Jason invited Kenny Haisfield, founder of Kenny Flowers onto the show to delve deep into the philosophy of creating high quality apparel with an authentic story and coherent lifestyle focus. Together, they go behind Kenny’s founding story of recreating his father’s vintage Hawaiian shirt to what it means to grow a lifestyle business year over year, how to make room for emotional investment in the brand, and why quality allows businesses to level up alongside their customers to create a lifelong relationship. This episode is sponsored by Varos. Get started for free by typing WONG into the referral field at https://www.varos.com/
In this episode of Ecommerce Building Blocks, Jason talks with Kenny Haisfield about not just the origin story of Kenny Flowers, but how his company has evolved over the last seven years. It started with one shirt, but what was the timeline from the initial idea to where the company is now, with multiple verticals. And what was the focus on each year of that journey? Kenny attributes much of his success to being very clear not just on what he wanted to make but the reason why he wanted to make this product. He believes that focusing on every aspect of a customer’s experience of a product is the definition of both quality and of what it truly means to make a lifestyle brand. If a customer feels that something was created with them in mind, they will have a genuine experience with the product. This leads Jason and Kenny to talk about the marketing approaches Kenny’s company has taken which are designed to create a specific mentality and feeling that a customer can take with them wherever they go. This aligns back to the quality that Kenny wants to educate his customers about so that they can see that this lifestyle is more than just aspirational marketing and is about enjoying time spent with his products.
Kenny’s business: kennyflowers.com
Kenny’s instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kennyhaisfield
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🍍Jason’s twitter: https://twitter.com/EggrolI
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Kenny Haisfield founded Kenny Flowers based on one Hawaiian shirt and has now expanded the line to Mens and Women's swimwear and resortwear, along with golf polos, accessories, and a newly launched children's apparel line. Kenny and his wife/business parnter live the Kenny Flowers lifestyle, showcasing their threads, and telling the brands journey along the way.
[00:00:00] Kenny Haisfield: End of the day. It doesn't matter what type of product or business you have. If you don't understand your customer, you're just going to be making product for the sake of making product.
[00:00:09] Jason Wong: I think being an authentic brand has become a buzzword. You have to embody your mission and core principles in everything
[00:00:15] Kenny Haisfield: that you do.
[00:00:16] Kenny Haisfield: As our business is growing, you know, that's great. The business is changing, but the brand and the core essence is the same.
[00:00:35] Jason Wong: This episode is brought to you by Varos, where I've been a happy user for nearly a year. At doe lashes, our digital marketing and Shopify metrics have been fluctuating like crazy. First iOS 14, then the pandemic, then supply chain breakdown, war, and now the economy. I often find myself asking, is it just our CAD going up or is everyone else's too?
[00:00:53] Jason Wong: That's why I, along with many other founders in my network started using Varos. With Varos, I'm able to [00:01:00] maximize performance by seeing Facebook, Google, and Tik Tok metrics like CPMs, Kat, and click through rates from over 700 other DTC brands in real time. And yes, I said 700. Every company gets a custom competitive set by vertical, AOV, and spend, so you can compare it to an aggregated and anonymized set of companies just like yours. Varos is free for podcast listeners for a limited time. So join now at Varos.com. That is VAROSTo get grandfathered into the free plan, just write Wong in the referral field.
[00:01:31] Jason Wong: Hello, everyone. Welcome back to another episode of building blocks podcast. Today, I'm joined by Kenny Haisfield, who is the founder of Kenny Flowers. Welcome to the show.
[00:01:40] Kenny Haisfield: Thanks for having me on today. It's great to be here, Jason.
[00:01:44] Jason Wong: I was just talking to you before we started recording and I'm like, you came in decked out in your own products. Is the hat from you guys too?
[00:01:52] Kenny Haisfield: You know, it's not, but it's actually a brand I like, and we're about to start wholesaling it on our own site [00:02:00] because it does kind of complete the look.
[00:02:01] Jason Wong: Did you know that there's a software that you can use that allows you to sell other people's products on your site?
