Download this Transcript.
* There is a chance that this transcript may have some errors. But, we’ve tried our best to keep it 99% accurate 😎
Shiva Kumaar 0:13
Hey, what’s up everybody? Welcome back to another episode of driven eCommerce at Work a DCKAP podcast that brings in conversations with the industry leaders and I’m your host Shiva Kumaar.
Our guest today is David Hieatt a great marketing genius and the co founder of Hiut Denim company and the man who don’t need an introduction the company that you know he’s built so far in the town called cardigan speaks for itself. I’ve never been this excited David glad to have you on the show. How you doing?
David Hieatt 0:57
Ah, I’m good. Thanks for You know, like reaching out and excited to have a chat. So
Shiva Kumaar 1:04
cool. Perfect. So let me start off with your initial experience. So I think the listeners can a little bit understand where did this entrepreneurship comes from and other things, right? So you joined Saatchi and Saatchi as a copywriter. And so how did this shift happened from a advertising copywriter to co founding a clothing brand Howies?
David Hieatt 1:26
Well, let me give you some context to, you know, being 21 being employed by Saatchi and Saatchi, which at the time was the world’s most creative advertising agency. But at 16, I perceived my dad that I didn’t need a levels I could go and start my own business. And within six months, I was bankrupt. So that wasn’t such a good idea. And then he asked, What did I learn from it? And I said, Well, I learned that I really truly loved it. And he said, Well now the next lesson has to be to get good at it so you can carry on doing it. So I went back today levels, went to college got thrown out. Then I saw this incredible book. And it said in a creative department you didn’t need any qualifications, which I was deeply qualified for. And that was in a creative department in an advertising agency. And so, I, I tried for a year and a half to get a job in in advertising. I had 150 interviews, and they all told me I wasn’t very good. And actually, they were all right. But like, they were right. I mean, I chosen to be a writer. And, and yet, I couldn’t truly write that well at that point. But I was keen, I was hungry. And so I was willing to learn and one of the big lessons was I was trying to be better than the people already in that advertising agency, but actually what I needed to be was to be different. So there’s a big difference in terms of, like, you know, being better being better means they’ve got a really employ me to find out that I’m better and but they wouldn’t employ me because they didn’t think I was better. So So the most important strategy for me was to go right I need to show them I’m different to already the people they have who are really world class writers, they were the best. So and I love strategy, so I love marketing so so that’s what got me 21 to Saatchi’s and, and you know, we’d been unemployed for a year and a half and, like, it’s hard when you’re unemployed like, nobody wants you. You have no money. You can’t go out. And it’s, I’m always conscious of that because it’s given me hunger. And I don’t want to go back there. That wasn’t that wasn’t the place I was really happy place.
Shiva Kumaar 4:04
So right from the beginning, you don’t want to run this like any other clothing company, right? So you wanted to differentiate this as kind of like an active sports brand. So how was the marketing around that? So this happened in 95 right. So how was the marketing around then.
David Hieatt 4:20
Yeah. And just to give your, your listeners some context. So, that boy, it’s 16 wanted to go and do the next out of the desk. That was my goal. And I failed.
And then at Saatchi’s,
you know, our CEO, Louis Dreyfus, at the time decided one day that he wanted to buy out a dress. And I’m going I already thought it was cool. But now he went to the next level of cool and whatever happened, I not really understanding of it and it doesn’t really matter. You know, Charles and Morris and Louis Dreyfus. fell out. And we pitched for the added us account and didn’t get it. They’d fallen out by this day. So it wasn’t really a big surprise. So I resigned from my job at Saatchi’s, after seven or eight years to go and work for the agency, that one added us. So and I took a 20,000 pound pay cut in order to go and work on the thing I wanted to do. And so I arrived at that advertising agency, super keen. And all I wanted to do was added as my boss, like, everything I wrote, he didn’t like, not like in a year and a half of writing. He almost didn’t like anything I did.
