“The Transcript Is Auto Generated And May Contain Spelling And Grammar Errors”
Tyler Jorgenson 0:01
You’re listening to biz ninja entrepreneur radio. This show was created for entrepreneurs, business owners, marketers and dreamers who want to learn from the experts of today and drastically shortcut their own success to build a business that supports their dream lifestyle. Since 2011, Tyler Jorgensen has been interviewing business thought leaders from around the world a serial entrepreneur himself. Tyler also shares his personal insights into what’s working in business today. Welcome to biz Ninja, entrepreneur radio.
Welcome out to biz ninja entrepreneur radio. I am your host, Tyler Jorgensen. And today we have Jake Burton, the co founder and CEO of Rios gear, which is a really cool sunglasses concept. So welcome to the show. How are you Jake?
Jake Berton 0:54
Doing good. Glad to be here. Thanks for having me. Well coast to coast action
Tyler Jorgenson 0:58
coast to coast. It. So right off what makes Rios different than other sunglasses?
Jake Berton 1:05
First and foremost, we launched with floating shades. So that was kind of our, our key criteria coming out of the gate was when you drop your sunglasses in the water, you get them back. Yeah, obviously, we had a little bit of experience with the other version of that. But most recently, we’ve been years in development of a new lens. The nylon optics lens we launched this year, clearer than a glass lens, which is always the industry standard. And so those are kind of our own. Our two launching points there is like this year is a big year for rheas for kind of taking it to the next level.
Tyler Jorgenson 1:39
Yeah, that’s huge. So let’s start at the beginning and then work our way back a little bit. So what made you decide to launch a sunglasses company and specifically a floating shades brand?
Jake Berton 1:50
Definitely. Oh, I had a been in the entrepreneur journey for a while right out of school, I started a digital marketing agency and kind of a one man shop At the time, we grew a bit over the years and about eight years later, we’re still small but about 10 people and went through an acquisition. Oh cool. So after that, or I guess right towards the end of that I had met Becca, we were living in Atlanta at the time. decided no better way to test a relationship and hop in about 100 square feet and drive around the country. So we got a an old Airstream in 1981 renovated it from the inside and then hit the road for about three or four months on the road. I remember getting back in the truck I think we’ve we’ve made it all the way to California at this point. And Becca looks at me and she’s like you realize most expensive part of this trip your sunglasses right? Because every time we go out on the water, you know I get interested in what we were looking at, leaned over a kayak or something else and drop them in. And obviously on the water you got to have a nice pair of shades where the UV rays are getting its strongest. So right that was the beginning of it. We knew we had a problem. We knew we wanted we kind of chose the community And the people first and then the product kind of found us when we lost a lot of sunglasses. So from there, we set out to learn the product design and manufacturing process. And that was kind of the inception point.
Tyler Jorgenson 3:14
Yeah, that’s pretty cool. And so you, you kept losing sunglasses, you were an entrepreneur already. So your brain went that direction of like, how can I solve this problem? You already thinking that way? Do you think that people are born entrepreneurs? Or do you think some people kind of evolve into that? Where have you been like this since you were a kid just always solving problems? I think coincidentally, I’ve been like this since a kid I you know, definitely the one coming out of the gate doing carwash and powerwash and lawn care and just the classic middle school and high school business approach.
Jake Berton 3:45
Right. But I don’t think it’s something you have to be born with. I think it’s either the problem finds you and somebody becomes so compelled that they’re like I have to solve or it’s fun. I mean, it’s obviously very hard and difficult. There’s challenges that happen. But I think that the excitement of it attracts people in and I think a lot of the movement in media and the opportunity in technology makes it very accessible for a lot of folks to do it. But I don’t think it’s necessarily the singular mindset you got to come out of the gate with.
Tyler Jorgenson 4:18
Absolutely. So let’s, we’re gonna do two things. We’re gonna jump all the way to now and then we’re going to go back into the beginning parts of the business again. So the business is doing pretty well. You guys are clearing seven figures, you’re that’s a real business at this point. Not a little hobby or a side project. What are some you just mentioned? You got new lenses and stuff launching like that? What are some of the big wins that you guys have had over the last six months to a year where you just realized, Hey, this is working. We’ve got a real business here. This isn’t just a little project anymore.
