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🔑 Key Takeaways

  1. Understanding the emotional connection consumers have with brands and products is crucial for businesses, as it strongly influences their purchasing decisions.
  2. Pursuing passion may require adaptation and finding alternative paths, leading to meaningful experiences even if financial success is not achieved.
  3. Through their friendship and constant communication, Lyndon and Jamie identified a gap in the market and drew inspiration from minimalist aesthetics to create a versatile bag that perfectly suited their generation's needs.
  4. Lyndon and Jamie Cormack identified a gap in the market for backpacks with unnecessary features and high price points. They started their own company while keeping their day jobs, focusing on product design and storytelling.
  5. Herschel Supply Company combines timeless design with functionality, creating a brand that resonates with customers on an emotional level.
  6. By combining a minimalist design with innovative features, Jamie and Lyndon Cormack aimed to disrupt the bag market and cater to a market that values both functionality and style.
  7. Jamie and Lyndon Cormack's determination and resourcefulness helped them overcome manufacturing challenges and pursue their brand vision, despite initial setbacks and financial constraints.
  8. The Cormack brothers' unwavering dedication, sacrifices, and hands-on approach in ensuring quality and aesthetics were key factors in Herschel's journey towards becoming a successful business.
  9. Adaptability, resourcefulness, and perseverance are key in overcoming obstacles and making a strong impression in the industry.
  10. Sometimes, allowing your brand to speak for itself and embracing unplanned opportunities can lead to significant success and valuable connections.
  11. Determination, adaptability, and strategic decision-making were crucial for Jamie and Lyndon Cormack to overcome challenges and achieve success with Herschel Supply Co.
  12. Herschel aimed to evoke a sense of nostalgia and relied on inspiration from established brands to create a lasting aesthetic, overcoming logistical challenges to establish a year-round business.
  13. Herschel Supply Co. achieved significant success by embracing risks, expanding their product offerings, building global relationships, hiring the right people, and staying innovative to maintain profitability.
  14. Herschel's early struggles with website functionality and missed opportunities taught them the importance of staying informed and proactive. The impact of Covid forced them to pivot and prioritize sustainability in their product line.
  15. Herschel's success story teaches us that a combination of hard work, timing, and seizing opportunities can lead to incredible results, even in the face of challenges.
  16. How I Built This emphasizes the importance of persistence, creativity, and innovation in building a successful business, while showcasing the wide range of opportunities available for aspiring entrepreneurs.

📝 Podcast Summary

The Power of Brands: Creating Emotional Connections for Success

Brands have the power to evoke strong emotions and create a sense of nostalgia. We often gravitate towards timeless and classic products that give us a feeling of comfort. Companies are aware of this and use it to their advantage when rebranding or launching new products. Herschel's Supply Company, for example, successfully tapped into this sentiment by creating bags that felt like they had been around for decades. This strategy resonated with consumers and led to the brand's success. It's important for businesses to understand the emotional connection that consumers have with certain brands and products, as it can greatly impact their purchasing decisions.

Following their passions through unexpected paths

Both Lyndon and Jamie Cormack had a strong passion for sports and adventure, which guided their career paths. Lyndon initially pursued a dream of playing in the NHL, but soon realized it wasn't attainable. Meanwhile, Jamie took a path towards becoming a mountain guide, indulging in his love for mountaineering. However, a pivotal conversation with his boss made him rethink his plans and pursue education in the city instead. Despite the challenges, they found ways to channel their passions by starting a skateboard and snowboarding magazine called Sequence. While it may not have been a financial success, the experience of creating something meaningful was deeply rewarding. This highlights the importance of adapting and finding alternative paths to pursue one's passions.

From Conversations to Creation: The Story of Lyndon and Jamie's Bag Company

Lyndon and Jamie's friendship and constant communication allowed them to brainstorm ideas and share their passion for the outdoor sports industry. They frequently started conversations with "wouldn't it be cool" and this sparked numerous amazing (and some terrible) ideas. Their conversations revolved around finding a gap in the market, specifically in the bag category. They realized that there wasn't a bag that perfectly suited their generation's needs, one that was simple, high quality, and versatile. They drew inspiration from minimalist aesthetics in Japan and aimed to create a bag that could be dressed up or down. This realization ultimately paved the way for the founding of their successful bag company.