And what happened is I had this voice I had all these
adverts he thought was wrong. And I thought it was right. And I took those with me I resigned from that place. Because it was pointless, even though he offered me you know, creative directorship of Anderson America, I just thought was pointless. He’s literally not like anything I like, in a year and a half. I’m not sure if he likes me, and it doesn’t really matter. And so I took those ads with me, because there was a voice and another voice, I thought that voice should exist in this world. And that’s what became Howies. And so that’s the brand we started myself and Clare. And, and we just had a different point of view on the world at that moment. And so we started in 95. And we had our first paycheck in 2001. But it did something which like, it struck a chord, it struck a nerve and, and we did things which were very, very different and, and, you know, in terms of marketing, we were blessed because we didn’t have a marketing budget because honestly, if we did We would have wasted it on ads. And but because we didn’t have a budget, we had to do things which were very different. So, you know, we launched the brand in mountain bike event. And the sign said steel leaves us and the mountain bikers are so polite. I mean, this just like just nice people and polite. And they walked past this sign for the entire morning until one of them pull up enough nerve and courage to go and yank the T shirt off the fence. And then there’s a massive fight happened. And that’s how we suddenly there was a massive brawl in this mountain bike, which is very decent place. It was like an outdoor event. And that’s how we launched the brand. But we did it with like, just a crappy sign. handwritten on a on a on a fence with four or five t shirts.
And sometimes when you have very little,
you can just play small bets or all over the place because none of those bets are actually going to, like, break you, but one of them might actually make you so.
Shiva Kumaar 8:15
Yeah. And so did you kind of came up with this email list marketing the newsletters around then or it was just I mean, it’s just happened only right now.
David Hieatt 8:28
Yeah, I mean, it’s so the the email thing would really come a little bit later what we did with Howies, you know, we, we got to a point where we’re growing so fast that we couldn’t quite cope. We didn’t have we’d never run a business before we had no clue what we were doing. And so we thought the best strategy was to go and find someone who did know what they were doing. So we put some feelers out. And we ended up speaking to you know lots of companies who actually want buy Howies. So, PPR now called Kering. They highlighted two brands in the world that they wanted to buy. And one was Howies. And one was Quicksilver and. And they know something about brands, they own Gucci, Boucheron, Puma, so they’re up there with the very best in the world. So we’ve done something that they were impressed by. Then we had Steve Case, who started AOL, and he offered us 25 to $30 million dollars. If we move to Ohio, and California, we just moved to cardigan in West Wales. So that wasn’t really an option for us. Then we had Japan’s richest guy who owns Uniqlo, he would have bought Howies. So we had all these options. And then in the end, we chose Timberland because they expressed a preference for Wales, which the others hadn’t. So that’s the relationship we were most comfortable with. It didn’t turn out to be the best relationship but these things happen and learning was delivered whether we liked it or not. But to answer your question, the when we started Hiut which is the jeans company, so that’s separate to Howies so and the the town, this town that we live in small town 4000 people on the very far western edge of West Wales. It just happened to have Britain’s biggest jeans factory. And they made 35,000 pairs of jeans like a week for nearly 40 years and then in 2002, it closed and then 400 World Class makers had nothing to make.
And so about
a decade went by and we’d you know, sold Howies and we were wondering, what were we going to do? And we said, well, actually the town really has a skill like no one else in terms of making jeans And we know how to make brands and this other thing had happened. And that was the internet. So three things all came together. And there’s convergence of stuff in the right town time with the right people the right skills. just meant it was like, you know, it was so lucky.
Shiva Kumaar 11:17
Yeah. And also, I think that became the WHY for your Hiut company, right? Why, why this company even exist?
