You’re listening to biz niBizNinja Entrepreneur Radionja 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 BizNinja Entrepreneur Radio.
Tyler Jorgenson 0:43
Welcome out to BizNinja Entrepreneur Radio, I am your host, Tyler Jorgensen. And today we have Vinnie Brown, but you might know him from Naughty by Nature. And it may not be the 90s anymore. But these guys are still relevant. They’re still pumping out new stuff. And one of the biggest things they’re doing now is embracing the world of VR, and e-commerce. And so I’m really excited to be talking with you, Vin. Welcome back to the show.
Vin Rock 1:09
All right. How are you doing big bro? Nice to be on the show. You know?
Tyler Jorgenson 1:13
Yeah, man excited to have you here. I think that we need to first start because this is your a little bit of a unique guest and that most people don’t know you as an ecommerce guy or as a VR guy. Right? So tell us a little bit about give us the really quick snip of Naughty by Nature, how you got involved in the group and your guys’ journey,
Unknown Speaker 1:34
Right so um, well Naughty by Nature. We were from East Orange, New Jersey, we assembled in high school at first, you know, the talent show thing and decided to pursue music signed the first sanctions deal under a group called the new style eventually got away from them, we signed a clean line treat for his management company flavor unit management. So we signed to them in 1990. Then signed to Tommy Boy Records, which she was on. In 91. We released Oh, pp. And then everything took off from there. But you know, how we got into the merchandise is that in the early 90s, when we blew up, you know, we always had our own merchandise from the 80s when we would a new style. And then when we signed the Tommy Boy with their art department, Monica Lynch and a guy Mark Weinberg came up with the Naughty by Nature logo and that and then our first pair of boxer shorts, and the LPP t-shirt and stickers. So we were like, wow, we just kind of took it from there trademarked everything. And we were rolling, you know, you actually selling a lot of merchandise from, you know, the street corner, then we got raided by the cops, so we had to legitimize it. And 9394 we opened up our first retail store 94 we did, we opened up a full retail store called Naughty Gear 106 Halsey Street downtown north. And the funny thing about that is back then the internet was jazz coming along, you know, I remember the fastest modem was 28 eight kilobits per second, you know, the 6k and then Tone and all of that stuff. So we actually had a Naughty by Nature website back then in 94/95. And we had a Naughty Gear website for the store. But back then all you could do is print out the order form, check off what you want, and look on the website to see what we have chosen snail mail order, and then we would receive it at the store process the order, and ship back out. So that was our first introduction to primitive ecommerce.
Tyler Jorgenson 3:43
Yeah, man, I love that. That was like when basically the website was just a digital version of your like catalog. Right?
Vin Rock 3:51
Tyler Jorgenson 3:53
So let’s, you know, man, there are probably a million stories we could go through in here on air on the show. We want to interweave the entrepreneurial journey with a personal journey. So and I think that Naufgty as a production as a music group, right is and your journey into learning and understanding merch, they’re probably really closely connected, right? They went hand in hand like producing shows and introducing boxers to sell merch early on in your career. Like, as you guys got started, you built that momentum. What was the first major obstacle that you guys faced? And then how did you overcome?
Vin Rock 4:26
Well, it was manufacturing, you know, manufacturing when it came to producing the goods ourselves because when we opened the store, we weren’t even really privy to the whole China connection and having in-house designers and that whole thing. So really, we were producing goods with a local screen printing shop. So it was all basically printing and embroidering, and putting applications on blanks, you know, and we realized really quick that interrupting that screen printers business because we had a lot of money back then just dump, you know, on goods and we totally upset their normal business, you know what I’m saying? And it was a problem with him turning around goods to fulfill the store. Right. So basically, inventory was the biggest challenge and to a point, it is still that Yeah,
Tyler Jorgenson 5:20
absolutely. And so you guys get I mean, again, in the early 90s I don’t think there’s anybody that was alive at that time that doesn’t know OPP. Right. And so, you start selling merch, you start selling things? How did you handle personally, the shift from being like, you know, just getting out there on the hustle into like, okay, we’re starting to make it things are coming out, right?
