Episode 303
May 12, 2023

Breaking the Hedonic Treadmill

Joy Howard's Early Majority is defying conventional eCommerce norms by building in public with their community. In this episode, learn about Joy's ethos for redefining brands with a “punk rock ethos,” the challenges of creating a unique online experience, and how Early Majority’s mission to redefine the good life is resonating with customers seeking a more meaningful, eco-conscious lifestyle. Listen now!

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Joy Howard's Early Majority is defying conventional eCommerce norms by building in public with their community. In this episode, learn about Joy's ethos for redefining brands with a “punk rock ethos,” the challenges of creating a unique online experience, and how Early Majority’s mission to redefine the good life is resonating with customers seeking a more meaningful, eco-conscious lifestyle. Listen now!

Street to Summit: Culture is What Makes Brands

  • {00:05:12} Why do so many outdoor brands make cool stuff for men and then have a women’s line that is pretty lame? There are cool outdoor women who want cool outdoor apparel, too
  • {00:09:17} Building in public is a slower way to grow a brand, but Joy views the enjoyable pace as a foundation for longevity
  • {00:11:53} “As soon as you decide that you're going to build community, you automatically have to have humility and you automatically have to submit to where everybody else wants to go too. Not in a herd or sheep-like way, but in a way that's deeply collaborative and mindful and listening.” - Joy
  • {00:18:19} The aesthetic of the brand helps to tell the story of who Early Majority is as a community-centered brand that sells apparel, and it so many ways, there is a distinctively different story being told
  • {00:25:44} The new counter-culture is actually looking for the right kinds of limitations and boundaries and structure
  • {00:31:22} Having a membership program within the brand was one very intentional way of addressing economic equality and providing accessibility for more people to be able to enjoy the product
  • {00:37:30} “Probably the scariest thing about everything that I've done so far and what really is against the grain is having that little bit of friction in the funnel up front.” - Joy
  • {00:42:21} The future of commerce is more cooperative, more supportive, and more offline, where people are able to find their community and their place in commerce in life-giving ways.

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Joy: [00:00:00] I think everyone is interested in exploring an alternative vision of the good life that isn't about being on this what our members call the hedonic treadmill. Work, consume, work, consume, work... It's everyone's exhausted with that. So they want something else.

Brian: [00:01:16] Hello and welcome to Future Commerce, the podcast about the next generation of eCommerce. I'm Brian.

Phillip: [00:01:25] I'm Phillip. And today to talk about the next generation of commerce, I feel like I have someone I've been looking up to for the last year and a half, almost two years of sort of falling in love with the brand from afar and then trying to get integrated into the community. Joy Howard from Early Majority, building the future of commerce. Welcome to the show, Joy.

Joy: [00:01:43] Thank you. It's great to be here.

Brian: [00:01:45] Great to have you.

Phillip: [00:01:46] It's great to have you. You're literally building, I think, the future of commerce, a brand out in front of doing I think everything that is very modern these days, building in public, launching a community... Tell us a little bit about Early Majority.

Joy: [00:02:00] Yeah. So Early Majority is a community that makes gear for getting outside. And we started with this very simple vision of wanting to make fewer, better products first for ourselves and then for all the other people that we met that shared a similar vision. And the hypothesis for the business, really the question that we asked that we're still answering is [00:02:22] could we build a business that grew by expanding supportive community rather than proliferating so much unnecessary product? And at the root of that is this understanding that it is this relentless product proliferation model that drives so many apparel companies that results in so much frustratingly disappointing product. [00:02:41] So I'm happy to talk more about sort of how I learned about that and where I think that comes from in the industry, if you guys want to get into it. But that's us in a nutshell. And we incorporated in January of 21, so we're very much born of the pandemic and of that moment that everyone was having this if we're not going to do this thing that we're dreaming of now, when are we actually going to do it? Because life might be a lot shorter than any of us thought. And we've been building in public ever since then. Actually, I think our first newsletter was in May of 21, so all of the journey is there on the blog for our community to read about, and some of it's there for anyone to read about.

