EP5: How to Raise $5M from NBA Stars While Staying Grounded with Kory Stevens of Taft
In a culture dominated by the faceless entities of major shoe brands, and shameless customer pursuit through the endorsements of social platform influencers, to say Kory Stevens is a breath of fresh air would be an understatement. Kory is the founder and self-described “Accidental” CEO of Taft. Taft is a luxury men’s footwear company that has grown into an 8-figure business in two years, and garnered investments from NBA stars and noteworthy venture capitalists, while regularly releasing two to three new products per month. He has fostered a unique approach to supply chain and manufacturing, and maintains an incredible sense of priorities in the midst of success. Entrepreneurs, take notes.
“We make sure that we infuse the humanity of it all into our shoes.” – Kory
With many small businesses, the choking point is inventory. Taft’s strategy is to undersupply as they grow. Kory has made an intentional effort to build genuine relationships with all of his factories. Because of this, Taft is able to be on the offensive with planning and producing, rather than becoming stagnant with an unchanging selection.
As with most other businesses, Taft was impacted by the rise in customer acquisition costs on social media platforms in 2018. As they continue to grow, they are evolving in their efforts to be efficient, but still continue to build relationships with their social media following. They spent the first few years bootstrapping their business as interested VCs pursued them. Because they were patient, when they were ready to raise more funds, they were able to be selective with who they allowed to partner with their brand.
There are many aspects of Taft’s business model that help them to stand out from their competitors. Perhaps the most notable is their focus on the relationship. “We are human first,” Kory explains, always valuing relationships over sales. This mindset can be found in every realm of their business, from employees to customers, and even with their manufacturers.
Taft is a family-forward business. Kory, his wife, and the employees at Taft are intentional with their transparency in the business, and with their customers. As an entrepreneur, Taft dominates the discussions at home, Kory explains. However, when family is still the number one priority, work and home life can be integrated, rather than competing for attention.
Visit Taft’s website to learn more about their company, and to see their incredible selection of unique, quality footwear.
Some Topics we talk about in this episode:
- Introduction – 0:54
- Info about Cory and TAFT – 5:57
- Avoiding the Choking Point of Inventory – 11:12
- The Nice Guy Principles – 13:56
- TAFT and NBA Star Support – 19:34
- Business and Social Media Platforms – 25:03
- TAFT’s Scaling Strategy – 27:56
- Rising Customer Acquisition Costs – 30:22
- The Accidental CEO: Structuring Work/Life Balance – 33:17
- Wrap-up and Takeaways – 42:30
How to get involved:
- Join the community of brand owners and industry influencers in the Facebook group The Commerce Lab or visit thecommercelab.com.
- Visit www.bluestout.com for more info
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