How To Grow & Nourish A Community For Your eCom Brand

WunderAds-BrutalBuddha-YT-Thumbnail

Intro Evan and Roe

Hi there, welcome to the show. Today I’m going to interview Evan and Roe. They are the founders of Brutal Buddha, which is a brand that serves the active sport enthusiast. Their flag product is a three in one shorts for males. It has a unique package protector and what that is, you will find out soon. 

Today we will be talking about their journey into the e-commerce world. As many new business owners, they were also facing many challenges and problems along their way. My mission is to extract the valuable lessons and learnings that they got. I hope that you can take those gold nuggets and implement them into your own success journey. 

Today, for example, we are not only talking about how they got featured in the GQ magazine, but we also talk about how they grew one of the largest online audiences around yoga. That, together with many other e-commerce marketing tactics. So, stay tuned. If you enjoy this content, then please make sure to like, comment and subscribe, as we are releasing more and more episodes with successful e-commerce entrepreneurs, which are going to share their marketing lessons. 

One more thing; if you are running an e-commerce store and you want to have a second pair of eyes to check if there are scaling opportunities, or if you are leaving money on the table, then reach out to me and schedule a call—as we are offering only this month, a free Google ads audit, which is usually valued at $1,000. 

If you want to connect with Evan and Roe, we have a Facebook group. Evan and Roe will be also part of that group. And this is only for e-commerce owners. So feel free to join us.

But now, without any further ado, hello everyone, this is Marco speaking from Wunder Ads. Today, we got Evan and Roe on the show. They co-founded the brand Brutal Buddha Gear, which is an apparel brand for sport enthusiastic male. I’m really happy to have these guys on the podcast today!

Episode Highlights

The very first thing we did is we built a pretty makeshift Shopify site, threw it up for $100. This was back in early 2019, before we even actually had the product available and had done the Kickstarter. We took some rudimentary photos of a makeshift pair of shorts. We had  cobbled together through speaking to some factories, which was nowhere near the final product, but just something to get up there. We started actively selling it to our friends. Then we went into Facebook groups, men’s yoga groups, and we would socialize the product to them. And, we got about 40 sales. (11:42)

Facebook is where we really started to get traction. That’s how we were able to grow 5X from 2020 to 2021 as a business. I’d say email marketing and Facebook were really good channels for us. We also had a couple KOLs, Key Opinion Leaders, influencers with hundreds of thousands of followers on YouTube that would wear our product, give us a shout out and validate it. Those were the initial areas where we found success from a media paid marketing point of view. (14:42)

It started off probably 80/20, where we were pushing for the first two or three months to gather new emails and get them into the funnel from a top of funnel perspective, cold emails. Then, over time, we started to merge closer to 50/50, to where we were still running that strategy, but we also wanted to see direct sales. (17:05)

We have one of the largest men’s yoga communities on Facebook, we’re approaching 6,000 members, which is quite large, and people are very active there. They engage with each other and that’s just free. That’s one way. (22:43)

Evan and Roe Background

Let’s dive right into it. I would love to get to know a bit more about you guys. So, if you could go ahead and briefly introduce yourself to the audience.

Roe: Yeah, absolutely. I’ll start. It’s Roe here. So great to meet everyone. Great to be on the podcast and great to see you again, Marco, because we’ve worked together in the past you’ve done some great work with us. A little bit about myself. I’m originally from Columbia, South Carolina. 

I worked in the financial technology industry for almost 10 years. I had a startup itch, so I started my first company at University Digital Media Company pitched on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, tried to raise capital, but that was in the financial crisis in ’08. So, I pivoted into more of a corporate world and met Evan in 2017 through a mutual friend. And we started Brutal Buddha, a direct consumer men’s athleisure company. and the idea was 2018. 

I launched our first product in 2019. We’ll go into the details of that. But, outside of the brand, I love health and wellness, working out at the gym, practicing yoga and board sports. I love wakesurfing. I’m happy to be here. Evan, would you like to go?

Evan: Absolutely. My name’s Evan, I’m from the Sunshine State Florida in the US. I’m American as well. I’ve known Roe for a bit over five years now. It’s crazy how time flies. A little bit about myself. I started my career off as well in corporate worlds. I was in a technology consulting company, then private equity, venture capital world—doing sales and team leadership. I dabbled in startups, as well. I was in travel technology a few years back in 2016 when Roe and I both really wanted to get into product entrepreneurship.

Brutal Buddha Intro

Roe: Brutal Buddha is a combination of Evan’s and my personality, really at the most core level. It’s the yin and yang. Evan’s nickname in high school was “Brutal Force.” He’s a basketball player. He brings a lot of passion and intensity to the basketball court. We really brought that to the brand in terms of a general view on life—working hard at things, being passionate, going after it. 

