's still fun. But we put a lot of money into the prototyping which, yeah, I mean, it's expensive, especially when you don't know what you're doing, and you're doing it for the first time. It's more expensive, because it's gonna take you longer and you've got to experiment more and you know, people run out of patience with you because they're like, 'Okay, guys, like, are you putting in an order or not?' 

DANNY: You mentioned the factory there so you know, you guys make your boots in a small family owned factory in northern Italy, I read. And I'm always curious how people find factories – how Westerners rather track down factories. 

I mean, how they find it in China, it's either like, they know a guy who knows a guy or they go on Alibaba or they have an agent. But how did you guys find your Italian factory? 

JARED: As Adam mentioned, April 2018, is when we're first kicking around this idea and committing to doing it. So we had our separate summers already planned.

I was back in New York, I'm kind of splitting my time working on this, because we're still in the development phase and sketches and all that. And I reached out to some guy, I think I found him on one of those, like manufacturing like directory websites. He wasn't a manufacturer himself. But he was just a well connected guy who had done a lot of shoe development and consulted with a lot of shoe companies. He called himself a shoe consultant. To this day, that still sounds like a crazy title. And I don't know exactly what that means. But very knowledgeable guy, I meet him at a fancy hotel below Central Park, he buys me a lemonade. And for whatever reason, this guy was just extremely nice. He had had a life epiphany of some sort, and decided that he really just wanted to give back and make an impact. And the way he could do that was through the relationships that he had accumulated throughout his lifetime. 

So I pitched him the idea, pretty much no visuals, you know, didn't show him any sketches or anything. And he's like, 'Alright, I've got a number of different people that you need to go talk to.' And he connected us with a number of people, we had to pitch them as well. So we just jumped on these – we've been doing Zoom calls, I guess, for longer than a lot of other people, because we just jumped on so many of these Zoom calls all over the world, basically pitching this just idea of like, we want to make a boot, we don't know what we're doing. But we're these two MIT guys, we happened to meet a woman in Italy, who – the energy we threw out, like our exuberance, she gave it right back, she was like, I know exactly how to help you. I've worked with some companies that wanted to do waterproof materials. And I feel like they priced it too high. I believe in your mission, I believe in the fact that you guys are young and trying to innovate. So we hit it off with her. And we still work with her to this day. And she helped us through the design process and through overseeing our kind of factory in Italy.

DANNY: Because for a lot of these products, I wonder if – and I'm not saying this is the case with your product whatsoever. But it might be, you could tell me otherwise. But a lot of the difference is in the marketing and not in the product, right? And I wonder if some small family run factory in Italy doesn't understand the zeitgeist of direct to consumer brands, and you know, flashy millennial marketing and tone of voice. And they're just kind of like, well, you want to make a product that's slightly different than a product I'm already making. But it's the way you sell it. And the way you kind of build the brand around it is what the difference is.

ADAM: So yeah, we were always encouraged on the brand side, just like you alluded to even by our Italian friends, but they were – partly because Italian manufacturing right now in some spots, mostly northern Italy, because it's a little bit more expensive, is not as robust as it probably should or could be. You know, a lot of people are still producing and you know, Thursday's producing Mexico, I believe. A lot of our competitors produce in their own factories in Italy or in China, or there's a lot of Chinese manufacturing in Italy now to kind of cut costs. 

So we like to kind of rely on, like you said, we wanted to brand ourselves differently than the majority of D2C companies that we saw around like the late 2010s. Just because that's not what we really aspired to be, we just wanted to be different even from them. But in terms of the product itself, I think to your point, our product is different, though, because of how we could kind of pair the materials together from – you know, how we even source the merino wool, how we pair it with leather. 

I'm sure someone out there does it but we don't know too many other boots that have that merino wool full interior paired with the kind of high quality leather on the exterior. So we set out basically just to make something that we thought was better and a little bit different. It wasn't different for different's sake, it was different because the materials and the materials we chose were better. So we tried to get it down, we originally wanted to get a $200 price point, quickly realised that that was not going to be possible with the type of craftsmanship and Italian manufacturer we were using. 