[00:02:07] Kenny Haisfield: I started to hear about that and, I know I've seen a couple other brands doing it, so I mean, as we're starting to build out our own ecosystem, it's really exciting to yeah find brands that work hand in hand. And it's just a better experience for the customers too.
[00:02:24] Kenny Haisfield: Yeah. I'll,
[00:02:24] Jason Wong: I'll reach out to you offline about this product, because I've seen like blender bottles, like people sell blend, blender bottles, instead of making their own line of recipes, they're able to sell other people's recipes: their blends, acai bowls, frozen bananas it's up on their site.
[00:02:38] Jason Wong: And the orders that gets made through for those order gets sent to you to the respective stores and you just get a cut from it. And that way you don't have to buy wholesale anymore. Just better for cash. Anyways, got a little off track.
[00:02:50] Jason Wong: Yeah. I'll tell you more about it later, but congratulations on your new baby. How's that
[00:02:57] Jason Wong: going?
[00:02:57] Kenny Haisfield: Oh, you know, it's going well so [00:03:00] far, my, my wife's an absolute trooper right now and just, you know, enjoying the process. We got a little bit of travel in but now we're just coming down the home stretch. We're about a month away from our due date. So really it could happen at any time.
[00:03:15] Jason Wong: Oh man. Like that that's like nerve wracking, right? Cause you don't know exactly when the due date is. It could be, you know, two weeks from now or actually on a due date, right?
[00:03:23] Kenny Haisfield: Yeah. I think my whole team would love to know exactly when it would happen so they know what I'm going to be offline for a bit.
[00:03:30] Jason Wong: Oh, well hopefully you get that through.
[00:03:32] Jason Wong: I've actually talked to so many founders on this podcast who are new parents or have been parents for a little bit. And they said, it's the best joy of their life. It's you know, you thought building your own company was great. But wait, till you have like, like a literal creation in your hand.
[00:03:45] Kenny Haisfield: Exactly.
[00:03:46] Kenny Haisfield: I mean, I've been saying Kenny Flowers is like my baby for a while, so I can't wait until I, you know, actually have a baby I'm sure it will be even more fulfilling.
[00:03:55] Jason Wong: I'm stoked about that. I nted to talk to you because you have a very, [00:04:00] very fascinating founder's story. And you guys went through the past few years, weathered through the pandemic, and, I wanted to ask you, like right now where your head is at in terms of growing your business. Is it more growing internally or externally or a little bit of both, like really what's getting you excited about the company's growth?
[00:04:18] Kenny Haisfield: Yeah. I mean, I think when you're growing a business it's really important to do so in a pretty synchronized fashion.
[00:04:25] Kenny Haisfield: So I would say even last year we were externally growing at a quicker pace than we were internally. So we've really been focusing these past few months on building up our team, figuring out where we're lacking a specific skill that could really help take us to the next level. And now that we're going into our highest season, you know, it's, it's summer, it's time to, you know, rock Kenny Flowers, go to the beach, even just wearing it on an Aloha Friday, remotely.
[00:04:57] Kenny Haisfield: It's really, it's really our chance to shine. [00:05:00] So I would say we've, you know, we've done a lot to, to really focus on our team and just the internal, you know, the internal side of things. We even all got together in Charleston a couple months ago. We had a team retreat at the end of last year, down in Punta Mita, Mexico, which was just really fun.
[00:05:19] Kenny Haisfield: And it just, you know, puts, puts a lot of character behind, you know, what's otherwise a fully remote team and you know, that in-person time really does matter. And yeah, now, I mean, since the, since the pandemic really hit, we've been on the offense and we've really been doing that because we're listening to our customers. They're ready for their next vacation. They're ready to, you know, actually go on this trip or this honeymoon that's been postponed a time or two now. And that's really what we're here to provide. So we, you know, like you mentioned earlier, I got a kid on the way, but also the brand's kind of evolved with me over the past few years.
