Surviving the Startup Valley of Death

Members of the MuskOx Herd, and hosts of No Dumb Questions, Destin Sandlin and Matt Whitman, invited Brad to the hot seat to dig into how MuskOx is "Surviving the Startup Valley of Death."

The three focused the 90 minute discussion around the complexities of building a brand, from dreams to napkin sketches to inception to sustainability, the financial realities of launching a clothing line, and how early-stage brands, especially MuskOx, hurdled barriers in order to connect with their earliest of customers.

Here's an Exchange Part Way Through Episode 112, "Surviving the Startup Valley of Death" of No Dumb Questions

Brad Hoos 
We're really lucky, because we're a brand that's focused on trying to endure, and to be more or less timeless. So we don't necessarily need to jump on the latest fads. That's not our customer anyways. So I think we're really fortunate that we know and understand what we're trying to, we're trying to know and understand our customer. We sure as heck aren't there yet. But we know that we're not going to be like the latest whiz bang fashionable thing. And that's not to say that we don't want to use technology that makes the outdoor experience better. But that means when it comes to design and trends, we're okay not being that leader, that's not necessarily who we want to be.

Matt Whitman
That's an interesting thing, though, because it means you're not going to win the hype train. You're not going to go on trending. Don't think of it in terms of what we do. We try to get algorithmic momentum, you're mentioning the momentum you need to make things go and then you get on trending if you make the right kind of stuff. My brand is not made to be on YouTube trending ever. You will never see a 10 Minute bar. Well, our video there, the appeal just isn't broad enough. So the Buckle's and the mall stores and maybe the cool Prana, North Face, Columbia, maybe they could catch this crazy wave if we hit what was trendy across the fashion world just right on the upswing, but we did it with a little bit of an outdoor flair.

Now we're going to make huge bank very quickly, but that stuff is going to look stupid in 12 months, and it is going to be on embarrassingly reduced clearance racks in the back of stores, you will find here in you, right? You're not playing the game so as to ever win that fashion upswing guessing game that what do you call it fashion speculation game. So you're looking at something much more slow and steady. But it means that you're out of that crazy explosive growth opportunity zone too.

Destin Sandlin
But it sounds like you're playing the long game. Like you're gonna play the, "this is what we do, and we do it well. And we're just gonna win because it's a superior product in the long game." Is that what you're doing?

Brad Hoos
That's exactly right. We feel like men appreciate quality, especially when it comes to outdoor apparel. And that if we do that, right, then over time, people are going to start to trust MuskOx, they're going to say, hey, when I'm buying MuskOx I know I'm buying quality. But that's not easy to get off the ground. Because there's nothing to go off of. Right 99.9999% of Americans have never heard of MuskOx, the men's outdoor apparel brand.

Why should they trust us? What the heck does this brand mean to them? Why not just go buy something from the handful of brands that they know like and trust in can go to REI and buy today. And that's hard.

Matt Whitman
That's a big hurdle. I want to do a quick reset on everything. Brad, this is what I'm hearing. You got together with Joel, some other friends. Where were you at Chili's, where the idea first happened where we sit in Starbucks. We're a small business. It was a long conversation. Did you write things on napkins? Did you get excited? Was there energy to it?

Brad Hoos
Absolutely. Absolutely. There's all sorts of excitement. There is back and forth. It's sort of been brewing for Oh, gosh, that's terrible pun. Now, I was gonna say percolate what you did? Yeah, we're in dangerous territory. But you know, the idea had been in our heads, we've been kind of kicking around. And then there comes a moment where you start to draw it on a piece of paper. Yeah, that's the moment it started to come real for us.

Listen to Episode 112 of No Dumb Questions for the full conversation. 

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