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Ep. 122 - Are You a Store Owner or a Brand Owner? with Josh Firestone

Josh grew up with a passion for being creative. Whether he was producing movies with friends, designing posters for school events, or (attempting to) DJ at parties - he was always up to something. 

Looking to satiate this creative itch at college, Josh interned at several start-ups and an advertising agency. 

One of these startups was Bearbottom Clothing, where four years later, he continues to lead creative and growth efforts as CMO. 

In his free time, Josh enjoys paddle boarding, discovering new music, and watching stand-up comedy.

In This Conversation We Discuss: 

  • [00:00] Intro
  • [01:06] How Josh joined Bearbottom Clothing
  • [02:32] Growth stage of Bearbottom Clothing
  • [03:39] What Josh helped with when he joined
  • [04:28] Learning and competition
  • [05:43] Sponsor: Gorgias gorgias.grsm.io/honest
  • [07:11] Sponsor: Electric Eye electriceye.io
  • [07:31] Bearbottom Clothing’s early strategy
  • [08:33] Josh’s “cheat sheet”
  • [09:53] Sponsor: Klaviyo klaviyo.com/honest
  • [11:20] From Social Media Manager to CMO
  • [12:13] Does Josh work with outside agencies?
  • [12:44] Avoiding getting in the weeds too much
  • [13:12] Sponsor: Avalara avalara.com/honest
  • [14:07] Career progress and passion
  • [14:37] Patience is needed for running a business
  • [15:56] Other strategies that worked for Bearbottom
  • [17:23] Sponsor: Rewind rewind.io/honest
  • [17:58] Having fewer Facebook creatives
  • [18:58] How often does Bearbottom update creatives?
  • [19:39] The need for a content creation engine
  • [20:26] The 2 key perspectives in any business

Resources:

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 Transcript:

Josh Firestone  

You can't do everything at once and it's okay to be patient.

Chase Clymer  

Welcome to Honest Ecommerce, a podcast dedicated to cutting through the BS and finding actionable advice for online store owners. I'm your host, Chase Clymer. And I believe running a direct-to-consumer brand does not have to be complicated or a guessing game. 

On this podcast, we interview founders and experts who are putting in the work and creating real results. 

I also share my own insights from running our top Shopify consultancy, Electric Eye. We cut the fluff in favor of facts to help you grow your Ecommerce business.

Let's get on with the show. 

Hey everybody, welcome to another episode of Honest Ecommerce. I'm your host, Chase Clymer. Today, welcoming to the show from sunny Clearwater, Florida, Josh Firestone from Bearbottom Clothing. How are you doing today?

Josh Firestone  

Doing well. Happy to be on.

Chase Clymer  

I'm happy to have you. I'm happy we figured out those technical difficulties. It was definitely a user error on my end. (laughs) But we got it sorted. 

So Josh is joining us from Bearbottom Clothing. For those that aren't familiar. They make awesome menswear. Have you guys forayed into women's [wear] yet?

Josh Firestone  

Not yet.

Chase Clymer  

Not yet. Awesome. I am actually a big fan of the brand. So, [I'm] super excited to get Josh on the podcast. And today we're going to talk about his journey with Bearbottom. 

It's a little bit unique. He is not one of the founders, but he was a core team member way back when and I love his story joining with... You can correct me if I'm wrong, but not really knowing what you're doing.

Josh Firestone  

Yeah. Definitely. That's accurate. 

Chase Clymer  

Oh, cool. So just take me back. Take me back to what you were doing before Bearbottom and what led to joining the team and helping them get things going.

Josh Firestone  

Yeah. So before joining, I was just a regular college student at University of Florida. And I had an interest in startups and advertising because that was my major at the time.

And I was bouncing around different internships in the summer and during the year. And I met Robert who founded the Bearbottom through our fraternity.

And I saw what he was doing and thought it was really cool. What I pretty much did is just I would send him text messages when I would see him post something on Instagram and say, "Oh, this is cool. Or I don't know about this one." And pretty much bothered him for a couple of months. 

