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In today’s world of streetwear, there’s a very small chance you haven’t heard of the Young and Reckless brand. Stemming from the celebrities behind hit MTV shows like Fantasy Factory, Young and Reckless had a very unique rise in the ecommerce world by taking a retail first approach.

With no background in business or fashion, Chris “Drama” Pfaff originally moved to LA with dreams of working in a skateboard shop. That soon changed through his second cousin, professional skateboarder Rob Dyrdek. Drama soon became a character on their MTV reality shows and at age 22, he officially launched Young and Reckless.

In 2015, just six years after launching, the brand grew into a nationwide brand, with distribution in more than 3,000 Macy’s, Dillard’s and PacSun stores, celebrity endorsements from Puff Daddy and Justin Bieber, 43 employees, and $31 million in revenue.

The First Step Forward

Similar to our story on Gym Shark, the founders here started with a t-shirt printer. Drama literally started Young and Reckless by borrowing a printer his friend had to produce their first line of shirts. His friend sketched and designed their first logo.

Though someone may think a upcoming celebrity like Drama would have investors, the company launched with no outside capital. At the time, Fantasy Factory (the MTV reality show) was really drawing a strong following so Drama thought it’d be a good idea to capitalize on that audience with merchandise. Instead of conducting market research, he just knew there were three major skate stores: Pacsun, Zumiez, and Tillys. If he could land a deal with one, he’d be off to the right start.

With the exposure Young and Reckless was starting to gain on MTV, Drama headed over to Pacsun to see if they were interested in exclusive rights to his brand. They ended up inking a exclusive deal for six months and agreed to carry the line in all of their stores. Though most entrepreneurs won’t have this sway, Drama was able to utilize his social media following and promise of in-store autographs to land big retail distribution.

With the deal inked, Drama began to expand rapidly. They hired a graphic designer to pump out new designs and quickly expanded with other partnerships.

Getting to Scale

Most brands aren’t usually as connected as Young and Reckless is. These challenges always present a more paid acquisition strategy revolving around Facebook and Instagram ads. For Young and Reckless, they were able to partner with a up and coming rapper at the time, Meet Mill.

The deal cost only $50,000 cash plus some commission and when it launched in 2012, the hype was surreal. Young and Reckless designed apparel that fit in with Meek Mill’s brand, creating a custom line of clothing around his audience.

When they held a in store signing of Meek Mill’s upcoming album at the time, the mall was overcrowded with fans. It lead to a record number of sales for the year and sparked the brands focus on what has now become influencer marketing.

With that said, the challenge with influencer campaigns stems from the process of tracking sales. Unlike when you run Facebook or Instagram ads, when you pay a influencer to post about you, it is always a challenge to correlate this post directly to sales.

As an example, Drama explained one of the mistakes they made with a celebrity: “We did this $150,000 campaign with a celebrity when we were in a phase where I believed in myself a little too much and I believed in the brand a little too much. I thought you could just grab a celebrity and have them wear your clothes and it would look nice and it would work. But the celebrity didn’t fit the brand. There was no story to tell. There was nothing reckless to tell. The campaign wasn’t just a loss, it hurt the brand long term.”

That’s why it’s crucial to find influencers to work with that fit your brand. The other main mistake Young and Reckless made stems from it’s retail partners.

“Tillys asked us for baseball jerseys because baseball jerseys were huge. We put our logo on a baseball jersey and it just didn’t work. We didn’t have a story about why we were making baseball jerseys.”

As a brand, you always need to be customer focused. You can’t just slap your logo on any product and expect it to sell.

Shifting to a Ecommerce Focus

As the brand grew through retail and influencers, ecommerce became a focus of Young and Reckless. The shift stemmed from the decline in the retail world when big partners of the brand like Pacsun went bankrupt. In the ecommerce world, Young and Reckless gets to capitalize on higher margins while controlling their brand experience.

They’ve now utilized several advertising platforms like Instagram, where they see a lot of success. In this case study in partnership with Instagram, the brand has had as high as a 6x return on ad spend, while they tend to average a 3x return.

Young and Reckless found animated messages ad types performed well for them. They will post a photo with text that moves around the screen like:

Now even in the ecommerce world, they still push for a heavy influencer driven presence. What many people think is a approach fueled through connections, oftens stems from hustle. As Drama says, “I’ve seen Jimmy Lovine chase Pharrell down a sidewalk to try to get an iPhone photo of him wearing Beats by Dre headphones.” Everyone thinks these photos come through warm intros but often it’s pure timing or hustle.

Next Steps for Optimization

As Young and Reckless continues to grow, they’ve had to implement the right software to better manage their operations. Traditionally, most ecommerce brands and retailers use email and excel spreadsheets to manage production. This method obviously isn’t scalable and is where Sourcify often comes in.

For inventory management, they implemented Stitch Labs, which enabled them to decrease their margin of error for inventory counts by 35%. This has let them better forecast inventory, centralize inventory management, and have insight into multiple warehouses with their inventory.

As any company grows, you need to invest in the right tools to create a scalable foundation. For Young and Reckless, this is just the start of what will soon be a brand that hopes to compete with global brands like Nike and Adidas.

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