[00:05:59] Kenny Haisfield: So now we just [00:06:00] launched our kids line, Kiddy Flowers, so the whole family can get in on the fun. And last year, we, we launched our country club line focusing on men's and women's polos. And now getting into more like country club sports apparel, et cetera.
[00:06:16] Jason Wong: I love that. And I mean, that whole vision makes sense.
[00:06:19] Jason Wong: You, you start from up top and now I think you're, you're noticing your audiences are having kids just like yourself. And that it's evolving with you. You know, you're building something that you've, you need, you're building a line where your kids can wear. And I love that. I listened to your previous podcast. And you talked about how each year of your business had certain sets of challenges, which is very typical, but not a lot of founders like to talk about these challenges. So I wanted to ask you, can you walk me through some of these hurdles that you had to do in the beginning and some of the things that you did to get over that?
[00:06:54] Kenny Haisfield: Yeah. I mean, I am a firm believer that, you know, it's a different business every year.
[00:06:59] Kenny Haisfield: [00:07:00] You know, in, in the first year, my main goal was just how can I make the best product possible? Which meant I was on the ground with the factory. We would be found in Bali Indonesia for nine months of the 12 months there. I had no capacity for marketing, no capacity for really any other aspect, besides let's make a great product and, you know, get this thing going. Luckily, by focusing on the product that allowed it to, once it started reaching our initial customers, it created buzz.
[00:07:32] Kenny Haisfield: People were getting compliments whenever they wore the shirt. And it just kind of reached the next wave of our audience from there until we started growing into a more holistic business, all around. I would say, yeah, the, you know, just getting started is, is a big part of it, but then you also have, you know, your second year, third year, when you feel like you should be bigger, you feel like there's like these next steps, but I kind of refer to [00:08:00] it a little of like a sophomore, I don't know about the sophomore slump, but it's just kinda like, okay. We've got a base. We want to grow more. What do we do? This is all new to us. So really, I mean, we're in our seventh year of operation now, and it's still the same way. Like there's new boundaries to, you know, to get over, new things to consider it every step of the way.
[00:08:24] Kenny Haisfield: For now, I mean, our, our biggest challenge is really you know, making sure that we're working towards a brand goal, which is being a product that everyone can enjoy. So even though we do have men's apparel, women's apparel, kid's apparel, we're putting a lot of attention to detail into it and making sure that like no customer is an afterthought essentially.
[00:08:47] Kenny Haisfield: Right. So, so that's been, the big thing is like you're growing multiple verticals now. You know, you have your core products that people attach to. You know, there might be the shirts or the swimwear that [00:09:00] you know, DJs are wearing, pool party attendees are rocking. You know, from maybe when we were getting started to now, we do have, you know, an audience that has elevated and grown up as well.
[00:09:12] Kenny Haisfield: Going on their honeymoons. And like you said, now, getting into having their first kids or having friends that have a kid and, you know, want to think of us in terms of what to gift.
[00:09:23] Jason Wong: Yeah. You has been around for seven years now. So there's a fairly high chance that you had a customer who's been with you when they're 23 and now at 30, they have their first kid and now they're gonna be outfitting their kids with Kenny Flowers, and that's probably a fairly fulfilling moment for you, right?
[00:09:39] Kenny Haisfield: I mean, it definitely is. The best parts about running, running this business is realizing how much support and how much love we've really gotten from our first customers or first fans. And, and seeing how that continues on today.
[00:09:55] Kenny Haisfield: I mean, we're, we would not be anywhere without their support. [00:10:00] Friends, first customers, and really getting the ball rolling there. And even today it's like, my wife and I like when we travel, it's like the absolute, most fulfilling thing ever to see a customer in the wild that's wearing Kenny Flowers on their vacation.
[00:10:17] Kenny Haisfield: We'll go up to them like starstruck a bit. Oh my gosh. Like, this is amazing. You are literally wearing Kenny Flowers or we'll have fun with their approach asking to, oh, wait, where'd you get that? That's a pretty cool suit. And either way it usually leads to beer or another run-in later that trip.