Phillip: [00:03:21] Wow.

Brian: [00:03:22] That's so cool. May of 21, that was a big month for me as well. I believe that was the first time I climbed Mount Saint Helens. I am very, very into the outdoors. And Phillip caught your brand early and turned me on to you. Super, super excited to hear about that story. What a great way to start jumping in with both feet, finding the time to finally say, you know what, this is what life's worth living for, and then building something that's worth having. And so I would love to hear a little bit more about just a little bit of that background as to how you came to that conclusion.

Joy: [00:04:08] Do you mean about the actual product that we would make or the idea to start the business?

Brian: [00:04:13] The product itself? How did you land on what you built?

Joy: [00:04:18] Oh, well, I mean, I'd been dreaming of product like this for a very long time. And mostly I found that when I talked to other women, they also shared a similar dream of having product... It's actually been very common in both the outdoor and streetwear industries that the really cool product, the really cool collabs usually just comes in men's sizes. Women are used to actually shopping the men's section, especially when it comes to very hyped product with fingers crossed, hoping that it'll come in a size that's small enough for women. I know this because I used to work at Converse and worked on really incredible collaborations there like Margiela, Warhol... And it amazes me to look back at that now and think that I worked on those collaborations, just hoping they would come in my size without the certainty that they would necessarily come in my size. So women have become very accustomed to that. And so the first frustration was why are men getting all the cool stuff and there's nothing cool for women? Or why is the women's stuff lame even? You see this very cool product from these outdoor brands and then it just looks like, "Wow, this guy has like a lame girlfriend. What's up with that?" Surely there's cool guys outdoors that are dating cool women or whatever. And they both want cool product. So that was the first source of frustration. But the second one was actually very personal. And it has to do with the way apparel brands go to market and especially the way sportswear brands go to market. They go to market in a way that didn't address my personal need as an urban cyclist. So I've always kind of sourced my gear for biking from well, mostly from Patagonia. And I know how those products are made and the waterproof shells are mostly made for Alpinists who are constantly looking up and down, you know, on belay. And so the way that you turn your head when you're in the city, whether you're walking or biking, is left to right. And just for decades, I've dealt with these hoods that don't really turn with your head. It's so weird. It's just people got used to it. So those couple of little sources of frustration basically led me to think, okay, you know what? We can do something better and we can make better product.

Phillip: [00:06:31] And what better way to do it than to bring 400 of your closest friends into a Discord to tell you all the things you should be doing instead? It seems very much of the era of 2021 to be building in public, to be building a token-centered community with rewards. Let's talk about the last couple of years and that journey because it doesn't seem, and I don't want to put words in your mouth, but it doesn't seem like it's the fastest way to bring a product to market. But maybe it's a way of engendering some emotional resonance and community ownership around the product, which might help kick start some other product lines and make something a little more personal for a very small group of people, at least at the outset. Or am I reading it wrong?

Joy: [00:07:21] No, you're right. You're absolutely right. And I think, I mean, lots of research that's actually been done on this idea of building in public. Of course, I usually research things pretty carefully before I do them. And I read a lot of it. I kind of wanted to do it in general because I felt like this whole... Most of us are very public with our work. And I feel like I certainly was at the forefront of being very public about my work on LinkedIn. And it felt very strange to just go silent, and just to be like "Working on something interesting" for like what? It was going to take us two years. And that's almost kind of a joke. When people put that in their profile. You're like, "Oh, yeah, right." I think that actually seeing how much loyalty people have to brands and products that are built in public, the level of commitment that they feel to them, and also the pride that we have when we discover something early that other people get on to later. I mean, sometimes it's frustrating for people because they're like, "Oh, I wish that was still mine." But usually, you have a great sense of pride that you were, you kind of found it and you discovered it first. So those were really the reasons that we did it. And we also did it because we view the business itself as a form of activism. And this was the thing that we felt like we had not had any time for in our lives because we had been working so hard over the last 20 years or whatever. And I think that that's happening to everyone. Everyone was having these experiences during the pandemic of Black Lives Matter... What's your customer acquisition cost? Or the Captial is being stormed. What's the LTV number? And you're just like having this super weird feeling of things are just falling apart and your life felt so fragmented, I think, at that moment. So I think [00:09:11] everybody was looking for a way to kind of bring things together more holistically and building in public was that for us. Now, what I would also say is that it is for sure a slower way to build a brand, and I am really happy for that and enjoying that. And I'm viewing the pace as a foundation for longevity. And I think if there's anything that the collapse of eCommerce brands and so many eCommerce stocks too has shown us over the last couple of years is that that super fast way of growing is not necessarily really sustainable. You have to build very mindfully, very consciously in a way that sustains your momentum. [00:09:52]