But we picked the factory with Roberta, who's the woman in Italy that Jared just mentioned, mainly because of kind of their attention to detail and their high quality craftsmanship. It's like a third generation family owned factory, we were able to do like small batch runs, all the prototyping we needed. And towards the end, as Jared mentioned, they definitely got a little fresher with us because we prototyped so many different versions. But we really did want to, to your point put something out that was different and wasn't just the same as someone else's with just better or different marketing.

DANNY: And without that Roberta and without the dude who wined and dined with lemonade Jared at Grand Central Station, would you have been taken advantage of? Because obviously, you guys didn't know much about boots. I mean, you know, you probably knew as much as I know about boots before you started. But then I imagine the learning curve is just like, you know, a hockey stick.

JARED: We tried to the best of our abilities to use the fact that we didn't know what we were doing to our advantage. So, you know, we asked a million questions, you know, bordering on annoying the hell out of everybody we worked with, we asked a million questions. And what we were looking for is 1. we just want to understand because you know, we're shooting in the dark and we know it, but then also we want to uncover opportunities, you know. So if somebody is just doing something just because it's the way that they've always done it or if somebody has a process that doesn't really make sense, or there's just a more expensive way to do something, and they just choose to do it, but it doesn't have benefits. Like, we look to eliminate those things or change those things. And some of those things, they told us 'No', you know, some of those things, they were like, you guys are idiots and like, go away. But some of those things, they were like, I guess, you know, well, this is typically how it's done. But we could try it this way. And we were like, 'great, try it'.

DANNY: Because where does product innovation happen if not at that stage, right? Because like, you guys aren't making the product yourself. And unless you push the manufacturer to do things differently, then the product’s never going to be different.

ADAM: That's definitely right. 

JARED: When Adam brought the merino wool to them, he told them and explained to them how we wanted it constructed. They were familiar with fabric, with linings in an interior, but because of the the quality, merino wool, you know, like softer, higher quality yarns, and fabrics tend to be more delicate, like anybody that's ever bought, like a suit for $1,000 knows that, like your $400 suit is gonna last better than that thousand dollar suit. They had so many doubts about, you know, well, the rubbing on the heel that's going to rip it, or it's going to do all these things. And we were just like, well, let's try it. Let's you know, like, we give you a few different samples, we can stitch it this way, we can do different things. You know, that's the kind of stuff that we tried to pull off.

ADAM: I don't think we ever risk – to your question of being taken advantage of, but possibly because we really didn't know much. But everything was a bet.

DANNY: The pricing stuff, too. I mean I've spoken with some people who do some work in China and Chinese factories, and unless you know what something really costs. And I'm not saying this happens all the time, but unless you know what something costs, it does happen often where they'll just round it up a bit.

ADAM: No 100%. And that could have very well happened to us. I don't think we made any real big wholesale missteps on that. At the same time, it was just more of just my, you know, native New York Jewish aggressiveness was just like everything was a battle. And I think like I literally – Jared and I asked them on everything, like why does this cost this much? 

Like every single line item to the point of pissing them off. And, honestly, at some points probably risk our relationship just being like, 'why does this cost this much? How do we get it cheaper?', and like they're like, 'oh, with scale.' I'm like, 'that's great, but I want to get it cheaper now, also'. 

So like, we would kind of push and pull, and it was like a literal Battle Royale all the time. And, sometimes as Jared mentioned, we won – and it made sense. And other times we were just like, 'Okay, I guess you know, they're really kicking in here.' So it's probably best that we just, you know, let it be.

DANNY: I want to talk about heritage brands, because, I admit, I fall into the heritage trap a lot. And I'm someone who I wear like Filson and Red Wings, like every day. And I kind of just love those brands with great stories that are durable and quality. 

Some of them are invented or hollow stories and heritages. Like, as much as I love Shinola. I mean, they made up that whole kind of story. They did some good things, but they also kind of made up some – well, I don't know if I'll use the word made up, but they kind of invented a heritage of a brand that failed like whatever decades ago, but where do you guys fit in the heritage mix? Because I know, Jared I've read that you said it's kind of a mix between like a DTC brand and a heritage brand. But obviously, you're a completely new brand. So do you need some sort of rugged man backstory to make boots? I mean, clearly not. Because you guys didn't do that.