Until one day he was like, "Hey, I've been working with this agency. It's not going so well. You seem like you know what you're doing a little bit. Do you want to work with me and help me manage our social media?" And that's where it started. 

Chase Clymer  

That's fantastic. So how long... How far along was the brand when you got that offer? Where were they at? I guess. 

Josh Firestone  

So we were just having 2 main products at the time, really just the regular shorts and swimwear. 

Since then, we've expanded to t-shirts and accessories and all sorts of things. And Robert just moved out of where he was originally shipping out of a storage container. 

He just moved into a more formal office in Gainesville, steps to my house, which was great for me. And that's where he was ready to really grow the brand.

Chase Clymer  

Gotcha. Can you share any metrics for people to understand where you were at growth-wise? You can be as open or close as you want.

Josh Firestone  

Yeah. We've had over 100,000 customers now. And we're about 7 years old. And we sell them all over the US.

Chase Clymer  

Gotcha. But no. So way back when you joined, where were things at?

Josh Firestone  

Oh at the time, yeah, it was probably less than 10% of what it is now.

Chase Clymer  

Gotcha. So you guys had a long way to go. So when you joined the company, what were you tackling and helping out with originally?

Josh Firestone  

Really just posting on Instagram. And once you start pulling that thread and following that road, you realize there's a lot more you need to do. 

And I think that's how my role grew. And that's how we ended up growing the brand.

Because you figure out, "Okay, we're gonna post on Instagram, people are going to come to the site. Hmm, what are we missing on the site? They might probably want to know more about us. We probably need an About Us page."

"Okay, how does the size guide work out of the product pages ?" 

"Okay, now we have these new customers, how are we keeping them here?" 

And then you go into retention. And you're bouncing back and forth to all these different things. And that's pretty much how I learned just one thing at a time.

Chase Clymer  

I think that pulling on the thread of the strategy behind getting them, moving them down the funnel and then retention as well, it's one of the things that really draws me to Ecommerce. 

It's super fun. And it's interesting, and it's always... You're always learning.

Josh Firestone  

Definitely. And everything's always changing. And it's cool to see what other people are up to. Everyone I talked to in Ecommerce is so passionate about it, which is really cool. I don't know if you see that in so many industries. I like being part of that community like being on the show. It's exciting. 

Chase Clymer  

Oh, yeah. I talked about it all the time, the ecosystem is so nice and I had a really bad habit of being super competitive when I was younger. And when it came to business, I was like every client was like, you had to... 

If you lost the client or your competitor was your enemy... It was such a dumb outlook. 

Nowadays, some of the people that are l in masterminds with me or that are mentoring me are just amazing and they're direct competitors, but it doesn't matter. 

There's more than enough work to go around. And it's cool.

Josh Firestone  

Yeah, I totally agree. I'll have conversations with people that are making mens and leisurewear, and it's directly what we're doing. And it's still constructive conversation and very friendly which is really cool. 

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Chase Clymer  

Awesome. Awesome. So let's take it back to getting things started posting on Instagram and going down that rabbit hole. What was a... 

What was the first strategy or tactic that you guys were using consistently to grow the brand where you're like, "Alright, we figured out [that] if we put effort here, we're going to get more customers in."

Josh Firestone  

Yeah. I think beefing up our email retention strategy was really big and an intake form when people would come to the site, like a free shipping offer was huge for us in the beginning. Also just defining the brand. 

When I joined, we didn't really have a brand. It was more just like a store that was selling great value shorts to college students. And that was like the main target but we weren't expanding much out of there. 

So we spent a lot of time figuring out really who our customers were [and] who they could be and threading that needle together.

Chase Clymer  

Oh yeah. That's a great little insight there. And I think that's... The barrier of entry of starting a clothing business is pretty low. It's even lower now than it was back then. 

And I think that's something that a lot of people miss: The difference between having an Ecommerce store and having a brand. 

What would you say were some of the bigger differentiations between where you were and when you grew up and really evolved into that brand role?

Josh Firestone  

Yeah. So one of the ways we figure that out is... I just looked at our tags on Instagram and it was just tons of photos of people hiking, going on vacations, a lot of college kids on spring break, and traveling. 

