Every brand we grew up loving never really loved us back.
Most times growing up I would just get really into a certain brand and learn everything about it. I personally appreciate brands individually for what they mean to me personally and how they make me feel. Like back in the day I used to adore Supreme because of their iconic branding and their "badass-skater-image". As I got older I got into Palace because they were a brand that was built from the ground up and understood that they needed to make genuine products to be able to succeed. I watched Rip-N-Dip grow from the bottom to the top over the past six years. I have one of the first ever Rip N Dip shirts. Way before the cat and all that. Just brands that had basic stuff. But it was never a personal thing, those brand and myself. I could never walk into the Supreme store on Lafayette street in SoHo and feel like I'm a part of their brand. That's because they want to give off that feel. That badass skater image.
And that's one thing I never loved about some of those big brands. They never seemed to care. Which I guess makes sense thinking back to the goal of retail : Make products, sell them to the consumer, reinvest, make more products, make more money, ect.
But I always wanted to grow this brand into more than that.
And that's why OHKAY as a label is more than just a clothing brand.
We, as a team of a few people who handle different aspects of the brand, want to make bring the brand to life on a personal level, and in the world of business that's called a
What that means is: we want you to come to this website and enjoy it. We want you to buy the products we make so that we can continue to grow, but also always have stuff to look at. Always updated content. Blogs to read. Photos to look at. But we want to make that content interesting so that when we do come out with clothes, even if they don't have to do with the blogs or the photos, you still are interested in them to buy them.
And over time, we've done a good job of that because thankfully there are people who appreciate the brand enough to buy everything we make. And that's something that I will forever be thankful for, because if it wasn't for those people and everyone who has a piece from us, we wouldn't be able to do these Mini Projects.
One thing people don't realize when they go to make a brand is that they need to make a business before they make a brand. No brand could ever succeed without the owners understanding business and how things work. Basically, when I was making this brand in the initial phases, I was learning how to run a business as I was teaching myself how to make a brand. It all came together as one.
And one thing I learned:
Reinvest Reinvest Reinvest
Every month at the end of the month we see how much money the brand has generated. Then we subtract the cost of operations (cost of production, shipping, supplies, all that) and we get our monthly brand profit.
We take 80% of that and put it right back into the brand. The other 20% mainly goes to us buying flights and food, because well, for a few of us this brand is our full time job (yes, it takes that much time out of our lives).
Earlier in the year, I decided to put a little aside for a project I wanted to run:
No brand online will send you free stickers. None. But we will.
And I got this concept of investment from PayPal.
When PayPal first was created, PayPal itself would give each person $50 that got someone to sign up. In the first year they had given out $2 million dollars. After three years of operations, PayPal was so big that they had made over $10 million, walking away with 8 after paying off what they had given to people.
So in my mind, I just invest money into giving people free stickers in hope that they'll like the brand more and buy the clothes we come out with. By the way, we just made three really really cool pieces for the American Teen collection go check it out they're so complex compared to the regular screen printed stuff the rest of these brands are selling. Anyways,
I thought to myself "ok, if I buy thousands of stickers at once, we'll get a bulk price on it, then I'll send them out for free".
That was kind of how it went from that moment on.
We were living in dorm rooms and basically I handled this entire project myself.
I just posed that if you filled out a form with your address, we'd send you some stickers,
and over four months we have over 800 submissions, one from each and every state and about twenty+ different places outside of the country.
I would include 7 stickers in each pack, the original OHKAY logo stickers, the black and white ones. In there I would include a letter that I had written and photo coppied. It described the background of the brand and how we started it, then it instructed the people to give some to their friends and share them with the world.
And it was really cool to watch the trend of it.
One week I'd send two sticker packs to a town in the middle of nowhere in like North Dakota, a place I didn't know existed until I got the email forms.
A week later, ten more kids from that town would submit the form.
A week after that, there would be 100 stickers in that town and kids from there who like street wear and unique brands were all into it.
And that happened in a lot of places.
Since I was hand writing every address out, I just caught onto a bunch of familiar towns. I remember the zip codes of far too many places that I'll never even go to in my life.
But a lot of people asked me "Chris, why the hell do you do this for free?"
And when you step back and look at it, it's 50 cents per stamp, a few cents for the seven stickers, i had to pay for ink and paper in my printer for the letters, and the envelopes themselves weren't cheap.
So all in all we've spent over $650 just on stamps and envelopes and stuff, but none of that matters to me.
I would finish my homework at 2am at school and sit in my dorm room until 4:30 hand writing the envelopes out and packaging them to bring to the post office with our daily orders.
And there's one main reason I do it,
So people can love a brand that they can be a part of.
A few weeks ago some kid from Michigan submitted the form and I sent him eight stickers and one of the notes about the brand.
A few days later he emailed me and told me that no one had ever sent him a letter in the mail before.
He was seventeen. And he had never once seen someone write his name out on a letter.
He had never once gone home and opened the mailbox to a surprise message folded into a small rectangle.
Never a birthday card from his relatives.
He went on to tell me that he hung it up on his wall and he'll never forget about it.
And that, to me, that's what it's all about.
That instantaneous happiness that can come from such a small act.
There's more to it, of course, than just "i'm spending money to give people free stuff", it's more of a matter of "i'm spending money to give someone something they'll appreciate", knowing that it will bring them closer to the brand.
That's what is cool about the brand in my eyes. It's whatever you percieve it to be.
And I hope that people do appreciate stuff like this, and I'm sure they do, I read all the emails that say thank you and all that, but mainly because I never want to make a brand that turns out to be one of them "too-cool-for-their-customer" brands.
I just want to make clothes and products and have people buy them because it makes them feel unique.
And I really do hope that since we send like seven stickers in each pack, people are sharing them with their friends and telling more and more people about the brand every day. I just one day want everyone to know about this idea and where it ame from and where we're going with it. Even if we don't make it to the size of Supreme or one of them.
But here's some photos from today, we put together 200 more sticker packs.
First, we get all the submissions in. We see how many there are and we run the addresses through a system we made that tells us which ones are doubles. We figure out how many we're sending out and we go and buy that many stamps, envelopes, all that.
We make stacks of 5-7 stickers and lay them all out
Every time we send them out, I write up a long personalized letter about the brand just saying the background and stuff. We print one of them for every package.
Fold the letter into thirds, drop the stickers in, fold them over again, put it in the envelope, dip a sponge in water, seal the envelope, move it to the side, all ready to go.
Of course we get the coolest stamps possible. Heat-Activated-Full-Moons.
So basically we make labels for all the forms and we put the label and the stamp on the envelope.
No return address. If the person put the wrong address, sucks, it gets lost, it's part of the game.
And thats that. We just want people to feel like they're a part of the brand.