JARED: Yeah, we decided not to try to invent some story like that. For us, like we obviously, when we talked about, like, the types of products and brands we admired, a lot of those things fall into the heritage category. Because, again, when you're just talking about well made products and product stories, like that's what heritage has tried to sell for the past however many years.

But I think that the failings of heritage is that it's a pretty niche market, you know. When you think about those brands, and the people who love those brands, like it's pretty niche, although the characteristics, and the qualities that you love aren't niche ideas, you know. The idea of something that's gonna last, that's worth the investment. The idea that something that's high quality, that you can trust. Something that has integrity, so it's not just like, 'Oh, I wear these because they're fashionable, but I wear these because they have a purpose, they provide me some benefit that I wouldn't get from, you know, the next boot over.' 

Those qualities, I think, are universal things that people would like. So I think of our mission, at SEASON THREE as not, let's just make these things that kind of fall into those heritage categories for people who already love that stuff. But can we democratise that stuff? Can we open it up and make it more inclusive to where those values are, you know, appreciated, because I think people really do appreciate that stuff so.

DANNY: That's super interesting, because you're right about the demographic, I mean, the demographic who likes for instance, Red Wings are like, you know, a 30 year old who listens to The National who lives in Portland or Williamsburg, right? Whereas somebody who wears Supreme would probably never wear one of those heritage brands. If you make a brand like you guys have done, someone who wears streetwear might wear those kinds of boots.

JARED: Right? And even past that, it's like there's a functional purpose to a boot, you know. And it's, it's kind of crazy, like if you just go and talk to people, just people – not people in fashion people in any specific circles, you'll find that a lot of people just have a distaste for boots. They're like, 'I don't like boots, like, I don't ever wear boots.' You know, when you live in the northeast, like Adam and I do, even in the UK, boots are necessary, like there's a real purpose. And there's a function that you don't get from wearing sneakers at certain times of the year. So the failing of companies that made boots, just as that product category, to be able to reach those people and provide them with a product that they felt like was for them, is the opportunity here.

DANNY: What about sustainability – you guys have taken steps to make sure your boots are made in an ethical kind of environmentally friendly way. But you've also written that you wouldn't call yourself a sustainable brand, which is interesting. It's refreshing because most brands call themselves sustainable, even though, you know, 99% of them are just making it up. And it's just marketing jargon. What's the logic for avoiding that term, that word sustainable?

ADAM: We don't avoid it for like avoidance sake – I think we do because we're not under the false impression that like making a leather boot with a rubber sole is a sustainable product. It's not, like let's call a spade a spade. 

We try our best, that being said, to like you said source from ethical tanneries, for the leather. We use merino wool, which is one of the most sustainable and lasting materials on earth, and renewable. We use a rubber sole just because there hasn't been something else created that kind of holds up to wintery and/or crappy conditions – basically when it's raining, or there's snow on the ground. And that's why we made those honestly material and design choices. 

That being said, all of our packaging is only paper, we use no plastic and anything, we also use minimal packing, and packaging when we can. And as we continue our – I hate to say journey, but like as we continue making additional products as we continue making the product at the end sold that we already do better. Over time, we will make choices and continue to make choices that kind of go with our ethical and moral viewpoints about the planet and the world. And we do try our best. 

So like we're now in the early stages still of design of a sock. The sock is using recycled nylon and merino wool, and 3% elastine. Like those are the only materials, it will have a small cardboard – j card they call it – around it. But that's it, like that's the packaging. 

We try to be as minimal as we can in that because we all know like all that stuff, it looks beautiful, but it's probably going in the trash. The minute you open your new pair of socks, your boot, or whatever. And like these aren't like your latest Nike drops. So people aren't like saving the boxes for resale and stuff like that. And we're readily aware of that, so we really try to be as minimal as possible on that. And we will continue trying to innovate, or just eliminate where we can to be a more sustainable company. But again, as you mentioned, your questions – I know, Jared would say like, we still wouldn't consider ourselves a sustainable company, because we're still creating, we're still putting things out into the world. And I think the true only way to really be a sustainable company is to not exist, almost.