Jake Berton 4:49
Yeah, I think, you know, certainly volume is one of those contributing factors where you realize you cross a threshold. But the other thing is just hearing from customers where You get people that I’ve known now for four years, because they were in that first launch somehow and have hung in there with us through the years and have just become those brand advocates that you know, you really, really hope for. And, you know, it’s also on the other side, where you get an enormous amount of feedback, which has continued to make us better. And when you’re hearing and talking to that many people a day, either getting feedback on things that they want to see or would love to see, or, you know, just comments of, like, I’ve done with you guys for years now and have loved the journey. That to me is the amount of people involved, you know, on the customer side on the team side, vendor side, that’s when you step back and you’re like, Okay, this is it is an operation, and it’s an exciting community to be a part of and get the opportunity to help shape in some small way.
Tyler Jorgenson 5:53
Absolutely. So going back into the early days, you guys are in the airstream you come up with this cool idea you decide to manufacture Sure, what was something that happened at that point of a launch? Right where you’re first coming in getting ready? That was like a major obstacle. What did you learn from it? And what can other entrepreneurs do better?
Jake Berton 6:11
That first sale or those first five sales, I remember we officially put up the website, it was a Wednesday or a Thursday. It was halfway through the week. And we had made an Instagram post that was like, guaranteed delivery by it was a, you know, a game day event. It was a Game Day special. It was like guaranteed delivery Saturday morning. And we had three people were in Atlanta at the time that had ordered it on Friday. And we never put like a cutoff time for that guaranteed delivery. So I remember, you know, hopping in the car and making those first initial drops. So I think the biggest you know, kind of eye opener there is like put the sign out and you know, see where the the path takes you and be ready to In the beginning, it’s a lot of brute force. It’s a lot of what’s your pain tolerance? And there’s gonna be things that are coming up, and you just take them one at a time, right at the time.
Tyler Jorgenson 7:13
I think that’s smart. I think there’s a lot of things that you can unpack there. Right? So one, you made an incentive, and then you made the mistake of not cutting it off. And so then you’ve got an honor that you could, some people would have said, well just email the customer and tell them hey, I forgot to put the cut off and sent get they’ll get it on Monday. But like you, that’s your first, like, three sales, like they need to be happy, they need to like, and so I think if you take that same mentality through your entire customer journey, not just when you’re launching, but really treating every customer that way. You know, it sounds like you guys are building a community and I think that sounds like that’s a big part of it is that attitude of serving the customer and, and really, you know, standing behind what you guys do. That’s pretty cool. And so and I also like what you said about really prioritizing like don’t you can’t overthink about every single obstacle as it comes. up, right? You got to just handle it when they come. What were some other of the big learning moments there in that first year, so of business,
Jake Berton 8:08
some of the big learnings is just making sure you’ve got the processes in place to leave yourself time to not just handle the fires, because they’re always going to be there. You just have to have the reserved time to say, Where do I spot the trends? Where and whether that’s from your service level, like where’s your time getting eaten? Or is that from the product side? Or is it from the marketing side, you have to dedicate time to try and spot and then act on that. It’s those those activities that you do that compound your efforts. So the ones that are the easiest to skip over, especially in the beginning, because it is a bit of brute force. And if you deliberately set aside time to say this is for compounding energy, like I need to address this so that tomorrow becomes just that much cheesier and not ignore it, and have the discipline to not ignore that was the biggest lesson that I, you know, I still continually try to remind myself every week.
