About the Guest:Meet our latest guest Philly Nicks. Philly Nicks founded YHF, in 2015 in LA to make sunglasses and has successfully grown the business since. Just in the last year alone, 2017, YHF has grown 100% in revenue. His sunnies are available at major retailers like PacSun, ASOS, Lulus, LF Stores, Toby, Dolls Kill, and so much more. In this podcast, Philly shares what has driven his successes both in attitude and in sales savvy and how he was inspired to name his brand “You Have Failed.”
Finding your niche is important for success“I come from the t-shirt background from the men streetwear and I really found a niche. I only saw expensive glasses or cheap sunglasses. And I saw that there was an opening in, you know, somewhere in the middle and to still speak to the crowd that I know, to still speak to the guys I know, and the ladies as well.”
Doing research and being prepared pays off“I would tell them [new brands] to do a lot of research, put themselves out there. Definitely when I first started I went to every single trade show even before, you know, I couldn’t get in, I would sneak, find some ways to sneak in just to be part of the culture. I remember calling Shiekh Shoes when I had my first brand and I will call them every single day because I wanted to be in their retailer. And then finally, I had the opportunity to get in the door.”
It takes work to keep up with retailers, but wholesale orders can boost revenue“So, what brings in a lot of the sales for YHF are, I wanna say with our retailers it’s definitely been, you know, it takes work to upkeep and to keep, you know, the retailers happy, and to keep producing new goods. You constantly definitely have to be putting out new things and new lookbooks, new campaigns. And then for our consumer side, we’re definitely focusing on that with Facebook ads and Instagram ads.”
Telling a brand story sell your lifestyle and your products“I don’t want YHF to only be sunglasses. I want it to be a lifestyle and what we sell is sunglasses. So, I want people to get to know what we are as a culture and we really represent for Los Angeles in the West Coast and, you know, we wanna show the West Coast vibe.
Subscription boxes are a big trend in the industry“I feel like the industry’s definitely headed two ways. It’s definitely headed straight to consumer on your website and, you know, helping Facebook ads and Instagram ads to the marketing, and subscriptions. Subscription boxes have been so successful pretty much. We are working on subscription boxes also for YHF … And that’s what I’ve seen a lot, we’re like, FabFitFun with Rachel Zoe. With all this subscription boxes. They’re able to offer at a lower cost and get you the most product for your bang for your buck.”
Here is a transcript of the whole conversation. Some of this will not appear in the final podcast.
Amy: Welcome to another episode of the “Brandboom” podcast. My guest today is Philly Nicks who founded YHF in 2015 in LA to make sunglasses. You should know that YHF actually stands for “You Have Failed.” But Philly has done anything, but fail lately. Just in the last year alone, 2017, YHF have grown 100% in revenue. His sunnies are available at major retailers like PacSun, ASOS, Lulus, LF Stores, Toby, Dolls Kill, and so much more. He’ll share what has driven his successes both in attitude and in sales savvy. Philly, welcome to the podcast.
Philly: Hey, Amy. Thanks for having me.
Amy: Thank you for being here. Well, I just wanna rewind a little bit and talk about your name to start off with. You know, most people don’t embrace their failures. Let alone, put the word “fail” right in the company name. How did you get this attitude and how did this attitude help you succeed so far with YHF?
Philly: You know, Amy, I’ve been, you know, just like many entrepreneurs, we go through a lot of ups and downs, you know, on our way to success. And I really see it as just a mind state of how you look at things. So, with that being said, I had a brand called Rich Life and it ended pretty sour in a way where we were working with a licensing company and they’ve failed to let us know that they going bankrupt. We just booked Macy’s, we cannot fulfill those orders, and then everything trickled down from there.
You know, once you can’t fulfill orders, stores stop placing orders, and stop working with you. So, that’s what we ran into. And then, I took about two years off, I was doing marketing for a vodka company. I was out there in Las Vegas at this time helping a upstart company and then I just came up with the idea of wanting to create more, wanting to do more for me again, and that’s how YHF have come about. And then I pretty much came up with the name, You Have Failed by turning my fails into an opportunity to win and just keep going until I succeed.
Amy: That’s a really great attitude that, I think, everyone who’s listening right now should really look up to. Now, why sunnies, why sunglasses? It sounds like your background has, you know, other type of products that you were working on, licensing deals, and things like that. Why sunglasses?
Philly: So, yeah, I come from the t-shirt background from the men streetwear and I really found a niche. I only saw expensive glasses or cheap sunglasses. And I saw that there was an opening in, you know, somewhere in the middle and to still speak to the crowd that I know, to still speak to the guys I know, and the ladies as well.
Amy: So, with your sunglasses, you guys actually sell a story along with your sunnies. Is it by collection? How do you guys go about doing that as a strategy?
Philly: Every collection is very personal to me. I take experiences of my life into every single collection. Our last collection was girls and actually every name was an ex of mine.
Amy: That is so interesting. How many were there?
Philly: There are good [inaudible 00:03:39], but it wasn’t just like, you know, girls I’ve dated in the past, just taking…You know, I really wanted to take the opportunity to tell my story just through this collection.