David Hieatt 11:26
Yeah. And that was that that was, and it’s important that you have a why because like, especially if you don’t have marketing budget, because you need to go and use that bigger purpose to draw out the best of you. And, and so, so going back to your original question was, you know, the email list became really important to us because after the first month, we had six months worth of orders. So he had this incredible launch. We were in every national newspaper in the UK The orders just kept coming and coming and coming. And we couldn’t make enough. So I made the decision. And it was a terrible decision, by the way, it was, I decided that we’ve closed our website while we go, go and find more people to make. And also to get all the back orders out. And then three months later, we’d achieved both. And then we opened our website up, and literally nothing. We had no orders. So I doubled my, my, my cost of making because I doubled my overhead. I had to try and find how to pay everyone at the end of the month. And I had no custom. And at that point, I sat down and sometimes a crisis is really handy. Because it actually allows you to think really clearly because basically, what you’re trying to work out is how to survive. Yeah. And so I sat down and I went, I’m spending 80% of my time on social media, and this gives me 20% of the result. And I’m spending 20% of my time on my newsletter. And it’s giving me 80% of my results. So, all I did in that moment was, I’m going to switch that around, I’m now going to spend 80% of my time, everything I possibly can do to build my newsletter. Because once you do that, if you actually, because because email is not that cool, it means that actually not that many people want to do it well. And I learned how to do it really well. I even end up writing books. I kind of I run workshops for some of the most famous brands in the world. And when Wall Street Journal was good, did a big article about you know who’s doing email best in the world. They talked about Hiut denim and so, so like, it is without doubt like not even close, the email is our most important sales tool, community tool than anything else. As much as I love all those other social medias. I just go, they don’t even come close to how important email is to us.
Shiva Kumaar 14:20
So how was this initial stage of the newsletter, I mean, launching them, and then sort of public had to react to that newsletter, right? Because you said that you had to shut down the whole website just because of the sales for in the first six months. And then so you had to open and then the sales was not there. So you have to come up with some sort of new ideas. So was that a successful during the initial one month, two month? What was the reaction for the newsletter?
David Hieatt 14:44
Well, I mean, like, I tell you,
I tell you what happens mostly when people are in a crisis. They their first reaction is to try and sell more, which is completely understandable so we’re in that situation right now where we’re in another crisis. And so the first thing is OMG I need to sell more. And even in that moment of crisis, I said, we have to go and do things for people who, right now probably aren’t ready to buy our jeans. So, because if you think about, you know, there’s 5% of your people who are probably very likely to buy from you at that point. But there’s 95%, who are not quite ready. And what most marketers do is they concentrate only on that 5%. But those 5% are really they’re the most advertised too. They’re bombarded with stuff, right? And so and this 95% get hardly mentioned. And so, my thing was, I need to do both. I need to try and you know, cajole the 5%. But I wanted to grow the 95%, because that’s how we were truly going to grow. This would only the 5% would only help the today. I needed to plant acorns for tomorrow. And so the newsletter was about giving. And it wasn’t just about selling. So our first, our first instinct was to go and build incredible lists that would help you and inspire you, but they weren’t trying to sell to you. And in and that was, if there was some genius. It was that because when you’re most desperate, you most want to serve. And because we were serving, and not always selling, that gave people the confidence that we were going to be around and we wanted to be around so. So the mistake most people make on email is they only Think is about the sell. The real power of your email is in the relationship.
And what are you doing
to form a strong relationship. And if you take two examples of two friends, there’s a friend that phones you, and only phones you and wants something.
And then there’s another friend who phones you up and says,
Dave, you should see this film. It’s amazing. You will love it. Join. They do it in one take. It’s incredible. For 30 – 40 seconds in one take. You’ve got to go and see this film, please go and take Clare, by the way. Now who you’re going to take a call from when you’re really busy. The friend who only ever wants something or the friend who was just following up to see how you are. So I always take a call from that person because they want a relationship. This person as much as I love them, and they just want something from me. And so I think if you’re if you’re in a relationship with your customer where you give, like more than you take, I think you got a chance to really be an incredible company. An incredible business. Yeah, exactly. it’s counterintuitive. it’s counterintuitive. The first thing is God, we’re in a crisis. I need to sell more. No, you need to help your people more in a crisis. They probably need You more now than ever.