[00:10:34] Jason Wong: I love that. And you know, it's good to look at the wins now. And I do want to take a little step back at like how you guys started. Year one is always so tough for people. What are some of the things that you found to be the most crucial part of building the first year? Like when you first started this brand, what would those things that you did that really made a difference?
[00:10:54] Kenny Haisfield: I mean, I think it was in the beginning, understanding your customer. [00:11:00] Like end of the day it doesn't matter what type of product or business you have. If you don't understand your customer you're just going to be making product for the sake of making product. But I was really realizing at the time that there was a market need for what I wanted to go out there and make, which was a more modern version of a Hawaiian shirt that, you know, all of our dads used to wear back in the day.
[00:11:23] Kenny Haisfield: And I used to love wearing my dad's hand me downs, and that's what really led me to realize, huh? There's nothing here, but there's something about that feeling of putting that, the right shirt on a summer day. And just knowing that you're going to have a good day, you're just in the right mindset. And I wanted to spread that feeling, which is really what, what led to that.
[00:11:43] Kenny Haisfield: So I would say it, it, wasn't just wanting to create a better Hawaiian shirt. It was thinking about how to do so and why I was doing it , to every detail of our shirts. Like we have a sunglass loop in our front pocket. Because there's so many times where you go out [00:12:00] during the day and you go inside, you put your glasses in your pocket or you try to hang them from here and all of a sudden they're on the ground.
[00:12:07] Kenny Haisfield: So we were really just thinking through every aspect of the experience of wearing the shirt or using our product, not just, you know, not just trying to come up with cool designs and sell to the masses.
[00:12:19] Jason Wong: You know, I love that sunglass thing and it really shows the attention to detail you guys put into your products.
[00:12:26] Jason Wong: The pocket isn't deep enough for your whole glasses. So it's sticking out, you move around, it drops. You're probably having a button down when you're wearing shirts like that. You're not getting a button up. And so it's kind of like hanging midway down your chest. So the way that you think about these products as a user, like you're obviously weren't owning your products for the most of the time.
[00:12:46] Jason Wong: It's a good thing as a consumer to think that, Hey, this guy's designing something for me. It makes sense.
[00:12:51] Kenny Haisfield: Absolutely. I mean, I, and I think that real, like authenticity that our customer feels that like, Hey, there's real people behind this brand [00:13:00] designing real stuff for me. And they, they want me to go have an amazing time. The most special moments of their lives can be spent celebrating Kenny Flowers. It could be a destination wedding weekend. It could be a bachelor party, a bachelorette party. It could be, you know, a gift for someone it's grandpa's 90th birthday. You know, it's really a part of those moments. And, and we know that that's an honor to be a part of. So we do the best to show up.
[00:13:28] Jason Wong: I love that. I was actually talking to another founder, a few episodes back. He founded this company called Jambys have you heard of him?
[00:13:36] Kenny Haisfield: Yeah, I have, I actually met him when he was in Bali. Like five, six years ago.
[00:13:43] Jason Wong: That's crazy. So Jambys, I was talking to Andrew. There's I think there's another co-founder but, I was talking to Andrew Goble and he said, when he made Jambys he loved that it gave people a feeling of transforming themselves into a different space. [00:14:00] Like when you put on a pair of Jambys, you're chilling at home, you don't wear Jambys out. This is where you are able to chill and sit on a couch and really feel like you can relax.
[00:14:09] Jason Wong: And I feel like the same can probably be applied to you guys that when I could put on a, you know, a Kenny Flowers outfit, I'm on vacation. I feel like I'm in this space away from a nine to five job or away from like this, like this little building that has no windows. Like I am out there and you couldn't have that feeling, even if you're in those same places because it's what the outfit makes you feel. Right. And a lot of that probably comes from the lifestyle marketing you guys do, right?
[00:14:35] Jason Wong: Yeah.
[00:14:35] Kenny Haisfield: I mean, I, I couldn't agree more with you and, you know, really the for as tricky to na-, you know, the pandemic was very tricky to navigate. It was a different, you know, market and different ball game every day, it felt.