Tyler Jorgenson 9:10
Yeah, absolutely. What do you guys his top sales channels,
Jake Berton 9:15
it has actually varied over the years. So when we first launched it was we launched on Instagram, this is 2016 went straight to people in our community in our niche, you know, still chronological feed at the time. And that was a space that I knew well. And then, you know, a year and a half later one of our we got our first big box account with dealers that very quickly went from zero to a very important selling channel. Yeah, and that was a result of this slowly starting to build independent wholesale channel, which similar and that it’s in a store but there’s certainly different models when you’re working with a big box store or working with any you know, a one store Store group. And I’ve actually Oh, as far as sales channels, so we started exclusively online, we had reasonable momentum into the wholesale channel, then online kind of took back over. And this year, what was interesting, you know, coming into the year, we had found what we thought was a very special niche in the wholesale world. And we’re just really ready. Like we had spent months getting a lot of things lined up. So we had, you know, gone from wholesale only into independence, a key account with dillards and then comes back around to wholesale or the online channel. We’ve spent a lot of time getting ready for wholesale coming into 2020. Just with this beautiful plan. We couldn’t have been more excited about March 15. Everything’s just ready to ship went great. And a lot of those plants change very quickly overnight. And so of course, the past few months holster online has been a very, very meaningful contributor in that but we never really stopped on any of the wholesale components. So it’s it’s an interesting balance. And I think that’s part of our strategy is just making sure we got an opportunity to pursue where the market polls, and this happened to be very dramatic and fast, but it happens slow over time in the same way, in different times.
Tyler Jorgenson 11:20
Yeah, absolutely. So, you know, I think a lot of people getting started in the especially in the physical products in e commerce, they think they’re just going to pick one channel, hey, I’m just going to go on Amazon, or I’m just going to sell direct to consumer or maybe I’m just going to do wholesale. And I think now in today’s economy more than ever, having two to three different channels is really important. What do you think is? So you’ve got direct consumer, you’re selling Facebook, Instagram ads, stuff like that. You’ve got wholesale? What do you think is an upcoming channel that’s going to grow in being important, whether that’s an advertising channel or a whole new distribution channel?
Jake Berton 11:56
That’s a good question. I think, you know, we try to keep it really simple. Where our departments if you will, I don’t think that we’re necessarily at the stage where we have visually different departments. But right, you’ve got your direct to consumer through your own owned channels like the.com, the marketplaces, which can be anything from Amazon or Ebay or others, your key accounts, which are just those accounts of a certain size or that have to be handled a little differently. And then we just call our independent dealer channel. And in the now, I don’t think that I see a fifth major department coming in, we would just any new opportunities may shift into that. But on a campaign level, it’s picking an industry and it’s saying, okay, we have an independent dealer bucket, but what are those different niches that we can go for, you know, as a marinas campaign that makes a ton of sense because we’re coming up on boating season is it resorts that make a lot of sense because there’s a new wave coming there. What are those different niches within those buckets? And you’ve just given yourself permission to focus on priorities again, where it’s like, you’re not gonna be able to do them all. You just can’t. Yep, even the big guys can’t do it all. But do pick those channels, perform it and launch it, and then look for the next thing as you can grow into those. Awesome.
Tyler Jorgenson 13:21
Now you came from the, you know, a digital marketing agency owner world, how did that help you in as you launch your product?