Shiva Kumaar 18:33
Yeah, yeah. I think there is no better example for the email marketing. It’s more about the giving. That’s that’s that’s how you build that rapport. Build a list. give something to the customers. So so all your jeans are handmade. And so you sign it as well. Right. So where did this idea came from.
David Hieatt 18:53
Me! Well, I mean, so because we’re attracting To consumer jeans company is we can afford the best materials that all the other brands can’t because they’ve got to give their margin away to the shops. So they have to buy cheap denim. That’s, that’s just like a fact. It’s like an economic fact, that’s not me saying it. It’s just economics. So we can go and get the best fabric in the world, which is really expensive, but it’s the best and not many brands can afford it. And then we put that best fabric with the grandmasters and they’ve made jeans for in terms of hours. Malcolm Gladwell did this famous thing about you know 10,000 hours to be a grandmaster. Our grandmasters done 30,000 hours, 40,000 hours, 50,000 hours. So they’re in the elite makers in the world. So we’re in the elite makers in the world and we buy the best materials in the world. You put those two things together and you got one of the best jeans in the world. And so, we we saw what Steve Jobs said about the original Macintosh is all the engineers had to sign the inside of the Mac, even though no one would ever see it. And he said, Well, all artists sign their work and but my dad also inspired me in as much as he he was an electrician in the merchant navy. And, and that culture was a funny culture because you’re gonna do six months, and then another electrician would come and he would do six months and there wasn’t a great quality aspect to it. They didn’t really care. But my dad did care. And, and so he started signing every piece of work he did on the ship because he he wanted the other electrician to know that he did it right.
And that other electrician couldn’t blame him.
And so, I was just amazed when he told me that I was just going, Oh my god, that was like, I was having a beer with him and I just went, Wow. Okay, that’s where I get it from. But he also know, like, when you sign something is because you’re proud of it.
Shiva Kumaar 21:25
I think people like it. Yeah.
David Hieatt 21:27
That’s, that’s you. That’s my best work. That’s my best work.
Shiva Kumaar 21:32
And it’s the it’s the good way to honour the employees and the workers as well. So they get Yeah.
David Hieatt 21:39
So, when they when they come to sign the jeans, they made them from start to finish 75 different processes to make a world class product 75 different process but you have to be world class at 75 of those, you know, aspects and so, so when they sign in is saying I’ll put my name to this
Shiva Kumaar 22:00
So I had this question in mine. So when you wanted to go online, so why Shopify, there are so many platforms? Right? So, I mean, was that from one of your friends? or you have you already had influenced on Shopify? Or what was that?
David Hieatt 22:15
Oh, no, I mean, it was very simple like Shopify the best. If there was about one, we will go and use that. And they, they continue to get better. And I, I just, I just believe in them, I believe that they want to, you know, they want to be the answer to Amazon, which I quite like. And in a way they like, This used to be really hard to go and start a business. Because it wasn’t not that long ago, when I was doing Howies we were looking at systems, which were started at the quarter million pounds. But didn’t do a good job as Shopify do now for 200 bucks a month. And so like, so what they’ve done is they’ve allowed small makers to compete with the biggest companies in the world. So they’ve completely levelled the playing field. And so, and they do it better than anyone else. I mean, I mean, it’s, it’s, you know, but if I could find something better, I would, but I just can’t so.
Shiva Kumaar 23:32
So how much pairs are you making right now? per week?