Vin Rock 5:20
Well, you know, I always refer to Will Smith’s movie, the pursuit of happiness, you know, because we were street kids, of course, we were doing the street-hustling thing. And then our first group was the New Style. And we signed to the old Sugar Hill records. So we really thought we would break as the new style. And lo and behold, that failed. So we had to re-change the name. rebrand, but this time we were, you know, under Queen Latifah. So we had a better shot. And then once we came out the box, you know what, oh, pp, that was our first official single and just blew, we were like, wow, this feels good. You know, it’s just a monkey off our back. But our thing was, like, you know, what, we’re competitive by nature. So I think is to keep this thing going, keep the music going, and keep that competitive edge amongst our peers.
Tyler Jorgenson 6:31
I love that. And so it wasn’t, it wasn’t enough that you had one big hit, right? It was like you’re just gonna keep innovating, keep growing and keep looking for what’s next.
Vin Rock 6:40
Oh, yeah, definitely, you know, and, you know, again, with the lights of Queen Latif flavor unit management, there were other artists on the roster. We were signed to Tommy Boy Records so their roster was cleaned for Coolio de la Sol, I mean, digital underground rest and peace shop gene. So it was a full roster of artists on the label and management. So we had to, you know, make sure to hold on the spot and hold on. Sounds down are not keen. So it was urgent. We kept it going.
Tyler Jorgenson 7:13
Yeah, you don’t want to get put in the wrong part of the show lineup. Right?
Vin Rock 7:19
Look, you got to wait two years for your next album to drop. No, you don’t want to be in that category.
Tyler Jorgenson 7:27
Yeah, that’s for sure. Man. So you guys, I mean, you through the 90s you guys are growing. You’re doing your testing and trying all this stuff. But we’re coming up on 30 years. What are you guys doing to celebrate? Naughty by Nature’s 30th anniversary?
Vin Rock 7:40
Oh, yeah, man, we’re doing a big recap. So first and foremost, we’re filming the 30th anniversary documentary. We’re in the process of doing that now. We have Marcus ravely, who shout out first two videos, oh, pp, and everything’s gonna be all right. He’s also the guy who just directed Will Smith’s Fresh Prince of Bel Air 30th anniversary, which released last year. So we have marked as going we’re going to own that print. And then we’re on the verge of doing VH one behind the music. So we’re talking to Viacom about that right now. We’ll do a 30th anniversary album. We’re looking to drop everything in September during the week of the VMAs and then announced you know, the rest of our touring for 2022 and just get back at it you know, postcard? Yeah, I
Tyler Jorgenson 8:25
love that. Man. That’s you guys have a lot going on. You got a lot building. So one of the things we kind of talked about a little bit the other day was how much is happening in the world of VR. And if you had asked me five years ago, if when VR was starting to take off who I thought would be one of the first groups to really be you know, active in the VR world I would not have said Naughty by Nature. Guys are you build a Little Town Naughty, right? When the in your building in all space VR and Oculus quite like? What made you think hey, nonny nonny needs to be involved in VR? Well,
Vin Rock 9:02
I think I’ve always just been involved in its technical part. It is a tool for fan engagement, and, you know, to further monetize what we do. So even when we had the store in 94, I had a website back then when the average website was about eight to $10,000, you know, so I always respected the technology and then going into social media. And then you know, when people were actually spending money on over the web with a credit card. I was always interested in that and then went on to apps and stuff like that. So I’ve always been into it. And now it’s like, with VR world. Oh my goodness. This is like something I have already seen like every business should have a VR space. You know, you have a personal space where now you can build your dream office space. You can build your dream home. You Build your dream, whatever you have, and then invite everyone you’re doing business with into that space. So I’m looking at what I’m building now? Well, we’re really building out a whole island. So to me, it’s going to be like Naughty Disneyland. And there’ll be subscribers there. And we’ll have so many activities, but we definitely have office spaces in it, where I’ll test to see where people are in business and say, Look, if I’m pitching a licensing deal, or someone’s pitching me, I’m like, Well, you know what, grab a VR headset and meet me in my office. And in that virtual space, we can conduct you’re able to pull up documents, you’re able to, you know, design things and collaborate in real-time. So, to me, this stuff is so exciting. And for us being 30-year events, and, you know, having the ability to have ticketed events there and private screenings and listening sessions. I mean, it goes on and on and on, and try that VR space is like having a website, all social media, office space, all in one is definitely the future. I know.
