Brian Jones

Know Your History or No Future: Part Four – STUN

16 November 2012, 02.25 | Posted in Uncategorized | No comments »

If anyone has payed attention to this series of interviews I’ve created, you would get what the hell I am doing with this and why I created this series in the first place. Know Your History or No Future is really for the uneducated, the people who want to start a brand, but don’t really know how to do it. It’s a learning lesson! Flip through the other interviews with Chris Cole and Omit, Ryan Kingman with Stance and James Gillette for his brand, James Haunt. They’re all lessons to see where these people have been and why they’ve created what they’ve created.

I wouldn’t be doing this learning lesson justice by only interviewing industry veterans and well known artists – this one’s for the little guy, the dudes that creep when you’re sleeping and end up taking over a fair share of market from the big guys that can’t get their asses away from their 5-tier approval system before anything happens. This world moves too fast for that shit now and you will continue to see the big dogs fall if they don’t start reacting faster to this digital world.

Ryan and Peter are perfect examples of this with their sunglass brand, STUN. I found them when my little nephew came over to my house wearing a pair and being the industry nerd that I am, I quickly looked them up to see who they were. I was blown away, not only do the sunglasses look pretty fresh, the quality was similar to an $80 pair and they were only selling them for $20 on their website. And…they have over 200 fucking thousand fans on Facebook. I instantly looked at competitors like VonZipper, SPY, etc., and they have yet to, or have barely broke, the 100K mark even-though they’ve been around for more than 10 years. What the fuck do these guys have that warrants this? I personally think it’s because they are doing it their way, and not what someone tells them what’s right or wrong with marketing. They’re not jaded! Enjoy the new learning lesson and stop sleeping!

So, give me some information about you guys, what’s your background?
Well, we both went to, and met at, the University of Arizona. We grew up around this culture and both skate, snowboard and surf, but were always just fans and customers. We never worked in the industry before we created STUN, I did the real estate thing for a bit working for the largest commercial real estate firm in the world and Peter worked for a ranch land development company. We always loved diving into new shit, like I rebuild old beach cruisers for fun and Peter loves to ride a café racer and restores hot rods. Creating STUN was just an extension of what we really loved to do which was live a free lifestyle.

STUN

How/when did STUN start and where did the name come from?
Peter and I dabbled in some entrepreneurship early in college by purchasing shoes in bulk from Nordstrom’s Last Chance and reselling them online.  We’d drive up from school in Tucson to Phoenix, each grab 15-20 pairs of men’s shoes (anything from New Balance running shoes to Prada loafers) and put them on eBay when we returned that afternoon.  We’d each double, if not triple our money!  Beyond that, Peter was involved in the launch of a high definition portable camera company just after graduating.  He was bought-out by his partner after a couple of years and focused on the marketing gig for the developer for a number of years.  The bottom line is that we both wanted more out of our careers; Peter was driven by knowing the lifestyle that came from working for himself, and my drive was that I could no longer handle the negativity and fraternity mentality that came with the commercial real estate game in Arizona.  It didn’t matter how well I did or what business I brought in, I was 22 and in their world the 22 year old was on the bottom of the totem pole no matter what.

We talked about doing something on the side for quite a while when we came up with the idea of inexpensive sunglasses.  We’d been duped by other players in this segment who had great presentation online, amazing photos, great pricing, and when the products came in the mail they were absolute garbage.  We knew we could do it better, so we scraped a little dough together and took a chance.  The goal was honestly to have $100 extra each week to go out on the town with.  We never really anticipated going full-time, but after only a year, the demand warranted it. As far as the name STUN, we racked our brains for weeks on the name and it almost started as a joke.  “Let’s just called it STUNglasses… you know, just add a ‘T’ to sunglasses…”  I guess it stuck – people naturally shortened it to “STUN” as we began to grow.  We like it.

What made you guys want to enter the action sport/lifestyle market over going to straight fashion?
We love the lifestyle surrounding action sports because of its laid back nature and all-in attitude.  So we know what we like and gravitate towards, and that’s this segment.  Working in a two-man shop and working all angles from our marketing to graphic design to sales, we feel that focusing on the segment we know and the segment that speaks to us as consumers makes the most sense.  Besides, it’s more fun to come up with blog content and Facebook contests when you’re actually interested in the content!

STUN

Have you stayed on track with your initial vision for STUN or has it been adjusted over time?
The initial vision was to make some extra money for going out on the weekends.  Since we both entered the workforce right before the economy crashed and burned, we did what we had to do. We started with one model in 6 different color ways and have grown into multiple styles. We have a ton of color ways in our Prime model, higher end finishes and details, namely the hinges, apparel offerings and some very exciting new products on the way in the next couple of quarters. To answer the question directly: a fortunate “no.”  The original vision has been blown out of the water. We’ve been doing this full time for well over a year now. We‘ve got a warehouse doing our fulfillment, we’re in a number of action sports/lifestyle stores all over the world, and we continue to grow at a pretty rapid pace.

Do you currently have team riders or looking to add a team?
We’ve got a few people out there repping STUN as our team, but it’s definitely on the list to pump this more as we continue to grow.  As the brand grows organically, that is how we would like the team to grow as well. We definitely realize the importance of having the right people wear our product, but most of the time it seems to forced to us and most dudes don’t even wear what they’re getting paid to support.  The most important thing for us is that whoever rides for us actually enjoys and uses our products in real life.