When it comes to sports, I played rugby, soccer, a couple of other physical sports, but I’m generally quite a little bit more reserved, more relaxed, mindful. My fiance tells me all the time, she never really sees me upset and I’m generally quite easy going. 

So, we took the Brutal Force and the Buddha Force, which was me, and that’s how Brutal Buddha started. The philosophy was for active men who want to push themselves hard, but they need to make sure that they give themselves peace and relaxation of the mind, in order to perform at the highest level, whether it’s in the yoga studio, in the gym or hiking up a difficult mountain. That’s how it started. 

We launched a Kickstarter for our very first product, which was solving a problem that Evan and I faced as two active male yoga practitioners, which is, how do you protect yourself when you are twisting and turning? And, maybe you’re getting discomfort with your male male parts, if you will, or the family jewels, as we like to call them. That was the first problem we wanted to solve.

The second problem was not exposing yourself in a yoga class. We very quickly realized that this could be applied to the larger community of gym goers, hikers. So, we built some really comfortable shorts for men that are 3 in 1, they have an outer short and inner liner, and a patented package protector. We launched on Kickstarter for about $40,000, and we’ve just been scaling up the brand from that first product ever since.

Evan: It’s true. It’s all about the balance. I was not aware that it actually comes richly from your personality. It’s very interesting how you let your own personality flow into that brand, as well. I got mine here, my Brutal Buddha one. I’m not so strongly into yoga. I do yoga from time to time. I have done it in the past, but I’m very active with other sports, especially calisthenics and workout.

What Makes Brutal Buddha Unique?

As you’ve experienced, it’s definitely one of our USPs. I would consider it to be our key USP. The package protector is the innovative piece of the shorts itself that helps to hold the male junk in place. Typically for guys who are practicing yoga, going for runs, hiking, going to the gym, you tend to experience pinching and shaping and discomfort in the groin region. I use mine even for work. You can see I’m wearing my Namaste Greys.

Very comfortable. Very stretchy. I just wanted to show those off. I’m a little biased as one of the co-founders. It’s our number one USP, it’s how we market the brand as protection and comfort. But, I’d say that another USP is the 4-way stretch. We use an innovative recycled fabric blend that really is proprietary. No other company is using this kind of blend. We can’t share exactly what the blend is, but it is very unique. 

We use recycled polyester, recycled nylon, which is really near and dear to our customers because they care about sustainability and environmental change. That’s one element. The other one is the fact that it’s all comprehensive. So, it’s a minimalist brand. 

As you know, when you go to the gym or you practice calisthenics, you don’t need to fuss with underwear or a girdle or a jock strap, or anything like that. Compression shorts separate from a pair of gym shorts. You just slip ’em on. And it’s a 3 in 1 shorts. It has it all in there for you and everything stays in place through your workout.

Go-to Market Strategy

Roe: First of all, Evan and I were new to the physical product business. We wanted to figure out a way to validate our idea before we even had a product. We didn’t want to go through dumping a lot of money into these marketing channels without at least knowing that somebody was willing to pay for our product.

Actually, the very first thing we did is we built a pretty makeshift Shopify site, threw it up for $100. This was back in early 2019, before we even actually had the product available and had done the Kickstarter. We took some rudimentary photos of a makeshift pair of shorts. We had cobbled together through speaking to some factories, which was nowhere near the final product, but just something to get up there. We started actively selling it to our friends. Then we went into Facebook groups, men's yoga groups, and we would socialize the product to them. And, we got about 40 sales.

Roe Quote

So, we validated that there was actually an opportunity. Half of the sales were coming from strangers, they weren’t just friends. That’s when we decided to take this a little bit more seriously. This is a potential business. We enrolled in an Accelerator program for e-Commerce founders to go from idea to physical product launch called EC Accelerate. 

They really helped us put a plan together leading up to our Kickstarter. We launched on Kickstarter in October of 2019. We were building up a lot of hype to the Kickstarter campaign. We were getting people to commit to backing us before we even went live. We were collecting email addresses, which I would highly recommend for the founders out there because your email list will become hugely valuable later on for customer lifetime value. 

Around the time we met you, Marco, we had a little bit more sophisticated Shopify site. We had just gotten the product put together and then COVID hit in early 2020. That delayed getting our product out to packers. We tried Google ads with you for a bit. We also looked at Facebook and Instagram ads. Facebook is where we really started to get traction.

