5 Lessons For Aspiring Brand Owners from Co-founder & Creative Director of Rhone Activewear, Ben Checketts

June 26, 2024

As the Creative Director and Co-Founder of Rhone, Ben Checketts is bringing a fresh approach to 21st-century entrepreneurship. With a background spanning English literature to sports marketing, Ben brings a uniquely multidisciplinary approach to building brands. But what really sets him apart is his willingness to question conventional wisdom and take the road less traveled. Whether he's sending his CEO to run the London Marathon in their new commuter shirt or aligning his brand with the cause of mental health, Ben is always looking for ways to stand out from the pack and make a real impact.

In this week's episode of How the F*** Did You Get That Job?, Ben takes us through the highs and lows of his entrepreneurial journey. He shares the lightbulb moment that led him and his brother Nate to launch Rhone, the painstaking process of turning that initial spark into a fully realized brand, and the personal struggles and triumphs that have shaped him as a leader. It's a genuinely human tale of resilience, adaptability, and the courage to forge your own path that I think will be an interesting listen for many dreamers looking to establish their own brand and business.

So, if you're looking for a blueprint on how to turn your passion into a business, or just some genuine advice from someone who's been there and done that, this episode is for you.

Check out the full thing here:

But let’s start here with 5 highlights from the episode that I think you’ll find valuable:

1. Identify the Gap and Seize the Opportunity

When Ben and his brother Nate started Rhone, they didn't just follow the crowd. They spotted a gap in the activewear market between the generic big-box brands and the pricey niche labels, and they went for it.

"There really was this white space between the big box brands that sell to everybody and the very niche brands that sell to one category and were a little bit more expensive. And we said, okay, could we create a multi-use product that you can wear for CrossFit, but you can also wear it for running."

Every market has its gaps, those overlooked niches just waiting to be filled. But spotting them requires a keen eye and a willingness to question the status quo. Rhone succeeded because they identified a specific need - high-quality, versatile activewear that bridges the gap between mass-market and luxury - and created a product that truly delivers.

2. Stand for Something More Than Just Making a Buck

Rhone aspired to be more than just another apparel company churning out overpriced workout gear. They wanted to build a brand with a purpose.

"What underlined all of it was we can't just be another clothing brand. We have to be a brand that means something more. And that was where the mental fitness idea came out of marrying this idea of mental health and physical fitness and creating safe spaces for guys to talk about that, explore that, and curating stories and experiences that help people think about mental fitness in a different way."

In a world where consumers are increasingly skeptical of corporate motives, authenticity is everything. By aligning themselves with the cause of mental fitness, Rhone tapped into something deeper than just making sales. They created a community, a movement, a reason for people to support their brand.

3. Don't Be Afraid to Think Outside the Box

When Rhone wanted to showcase the versatility of their new commuter shirt, they didn't just slap together a generic ad campaign. They sent their CEO to run the London Marathon in it.

"Our product guy was like ‘hey, I went for a run in the shirt and it was actually kind of amazing’... And so we were on with another one of our finance guys and he was like ‘well if it's that good Nate should run the London Marathon in it’ and he did and he videoed the whole thing and we made it into a whole campaign."

If you want your brand to stand out, you can't just rely on the same old playbook. You need to be willing to take some risks and try something new. Rhone's London Marathon stunt was unexpected, memorable, and perfectly demonstrated the unique selling point of their product.

4. Timing is Everything When You're Expanding

Rhone knew from the start that they wanted to break into the women's market, but they didn't dive in headfirst without a plan. They bided their time until the moment was right.

"April was the perfect time because that's when people are starting to think about their summer activities and the summer sports and getting outside. And for us as a business, it was the right time because we felt like we had a really strong foundation on the men's side and the opportunity for women's was right in front of us."

Expanding into a new market or product line is always tempting, especially when things are going well. But timing is everything. The key is to be strategic and deliberate - lay the groundwork, build your base, get your ducks in a row. Then, when the moment is right, strike with confidence.

5. Learn from Those Who've Been There Before

As a first-time founder, Ben had a steep learning curve ahead of him. But he also had an invaluable resource: his brother Nate's experience.

"Nate was not a first time founder. He had had a business before he started Rhone. So we had a lot of the benefit of his knowledge coming out of that."

No matter how brilliant or driven you are, starting a business is hard. There's no shame in admitting what you don't know, and seeking out guidance from those who've been there before. Whether it's a formal mentor, a business partner with complementary skills, or just a friend who's been through the wringer, having someone in your corner who can offer advice and perspective can be a game-changer.

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