Sustainable Packaging

Shoes that don't have to be tied! Blake Brown VP Kizik

May 15, 2022 Cory Connors Season 2 Episode 59
Sustainable Packaging
Shoes that don't have to be tied! Blake Brown VP Kizik
Show Notes Transcript

https://kizik.com/
https://www.linkedin.com/in/blakeofthebrown/

Are you tired of tying your shoes? 
Are you or a loved one not able to tie shoes alone? 
Is the future of shoes hands free? 

https://www.corygated.com/

https://ororapackagingsolutions.com/
Looking to improve the sustainability of your packaging today? Check out:
https://www.landsberg.com/
The views and opinions expressed on the "Sustainable Packaging with Cory Connors" podcast are solely those of the author and guests and should not be attributed to any other individual or entity. 

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https://www.amazon.com/dp/1329820053/ref=as_sl_pc_qf_sp_asin_til?tag=corygat

Cory Connors:

Welcome to sustainable packaging with Cory Connors today, my guest is a little bit different than normal. We have a shoe brand, which is awesome, kind of changing the scene of shoes. Mr. Blake brown is the vice president of brand and creative at Kizik and hands-free labs. Good morning, sir. Great. How are you? Thanks for having me. I really appreciate you coming on saw your live with Adam, a Peek and Evelio Mattos and had the buy the shoes. So tell us about yourself. How'd you get in the shoe business?

Blake Brown:

I don't think I ever pictured myself being in the shoe business, but it was about two and a half years ago. So my previous history has always been in advertising advertise for bigger brands. And doing a lot of B2B B to C and I've always for like the past 20 years, I've always wanted to consumer goods and the opportunity kind of presented itself when Alex MacArthur, he was the former COO at purple mattress reached out to me. And I knew him through other connections. We started chatting and we had the same mindset and he's like, Hey, we're, we're, there's a Great opportunity here. And that dah, dah. And so, you know, I, I got really pumped about what Kizik and hands-free labs was doing at the time. And I mean, the thing that makes Kizik so unique, as you know, we are a technology company that makes shoes which is, was kind of like we had this innovation lab and then we also have this consumer goods. Yeah, we're just trying to do in parallel because in footwear, nothing has changed in 30 years. So I'm still learning every day about footwear. I've like gone all in on it and figure out all the little nuances and just growing and learning with it. So I, like I said, I would never picture myself as I I've always loved shoes, but I've never thought myself being in it, but it's been super fortunate. Continue to learn, build a brand because we have. Demonstrable product, you know, when you, when you actually, you step in the shoe, put your foot in and it's all the way on and that's it like, why do, why do we have to bend over to our shoes? So the thing is just mostly education, like creating any new category in any brand, even footwear, when there's, you know, 10,000 footwear brands in the world, you know, how do you, how do you fit in to, how do you be different? How do you be unique? How do you, what's your voice? What's your what's your differentiated product? So.

Cory Connors:

I bought a pair a few weeks ago after I saw that live and I love them. They're so comfortable. So easy to use. Like you said, you'd just slide them on. So that's the differentiator here. You just slide them on. You don't have to tie them. It's hands-free shoes.

Blake Brown:

I mean, it's one of those things. It's a problem that no, no one ever thinks about. When you actually have this kind of opportunity, once people have that, we call it the aha moment when people are like, oh my gosh, it really is that easy. Like I never have to do this or do that. Like, it's one of those things that we don't look at it as a novelty, but it's like, we're making people's lives easier. And also the other part of it. The people that have disabilities or ailments or aging, America kids. I mean, there's that broad scope of like what this can do and actually has a brand with purpose as well. So it's really been unique and fun. So

Cory Connors:

it's. All great points. Yeah. People with you know, otherly able to all, all the, the whole spectrum of, of things. This, this is going to be a real convenience for a lot of people.

Blake Brown:

Great job. Yeah. I mean, it's great. I mean, we've heard, you know, we've heard people say, like, I haven't been able to put my own shoes on for 20 years and to have those people, like it, it just gives you kind of meaning and kind of fuels that spark internally, which will help. I said that sparked out externally.

Cory Connors:

Yeah. That's so interesting. Can you tell us who invented this idea or where it came from?