DANNY: That's the thing – the act of putting something into the universe is probably negatively impacting it.

JARED: It's also like when you look at bigger companies that call themself carbon neutral, like they're buying carbon credits, and you know, it offsets. And even that, which you know, I don't want to outright decry that as a practice. Because I've met with people like there's protected forest land in Oregon, for example. It has more predictive for assigned than any other state in the country. And they're nonprofits that sell those credits to protect the forest land, because otherwise market incentives would destroy that. So there is a good thing that's happening there. But it ultimately is being done for consumer marketing and branding for, you know, h&m or whatever big company to say, 'Hey, we're carbon neutral now', because, you know, we're buying, we're investing in this space. So even that as practice, like, we aren't looking to deceive anybody, in terms of consumer psychology, and the evolution of consumers, I think people are getting smarter about what they buy. And I think that if you're playing the game of just trying to like feed them the buzzwords and say the right things so that they shop with you, you're always going to be a step behind. Like, I think the better approach is be honest, you know?

DANNY: Yeah, totally. And about that honesty, I mean, you guys write on your website, 'we believe that climate change is real, that racial and gender equity is necessary. That LGBTQ+ rights matter, that high quality materials come first, fair labour...' I mean, you list all these things you believe in, you clearly think brands should speak up and kind of say what they believe in. 

DANNY: You know, you have the likes of like, Ben and Jerry's who are screaming from the rafters, you know, 'down with white supremacy', you know, they really go all in. You have other brands who just post a black square on Instagram. And then you have brands who just are silent and never say what they believe in. It's something that we at Courier are always talking about and kind of, talking to people about like, should you speak up as a brand? What if you don't agree with what your company stands for as CEO? Does every employee have to believe the same thing? I don't know where you guys stand on all those questions. 

ADAM: So we definitely don't believe every employee has to believe the same thing. And we definitely foster dissent and conflict. It probably seeps in at times like everyone else. But we really try to hire and hire both interns, employees and contractors based on the core premise of like, 'Are you someone who's going to be able to stand up and tell both Jared and I, even if you're an intern, that we don't know what the heck we're talking about?' Or, maybe we do, and you just are not understanding what we're saying. But still, that's a failure on us to explain properly, our thought process and what we want to do. So we really try to hire for that. In terms of brand journey, we think – like politics is so pervasive now, like, any brands – what was it, it was Coinbase recently that came out and had the whole manifesto about, we're just about Coinbase. And our mission, and there are no politics and like...

DANNY: No employees can say what they believe in.

ADAM: That's kind of, in our point – humble point of view – and that's their right as a company. But that's kind of insane. And I think that fosters dissent, and doesn't really get to the crux of the issue, like if they created a safe space for people to talk about, and actually just have a disagreement, because like, even Jared and I don't agree on politics in every which way. But we talk about it. And I think that's for us what we want to foster much more of like an actual conversation rather than silence, which, you know, silence has gotten us into this position now, where you have people screaming at each other or people not speaking. Nobody is sitting down and actually having a compromise or conversation, and at least for myself, that's something I believe in.

DANNY: So, when you hire new employees, and you're trying to create a company culture, essentially, it's less to do with them meeting some preconceived political ideals about what you know, society should be and more to do with, are they the right person for this company? I mean, obviously, don't want to hire a psychopath who believes that some minority group shouldn't exist. But you know, there's probably a fine line between avoiding groupthink and bringing in different viewpoints.

ADAM: I really do think that's right. Like there are of course guardrails on most of the stuff we do. But, we obviously the first step is believing that person can do the job that we're hiring for, or we're contracting out. But then we really push them hard on that conflict piece. And like, if we have a disagreement, what is that like? 