Jake Berton 13:28
I think the just baseline business experience help where it’s just understanding product value management, financials, uh, you know, that’s one thing I always go back to when talking to friends or others that are getting ready to start is, you know, the numbers start with, at least knowing the numbers add up, have a forecast and then go break the forecast. It’s not saying that you got to get it just right. What I love like,
Tyler Jorgenson 13:55
you know, you mentioned knowing your numbers I like you know, create a forecast and then break the forecast. Right, like, there’s a difference between ignoring your numbers and realizing that numbers are fluid, they’re not going to be static, you’re going to set projections and they’re going to be totally off. But you at least have something your aim towards, you know, when there’s something I talked about with a lot of startup econ businesses, or really anybody that’s getting into the digital marketing space. And I’m like, Look, you’re, you got a couple of key benchmarks. In your process flow, you’ve got your first sale, which you kind of mentioned your first three sales, then there’s that time when you’re breaking 30 k a month, right? That’s where you’re starting to be a real business, you can probably afford a little bit of help, right? And a little bit of a team, then you got your hundred grand or, you know, hundred k a month threshold or now you’re like, Okay, we have departments, we got divisions, right. And then there’s from there. I always tell people at that point, there’s a ton of different directions that a company can go, but you got to get there like one Do you agree with those kind of general benchmarks in to how is how you’re handling the business today, different than when you handled it with just a couple of people. At the beginning,
Jake Berton 15:01
you know, there’s so much that changes. And there’s some things that just don’t, you know, we tried to have the discipline in the beginning to build those processes. And this may have come from the marketing background, or it was like, Where are the different hats. Like in the beginning, you put on the fulfillment hat, go drop off the boxes, but build the process anyway. And then the first place where you can get some help, you can say, I’ve already got the process. Now, you know, somebody else just wears the hat at the same job gets done. And those are the things that I think you try to keep as consistent as possible. But in practice, you’re not doing the fulfillment anymore. So you can focus on trendspotting more, you can focus on a little bit more of a strategy, you can think about different scenarios. Where do we go after scenario A, which has this forecast outcome? Or do we go after scenario B and has this forecast outcome? And then how much do we believe in that forecast? And that I think is the biggest difference is just spending more time on business model on strategy on product. And being able to spend more time with the community. And not just on the fires, getting help for the fires first, is the biggest difference return before some help is start with those.
Tyler Jorgenson 16:16
So how many people are on your team now? I mean, how many people are crammed in that area?
Jake Berton 16:24
There’s six at the warehouse, but I would say there’s contractors contributing in a lot of different ways and a lot of different places. But core team outside of back end is six at the warehouse. So and you know, obviously, we’re keeping pretty good space and distance and taking different shifts at this stage. So I’m off shift right now.
Tyler Jorgenson 16:46
Nice, well, but you know, you’re still doing SEO type work, which is content and creation and community right, this stuff that you’ve got to do. What Um, so you guys, you mentioned this new lens, right? I didn’t mean to skip over that too. Tell us a little bit more about that. Because that sounds like now you’re getting into a stage where you just the first stage is kind of like you solve the problem. And you probably just did some cool product, but now you’re innovating and doing some bigger things. Tell us about that and why you chose to go after that.
Jake Berton 17:14
Yeah, absolutely. And I think that is the most exciting part, when you’re talking about community and product, that’s where a lot of the real magic can happen. And when the attention can be spent there, brands can grow. And the innovation in the lens is real. That’s the most important part of sunglasses. It’s the first thing you notice when you put them on, and you’re not looking in the mirror. There’s going to be what do I see and how does it work as I looked at that one, and that nylon optics lens, number one, it’s the clearest lens you can possibly get. It’s a $55 pair of sunglasses with absolute professional grade optics. And there’s a there’s an Abby value that they measure that with and it measures distortion on a scale from zero to 65 highest being the Then nylon optics lens comes in at 62. And a glass lens comes in at 60. So it’s close. But the difference also being a weighs 20%. And so when you’re talking about being able to float, you’re talking about comfort for wearing it all day, whether you’re driving or fishing or other things, having a lightweight comfort with that level of professional grade optics at a $55 price. And oh, by the way, it’s got the durability of those polycarbonate lenses that are rated for z 87 safety gear. you’re checking a lot of boxes that add on Yes,
Tyler Jorgenson 18:34
I don’t think you know, the layman like I didn’t, I wouldn’t have known what you were talking about if I hadn’t seen a lens just like example before, right where they put I saw this whole thing where they put light through a cheap lens and then light through a nicer lens and how it refracts differently. And that difference of how your eyes are expecting to see the data versus how they actually see is what causes people if you’re wearing too Cheap sunglasses or something and you end up having a headache after it’s because your brains in over like it’s like your you know, it’s like you’re running your computer at too low memory for too long right and it’s like has to work extra. I never would have known that.