And I said "Robert, I think this is the brand. People are taking their clothes and they're doing things they love doing outside of their normal, everyday life.

And we can follow this, make clothes that match these actions and these activities and try to inspire people to continue to do things they love." 

And that's how that brand evolved.

Chase Clymer  

That's such a cool little tip right there. You were informed on the direction of your brand from your actual customers. That's definitely a little cheat sheet there. I like it. 

Josh Firestone  

(laughs)

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Josh Firestone  

We're always looking at customer reviews and anything to stay in touch with the customer and understand what they want.

Chase Clymer  

Awesome. And then... So when you started... Did you even have a role when you started or were you just... Did you have an official title or were you just helping?

Josh Firestone  

I think [I might be] a Social Media Manager maybe. (laughs)

Chase Clymer  

Gotcha. And then nowadays, you've evolved into this to the CMO. What kind of tactic... Not tactics... I guess. 

Well, how did your job evolve over the last couple years? And where has your energy shifted from looking at Instagram tags and being…

Instagram's a powerful platform. But I'm sure you're still looking at the tags now. (laughs)

Josh Firestone  

Yeah. Like I said, in the beginning, [I was] just following that thread along with all the parts of the story that need to be put together. 

Now, more of my time is spent on paid media, like paid social media, other platforms, and other channels that we're exploring now and testing with the UX and experience on the site. 

A little bit of product development through a marketing lens. And right now we're just trying to grow the team so we can build all these things.

Chase Clymer  

Awesome. That's where I was going with that now. So are you managing your partners, or team members or agencies that you guys are working with more? Or are you actually in the weeds executing some of this?

Josh Firestone  

Right now, I'm really in the weeds. But we have new hires, who are joining us really soon that I'm really, really excited about. 

And we do have some partners we work with outside like freelancers for different tasks. But we don't use any outside agency. We do all the media buying in-house.

Chase Clymer  

Gotcha. Yeah. I just think of the evolution of a marketer at an agency as you move up the ladder. 

You start to see more [of the] big picture and less hands on which is cool for some people. Not for others... I always find myself getting in the weeds too much over our agency.

And it's just I got to stop and let the team do what they do.

Josh Firestone  

Yeah, I can really relate to that. I think it's going to be learning for me, too. But it'll be good for the brand and for me, mentally. 

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Chase Clymer  

Yeah. Nobody tells you that as you get better at your job --just like always eventually evolves into-- your job becomes management unless [you're] doing the thing that you're really passionate about. And it's kinda...

Josh Firestone  

Yeah. Well, I've had this discussion here already. I'm always going to be doing product photography, no matter how big we get, because I just love doing it.

And it's something I'm really proud of how the products work that they were able to do that in our small studio here.

Chase Clymer  

Oh yeah. I don't think that the podcast is what helped the agency. I don't think I'm gonna get out of doing this. This is fun. I interview people all the time and learn really cool things and meet amazing people. 

I'm probably not going to ever stop doing this. But I've had to let go of a few things. And it's definitely a learning curve.

So if you could go back in time, to when you first got started or any time back then, is there a mistake that you made that you'd wish you could go back and tell yourself to not do?

Josh Firestone  

I think just from a mindset standpoint just have patience. I think there are times where I would try to do a lot of different things to get the site looking exactly how I wanted it. 

And then things fall short in other areas of the business. You can't do everything at once and it's okay to be patient. I think it's right. I wish I knew earlier. Now I have a better understanding of that.

Chase Clymer  

Yeah. I couldn't have said it better myself. I always say if everything's important, nothing's important. You know what I mean? That's great. You got to focus. 

The way that we always approach stuff is pick a KPI and run with it for a while. And then once you're out of ideas there, jump to a different one.

Josh Firestone  

Yeah. I like that. Take the energy you have on one KPI and then shift somewhere right in the middle and see if you can bring that energy and bring the idea somewhere else.

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. Awesome. So during the growth of the business, you got... You said you guys have at least 10X’ed since you joined the team. 

What are some other strategies that you guys were doing or just things that worked for you that other people might want to explore or look into?