[00:14:49] Kenny Haisfield: But, it did teach us a lot as a young company and a company that really did want to establish ourselves. It taught us, you know, going into it we did think of [00:15:00] ourselves more as a vacation brand or, you know, these are the clothes that you wear when you go on your vacation. And what do you do when all of a sudden your customers are stripped of their vacations, you have to adapt.
[00:15:10] Kenny Haisfield: And we realized that the biggest power we had in 2020 was really bringing a positive energy there. It was really bringing vacation to you. So we, you know, adjusted, kind of found ourselves realizing, look there are customers out there that are having a gloomy day and all they want to do is have a Kenny Flowers shirt on, feel a little better about it, see the light at the end of the tunnel. You know, if they aren't actually out there on their own trips. So we we've really had a lot of, I mean, I don't want to say fun, but you, you know, it's been a good adventure, good experience adjusting in these past couple of years, and now it's just exciting to see people start to get a little bit more, you know, flexibility on how and where they can wear [00:16:00] Kenny Flowers.
[00:16:00] Kenny Haisfield: I
[00:16:00] Jason Wong: love that a lot. The adaption, because you know, you guys were very vacation focused. Like we're going to the Bahamas in my Kenny Flowers shirt. And the way, the fact that you have to rethink through that and that it actually came out better for you guys. Instead of creating an outdoor only experience is a framework, a mental framework experience. Like mentally, I want to be at a happier place, so I put on this outfit that brings me to that happy place, even if I'm not physically walking on this white sand beach and that, and that's
[00:16:31] Jason Wong: beautiful.
[00:16:32] Kenny Haisfield: That's beautiful to me too. It's why I dress this way every day.
[00:16:37] Jason Wong: You're always on vacation or at least in, in that little mindset. I want to go into the marketing side of it because, for an apparel brand, oftentimes people think that it's very necessary to have a lifestyle brand if you're selling apparel. Is this something that you feel aligned with or you have like a different take?
[00:16:56] Kenny Haisfield: I mean, I think for us, it really [00:17:00] just helps us connect better with our customers. I think. You know, it's obviously a word that's really easy to throw around.
[00:17:09] Kenny Haisfield: We're a lifestyle brand. We're like, you know, lifestyle, clothing, et cetera. But for us, it, it is really about like, I mean, just saying the word a different way. It's like, how do you style your life? How do you go about your day? What's your mentality around it? And I think ever since getting started, I would say my biggest driving force was just to like inspire people, to think a little differently, open up their mindset to be, be inspired to say a guy can quit his job and start a Hawaiian shirt company in Bali that, you know, I can take a chance or I can do a little something to, to adjust and make sure I'm living the way I want to. Not telling everyone to quit their job and do what I did. But, you know, finding, finding their versions of that, [00:18:00] I think are incredibly important.
[00:18:02] Jason Wong: Absolutely. I think that's a nice part of some inspiring stories as well. Like it really makes people invest into your brand emotionally, right?
[00:18:10] Kenny Haisfield: Yeah. And I mean, I always say, you know, as our business is growing, you know, that's great. The business is changing, but the brand and that core essence is the same.
[00:18:19] Kenny Haisfield: And I think that's like a really important thing to make and do where, like, we're going, we're going out into the world. We're designing you know, our collections , our swimwear based off the places we're going and the places we know our customers are going. And I think when, when brands do take that extra step of authenticity, you know, it's so easy for any company to say, oh, this is the Bali collection.
[00:18:47] Kenny Haisfield: When we designed the Bali, our Bali collection, it's actually, you know, made on the ground in Bali. It's helping out the local community. It's, you know, they're for people that live as, you know, [00:19:00] ex pats on the island, as well as those vacationing for a honeymoon, and being able to use that, that taste, that respect as well as that just pure you know, level of joy and excitement of being on a vacation. When we can embody that, I think it really creates a stronger product. And that really is why we've chosen to make our products on the ground in these tropical places is we want, we want people to feel like the vacation energy in every thread that they have.