Creating Simpler, Sophisticated, and High-Quality Backpacks

The founders of the company, Lyndon and Jamie Cormack, saw an opportunity in the market for backpacks that were simpler, more sophisticated, and higher quality. They noticed that many existing brands had backpacks with unnecessary features and higher price points. Through conversations and bouncing ideas back and forth for about a year, the idea of creating their own company centered around this concept of a better backpack kept getting stronger and stronger. They decided to dip their toes into the business while still holding onto their day jobs, which provided them with insights into the industry and retail changes. It was important for them to have an insurance policy, so they kept their jobs. They started by thinking about the story and the essence of the product, and simultaneously worked on its actual design.

Classic Aesthetic with a Modern Twist

Herschel Supply Company's success lies in their ability to combine a classic aesthetic with a modern twist. The founders, Lyndon and Jamie Cormack, drew inspiration from their experience working with well-established brands and applied that knowledge to create a brand that would stand the test of time. They understood the importance of branding and carefully cultivated the image of a long-standing company, even though they were relatively new in the market. They also focused on providing utility and functionality, stripping away unnecessary elements to deliver quality products. Unlike other backpack brands, Herschel Supply Company aimed to create a sentimental value for their customers by recognizing the unique emotional connection people have with their bags.

Creating Value and Differentiation in the Bag Market

Jamie and Lyndon Cormack saw an opportunity to disrupt the bag market by creating a brand that added value and differentiated itself from traditional bag companies. They wanted to create a buying experience similar to that of shoe companies, which were known for their segmentation, collaborations, and storytelling. They recognized that bags were often seen as a last-minute purchase at stationary or big box stores, while other fashion items like sneakers had dedicated spaces and passionate followings. By designing bags that combined a stripped-down aesthetic with modern features, the Cormack brothers aimed to solve a problem they faced themselves and cater to a market that valued functionality and style.

Overcoming Manufacturing Challenges to Pursue a Vision

Jamie and Lyndon Cormack had a clear vision for their brand, but lacked the knowledge and expertise in manufacturing. They had to resort to buying and cutting apart existing products to understand the process. With a crude mood board and basic sketches, they reached out to their connections and found manufacturers in China. However, their initial attempts to get responses from these factories were unsuccessful. They had to turn to Google and email hundreds of companies with their PDF. Eventually, they received responses and found a manufacturer willing to make their first samples. Despite the financial challenges, the brothers were determined to pursue their vision and had the financial stability from their jobs to support their venture.

The Cormack Brothers' Dedication and Risk-Taking Drive Herschel's Success.

The Cormack brothers were willing to make sacrifices and take risks in order to make their business, Herschel, a success. They didn't pay themselves during the early stages of the business and operated without offices or significant expenses. Their oldest brother also invested money into the business, showing support and belief in their entrepreneurial venture. When the initial samples from the Chinese manufacturer were disappointing, they didn't give up. Instead, they decided to take a trip to China to personally work with the manufacturer and ensure the quality and aesthetic they desired. This shows their dedication and willingness to go the extra mile to create a successful product.

Overcoming Challenges and Making an Impression at a Trade Show

The Cormack brothers faced multiple challenges and deadlines while preparing for their first trade show in New York City. They had a limited timeframe of two to three months to create samples for display, and communication barriers at the facility made the process even more challenging. However, their time at the facility was crucial in shaping their brand and understanding their products through touch and feel. At the trade show, they encountered unexpected obstacles, such as an apparel rack in their booth instead of shelves for their bags. Undeterred, they improvised by using pallets to construct their own booth. This experience taught them the importance of adaptability, resourcefulness, and perseverance in overcoming obstacles and making a strong impression in the industry.

Embracing authenticity and serendipity in business

Sometimes unplanned, organic connections can lead to incredible opportunities. When Jamie and Lyndon Cormack showed up at a trade show without any appointments, they were able to attract the attention of potential customers and retailers simply through their unique aesthetic and genuine story. They didn't need to rely on traditional methods of reaching out and scheduling appointments. This approach allowed them to connect with influential retailers like Urban Outfitters and Nordstrom, leading to significant orders and valuable connections. It's a reminder that being authentic and letting your brand speak for itself can often be more effective than following a strict, scripted plan. The Cormack brothers' experience serves as proof that sometimes, serendipity and a bit of courage can open doors to success.