Brian: [00:09:53] Why do you think it's slower? What's the thing that makes it slower to build in public?

Joy: [00:10:00] Our refusal to be disciplined by the algorithm is probably the biggest thing. {laughter} It's like we're punks at heart, and I think what happens on social media platforms is they reward behavior that they're incenting. It's very transparent when you're building in the space. And so I have a lot of favorite quotes from Yvon Chouinard, the guy that started Patagonia. And one of my favorite ones is if you want to understand the mind of an entrepreneur, you should study a juvenile delinquent because they're the ones who are saying, "This is not the way things should be done. I have a different way of doing it." And so I think that's actually that's what makes it slow, is that we have this fidelity to the storytelling, this fidelity to what we're making together and just finding a way for that to kind of work with the algorithm is not that easy.

Phillip: [00:10:54] I kind of see you guys as being brazen in a bunch of ways, and I don't know if that's a misread, but if I just track the kinds of things that you take very firm stances on, it is. I think activism does kind of come through in almost everything that you mentioned. But it's in bringing people together. So it's community, it's collaboration, transparency, sustainability, technology, innovation, but also pro-human, pro leisure, pro outdoors, maybe a little bit of paganism. But I think that there's a really interesting sort of countercultural streak that you have in the brand that definitely comes through in the spirit of the way that you're positioning not just the products, but the way in which they're used. How much of that is an intentional positioning of Early Majority versus just an outgrowth of who you are as a person, or are they one and the same?

Joy: [00:11:48] Well, they're not one in the same, even though sometimes I really wish they could be. But [00:11:53] as soon as you decide that you're going to build community, which we'll talk about that word later, you automatically have to have humility and you automatically have to submit to where everybody else wants to go too. Not in a herd or sheep-like way, but in a way that's deeply collaborative and mindful and listening [00:12:14] and stuff like that. I mean, the brands that I'm inspired by were all born out of subcultures or they started as something else. Chuck Taylor was seized upon by a subculture. It got turned into the icon of punks almost as like an ironic fuck you to Nike. So everybody was wearing these high-performance sneakers. And then all the punks in the village were like, "Oh, let's wear Converse," because they're not high-tech. And the next thing you know, it's like the coolest shoe for the last half decade. I mean, 50 years probably. Actually, it's been I think it's the coolest sneaker out there. But anyway, you get my point is that [00:12:49] culture is what really makes brands and they almost always start in subcultures, so they almost always start really small. [00:12:55] And so for us, we are just listening to our own hearts for sure, but we're also listening to the people that we really admire and we're listening very deeply to the people who join the community. And I wouldn't say that, it's still very small, and so we just did this community understanding project and we're still coming out of like, okay, what does that mean? What does that mean for us next? But what it means primarily is that we actually have to really listen and try to understand what are people loving about what we're doing and how we magnify and amplify that. So it's very organic. But I think all the best brand strategy actually comes from this, from understanding what's the sort of like white hot core and you just sort of build and amplify out from that.

