EP21 – A warning story for brand founders: The bankruptcy & rebirth of Poler.com

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Kharma Vella is the Brand Product Director at Poler. Kharma was an original co-founder of the brand, and the creative mastermind behind some of Poler’s most notable products. He was ousted from the company by his partner, but rejoined in October of last year – post brand bankruptcy – as Poler prepared to relaunch under new ownership.

Originally founded in 2010, Poler is an outdoor brand that aims to fill the void between action sports and outdoor wear; they have been described as a lovechild of Volcom and Patagonia. Poler grew rapidly to high 7-figure revenues in 2016, then took a nosedive before filing for Bankruptcy in 2019. Now they are back. This is their story and the lessons they’ve learned. Kharma is passing them along in hopes that other brands avoid making the same mistakes.

Today you’ll learn what Poler did wrong. What happened at the peak of their growth in 2015-2016 (changes in leadership, operation, and marketing) that set them on the downward spiral towards bankruptcy? Most importantly, you’ll learn what they’re doing differently today to scale back up.

“It’s a warning story around trying to run a wholesale business along with a direct consumer online business and the importance of operations, logistics, and maintaining wholesale relationships.” – Kharma Vella

Some topics that were discussed include:

  • What is Poler? How do they position themselves?
  • Why their initial success was lucky – and how they leveraged Instagram to scale.
  • The source of the majority of sales (retailers/wholesale business)
  • How they built brand equity with Instagram, then used that branding to get into retail stores – their main sales channel.
  • The downfall of Poler – why wholesale demand declined (and why retailers stopped buying)
  • How operations/logistics issues killed the wholesale business, and the decline of sales that followed.
  • Moving Forward: How Poler is recovering after bankruptcy with their focus on product, sustainability and rebuilding the wholesale business

Contact Kharma Vella:

References & links mentioned:

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