Tyler Jorgenson 11:12
I love the ability, the idea of like, okay, you’re having a live ticketed event. And then you can have backstage passes. And it’s not a super-complicated thing, hey, these people with these usernames can barrel, they’re the only ones that can access this room. Right? There are no security guards, there’s no like, backstage. But that’s really a neat idea to think about that idea of having people come in for business meetings because you can interact in a different, you can act differently in VR that he can just over the phone resume, you see that? That third dimension, the ability to kind of visualize things together? Pretty cool stuff, man. How did you guys first get into licensing and anything that you learned there that you can share with other entrepreneurs?
Vin Rock 11:51
Yeah, well, licensing way back when we began, you know, there was a big company called Winterland. So they were like the vitals, or, you know, the Live Nations of today. And, you know, they handled all the merchandise for the big tours, and all the big pop or rock band, so they were to go-to place. But what I realize is, you know, even a few years ago, about four years ago, we have a licensing deal with Bravado, you know, which is owned by Universal Records. The reality is, is depending on how big your brand is, or how much attention you command, you can get lost in the sauce. So, you know, it’s cool to have those relationships and to have those licensing deals. But what I’ve found is that you know, there’s nothing like running the business yourself. And with all the, you know, the tools we have, right now, digital tools, you can always carve out your direct to fan business. So I find that that’s the best way for fan engagement. That’s the best way to even extract life stories from your fans. And just being hands-on and getting the temperature of what your fans like the rate and what you said, you know, your ads, you can see the immediate results from the targeted ads you’re running, you can get all of that immediate feedback. But if you just give it to a major company and say, give me an advance, and I’ll just take the royalty, you’re missing out on all the data you mentioned out on the long term play, and you’re missing out on just stabilizing your business in the long run.
Tyler Jorgenson 13:25
Yeah, absolutely. I think one of the things that, to me is the most obvious is the ability, to stay engaged with the customer with the fan, right. So if a fan goes and says that I’m going to buy, and they go to your site, and they buy it, you have that customer information. Next time you have a concert next time you have something going on next time you have another shirt draw, you can email or you can reach out to them and say, Hey, you bought this shirt, you’re probably gonna like this, but if you just licensed it off to target, you don’t have any of that information. So the ability for like, like you said, to carve out your directive fans, you know, you know, vertical, the ability to maintain that relationship, I think is one of the biggest things that today’s economy is allowing creators and producers and artists to be able to do is stay or you know, feels like one to one with
Vin Rock 14:15
well, and it definitely is one on one because, um, you know, even when customers have a discrepancy, you know, I get all the emails, but my team answers them. But some of the emails I read and if someone’s like, really upset for no reason in our, in our control and sign-ups or the post office screwed up your package, I’ll chime in, and then when they see the thread and they’re like, Oh my god, this is then, you know, it just totally changes their day. And I’m able to explain it and they’re like, yo, it totally, you know, eases them. And then like man, well you know what, I’m sorry for coming at y’all like that, but I can’t wait to buy more. I’ll The product knows that kind of engagement is super priceless.
Tyler Jorgenson 15:04
Yeah and so and staying human right like you were able to reconnect as a human get back involved as isn’t just some random customer service team like we’re here. How can we help? Let’s fix this? What? What is what’s something that you guys? I mean, you still sell, like Naughty Beach Shores. But like, what’s one of the top items that you guys sell through ecommmerce?
Vin Rock 15:24
Oh man, the hoodie, the classic Naughty by Nature hoodie. That’s what everyone loves. And last fall in winter, we did the hoodie bundle. So we had a hoodie bundle with a hoodie t-shirt, and baseball cap combined. They love that that’s a great, you know, the great price point for a great package. And they love that. Love it. Love it.
Tyler Jorgenson 15:46
I love that. And so you guys, I mean, it’s great. You guys are still moving, you’re doing you guys are outperforming a lot of other ecommmerce stores out there. I know you guys have big goals as well, I’m sure that the 30th anniversary and everything you guys are working on, it’s probably going to help you hit those goals. What are some? What are some challenges that you guys have faced through a kind of as you’ve been growing the ecommerce side of things and trying to figure out new products and stuff like that? Like how have you learned through that space?