Phillip: [00:13:39] You do those town halls. Maybe you could tell us a little bit about the Community Understanding Project because that was a good portion of the last town hall as I remember. It was just not only going through the study but also disseminating the results of the study and sort of the directionality that comes out of that.

Joy: [00:13:56] Yeah. So, I mean, it's what you would normally call market research. What do you know about your customer? You would go out and do some research. And so what we did instead and this has actually been my method for a long time. I've usually done it in partnership or with more resources at my disposal. And so at some point we should just talk about how fun it is to like, really get hands-on again in a business after having been an executive. But essentially it was a series of depth ethnographies, to use more technical terms, of our community members. And so we just did a call for who wants to participate, and we chose participants not based on any demographic screen or anything like that. We chose participants based on the depth of their answers because if they had a lot to write, then they'd probably have a lot to say and they'd probably be really interesting to learn about. And then we sat down, I think it was with 12 community members and really went deep on their lives, over an hour with each one, understanding their history, grounding them contextually, and then stepping back from that and processing. Okay, what did we really hear? And some of the results were very surprising. So we're a woman-led brand, woman-led design. We make unisex product. But everything is very clearly like femme forward. And we heard that the men in the community love that. And so that's why the majority of our sales are to men. And so what does that actually mean? It's like it means that the community is interested in expressing solidarity and that that kind of solidarity and those kind of connections are more powerful than necessarily staking an identity claim. It's like we respect each other's identity and we want to show solidarity with each other. That's just one example of what we learned.

Brian: [00:15:40] It feels like that actual message sort of comes through on the design of the website itself, which is beautiful, by the way. The website has the Gen Z aesthetic that took hold, if you will, a few years ago. But it does it in the most beautiful way. It's not brutalist really. It's like so subtle and just peaceful and calm, which is not what you would often think of when you think of "brutalist Gen Z aesthetic" that we had seen for a while. I use this as an example, but it seems like you've taken that and that mindset around identity and around sort of respect and you've had that flow out through all of your design choices as well. Was that intentional? What was going on behind that?

Joy: [00:16:44] Well, I'm so, so thankful to you for saying that because so much work has gone into the website and it's constantly evolving. But we made some very big decisions in the beginning. I think a lot of times, I mean, this is part of doing a startup. You don't really know sometimes, like what are the most profound decisions that you make and you think, okay, well, we have to do it for this reason. And then you realize like, Oh wow, that was really a big decision, and one of the biggest decisions you can make when starting a business is are you going to do Shopify off the shelf or are you going to build something custom? So we built a headless eCommerce tech stack and we did it with our partners at the Van Group who have been wonderful partners to us, like really, really great business partners. But we did it, I'll tell you, we did it for two reasons, and then I'll tell you a little bit about how we've managed that because it's been quite difficult. Shopify is such a wonderful company and they built such a rich ecosystem of tools, and our ability to use them is somewhat limited by some of the choices that we made early on. But that's fine. So the aesthetic for the site actually was meant to evoke the Whole Earth Catalog, which is a huge inspiration to me as a young person, and inspired a generation before me. And that's basically it. We want to create that feeling of, you know, it's just like everything's cut and paste and mimeographed and kind of put on there. And it's living and breathing and kind of evolving as we do. But the top-level nav, like that's a really big decision. It's our journal. We're building in public. It's our membership. We're going to be a community-centered brand and we're making apparel. We haven't turned back from any of those. But how they interplay with each other is changing all the time. It's changing all the time. So I think the aesthetic, a lot of it is just a shell. And so what you see is the stories that we're telling. That's basically the idea. The products that we're making and the way that we get out there and kind of capture that with our friends and tell that story, that's what you're seeing.

