No. 254: An Open Letter to DNVB CEOs


Pictured: Outdoor Voices, led by Founder Tyler Haney

Estimado director general de la DNVB,

You deserve more praise. I worked alongside one of your kind for a time. I learned a lot about the personal costs of building a product and then a brand from scratch. Frankly, the costs are high.

By the time that people know who you are and what you’ve accomplished, demand is probably already there. That $3-5M in revenue is as close to automatic as it gets. In fact, that accomplishment has lost its luster. Now it’s on to $15-25M. But people rarely see what you had to go through to get to that $1M mark.

What people don’t know is that DNVB executive teams build two products from scratch, supply and demand:

  1. The product: the shirt, or the luggage, the pants, the shades, the coats, or whatever it is that people know you for.
  2. The brand: the aura of that product, the name recognition, the association, the behind-the-scenes partners, the spokeswomen, the ambassadors, the inevitability of success.

You stressed over supply chain woes. You cried some nights. Your cofounder or your creative director drove you nuts because they didn’t realize how close the company was to crumbling.

You stressed over cash flow problems. You cried some more. Your job was equal parts: (1) innovating and (2) just figuring it out.

You stressed over the difficulties of getting Trent, the very normal VC, to see your vision early. Some DNVB’s paths were easier than others. But yours was not easy at all. Absolutely nothing was given. And still, you held it together.

And after all that, you managed your minimum viable product. You were in possession of 10,000 units that people didn’t really want because those units weren’t close to the fifth-generation products that are on the market today. That first-generation of leggings just weren’t that great. So you relied upon the brand to get you through those days. You managed to convince consumers, retail / tech media, and investors that your success would be inevitable. And that your brand will be around for 100 years. They felt the impact of those statements and they agreed with you. But everyone that reads this knows that the mirage was hard to keep it up in the beginning.

“We may not be great today but we will be. Buy in early.”

Turning a logo into a greater meaning takes a decade and you had to do it before those 10,000 units of first-gen mediocrity bled you dry.

So here we are, years later and it’s still hard – but it’s not as hard as it was. There are dozens of DNVB CEO’s, just like yourself, who understand the toils of creating supply and demand for your company. And then stressing over the balance between the both of those products.

DNVB CEO’s run brands that are relatively lean and almost always running at a deficit. You don’t have the ad budgets and marketing forces like the legacy companies or the software platform. But you survive. And once you make enough noise, retail pundits will call you on your inefficiencies and inexperience. They’ll actually root against you. That’s what retail ‘experts’ do. But please know that many of us praise what you’ve accomplished in such a short period of time.

You started your company in an age that required your retail independence. On day one, your brand couldn’t depend on wholesale purchases from Nordstrom or Target or Whole Foods or Walmart. And that independence made you more viable in the long run. And now, those retail powerhouses are now knocking at your headquarters’ door.

So please, continue to innovate. And when you’re emotionally or mentally maxed out, remember that your companies will be the foundation upon which the future of retail is built. People will wear you, consumers will shop you, and malls will bend over backwards to work with you.

And then, the retail experts will reluctantly write that your brand successes were inevitable all along.

See more of the issue here.

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