Blake Brown:

So our chairman and founder, Mike Pratt Mike Pratt is he's a serial entrepreneur. He's. I call him a mad scientist. I don't know if he likes you, call him, me, calling him pat, but super humble, amazing guy. I mean, he's one of those things that's like, why do things have to be this way? So Mike started OGIO international, which was a bag company

Cory Connors:

backpack.

Blake Brown:

Yeah. Yeah. So he's started OGIO and built that and sold that to Callaway golf the 2017. And when he was also developing. To that point of just like, why do things have to, why do I have to bend down and tie my shoes? There's gotta be a better way. And so he actually worked on the patents and, and then about 2017, we started Kizik and, and Kizik had kind of a slower growth. And we started just firing on all cylinders. And we got our hands-free lab side is kind of the innovation side. And we actually have a partnership with our friends at night. And working with him on things as well. So yeah, so, so Mike is like that serial entrepreneurs. He's always asking those questions. I'm like, there's gotta be a better way. And, and we're still trying to come up with ways or so many different ways. It's not just one way, there's like a thousand ways you can put on your shoes. And, but there's also like, you know, we're working on technologies for boots and like really incredible things that we can put on shoes, hands free. So So, yeah, that's my that's kind of that backstory on how, how hands-free labs in Cusick.

Cory Connors:

Well, that's awesome. And I wanted to show off the box that I got the shoes in craft corrugated printed with, with two colors, white and blue, which is really cool. But what makes this box really sustainable? In my opinion, is this right here? It's resealable. So let's say you get the wrong size. You don't like the color as much as you thought you can easily put them back in this box, ship it right back to Kizik and have it you know, a new one shipped to you. So,

Blake Brown:

and this is what it looks like when it isn't sealed. And so, I mean, it's just, it's another way of like extending the brand touch. You know, how do we make this convenient and easy for people to be like, oh, I got to find tape. I got to find this other box. I gotta find another bag. I gotta, I gotta do all these. I gotta do more work to, to get a different color or a new size or whatever it might be. So it's always like, and I know as well, I'm preaching to the choir here, but I think packaging is one of those touch points that it's like, so underlooked and so utilized. And for us, for me, we're, we're growing so fast. We've got a pretty small team for me. It's, you know, I want to give the best experience, have that like aha moment of once they see an ad, what's the coming to this side. Once they get, you know, the place, an order, once they get the packaging and then have the aha moment when they step into the shoe. So for us, it's like, how do you, how do we consider? It's always like educating internally of like, Hey, this has gotta be an important touch point of how we deliver our brand story. Through the products. So in packaging, so yeah.

Cory Connors:

And sustainable packaging for shoes is hard because so many times they'll they'll have a shoe box and then they'll put it in another box. And that just drives me crazy. It's like, oh yeah. I mean, although I understand the sneakerheads and , their appreciation of the packaging, it's a keepsake box. That's different, right? Yeah. But these are going to be worn. These are. You know, you know, a daily wear shoe. What, what really sold me on the shoe by the way, is when you said on the live, they lasted a Disneyland trip and your feet were comfortable. That's a lot of miles when you're walking through Disneyland.

Blake Brown:

Yeah. And that's the other thing too. It's not just. Hands-free, but we still need to have that style was still need to have that comfort. We still need to have that fit. So there's all these table stakes that we're going to have. We're always going to be pushing that won't be known for hands-free because it's so unique and no one else can really do it. And so for us, it's really like, we still have to have those, those features like, Hey, it's breathable, it's comfortable. It's stable. It's the traction is great. And so we have all these other elements. We're continuing to lean in on. And so that's, that's, you know, that's our convenience and comfort story all day long.

Cory Connors:

It's a, it's really a cool story. And do you guys have any other kind of sustainability goals or, or things that you're striving to do differently with either the shoe or the package?