Phillip: [00:18:53] One thing you may not know about us is we have these really big ideas and some of the big ideas that we tease out every year. We do this big trends report called Visions, and we have a new one coming out in June. But last year's Visions report was really following two major shifts in the way we buy things, especially online. And one was the homogenization of experiences, meaning everything has become bland and sort of best fit average. Everything looks the same and it has power because you don't have to retrain every person that comes to your website how to shop there. But it also has made it really easy to stand out if you do any work whatsoever to try to deviate from the experience. So distinctiveness actually becomes like a hallmark of brand experience, at least online. And the other one was keeping up with the Joneses. And really this idea that we buy technology and we employ technology because we perceive others to be successful because they've used that and there's all kinds of reasons that we make those types of decisions. So we sit up and take notice when we see a brand make this investment in aesthetic and experience. And they do so especially early in their journey because it sets the tone for where you're going. You haven't employed a playbook by any means. You're doing all of these things. You're early. It's right there in the name. So I'm thinking to myself, you have set, to some degree, a standard now that will fundamentally alter the trajectory of where you're going. You said that makes some decisions hard. What are the kinds of decisions it makes hard? What are some of those things that are harder to do now? And do you sort of relish the fact that you have to make all of these decisions that aren't just made for you out of the box anymore, at least from a digital commerce perspective?

Joy: [00:21:29] Well, no, I don't relish that. Some decisions are not made for me. {laughter} I mean, I just can't tell, I have such wonder for the whole Shopify ecosystem and experience. I've always been at such a remove from that and it's wondrous to me like what they do and what they empower. So when I hit a wall where I can't kind of like use that magic, it gets frustrating to me. So it's very important to remember why we did it and all of the obstacles that are associated with doing it are easier to overcome. When you remember why you did it. We're definitely reassured by seeing so many other people follow suit because we were extremely early with this. Like I don't know of any other brand, actually, I know one other brand that was starting to do this around the same time as us and were successful. And I won't mention them, but they're doing a great job. And now there's a lot more, you know, there's a lot more brands that are doing this and there's really good reason to do it. So one is that you can provide a different experience for members and nonmembers, and so all the time you're being upsold in tech, by seeing some feature that's like only accessible when you upgrade. And that was a part of my vision is sort of like I want people to not feel like they have to log in before they know anything about it. I want them to be able to see a little bit of it, and then they can decide do they want to take that step to become members. And so that was actually the thing that triggered the complexity because if we just had a site that you log into or that was token gated, that's not that complicated. Actually, Shopify launched that maybe 4 or 5 months after we launched a token-gated site. So it's that idea of like, okay, well, we're not that exclusive. We want to create a sense of togetherness, but not necessarily a sense of exclusion. And that's what really drove the building of the site in that way. And so it's complex. You log in, you have a different experience of the site than if you're not logged in.

Brian: [00:23:23] And something I hear through all of this is actually there's a thread running through all of this. And that was the ethos of why you built and your culture. And you came into it and you said, you know what? All of this excess that's happening in product, we want to cut down on that, which is actually inherently limiting. You're saying actually we want to limit, but by the same thought process, you wanted to sort of unlock things for people. And gender equality and getting people outside and the connection point of community and Web3 all these things sort of like breaking boundaries. And yet then you went and picked a tech stack that said, we can do whatever we want. We have the ability to go build some unique experience. There are no limits like Shopify instills inherently in its system. And yet you bumped into other limitations. When you made that decision to go unlimited you actually inherently sort of limited yourself because there are a lot of things built for that limited system, pre-built for that limited system. And so you bumped into other things like time to build a feature or cost to build a feature or this feature literally no one's conceived of this before. And so the thread that I'm seeing here is this unique, weaving between sort of pushing back against the limitations that are there, but also imposing limitations to create something specific, something unique. My question is, we saw companies like Walmart even launch a brand that was called No Boundaries and the goal was to like say, okay, you can do whatever you want, you can be whatever you want, you can act however you want, and here's a whole bunch of product to go say that and do that. Where is the counterculture, the subculture that says, "Actually, we do want limits? Limits are actually good, constraints are good in order to provide us with structure and to have something new." Is that sort of the new counterculture?