Jake Berton 19:13
Well and that’s a great point too because they’re you’re talking about the the clarity and just immediacy that that lights coming through but only the good light. But more importantly you’re blocking the hundred the UV protection where it’s like you can have UV protection on cheaper sunglasses that’s not a high quality protection and you’re actually causing more damage to your eyes because it’s darker, so your eyes opening up more and it’s letting in all that bad era reparable damage onto the eye and that’s why when we say like super important to wear sunglasses on the water, it reflects at least double as it would on other surfaces and so it magnifies when it bounces off water or snow or beach and goes back into your eye. And that was where from a health standpoint. We would get concerned when people say I can’t take my 200 sunglasses out into the water, it’s like, you gotta like
they’re supposed to protect you, you’re not protecting them.
Tyler Jorgenson 20:11
That’s funny. I never even thought about it like that, that it’s not just about like, keeping your eye you know, for me I squint, right? So I’m outside, like, I’m just sensitive, but it’s really it’s well beyond that. It’s it’s really protecting your eyes. So that’s really neat that you guys are now innovating that and leading that or is that something that all of your sunglasses are gonna have? Or is that going to be an option type of or online, some of them
Jake Berton 20:32
it’s in every single one of our sunglasses that we launched in 2020. Very cool. And so that is definitely just a key component of the brand is just to have that professional grade and value price. So we’ve been excited about that.
Tyler Jorgenson 20:47
So what are some of the big goals for Rios gear? Like what? You know, you guys are doing well, right? But what’s the stretch goal that you guys like? This is where we’re trying to get to.
Jake Berton 20:57
The biggest thing is where we can start. To have real meaningful impact in our local community in Charleston, and then lead the way in the water community. I mean, the term Rios is the Greek word for river current, it comes from an old philosopher, quote, no man steps in the same river twice, because it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man. And it’s this premise of constant change, constant growth. And so we first look to what’s the impact that we can have on the water? What’s the impact that we can have here in Charleston? How does the business support that while being fundamentally sound? I mean, it still got to run the business first. So that goes hand in hand with those growth objectives. And you know, I think we just niche down in that a little bit more you guys give a percent back to the planet, right? Yeah, we do. We’re part of a 1% for the planet group. And with that, we choose our local organizations that we contribute towards and you know, both in time and dollar and getting out there and then get educated usually when we go out there and volunteer With these groups they’re teaching us about, here’s what we can be doing to better protect, here’s where we can put funds to make a difference. And that, to me is the most gratifying part of a lot of one meeting them and getting to be a part of our community and to learning the things that we we don’t even know yet.
Tyler Jorgenson 22:17
Sure, absolutely. So for me, you know, you’re running a lifestyle brand. And you you guys talk to you started the company from traveling the country and being in an Airstream for me, businesses shouldn’t stop you from having the lifestyle you dream of. What’s one major item on your personal bucket list that you’re going to check off in the next 12 months,
Jake Berton 22:37
personally, is just to keep living and loving in Charleston with the family. We’ve got a one year old here. So that’s been a hell of an experience just to be able to be around so much and never really feel like I can’t be there for important moments. And even just on a day to day basis, obviously now, I think we’re all getting a little more family time, but just regularly it’s kind of always In that way, and like to keep that so that’s my number one. It’s just flexibility and daily schedule is so important. We joked around about another road trip, but I don’t think that’s built for a one year old. So we hope to be able to get back there tough.
Tyler Jorgenson 23:16
Yeah, absolutely. Well, cool. We really appreciate you coming out onto the show any last final words of wisdom for budding entrepreneurs out there who are trying to take their first step?
Jake Berton 23:27
You know, I’m reminded of a story from one of my freediving friends where he says, You know, I never really tried to set records of depth. It was just no your operational depth, and, you know, go down there and catch some lobsters. So this is free to have an office do the thing. And he says, when you’re trying to set those records, you can’t do as much fishing. So I think that’s funny. The term operational depth has always been important to me where it’s like, we don’t try to stretch too far, but stay within the bounds that we can control. Awesome. Well, cool. Thanks for coming out on the show and for all my ninjas, everybody Listening wherever you’re tuning in, it is your turn to go out and do something.
Tyler Jorgenson 24:06
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