That's how we were able to grow 5X from 2020 to 2021 as a business. I'd say email marketing and Facebook were really good channels for us. We also had a couple KOLs, Key Opinion Leaders, influencers with hundreds of thousands of followers on YouTube that would wear our product, give us a shout out and validate it. Those were the initial areas where we found success from a media paid marketing point of view.

Roe Quote

Ads and Email Marketing: How Did it Work?

Evan: It was in conjunction. It varied at different stages of our digital marketing journey. In the beginning, we were focusing a bit more on email marketing. We were collecting emails through the landing page. The reason we moved to working with a professional digital marketing agency was because Roe and I have been juggling so many different parts of the business. 

It doesn’t just take six to 12 months to become a digital marketing pro. At the level of the business we were trying to achieve and where we were back in 2021, we really needed professionals to come in, partner with us and essentially become part of our team. To manage that on a full time basis while we manage other elements and aspects of the business like production, customer satisfaction and different elements of the business. 

It started off probably 80/20, where we were pushing for the first two or three months to gather new emails and get them into the funnel from a top of funnel perspective, cold emails. Then, over time, we started to merge closer to 50/50, to where we were still running that strategy, but we also wanted to see direct sales.

You can get faster sales doing D2P, Direct to Purchase. We ran a couple different pixels and we gathered the data and in working with them and having weekly sessions, Roe and I both learned so much at an accelerated pace.

Evan Quote

From PR to GQ: The Process

We were lucky when we launched on Kickstarter. We had a couple of press outlets pick up on the brand. As you can imagine, being this innovative product for, at the time, men’s yoga, we’ve really expanded beyond that. We got into a few outlets, LUXE Digital, for example, SCMP was another one we got into. They heard about us through a friend that we had who runs a PR company. He helped us get into some of these news outlets. 

Then, funny enough, GQ came along and sometime in, I think Q1 of 2020, they found us. They were just looking at our Instagram where we had a very low following, you know, maybe 1,000 followers. And they said, “Hey, You guys look like a really interesting startup brand for men. You know, we’ve got a high viewership that seems interested in your audience.” So, they actually approached us. 

They offered us a three month slot in their magazine for, I think it was March, April, May. They voted us the number one product for the modern man. And, mind you, this was GQ UK specifically, but that was great. We thought it would lead to tons of sales. It didn’t necessarily translate to tons of sales, but where it did translate was that social proof. Being able to use their logo on our website and emails, it’s highly valuable for founders to have that.

Promotions: What Works?

We tend to offer discounts like many of the big name brands, around the holidays. Not every holiday, but some of the mainstream holidays, of course, Black Friday for an e-commerce brand. It’s critical to have a strategy leading up to that day. And that long weekend leading into Cyber Monday. That’s probably the most important one for us to really drive the product. 

Now that we’re going to have products number three and four in the coming six to 12 months, and eventually five to 10 over the next couple of years, we have to have even a more instrumental methodology leading up to that day. 

Outside of that, we tend to do the typical, Christmas and 4th of July holidays. We do Veterans Day; we’re a US-based brand. US holidays are definitely important to our customers. 80% plus of our customers are based in the States. Outside of that, sometimes we’ll run a flash sale; keep your eyes open for the flash sale that might come up in the next couple months. 

Flash sales are really just to drive awareness of the brand, get people excited. We do some local popups, different cities in the US. Otherwise, we tend to offer a discount on an ongoing basis for anyone who signs up to our newsletter. 

We want to really activate our customers into the community itself. It’s important to us to drive enhanced community engagement and involvement, getting into health and fitness, not just wearing the apparel. And helping the fellow man and woman stay healthy, get fit and focus on longevity.

How Do Facebook Groups Play Into That?

Roe: We do it in a few different ways, Marco. We have one of the largest men’s yoga communities on Facebook, we’re approaching 6,000 members, which is quite large, and people are very active there. They engage with each other and that’s just free. That’s one way. 

Then, we do a monthly community event that we call Yin and Yang. We actually pick a different topic that’s chosen by our customers who are on our email list. We’ve done topics like nutrition for men, yoga for lower back pain, mental health and emotional intelligence for men—in terms of how they handle, let’s say, difficult relationships in their family life or in their work life. 

It’s a free hour, hour and a half-long event where you hop on a Zoom call with us. We usually get anywhere from 20 to 50 people that join. And that’s just a free community event. Evan and I are there. We bring in a KOL or a celebrity guest to talk about something. So that’s another way  we focus on community.

Then, we have a newsletter where we push out, once a month, value-add content to our customer base. In general, we’re looking to do more in person events now that COVID seems to have died down a bit, we’re looking to do a lot more events in person. Like Evan said, we’re planning popups across the United States and some other selected countries and cities.