Joy: [00:26:02] Big time. Big time. And it's ebbed and flowed. I mean, it's been around since... It's been around for a long time. Ever since they were like back to the landers, you know, this has been a subculture. But it's very strong now because we realize the danger of overshooting our planetary boundaries and this idea of planetary boundaries is so powerful for people today that I think everyone is interested in exploring an alternative vision of the good life that isn't about being on this what our members call the hedonic treadmill. Work, consume, work, consume, work... It's everyone's exhausted with that. So they want something else, and they're very interested, and I am too, in ways that afford the good life. A feeling even of luxury, without excess, without exploitation, without extraction. So I think everyone is embracing boundaries and limitation in some way. And they're saying, hey, you know what? Maybe we went in the wrong direction because we had this idea that there were no limits. We had this idea that there were no boundaries, maybe we can rediscover something actually better by looking inward, by looking towards each other, and by respecting nature more profoundly.

Brian: [00:27:21] And do you think as far as the tech stack decision that you made, are you looking back and are you thinking, "Should I have maybe picked the gated, the walled garden of tech stacks?" Or are you happy with your decision to...

Joy: [00:27:37] I'm happy. But it was it took me a while to get there. Okay. And I'm happy because first of all, as soon as we're thinking about doing some things that are radical for us and different and there are partners to work with that we didn't know were there that can plug right into what we're doing. And I don't know that that would be, you know, I don't know that we'd be able to work with other kinds of like really unique and interesting businesses in that way if we had gone in the walled garden route. So that is really cool. You think we're going to do this thing, It's like so complicated. Well, hang on a minute. There are, you know, 2 or 3 other very cool companies that are just doing just that and can't wait to plug into our tech stack. So that is very cool. So all good.

Brian: [00:28:18] No regrets.

Phillip: [00:28:20] Let's shift gears a little bit because I think there's an opportunity here. You sort of drop the L word, luxury, and I'm curious how you see yourself being positioned. I think luxury has a lot to do, not with price point, but sort of a mindset in a lot of different ways. And I think you sort of come up against that sometimes. I wouldn't necessarily characterize Early Maturity as a luxury brand, but there's certainly a premium price point. How do you see yourselves and sort of the evolution of the product and its offerings?

Joy: [00:29:33] Yeah, we did not want to position ourselves as luxury, but we definitely wanted to make luxury product {laughter} and that has been a hard thing to come to terms with. We very much hope that we'll be able to grow in a way that allows us to have economies of scale with the product, the limited assortment that we do make, because I would love for the product to be more and more and more accessible. Product that's this quality level because when you're treating everyone right and the supply chain, when you're meticulous about sourcing sustainably, when you're manufacturing it in a solar-powered factory in Portugal where the employees are really happy and it's like all those costs add up over time. And we did a sort of pie chart of the cost recently in one of our newsletters, and it was like, oh my God, okay, well, it's all manufacturing. So it is. That's what's in the price. It's what we're making. So the thing about luxury that I find so problematic is there's you know, I've talked about one problem that we have to solve, which is climate change, planetary boundaries. The only other problem we're solving in the world is economic inequality. And these two problems are very intertwined and people are realizing that. And that is why I think, I'm also in Paris, you guys. I mean, it's been nonstop in Paris for the last month. LVMH was just invaded by protesters. And they went after the Gehry building, the foundation, Louis Vuitton. Protesters went after that. So you can't even make a brand that wants to have a future and not be conscientious of this economic inequality and how it's weighing on people. So I would love to make the product more affordable. That's a big part of why we have the membership program. And you can see the cost is really radically different between members and nonmembers, and we can let people into the membership program who want to be members who couldn't afford the product otherwise. And also there are people who don't mind paying that price for products. To get myself a really good, you know, bike-to-work kit, I would have paid anything and I could have paid anything and it wouldn't have mattered. It just wasn't there for me. So that's another thing that this kind of eCommerce architecture allows us to do.