David Hieatt 23:35
Well, I mean, at the moment, none,
like zero. But normally,
we’re in about, you know, 200 to 300 repairs a week, very, very small manner. You know, Rolls Royce probably make more cars and we make jeans so we have some growth. We grew 40% last year. I mean, even right now. Even in this crisis we’re still 15% up on on the previous year so and I can’t wait for us to be back in the factory all together making jeans again. And the thing for me and this is like the me that is now around Hiut is very different to the me that was running Howies when I was doing Howies I had no patience. I wanted to take on the world. But right now I’m going, I want to get 400 people that jobs back by have patience because I know those jobs will come in the end, as long as we ask this question. And if we keep asking this question, and that is, how can we get better today than we were yesterday? If we do that relentlessly, we will get those jobs back. And that’s it. And so, I come in, how can we get better today? Yeah, okay. We did that yesterday, how can we get better? And so that quest is, you know, 1% better, you know, a day 3,800% at the end of the year, you know, like us 38 times better than you were you go. That’s, that’s progress. And so we can be patient with that. And you shouldn’t ever judge an acorn in the first early years. Yeah. And so it’s, it’s small, beautiful steps forward. And if you fall in love with that little bit of progress each day, that’s how you build a great brand.
Shiva Kumaar 25:40
Yeah, yeah. And so I also want to touch down on another experience of yours. So how was this experience when you got the order from Kensington Palace, so that’s the second time you were swamped with orders for like three months, right?
David Hieatt 25:56
Yeah, well, maybe Actually, it was a year but
It’s interesting sometimes.
Sometimes you get lucky. And, and but when I say that is the team had worked really hard for that luck to happen, and when we did get that order and we turned around really quickly, we were able to take advantage of that luck. And so, you know, it’s, it was being in the right place at the right time and, you know, with the right people and but we’ve done things, which, you know, like the university, you know, we told the universe, we only want to make jeans in the lowest impact way. You know, we put our purpose out there we put our wise out there and, and, you know, yes, it was luck. And it was incredible luck and we’re so grateful to her for it because it really, really helped As a company, and but it was also, I loved the fact that it was shining a spotlight on makers, people who actually make something and, and the purpose really is to try and get the town. Its purpose back its mojo back, you know, make it have like a strong engine in the town, which is is, you know, like is robust and and isn’t gonna you know, go away. So it was it was it was brilliant we had like almost all the media attention in the world seemed to fall on us for a bit and we had to move factory and actually go back to the factory where the original jeans were made in in the town. So we’re now in a quite a big place. But it’s it’s beautiful when luck happens first When luck happens, it’s probably really down to maybe some hard work that, you know, like, you know, six or seven years of really, really a lot of hard work. So it was a celebration of the team and how hard they worked. So, really grateful to the Duchess and I need to go sometimes you just go Thank you. Thank you universe, like, really humbled by and grateful and, and they helped us. Definitely, definitely, definitely.
Shiva Kumaar 28:35
Yeah, I mean, unlike the first time where you had six months of orders. So this time the second time you swamped with those orders. So this definitely helps you to expand the factory, right? So you never thought about it initially. But you did that biggest leap, right?
David Hieatt 28:50
Yeah. And it is hard when you’re going from like, growth is a funny thing, because everybody craves growth on it. I’ve got to grow and grow, grow and it’s like chocolate. You can just have too much growth or, or like, oh, there’s no chocolate. And that’s not enough. So there’s no growth, both probably not very good. But it’s it helps you sometimes to take the next step, you need a lot of momentum. And so suddenly we took the next step, but we had a lot of momentum. We had almost a year’s worth of orders back orders at the time, and we couldn’t launch anything, any new product for an entire year. Previously, we will launch in every month, because that was our business. And so and it was, you know, it was a strain on the business too. When you’re under pressure, when you’re trying to get a lot of work done. It’s, you know, factories don’t particularly like spikes. If you build an app, and you suddenly have a million sales overnight. Well they’re already delivered. But with jeans, you have to go make them. And the way we make them isn’t the fastest way. You know, we’re really interested in making the best jeans on the planet not the most jeans on the planet. So so it was a challenge for the team but been, but sometimes oh my gosh, lucky. You go. It’s, it’s a blessing and you just go wow, okay, yeah.
We’ll take that.