Josh Firestone  

Yeah. A big thing for us really is the Facebook and Instagram marketing, which is obviously very common. And we've seen it evolve a lot over the last couple of years. 

Because Facebook's made a lot of changes, there's a lot more competition. When we started, we did a lot of microtargets and very individual targeting. 

And now we've really opened up the brand. And we've seen a lot of success with leaving things open in our advertising to welcome more people into the brand.

Chase Clymer  

Yeah, I've definitely heard that you're not smarter than Facebook so stop trying to be lately from the ad people I follow. They're like, "Just let the algorithm do its thing."

Josh Firestone  

Definitely. Another big thing was we added reviews to the site, I think, 2 years ago. And then last year, we started doing a post-purchase offer if you submitted a review and we saw a three-fold increase in review rate. 

And that's been helpful just to give social proof to the brand, but also to help us improve the product. Any bad review that gets posted, anything under 5 stars gets sent to us directly, and we address it. So that helped us a lot.

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Chase Clymer  

Yeah, getting the actual feedback from a customer to improve the product is crucial. That's an awesome tip right there. Going back to Facebook, though. 

And you said that you loved the product photography, how much creative are you guys producing to refresh these campaigns? Do you have a certain cadence that you follow?

Josh Firestone  

Hmm. That's interesting. I think it depends on the product and where it is. If it's a product launch, we'll always prep a lot of creative. If it's one of our core products, we  have a rhythm. 

Now we know a little bit about what works. And we'll test some creative after that. I know the rule of thumb that Facebook's always kind of pushing out to have 6 ads running in an ad site. I hope I'm not getting too technical right now.

Chase Clymer  

Some people like it. (laughs)

Josh Firestone  

Yeah. So we try not to have too much creative. I think at one point we used to just think, you know, the more the better. 

But then you end up overlapping your creative and overlapping audiences, which we're trying to scale back on.

Chase Clymer  

Gotcha. But  just how often are you guys shooting photography or refreshing what's in the Dropbox? or however you guys store it?

Josh Firestone  

Oh, constantly. Yeah. We're generating content. We use a platform called Popular Pays, if you've heard of that. 

So that is a content generation platform where you can link up with influencers and content creators. And we use it mainly just for the content creation standpoint. And that way, we can source images from people all across the country. 

Chase Clymer  

So not only are you producing content internally, but you are linking up with influencers and producers externally to bring content in so you got a flow of creative ideas for refreshing this all over the place? 

Josh Firestone  

Yeah. 

Chase Clymer  

Awesome. Yeah. That's the key that I want a lot of people that are listening to understand. It's that creating content, you need an engine to just constantly produce that, especially if you're going to tie your main growth channel to Facebook and Instagram because it's expensive. 

And if you don't, if you don't have that creative to keep refreshing it and keep testing, you're not going to make any money. It's as easy as that. 

Josh Firestone  

Yeah.

Chase Clymer  

Is there anything that I didn't ask you today that you think would be worthwhile to share with the audience?

Josh Firestone  

I think, [I would be] stressing that patience point, especially if you're early on with a new brand is so key. And being open to failure. 

It's cliche, but it's true. And that's how we've learned and just keep following that thread. 

Chase Clymer  

Man. Yeah, those 2 things are perfect. I think... Especially with starting any business --it could be a brand, it could be a service business or whatever-- the money never comes as quick or as much as you think is what someone told me once. 

And you really have to take it to heart. You really have to be patient, and you gotta just keep at it. Yeah. 

Josh, I can't thank you enough for coming on the show. We'll make sure to link out to your personal website and to the brand in the show notes. And thanks again. 

Josh Firestone  

Appreciate it. It's great being on. Thank you.

Chase Clymer  

Alright. I can't thank our guests enough for coming on the show and sharing their knowledge and journey with us. 

We've got a lot to think about and potentially add into our own business. You can find all the links in the show notes. 

Make sure you head over to honestecommerce.co to check out all the other amazing content that we have. Make sure you subscribe, leave a review

And obviously if you're thinking about growing your business, check out our agency at electriceye.io. Until next time.