Brian: [00:31:52] Agreed. Yeah. No, it's super interesting. I agree with you that your membership price is not what I would consider a luxury price point for this kind of a good. I also love and I think you're selling yourself short a little bit here and you're paying a fair wage. That is accessibility in some ways. And I think when you pay a fair wage, you're actually it's the reverse end of accessibility to product. Now, of course, not everyone does. So it's harder to recognize the benefit of doing that and what that means. And if everyone did it, then of course then the price of product wouldn't matter as much or that premium price point, but I do think... And I'd love to hear more about this. You went into this as sort of a Web3 sort of token-gated platform with a membership. And that was specifically for being able to provide this price point. Is that correct? Nice. And how has the flow of customer been? Have people come in mostly through membership or have people bought product and then gone to membership?

Joy: [00:33:15] Most of our revenue is to members. And most people come in as members and they become a member with their first purchase.

Phillip: [00:33:24] Wow.

Joy: [00:33:26] Also we launched our membership right about the time the bottom fell out of the crypto market. But that has not really affected us because we're building on Ethereum, because of the values of the subculture that exists in the Ethereum space. This whole idea of Ethereum as a substrate for human coordination and aligning ourselves with good, healthy incentives for the collective is really what drew us into that space. And I think that's also why it's continued to be a steady source of income for us. We don't really promote the mint, but we always, you know, it's just like a steady trickle of people coming in who, if you look at the membership flow, it's like, "You still want more? Okay, buy this." And there are people who are like, "Yeah, I still want more. I want to go all in on this thing and see what it's all about."

Phillip: [00:34:23] Can we talk about some of those? There's a playbook for customer acquisition that a traditional brand might have, which I think what we haven't done yet is sort of flex your pedigree. I mean, you are quite a notable person in the world of building prestige brands. And I think you hinted at it earlier. There's a playbook for building prestige brands and acquiring customers. And it seems like you're intentionally doing things differently. In fact, I would say the way I was acquired as a customer was through a collab, but it wasn't with a celebrity, it was with another Web3 community I happened to be involved with. And your ability to acquire customers that way could be seen to be quite different, but still, customer acquisition. How do you think about those things and how does the old playbook that you're probably used to executing throughout your career, how are you reimagining that today for Web3?

Joy: [00:35:25] Well, the collaborative element has been really key for us to grow. And we talk about growing via a network of like-minded communities. So there's a very strong curatorial element to who we collaborate with and who we make connections with. And so far that's been great at bringing the right people into the brand. It's been really helpful. It's actually very consistent with the way I've always scaled brands, but with one major change. Okay, so when you look at the brands where I've had the most success, Sonos, Patagonia, and Converse while I was at Nike. And there's a big, actually, Nike grew out of a subculture, too, but they all grow out of this very core, iconoclastic subculture. Sonos is probably the only exception to that. And I really did reposition that brand while I was there to ground it more in an emergent culture of what I call the sort of like modern bohemian home, this idea of a home where we're not impoverished by the hedonic treadmill, we're actually taking time to cook for each other. We're actually taking time to enjoy each other. We're reading, we're experiencing art and movies, and sound is like a core part of all of that. So that has been my playbook and it's been successful to root brands in these kinds of cultures where, yeah, you're really living it and you know what? You want to live it more, and so we're bringing you into that world. The big exception is I put a lot of friction in the funnel with membership, and that's been the big gamble that so far has paid off. But it was really terrifying for me because even if someone hears about subcultural brands, they usually scale through pop culture, right? It's like really creative people are into the brand, they're the ones that make Netflix series, they're the ones that make movies, and that's how these brands end up on the big screen or end up in popular culture. But even if you hear about something that way, you're in the funnel. Now I'm just going to move you through the funnel, move you through the funnel. So I think [00:37:30] probably the scariest thing about everything that I've done so far and what really is against the grain is having that little bit of friction in the funnel up front. [00:37:38]

Phillip: [00:37:39] And we're seeing it's not like this is a way to build that's of a bygone era. I think Salomon's having a moment, thanks to Rihanna and some stylists and this continues to happen. How much of the sort of cultural shift towards outdoor wear as an aesthetic do you think you are able to capitalize on or is that not something that you think about too much?