ADAM: And really like we, from MIT, we kind of got this into this behavioural interview style of questions. Past performance will dictate future action. So we'll ask for examples and stories. And I know Amazon does this too, of how you've dealt with conflict and resolve conflicts in the past, because it really is a big thing, I think. And it's going to be bigger as we kind of move forward into the future, just because I really believe companies don't want people to stay silent for the most part, and like, just do their job and sit in the corner. I really believe in like the Jeff Bezos, like disagree and commit, you know, principle, which is, you basically have an argument you may disagree, but then when a decision is made, you commit as a team to pursuing that one path or one goal, but we want to foster that kind of dissent. And we've literally hired, I think, really well for that in the past so far. We've definitely made one mistake, but we're like batting 80% on the hiring so far. So we're really happy with that.

Do you guys think a brand these days has to disrupt something? Or have some sweeping mission statement? Or could it just be like, we make a damn good product,  that's all we do. You know, we're not pretending to do something else other than that.

JARED: I mean, I think that you can do that. But I also would say that in terms of, consumers getting smarter, they still want to know more. They're always going to want to know who's behind this, what do you believe in? What are your practices like so I think that, you know, the name of the game on that front is transparency and you can't hide. 

The days of just being like, 'Oh, this is business, they make a good product, I don't really care' are far gone. Like with alternatives on the market, if that is the success for you, if somebody can be match you or come close on price, and be a little bit more open about who they are and what they believe in, you know, they're going to take market share from you, that's just where we are. I guess it sucks for people who are just shitty people because they have to make a decision to either lie or you know, try to stay silent and neither of those are gonna work in the long run.

DANNY: And I guess in the era of direct to consumer selling, it's not like you have a physical environment in which you could tell your story. It's kind of like if your website does not tell your story then it is literally indistinguishable from one another – from another product.

JARED: It's not just the copy either, it's the visuals. Honestly a lot of the storytelling is accomplished in the visuals before people even start reading the copy. You know. So when you think about who do you see in this, when I talked about the heritage brands and them not being as inclusive, it's because – pull up any of those brands, look at the pictures of them. Go to any company that you can think of that makes boots and look at their Instagram, and I'll tell you all the pictures, white men, dark blue jeans, rolled up cuffed on a park bench. That's the same picture.

ADAM: And brown boots, brown boots.

JARED: Brown boots yeah, that appeals to people who are those guys.

DANNY: Yeah, you guys have like electric blue boots and your copy’s also fun. I mean, I saw on your site. I wrote this down, you wrote 'waterproof protection against strange subway liquids and freak weather patterns'. I thought that was fun.

ADAM: There's a fine line right between going overboard and not – like we had multiple revisions on that. Actually, our intern Eva wrote that, and she's wonderful. 

DANNY: As a former New Yorker – well, as a New Yorker, always a New Yorker, I mean, yeah, subway liquids, it just, it's a guttural reaction.

ADAM: And like, it's hard, right? I think it's hard for a lot of consumers as well, because as Jared mentioned, while, they're definitely more educated. Well, they definitely want to know more, you know, like we've alluded to here, like talk is cheap, really, like you can say whatever you want. But so many of these DTC brands have talked a very large story about certain things. And then obviously, their practices haven't lived up to them in the same respect. 

So it really is about action and kind of what you do over time. And, obviously, we're hoping we have enough time to continue showing people with our actions that we care about these things. And it's not just for show. 

But at the same time, if I was a consumer, I would be sceptical, too, just because anyone can say anything. And I think that's probably the hardest part of our job on the branding marketing side of convincing people that our boot is not only a better made product, it is the lightest boot you will put on your feet, it is extremely comfortable. But also that like we stand for what we believe in. And, to our detriment at times, because there are choices we make, that would be much, much easier for us to probably make a lot more money. If we just said screw it, and went forward and tried to just grab as many dollars as we can. 

So, you know, we struggle with that at times as well. Like we're only human, but we really try to anchor in our own morals and ethics and what we believe the brand as its own entity would do and be and really just try to kind of problem solve in that vein.

DANNY: That was Jared Ray Johnson and Adam Klein from SEASON THREE. And that's it for this week. As ever get in touch with any comments or ideas. I'm daniel@couriermedia.co. Courier Weekly is back again next Friday. We'll see you then.

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