Vin Rock 16:13
Well, I think um, you know, creativity is free. So as long as you have the resources, financial resources, you can get with different design houses, people who source I just think that in the econ business, you know, you really need your business and business credit health in town, you know, so as long as you have a decent business credit line, you got to hire the appropriate people, you can do the proper sourcing, you can meet your proper minimums, and then you’ll have better margins. So that’s the biggest challenge. And that’s what we’re sorting out. Now, as we scale our business. You know, you
Tyler Jorgenson 16:53
mentioned early on, you guys started selling started hustling got raided by the police, right? businesses, a lot of times we people don’t start at all because they’re worried about doing it perfectly. I’m a big believer that you got to ready fire aim, right, you got to, you got to have some things lined up and not be perfect. You just got to get to market and figure it out as you go. So you guys have all the right ducks in the row, everything’s in place, you’re ready for scaling. You got big opportunities coming for Naughty by Nature 30th anniversary, man big stuff’s happening? What? When you look back on the journey, and somebody else is just getting started? And you know, they say hey, I want to get started in apparel? Or how about even going back further to say I want to get started in music? What do you tell them?
Vin Rock 17:34
Well, what parallel, I say you know what, you have to be passionate about it. And first of all with anything, if you’re doing it strictly for a cash grab, then a lot of times you’re going to fail because all you’ve seen is money. Do you have to say what’s the purpose of this? How am I going to serve people? How am I going to make people feel good or feel happy? You know, so if it’s powerful and I’m able to give them a unique product or a product that they appreciate and quality product, and it’s going to be their favorite t-shirt, I don’t care if it’s a simple t-shirt. But if the cotton is soft, then if the spec is right, and it’s you know, when you go in your laundry, everyone grabs that most comfortable feeling t-shirt, you know, so if you’re going to have a product like that, that should be your aim or your goal. And it’s the same thing for music. It’s like if you want to create music just to run out here and chase the latest fad, and especially in rap music now where it’s really dangerous out here. If you’re not doing it to kind of change the tone of what’s going on out here. You’re just running into a cash grab. And it’s more of the same and it’s not as unique. So, you know, when we were coming up if we pride ourselves on just being unique like I’ve just mentioned, Digital Underground, Coolio, De la Soul clean my teeth for Naughty by Nature, all five of us was on the same record label, but very different brands, very different music styles. So, you know, you have to distinguish yourself in that manner. And you know, with the tools of today, and so much music out there. Music is really a loss leader, you know, because which streams and trying to make money off of this times the majors out there. Even with licensing your music and the majors in there, just having first dibs. It’s really a difficult business in this time and age. So you have to use music as a loss leader, and then build the product around, you know, build experiences, build fan engagement around it, to further monetize the means
Tyler Jorgenson 19:45
nothing is I’ve never heard it as that it’s a loss leader but it really is in many ways. It’s that this is how we’re going to reach people. But then what’s the next step? Right So thinking about it with the long game. Now you’ve when you’ve been with a group like you said it’s coming on 30 years. throughout that time you guys have been doing music, but you’ve also done other business things. Tell us about the challenges of having partners. And like how, you know, maybe some ups and downs of that, and what you guys have learned how to make it successful.
Vin Rock 20:13
Right. So that is the thing, because when we first came out, we were all, you know, even keel, so we didn’t even discover out of the talents, it was just, hey, it’s all about the group, and we’re putting out your kid, right? And, and that’s going to be our thing. But lo and behold, you know, once we released, the music tracks jumped out as an actor, you know, especially being under Queen Latifa’s wing, because when he jumped out as an actor, kg jumped out as a producer. So he began producing all the x, trash began acting more. And I’ve always been more of a community-based guy working with local politics, I got into, you know, the merchandising and the brand development of the brand. So, after a while, you know, once those energies start splitting, it takes away from the core business. So now you have movie companies pull and stretch away, the record label is saying, Hey, this is my initial investment. And now I gotta wait three years to get another album, because, for one, the guys are touring for two stretches, asking for three kg is producing other groups. And it’s like I made the kill, but the vultures are picking off of it. So that definitely Cause you to know, internal drama, internal beef, and we had to work our way through it. And at the end of the day, one of the biggest elements is the brand itself. So through years of fighting through years of breaking up, screw you, I don’t need you, we’re gonna stay home, you know, you’re literally leaving millions of dollars on the table. And when you’re looking to, you know, branch off and do your own thing. There’s no better platform to expose that than the core platform. So those are the things we learned along the way.