Hey, luck I’m seeing you in a while. Come on in. Take a seat. I’ll make you a cup of tea. Whoo. So yeah, it’s a blessing and we’re really grateful.
Shiva Kumaar 30:41
Good. And so one last quick question before we wrap this up is so it’s a pandemic situation and it’s completely a different situation for a B2C Merchant and you’re running a factory. So did this situation really helps you as a marketer as a, you know, entrepreneur helps Do you do you know, go back to the whiteboard? And you know, do any things from the scratch? Did that happen?
David Hieatt 31:06
Yeah, well, I mean, obviously, it’s
we’re sort of blessed in, in some ways in as much as we didn’t have like 100 shops that suddenly closed down overnight. So, we, but we do have the biggest shop in the world called the internet. And as shops go, I quite like that one. So, we obviously couldn’t make jeans, you know, for that period of time, but we had some stock that we could go and sell. So that was something we could do. Then we do this quite famous yearbook. And then we could sell that even though it’s not going to come out till September. And and so we’ve kept going and, you know, the factory, get back, you know, June 1, and, and so. What I promised them when they left was we would still have a business when they came back, and so, so I’ve kept that promise. But our customers have been amazing. And, and I think that’s mostly because the purpose is strong, the product is great. And also we’ve communicated to them and said, look, hey, if you see a lot of emails from us right now, it’s because we’re trying to survive. And when you are that honest with your people, they won’t get angry with you. Even if you do send a lot of emails, they understand. And if they can, they will support you. And in the end, we actually started making some scrubs for the NHS. We got some volunteers in. We bought some fabric and gave that to the NHS. So you know Even though the factory couldn’t make jeans, it was helping, you know, helping a little bit in a moment, which has been quite hard for the entire world. Right. So everyone, everyone has been dealt hard blow by, by this virus.
Shiva Kumaar 33:17
And one other thing I really like liked about your company and the product is you offer free repairs for life, right? So I’m not sure how many B2C companies does that and I know how hard it is, especially from the customer support standpoint. So as a consumer, I would ask you, I mean, why do you Why do you want to do that, free repairs, for lifetime?
David Hieatt 33:41
Well, I mean, I think the best thing you can do for the environment is to make something that lasts a long time. So in jeans are very particular and you know, they will get to a point where they’re the most beautiful and then something happens to them like the knee goes breaks out. So suddenly, your favourite jeans then you can no longer wear. And my thinking is if we can take those jeans that you truly love, you spent a long time getting them into that particular way of fade. If we can give those jeaeans a year extra, maybe two years extra of life, that’s a really good thing for the environment. So, even though it doesn’t make sense, from a business point of view, it makes sense for us from the company that we want to run point of view. And so, you know, like, just like human beings have a soul sometimes, and that soul is an odd thing to be talking about. But I believe, like, a brand has a soul too, and, and so that that’s its character. And so doing those things actually doesn’t make us a business. US makes us a decent citizen. And so, yeah, so that’s why we do it.
Shiva Kumaar 35:08
Cool. Yeah. Thank you so much for your time David. It was nice talking to you. Yeah. And let’s hope we’ll get through this together in the next couple of weeks.
David Hieatt 35:17
I hope so. Thank you for your time. I really appreciate it.
Shiva Kumaar 35:20
So yeah, take care. Bye. Bye.
Cool. That was a great conversation with David Hieatt. hope you all enjoyed it. And if you have any comments on the show, just go ahead and hit that mail me button in the podcast description and to send it to me. If you like it, leave us a review on Apple podcasts. And don’t forget to go to hiutdenim.co.uk and subscribe to their newsletters. I’ve been following them for the past three, four weeks, and I really like it. If You’re in B2C, just go ahead and do that right now. Thanks for tuning in and subscribe to be among the first to hear it if you haven’t already we publish episodes every Friday. So Catch you guys very soon in the next episode. Until then stay safe and stay healthy.
Download this Transcript.