Amy: Logistic that example and blow it up a little bit. So, are every single one of those sunglasses a representation of one of the ex’s that you date, their personality, you know, like your experiences with them, the way they dress, their style?
Philly: Yeah. It’s definitely all of above.
Amy: That’s amazing. And does the public know that this is the story behind a lot of your collections such as the one that you just told us about?
Philly: They don’t know. A lot of, you know, we don’t…We haven’t really put it out there like that. It is on our website and actually my partner, who’s my wife now, she came up with a lot of these great concepts as well with me.
Amy: Great that she’s willing to allow you to tell that story with the designs that she is conceptualizing with you and the campaigns it sounds like. And is your wife in charge of a lot of the relationships and partnerships with other designers, brands that powers some of these collaborations and campaigns that is driving YHF?
Philly: So, my wife helps me with a lot of the social media that we have going on and the relationships with a lot of the influencers that we have as well. And she helps just make sure that everything stays, you know, everyone stays happy, and that we could keep growing this along with my assistant, Karina.
Amy: How has the influencer marketing strategy, if you can just summarize for us, really helped launch YHF into the success that you’ve seen today? It’s only been two years, right? Since you guys have launched the brand.
Philly: When it first started it was based off of men streetwear because that was my background. And then, as I kept doing it, obviously, a lot of the girls wanted the sunglasses, you know, they wanted it. So then we put out our first capsule that were targeted towards women and then Rachel’s Zoe’s team contacted me through Instagram. So, we built a relationship with her and then within four months we had sunglass with them that was released exclusively through the Rachel Zoe’s Box of Style. And then after that, just everything kept rolling in.
Amy: Would you say that is one of the reasons why you were able to get into a larger retailers like PacSun, ASOS, Lulus, or is that something else that you guys also, you know, did simultaneously as you guys are doing all the influence or marketing, and partnership with Rachel Zoe?
Philly: So, yeah, it definitely was a opening, but we did our hard work, and we use our relationships that we’ve had throughout the years. And, you know, did the trade shows, we did the Agenda trade shows, the Magic trade shows, we put ourselves out there, a lot of e-mails, a lot of cold calls, a great team of sales reps. You know, we really use our relationships and the products spoke for itself of what we are offering. So, that is definitely one of the main reasons why there’s a lot of success. We took the opportunity and we owned it, we were prepared. And I always say that opportunity is when luck meets preparation. So, that is definitely what we did and what we focus on.
Amy: That is really really good. Hard work does pay off and sometimes people look at it and they’ll say, “That guy just got lucky.” But really, they don’t see the hard work that is being done day to night into the wee hours, right?
Philly: Exactly. It’s definitely been a long time coming. This is what I have focused on doing and I’m constantly working, you know, till I fall asleep, fall asleep on the couch with the laptop. It’s hard to turn it on and turn it off, and find that balance. But you definitely need to find that balance.
Amy: Well, how big is the team right now, Philly? You mentioned your wife, Karina, and it sounds like you have a field sales reps that also takes care of the relationship with the buyers. How big have you guys grown since 2015?
Philly: So we’re a very lean team. We are eight of us that work and operate daily. And then obviously we, you know, we outsource and we hire like, photographers, different people for, you know, different things. But there’s eight of us that are continuously working daily.
Amy: Excellent. And is your sales reps just for the sake of answering maybe some of the questions that our audience may have from listening so far? Are your sales reps also contractors or are they actually in-house?
Philly: So, two of them are in-house and then we have some contracted out.
Amy: Now, you know, in this day and age, you know, when everyone is starting their own brand, they have their own story to tell, they think they found a niche, and they want to test their products. And, you know, there’s all these options, there’s Shopify, you can build your social media, and you influencer strategy, and you can also go to trade shows and do indirect sales. If you were to sit down with the new entrepreneur who is starting their own brand just like you two years ago, maybe with or without some of these relationship that you have already fostered throughout the years, what kind of advice would you give that person? How would you recommend they basically diversify their efforts in all of these options available to us today?
**Philly**: I would tell them to do a lot of research, put themselves out there. Definitely when I first started I went to every single trade show even before, you know, I couldn’t get in, I would sneak, find some ways to sneak in just to be part of the culture. I will call Shiekh Shoes, I remember calling Shiekh Shoes when I had my first brand and I will call them every single day because I wanted to be in their retailer. And then finally, I had the opportunity to get in the door. I came prepared with a line sheet that I made, I came prepared with the t-shirts. And then the very first order, they placed a $30,000 order.
Amy: That’s an amazing story. So, you just kept calling and calling because you believed that your product belongs with them.
Philly: Exactly. I feel like there is…The only right way is to put yourself out there and be willing to be humiliated, be willing to, you know, have people look at you and say, “Dude, this dude’s crazy.” Because that’s how you learn and through that time you’ll learn, “Okay. This is what’s right, this is what’s wrong.” Because for everybody, they all had their own story and there is no right way of doing it.
Amy: For YHF specifically, your brand now is available in stores, physical stores, and also online like many other brands out there. Which side of that street do you find yourself working harder for the, you know, stores, you know, online or is it offline? Which is actually more important to you and brings in the most sale for YHF?