Go-to Resource for E-commerce Knowledge

Evan: I think the most important element of learning is the continuation. Always be ready to learn something new, stay ahead of the trends and educate as you go. Roe and I are big fans of learning and education. As we’ve started this process to build this e-Commerce brand Brutal Buddha, we’ve always been looking at incorporating some sort of new learning. Like, going through an emotional intelligence course to help us figure out how we can engage with each other and our audience even better. And become the best business owners possible. 

Or if it’s something a bit more tangible, like digital marketing, Facebook ads, even TikTok ads, something that we’ve both been learning. A program we started with in the very beginning was called EC Accelerate. EC Accelerate is a program that helps people like us, who are first or second time entrepreneurs, especially in a physical product e-Commerce business, learn how to build a 3D rendering, survey customers, “get out of the building” and do customer interviews. 

There’s so much that you can learn along the road of an Accelerator program like that. Some other learnings have been through podcasts. We tend to listen to a lot of podcasts. We both have our own individual preferences for who we listen to.

Do You Have Any Specifics?

Evan: Tim Ferris is great. I think the most important thing is continuing to stay ahead of the trends, right ahead of the curve. We’ve been heads down trying to understand TikTok marketing, just given so many of our customers are moving to that space. Our target is on TikTok. 

Favorite Podcast or Books

Roe: There’s quite a lot. I’m always reading books about product based businesses, growth marketing. I have been following a guy recently called Nick Sharma. A really good podcast and also a free newsletter. He sends out every Sunday, He’s an investor in a bunch of brands, Sharma Brands. In a world without the data of iOS that happened last summer, people have to get crafty. 

Evan and I are trying to figure out ways to create desire for Brutal Buddha. We’re a premium product. One of the things we learned is that we’re not really an impulse buy. What we need to do is, we need to educate the consumer over many months why they need our product. We got to hit them at multiple angles and focus on the benefits of the product. 

We’ve had 30 friends who have started e-commerce brands, from Woody Sunglasses to Vincero Watches, to a bunch of other companies. We’re always talking to them, what’s working for them. And, what works for a six-figure brand is not necessarily going to work for a seven-figure brand or an eight-figure brand. Essentially, we’re always learning.

Brutal Buddha: Next Steps

Evan: As we quickly approach a seven-figure brand, we’ve recognized that we need to focus on execution, as it relates to product development, innovation. Many of our customers want to see joggers and they’re also interested in other apparel and other accessories. We need to quickly test and validate in the market, and roll out these new products. We’ll most likely do a crowdfunding. Probably another Kickstarter at the end of September this year. 

We’ll focus on the innovative joggers—long pants instead of the shorts, which will still incorporate something similar, if not identical to the package protector. We’re finalizing the steps to determine how we’ll build that product. Keep your eyes open for that. 

Outside of physical product space, we’re also looking to enhance the community. We’ll probably be doing a bit more around Yin and Yang monthly webcast. We’ll engage more on TikTok and even communities like Twitter and YouTube, Pinterest, and even Reddit. 

Many of our customers are migrating to Reddit. Outside of social media we will continue to engage with our customers as much as possible, in person. As Roe and I look to do some popups across the United States, we will meet some customers face-to-face. We’ve already met at least three or four dozen of them face-to-face. 

It’s been really cool to build that community. The future for Brutal Buddha is bright. There’s so much we can be doing in the way of new technologies, ways to enhance fabric technology in itself. And then, of course, in the far future, there’s things like the metaverse and brief to earn, fit to earn, move to earn. So many ways we can compensate and incentivize our community to really stay fit and focus on preventative healthcare and longevity. 

And then, lastly, I’ll say we’re going to move into women’s clothing and accessories, as well, over the next couple years. Keep an eye out for that.

How Can We Connect With You?

Our email is team@brutalbuddhagear.com, and that’s probably the easiest way to reach us. We also have an Instagram account, it’s Brutal_Buddha, that’s another good way.

We love to speak to customers over video eventually in person. We have a Calendly, as well. It’s just calendly.com/brutalbuddha. You can schedule a 30-minute slot with us, whether you’re a potential customer or potential partner that feels we can help each other. 

I would say those are the best ways. And then we’ve got TikTok and Pinterest, and everything else, but those three are probably the three best ways to contact us.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Get updates and learn from the best

More To Explore

Simplifying YouTube Ads Targeting Options
Blog

Simplifying YouTube Ads Targeting Options

Introduction YouTube Advertising offers a plethora of YouTube ads targeting options for marketers, providing the foundation for successful ad campaigns. In this article, we’ll break

Get your resources now

Claim the PDF transcripts and Resources