Tyler Jorgenson 22:05
Yeah. And so Isn’t it amazing how, like a partnership through ego and pride, like leave millions of dollars on the table, scrapping over a couple 100 bucks, right? Right. It’s like, wait, yeah, but this past deal a year ago wasn’t fair. Well, let’s like, let’s worry about this big one that’s out in front of us, right? And so how have you guys, as you’ve maturity gotten older? Like how have you shifted your focus into the long-term plan?
Vin Rock 22:31
Well, for one, it’s about getting our finances in order, you know what I mean, making sure your financial health is in order. Because a lot of times when you have those discrepancies, it’s always one person in the group who’s not found as financially sound as the others. They’re not as witty as the others. And they’re just reckless spenders, you know what I’m saying? So, what you have to do is think as a collective, and say, Look, no matter what it’s two thirds or 1/3 of the group has their thing that gathers, then it’s in the total groups’ bat center is to make sure you share this information with your partners, because the more stable the team is, the longer you know, or the more stable the general business is, you know, so having that going on. And then one of the things I’ve learned is that at the end of the day, you never know, as what business partner may flip, you never know, hey, they could just die. You know what I’m saying? Unfortunately, so you need to be ready for it. That’s right. So you need to have your life your finances in order. So win, lose, or draw, see ya, you know, you…
Tyler Jorgenson 23:44
That makes a ton of sense. And I think it’s the whole it’s the kind of thing that we all hope people that come behind us learn faster than we did right. You guys have laid down major hits you got an amazing website at Naughty by Nature store comm where people can buy your merge. You’ve got your 30th anniversary, you got the big VR Little Town Naughty and everything happened in there in the FinTech and fin education world, which I think is really cool. What are some other things that you just think people really need to know about what Vin Brown is doing here? In 2021?
Vin Rock 24:14
Well, for me, man, it’s just about you know, just being of service to others. I’ve always been known as a hands-on community guy, you know, so even, like, I’m born and raised in my hometown of East Orange, New Jersey. So we’ve always been around here and 92 you know, going out first homes, I moved to West Orange, which literally, I could walk, you know, town, the town. So about six years ago, I chose to move back to my hometown because I was working with the local mayor who was running. So now that he ran the past two years I’ve been on the transition team for recreation and Cultural Affairs. So being involved in the parks, you know, a recreation system here. So my thing is like what I want people to know That no matter how humble or successful, you know, you become how humble your beginnings or successful you become, you know, everybody should at least come back home and participate in local politics, participate in your local school district. Just get back to the kids and let them feel and see and touch a success story. You know what I mean? And it’s really empowering because Whitney Houston, Dionne, Warwick, john Amos, you know, all of these people Queen Latif, are from our hometown of East Orange and just being accessible to the community and to us as growing up, it was really inspiring. So, for the most part, that’s what I feel. It’s like, it’s just about that community feel. And if you’re able to sustain the community and inspire others, hopefully, they’ll sustain themselves and you’ll have far fewer angry people and in the world.
Tyler Jorgenson 25:57
Well, I absolutely love what you’re doing with the group. I love what you’re doing with your brand. I love that you stay involved in the community. What’s one major item on Vin Brown’s personal bucket list that you’re going to accomplish in the next 12 months?
Vin Rock 26:09
12 months? Wow. Well, I have to go back into the housing market. So I’m actually torn between the VR mansion I’m building and then cloning it in real life so I have like Elvis Presley’s Graceland or Michael Jackson Neverland Ranch. So I want to do almost like the NF t thing. The virtual world is the NF t stuff and then you know the physical product is there as well. So what does NF t stuff I plan on both for around you know so I really waiting for the housing market to correct and then here in Jersey you know, I want to work with the governor and local you know, authorities to make sure I have the passes and to do what I need to do zoning wise so I won’t have problems and then from there I’m opening up naughty lamb and like the Playboy Mansion.
Tyler Jorgenson 27:09
Yeah. Awesome I love the vision go to Naughty by Nature store calm check out we’ve been doing there were all my businesses wherever you’re listening, it’s your turn to go out and do something.
Thank you for tuning in to BizNinja Entrepreneur Radio. What you didn’t hear was one more very important question that Tyler asks each guest if you want to be a fly on the wall when the real secrets are shared, go to bizninja.com/VIP and get your access today. Remember to subscribe so that you don’t miss any future episodes and are one last favor if this episode was meaningful to you. Please share this podcast with fellow entrepreneurs so they can grow along with us BizNinjas. It’s your turn to go out and do something