Philly: So, what brings in a lot of the sales for YHF are, I wanna say with our retailers it’s definitely been, you know, it takes work to upkeep and to keep, you know, the retailers happy, and to keep producing new goods. You constantly definitely have to be putting out new things and new lookbooks, new campaigns. And then for our consumer side, we’re definitely focusing on that with Facebook ads and Instagram ads. We definitely have been going very hard with Instagram ads lately and it’s been showing a lot of growth.
Amy: That’s great. You mentioned to me before we even started this podcast, that Aaron who was on our podcasts before is a really good friend of yours and he is also a big advocate for Instagram marketing.
Philly: Yes. He’s definitely who opened my eyes into seeing how successful it can be. When Aaron and I first met, he started talking to me about the Instagram ads as our relationship grew, and I just see it constantly of the growth of his company. And I was like, “All right, let me try that.” And it’s been shown improved. It definitely takes some time to manage the ads and, you know, to see what’s working, what’s not, and to go through that trial, but it’s definitely something that I recommend everybody using.
Amy: Fantastic. And it’s great to hear a second person saying the same thing in our podcast to really drive that point home for anyone who’s looking to succeed in that front. So, Philly, a few last questions because there’s so much good content. I just wanna sit here with you forever, but obviously, we don’t have that time. I just wanna understand your day-to-day. What gets you most excited to, you know, work on YHF and anything else that is going on in your life? Like, do you actually go in and manage the Instagram ads because that excites you or is it something else, are you designing, you know, the campaigns or the collections? What are you most excited about doing?
Philly: So, I am super excited about what we’re working on right now and we’re actually working on a new YouTube channel. It’s gonna be called “She’s So LA” and it’s gonna be our pretty much TV show that we’re gonna be working for YHF. We wanna bring out a new episode every week on Mondays and I’m so excited for that.
Amy: And why YouTube? You know, we mentioned Instagram, we talked about Facebook, and retailers and all that. Why YouTube and why a show?
Philly: I don’t want YHF to only be sunglasses. I want it to be a lifestyle and what we sell is sunglasses. So, I want people to get to know what we are as a culture and we really represent for Los Angeles in the West Coast and, you know, we wanna show the West Coast vibe. So, with the show, we definitely have been putting a lot of time into it to get that out to everybody so they could be like, “Yeah, where is the favorite restaurants? Where do we go?” And we’re working obviously with a lot of cool hotels, a lot of cool people are behind us, and just so excited to get it out.
Amy: When will this be available so then I can go check it out?
Philly: So, we’re gonna have it out before Christmas time.
Amy: So, it sounds like that is going to be one of the biggest pushes for you guys in 2018.
Philly: Yes. The show and then just over all go harder with content, with video, with more campaigns, and a lot of more collaborations also on the way with some very, very popular people. And we’re just so excited for what’s in store for even for next year.
Amy: Subscription is something that you had mentioned before to me. And I just wanna understand, you know, for entrepreneurs out there that are not familiar with subscription, what is that business like for any brand particularly, you know, in the accessories arena such as sunglasses?
Philly: So, I feel like the industry’s definitely headed two ways. It’s definitely headed straight to consumer on your website and, you know, helping Facebook ads and Instagram ads to the marketing, and subscriptions. Subscription boxes have been so successful pretty much. We are working on subscription boxes also for YHF and what that is is you’ll be able to choose, you know, your gender and choose what colors you love, you know, tell us a little bit about you, and then every month we’ll be able to send you a new pair of sunglasses along with a custom case and a custom t-shirt from us as well.
And that’s what I’ve seen a lot, we’re like, FabFitFun with Rachel Zoe. With all this subscription boxes. They’re able to offer at a lower cost and get you the most product for your bang for your buck.
Amy: And is this something that is also at the very core of how you will project your business revenue in the near future?
Philly: Yes, it is.
Amy: Amazing, amazing. This is fantastic, Philly. I can’t believe that within two years, you’re able to take all of the learnings and I guess failures in the past, and apply them to build this blooming business that extends outside of sunglasses, but now, into t-shirts and lifestyle, and even a YouTube channel, as well as all these amazing collaborations that will eventually turn into subscriptions, where people are so addicted to it that they will want something from you every single month.
Thank you so much, Philly. It was such a pleasure speaking with you and so great to hear that you’ve done so much with the brand.
Philly: Thank you so much, Amy.
Amy: Yeah, absolutely. If you need anything from Brandboom from a business perspective, just hit me up anytime.
Philly: Definitely. Yeah. We’ve been on your platform for awhile and I’ve had it on there since, like, I pretty much have started even with the old brands that I’ve done, I’ve always used Brandboom.
Amy: Man, that’s great.
Philly: Perfect. Thank you.
Amy: So, that’s the Brandboom podcast for today. If you like the episode, please make sure to hit the subscribe button and share it with a friend. Visit us on SoundCloud for new episodes and go to brandboom.us for show notes and more. I’m Amy Zhou, and thanks again for listening.