Adapting and Calculated Risks: The Success Story of Herschel Supply Co.

Jamie and Lyndon Cormack's determination and willingness to adapt were key factors in the success of their company, Herschel Supply Co. Despite initial challenges, such as being told by a buyer that the store didn't sell backpacks, the Cormack brothers were not discouraged. They convinced the buyer to place an order, which eventually led to Nordstrom becoming one of their largest customers. Additionally, when faced with the need to finance their first big orders, they had important discussions about the potential risks and rewards. They took calculated risks by ordering extra units, which paid off in the end. Furthermore, the Cormack brothers recognized the value of being associated with well-established retailers like Urban Outfitters, as it helped validate their brand. Their strategy of letting others tell the story of their brand through multi-brand retail settings proved successful. By being adaptable and strategic, the Cormack brothers were able to navigate challenges and grow their company.

Creating a familiar and timeless brand

Herschel aimed to create a sense of familiarity and timelessness, even though they were a startup and not an old resurrected brand. They wanted customers to feel like they had seen the brand before and have memories of it. While they didn't try to trick people, they took inspiration from brands that had stood the test of time and wanted to create a similar aesthetic in 2010. Despite selling around 8,000 bags in their first year, they faced challenges in global logistics and had to figure out how to ship bags from the factory to warehouses. Both founders eventually quit their day jobs, with Jamie joining Lyndon six months later, and their goal was to make bags a year-round business rather than just seasonally.

Growing Through Calculated Risks and Adaptation

Herschel Supply Co. experienced significant growth and success by taking calculated risks and adapting to changing market demands. They initially took risks by selling extra stock and expanding into new seasons of the bag market. They also established international relationships and attended trade shows to expand their reach globally. As the company scaled up, they brought in the right people to build out departments and ensure stability in operations. Despite the rapid growth, Herschel remained profitable by maintaining a grassroots and bootstrapped approach. Additionally, they recognized the importance of innovation and staying ahead of the competition by introducing new product categories that aligned with their brand's purpose-driven design.

Overcoming Challenges and Adapting Strategies: The Herschel Story

Herschel faced challenges with their website and online sales in the early days, as they made the mistake of having items disappear and go to dead links when they sold out. This was evident when their top-selling duffle bag got on Oprah's wishlist and sold out instantly, but they were unaware of it due to the dead link. Looking back, they realized this missed opportunity could have helped them even more in the early days. Furthermore, the impact of Covid was not positive for Herschel, as their products catered to people going to school, work, gyms, festivals, and trips. This setback forced them to make tough decisions and reevaluate their strategies, leading them to focus on using recycled materials for their products.

From Challenges to Success: Herschel's Journey Towards Impact and Sustainability

Herschel Supply Company's success can be attributed to a combination of hard work, timing, and luck. Despite facing challenges during the pandemic, the brand made a bold decision to prioritize impact and sustainability by switching over 95% of their fabrics and materials to sustainable options. This decision required the entire team to work together, from costing to sourcing to manufacturing. As the world emerges from the pandemic, Herschel is back in business, benefiting from the hybrid work environment and the need for functional bags to carry laptops and belongings. The co-founders believe that luck plays a role in success, but it is the hard work and ability to seize opportunities that truly drive momentum. Their journey serves as a reminder that timing and taking action can lead to incredible results.

Gaining insights into the journeys of successful entrepreneurs and finding inspiration for your own entrepreneurial journey.

The How I Built This podcast offers valuable insights into the journeys of successful entrepreneurs and serves as a source of inspiration for aspiring business owners. With episodes highlighting the stories of founders who built iconic companies, listeners can gain valuable knowledge about the challenges and triumphs of entrepreneurship. The podcast also emphasizes the importance of persistence, creativity, and innovation in building a successful business. Additionally, by featuring diverse industries and businesses, How I Built This showcases the wide range of possibilities and opportunities that exist for individuals with entrepreneurial aspirations. Whether you're a fan of startups or simply intrigued by the process of building a business, this podcast can provide valuable lessons and inspiration for your own entrepreneurial journey.