Blake Brown:

I mean, the thing is when it comes to footwear, it's like building a footwear brand. I mean, we traditionally are a pretty small team when I came on, there was probably 10. 15 of us maybe. Now we're about 45 and this year we'll probably be more around 75, an extra, probably closer to a hundred w which is, which is awesome. But at the same time, We've got a small marketing team, small product team. So we're like everyone's wearing 20 hats and we got an amazing team and I'm just still surprised every day. I'm like, man, we got a killer team for doing so much. And so when we look at sustainability, not just from a packaging, but also, you know, there's a lot of other shoe brands out there that that is their story is sustainability or this or that. And so those are table stakes. I mean, for us as well. We want to be intentional with everything we do. It's like, Hey, we want to find the right type. I don't know if you can hear a construction going on out here. So so if they're doing if they're, you know, you have all these fuller brands doing sustainability stuff. And so for us is, you know, how do we lean in to that? How do we add these things? Like we have an old. Upper that's a hundred percent posts like recycled materials. And so it also had, how do we get into doing that for the outsole, for all these other pieces and the insole. And so we're really leaning into that because that's just, that's just things, customers. And what we believe in is critical really. I mean not just from a competitive advantage, but also from a Doing good and, and treating, you know, the planet is as better than we we've currently been treating it. And so we have such a massive impact on that. And of course being a product and footwear company is we want to make sure we're not adding to that, that problem. That's so prevalent right now.

Cory Connors:

Yeah, we appreciate that. From a sustainability standpoint, it's hard. It's hard to be sustainable with, with everything. It takes, thought it takes effort. And I think a lot of people don't realize how difficult it is to really do something like you did with your packaging. That takes innovation. That takes you know, for. Takes really a team working to, to make a good decision, to be more sustainable. So,

Blake Brown:

yeah. Well, I appreciate it. I mean, I, half the time, I don't know what I'm doing anyways, so I just it's it's it's it it's, you know, it's like, yeah, what I love to spend, you know, weeks and weeks on packaging and like keep fine tuning. It's like, yeah, we'll get. I dunno if you heard me on the last podcast. I want to do a hands-free box, like so badly. I want to do a box where people can just throw it on the floor and the whole box opens like in a unique way and it unfolds and you just stepped into the shoe and there's a way to push the sides of the box back in. And everything kind of origami is back together, you know, reship. And so that's kind of. That's my Beehag for this next year is how do we figure that out? But that's the thing there's, there's you know, we're, we're really scrappy and we're just trying to like, Hey, let's continue to iterate and make it better and make it better, make it better and make it not for us. But mostly for the end user really is like, how do I make this easier for this for them? How do we bring them into our trial? As a brand and you know how to recreate that memorable experience. So that's what, that's what really we're all about is having people, you know, cause there's all these unboxing videos. I'm like, oh, look at this. This is cool. And I love those just as you or anybody else. But for us it's like, how do we get people to share that moment as well? Hey, I got these awesome shoes. Oh look, this cool packaging, but also. Look at me, step into these shoes. I don't even have to use my hands and we want to create those sharable moments.

Cory Connors:

It's an incredibly innovative product. And I really like how you've printed on the inside at Landsberg Orora . We always say, it's the promise of what's inside. And , the artwork on the inside is. Better than the artwork on the outside. And that that's always going to be the case, right. Because it's going to be clean ups and FedEx like to get boxes dirty.

Blake Brown:

I know. I know. Right. And that's the thing is like you only can control so much of that. You know, it's like, Hey, we've got this great box, but we never knows. You know, sometimes it's, you know, it's there in the middle of the fourth quarter doing the Christmas and they're just throwing boxes on people against our front doors. So,

Cory Connors:

so what's the future of Kizik you said hands-free box. You got some, you got some high tops come in. You got some boots coming.

Blake Brown:

Well, I mean, there's the biggest thing right now for us is as a brand cause I don't, I don't even know if you have kids and I do. I got, I got three. I got three girls and it's one of those things of it, it was just a natural fit. Like any parent is knows this and they feel that pain of trying to put shoes on kids. You know, it's like, okay, I'm, I'm so frustrated. I'm we're not going to go anywhere. I don't want to do anything. We're staying home. You know, but now it's just giving kids independence to really like, I mean, this is literally, you're probably one of the first person to see this, but so this is one of so this is from our Athens line. Awesome. A kid's shoe and so really fun, bright, colorful, but same thing. It's, you know, the step on the back of the hill and go in. So it gives the kids independence to go in and just go play, like, go and play, go and do. Instead of like, mom helped me or daddy helped me put my shoes on and you're like, ah, you got your hands full and you're trying to get out the door. That's the last thing you want. Yeah. As a parent, as a parent. So it looks like the convenience for parents, but also for the kids. It's, it's such a no brainer. So for us, like, literally right now, before we started chatting, I'm actually working on packaging for a kids, her kids right now.