[00:19:31] Jason Wong: I love that. That's awesome. Very beautiful. I think being an authentic brand has been, become a buzzword. Like, I think people have kind of lost the meaning of what it means to be an authentic brand. And I think for me, it's really about, you have to embody your mission and core principles in everything that you do and making sure that that is communicated to the customers and people actually understand that.
[00:19:55] Jason Wong: And I know that your, your sourcing and your product development process is quite [00:20:00] transparent with your customers. Like you talk about these things in public and, and how, how do you see like the reactions from customers like positively reacting to this or are they generally like, eh, I don't really know too much about this.
[00:20:13] Kenny Haisfield: Yeah. I mean, I think, I have two points on this, actually, the first one is really that, you know, I think it's, if you're claiming you make a high quality product, you have to teach your customers quality. You have to show them what that is what the difference is versus just slapping a word on it.
[00:20:34] Kenny Haisfield: And I think that we do that. And the reason why that's so important is once, once people do experience, you know, a shirt with a sunglass loop on it and that convenience, then it's hard to go back to a shirt that doesn't have a sunglass loop in it. And if you notice like our patterns, they align down, you know, down the front of the shirt exactly. You know, across the buttons. [00:21:00] And that is not as easy to do as just cookie cuttering, you know, 20, 30, 50 shirts at a time. And once you notice that, then you start to see the shirts that aren't made that way and are maybe you have less care to them. So, I mean, I think the biggest thing is teach your customers quality.
[00:21:19] Kenny Haisfield: Give them that reason. I would say it's some, and then the second point is just, yeah, I mean, It's something that's incredibly important to us, that transparency and being able to show what goes into it. Does every customer of ours care? No, some people just want, you know, the best prints that they can have.
[00:21:40] Kenny Haisfield: And, you know, we, they see an ad. They like what they see and then they're on board. But I think for a certain level of customer, they do like it. And we really try not to lead too much in the forefront with that, but more as like a, I don't want to say like post-purchase, but kind of be like a [00:22:00] actual benefit, that people receive after falling in love with our products for just the type of product that we create.
[00:22:09] Kenny Haisfield: Ever since the beginning, that was really, really important to me was, you know, I knew there were certain, you know, buy one we donate one, you know, type of models out there in the like social business world. And I think a lot of times that type of marketing can be done very authentically or it can just be done as a way to get a purchase.
[00:22:32] Kenny Haisfield: And I wanted people buying Kenny Flowers because they wanted Kenny Flowers. And being able to like evolve that meaning over time and give more depth and reason to it is less about getting first-time customers, but more just establishing a relationship where our customer can trust us, to make good products to, set them up for success.
[00:22:54] Jason Wong: I love that. I love that. Well, Kenny, congratulations on the new coming [00:23:00] baby. Congratulations on a new kids line. And it's a wonderful story that I've been following and I'm very, very blessed to be able to have you on our show. Where can we find you and where can we find your website?.
[00:23:11] Jason Wong: Yeah, absolutely.
[00:23:12] Kenny Haisfield: You can find Kenny Flowers at www.kennyflowers.com.
[00:23:18] Kenny Haisfield: We're on Instagram, @kennyflowers_, personally I'm @kennyhaisfield. You can see it in the bio of of the Kenny Flowers page. And yeah, I mean, we're online. We're starting to get into select boutiques around really around the U S and even world, which is exciting. So definitely be on the lookout for us.
[00:23:39] Kenny Haisfield: We're excited to keep growing and definitely appreciate you taking the time to have me on Jason.
[00:23:45] Jason Wong: You just heard an episode of the building blocks podcast. If you like what you heard subscribe below to keep hearing conversations that I have with brilliant marketers, founders and innovators on how they built their best ideas.
[00:23:55] Jason Wong: Now, if you want to learn how you can turn [00:24:00] your best ideas and build something massive out of it. Visit my website bbclass.co or follow my Twitter @eggroli.
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