How are you looking to build the line for the future with retailers and online?
Stunglasses.com is our bread and butter, but we’re always thinking of new ways to get board shops and other retailers to carry our line.  Our vision is to have STUN grow as large as possible while keeping the boutique feel and approach.  We’ve learned from the wholesale deals we’ve done thus far, that every shop that carries our goods has only positive things to say.  We’re always looking for solid sales reps who can sell STUN for us in key markets in the US and abroad.  We think it’s a relatively easy sell since we’re not a huge gamble, especially when a shop is writing a $5000 deal for the season’s hottest snowboards or wetsuits.

In terms of the online world, we’re on Amazon.com and Karma Loop, but we like selling direct the best as it gives us most control and ability to monitor stock.  However, we’re always open to new retailers because we’re certain that all parties in the deal will have a great experience, especially the customer.

STUN

Is there a reason you went for a low-cost sunglass over your average $85 – $100 pair?
We try to make products for our time, which not only speaks to our designs and color ways, but also the price point. Our focus on an active lifestyle definitely lends itself to a high-quality and durable product but the fact remains that all shades will get lost and damaged regardless of the price.  At $20-$30 the story of dropping your shades off the chairlift into 5 feet of powder, or your chick sitting on them when she’s drunk, is funny – not heartbreaking.  We do plan to grow our line into a broader range of pricing in the future, but most likely never in the range of $85-$100.  Eyewear markups have gotten so ridiculous that people have gotten fed up and have often gone to super cheap shades, but are replacing them constantly due to faulty quality.  We’re here to bridge the gap.  We’ll most likely bring our next model of shades, the Cloak, to market at $40 or so and it’s easily comparable to a $100 + pair of glasses.

There have been some other lines similar to hit such as Brigada and Glassy in the same price-point category, how are you making your mark in this category for STUN?
Our focus is to pull people from the $80+ market space, making them realize they’ve been overpaying for years on what they’re actually getting.  Shades used to be either cheap and generic or higher priced and branded.  The market of branded eyewear at $20 is fairly new and STUN has a big enough chunk to have a hand in shaping where the market goes over the next few years.  That being said, we differentiate because we have products for everyone; Prime polarized for the tech-savvy, STUN Penny for the ladies, STUN Blends for the creative types, and the Director’s Cut for the creepers.

Most people find it pretty amazing that you have over 210K Facebook fans in your short 1 year existence when you have competing brands such as SPY, Arnette, Von Zipper, etc. that have been in the game for a long time, but have yet to reach, or have barley reached the 100K mark. What’s your secret and how important is social media to STUN?
We have 210k Facebook fans?!  We approach social media very casually; we’re not posting stuff on a schedule or hitting you up with something meaningless 3 times a day.  We like to get people involved with questions and answers, funny what-if stories, and obviously some exclusive sales and specials. Additionally, we find Facebook’s ad system to be the best because of how comprehensive it is.  You can really drill down to the people you want to get in front of; whether it’s approaching people who are into your competitor, targeting those who are into other action sports brands or even simply activities we promote with our lifestyle piece.  We can also test out our brand’s flavor on other segments of the market without focus groups and traditional methods, which is helpful in managing our growth.

STUN

Are you focusing your efforts in any event sponsorships or advertising to help your growth as well?
At the moment, our dollar is best spent on marketing through the internet.  Never has there been such a comprehensive tool for finding your perfect customer, mostly based on age and other similar interests that suggest they’re into the same things we love.  We’ve tried sponsoring events in the past, such as surf competitions in Southern California, but it hasn’t really panned out for us like the internet.  Also, it’s nearly impossible to track; we can throw 3 grand to sponsor an event and walk away saying something like, “well… that just happened… now what?”   Alternatively, with online marketing, we can take a certain message and put it in front of a very specific group of people, then find out the next day by looking at link tracking, whether it was worth our while.  Eventually they’ll all work together and become necessary to grow our brand, but for now we prefer online initiatives.

Where would you like to see STUN in the next 5 years and how will your current business model change over that time to achieve your goal?
We’d like to see STUN continue growing on our current trajectory, which is more than either of us could really hope for.  As we do grow, we know the business model may change a little bit, but we try to remember where we’ve been and not only focus on where we’re headed.  Specific to our growth effort is attempting to ramp up our retail showing.  We want to be in every skate shop, surf shop, and bad-ass boutique possible, but this will take boots on the ground.  We may even find ourselves as managers of other people (not just ourselves) as time goes on and STUN grows into a household name in youth outdoor culture. Most importantly were humbled by our rapid growth and don’t throw around flashy shit in peoples faces. We just want to continue on the pace we’ve been going.

Thanks to Ryan and Peter for taking the time to speak with me. After reading this again and again when I was editing the interview, what I learned is if you don’t try you’ll never know, so try for christ sake! You can fall 5 times, but you will get up 6!

To check out STUN online go here: http://www.stunglasses.com
To check out STUN Facebook here: http://www.facebook.com/stunglasses

Story by Brian Jones.
Photos provided by STUN.

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