Cory Connors:

Yeah, I have a six-year-old daughter that would love those shoes. So this is great. And my son is nine and he hates tying shoes. So,

Blake Brown:

and that's the thing it's like, no one likes time. Yeah, no one likes tying shoes and some people can't. And so there's there, there's a there's that guy had said earlier about that purpose driven of having be able to people that I, that can't, and that's the, that's the beauty about, you know, having a product and a brand like that. If having that intention of Making someone's life that much easier. And a lot of things we take for her, you know, feel better able body you know, they, they take, we take things for granted. I, I know I do. And so like when I, when you hear these stories, it's like, wow, it's incredible. What we're doing is pretty special. So it's super awesome to be part of that.

Cory Connors:

We you know, the old phrase of walk a mile in another man's shoe really makes sense here and. It's so true. And it's, so we take so much for granted in this world, you know, we're I think about, I was frustrated this morning about something and I think about . Lucky I am to even have that opportunity You are so blessed and so fortunate.

Blake Brown:

So that's yeah. Yeah. And it's, it's humbling, especially when you're, when you're trying to build a brand and, and sell shoes. And, but I think it gives us a higher purpose and actually gives us more. When you have something worth purpose, it just gives you that energy to keep, keep going. Cause like building any brand. I don't care who you are. It's hard. It's hard. It's really hard. Especially when it comes to consumer goods and there's. You have 10,000 other competitors in the footwear space. And, and for us, it's like, it's, it's pretty humbling. And it's you know, we, we don't, we don't take that for granted or take that lightly. And like, yeah, I can keep going on and on about that. But yeah, there's, like I said, kids is a big priority for us. We're going to start getting into other categories eventually. We got our unique slip-on shoes. Actually slipper the ch the true, the true meaning of a, what a slipper is because they think, when people say that they're slip-ons, it's like, no, they're not really. Slip-ons, it's like, you have to stand on one foot, hop around, get your finger back there, still put it on. So we're actually, we're working on, you know, a lot of innovations and it takes time to create products, especially when you have product and technology together, it takes, it takes a long time. Cause we want to do it and do it well and do it right. As best as we can. So,

Cory Connors:

well, I'm excited. I'm a huge advocate for what you guys are doing. We'll, we'll keep selling these shoes with you and I appreciate it. What, what's the best way for people to get ahold of you guys and, and buy some shoes? Is there a retailer that you've partnered with or

Blake Brown:

website? That's another story. That's another thing we're working on this year is actually, we're going to end the retail dish later. Well, we're going to hopefully have a head flagship store end this year, locally here in Utah, we'll start doing popups or because that's one of those things it's like, oh, why would you open up retail? And it's kind of a economy and the seven year, what would you have that aha moment of someone trying on shoes. It's like, okay, I'm going to walk out with these shoes because these are so amazing. And, and it's just a no-brainer for us. It's not like, Hey, we're just another shoe store, but we're actually creating it and experience. So we want to share that. Yeah, that's that's, that was off topic, but it's that's enough this year. So kids.com K I Z I k.com reach out to me on LinkedIn, Blake brown. I'm always happy to, to chat. We're hiring we're growing like crazy. So yeah, it's, it's been an awesome journey and just look forward to keeping that.

Cory Connors:

I've really enjoyed your, your tick talks on you know all your brand, not your personal ones. The, the ads for your shoes have been really cool. That's been fun to see

Blake Brown:

it's been, yeah, it's been fun. And I mean, there's just, that's another thing too, about a brand we're just trying to be relatable. We're not trying to be. Something we're not, and that's the, that's one of those platforms that take talk cause you it's fun to share and be yourself really. So appreciate that.

Cory Connors:

Keep it up. Thank you. Landsberg, Orora for your continued support and sponsorship of this podcast. And, and thank you so much, Blake. I really,

Blake Brown:

I appreciate it. Thanks Cory . Thank you, OK . See ya.