Joy: [00:38:04] Oh, God, I have to think about it a lot because it wasn't really there when I first had the idea for the business. So I think so many people saw the same opportunity that I did, which happens all the time. And I was not in a place where I could just quit my job and start a company that. For most people have to be in very privileged to be able to do that. And so I had the idea and then I needed another two years to kind of like get my ducks in a row and get my family set up and get to a place where I could actually forgo my income and start the business. And so in that time, a lot of people built in the space, and the space really took off. And so it really has worried me a lot. And I think it's been good because it is like on trend, this is what people want to wear. And I also think that it's called gorpcore, basically that whole trend of wearing outdoor clothes. I also think it's become so trendy that it's really going to bottom out. And that's where I think, again, our distinctiveness and our being rooted in this kind of like street to summit to street kind of way of living will serve us really well.

Brian: [00:39:10] I'm into it. I love gorpcore because I live in the Pacific Northwest, so I hope it doesn't bottom out too soon. Let's not leave it too fast.

Phillip: [00:39:22] South Florida hasn't caught on to gorpcore yet, so don't worry.

Brian: [00:39:26] Oh good. We have space.

Joy: [00:39:28] Oh yeah. I mean it definitely is coextensive with weather.

Phillip: [00:39:33] Oh yeah, for sure. Yeah. And too I think you've done a great job of sort of curating the, the multimodal nature of like a lot of these looks. I'm also a cyclist. I bike to work 3 to 4 days a week. Have done so for almost five years. It's Florida. It rains every day. I've never had any sort of rain apparel. But you've provided something that made me want to buy really premium rain apparel, and that's especially for cycling. And we're seeing a lot more of that. I think there's a lot of folks that for all kinds of reasons, who will be changing, continuing to change the way that they live, whether that's by choice or I think societally, we're all going to have to make a shift. You mentioned, or you hinted earlier, Joy, that community is a bit of a charged word, and maybe there's a different way of thinking about it. We typically end these interviews by asking what the future of commerce is, and a lot of folks have said in the past community, I'd love for you to kind of, as we're closing out, redefine that and then maybe tell us a little bit about what is on the roadmap for the future for Early Majority.

Joy: [00:40:44] Well, we are going to keep going where, and this is going to be a tautology now where our community wants us to go. So what we've heard, which was surprising to me, is that people are actually very interested in the way that we're doing business. And so that's a big part of why people participate. They actually like the openness. They like being brought into what it is that we're thinking through. So we're still in that space of kind of navigating where that takes us next. I don't think that we will ever walk away from the two meaningful problems that I told you you need to be solved. And so to the degree that we can use our business in service of solving those problems, that is what we will do. And so, I'm very interested in ideas of forging solidarity, of mutual aid, of how we can use business to really connect people to each other in a way that makes us stronger versus feeling like we're in this zero sum clout game, and again, coordination is very, very powerful and cooperation, very, very powerful. But if you look at social media and you look at our media platforms, you think nobody was doing anything like this. We're all just competing to have a better vacation or even more time off or on LinkedIn, like a faster promotion. And I think there is this whole hidden world outside of that where actually, you know what? We really just want to find out what it means to support each other and not try to distinguish ourselves versus each other or get one up on each other. What can we actually do cooperating with each other?

Phillip: [00:42:25] And the future of commerce is more cooperative and more and more collaborative as far as you see it.

Joy: [00:42:31] It's also a lot more offline. So I think that the boom in eComm, it's interesting, like you're seeing these venture backed trends flame out faster and faster. And a lot of what we saw in eComm, I think, was investors finding product market fit for the big social media platforms that they'd invested in.  [00:42:53]So eCommerce was kind of like product market fit for ad supported Internet. Those two things. Internet's ad supported. So that's how it's got to work. And it's so exciting that it's falling apart right now. It's just so cool because actually I think a lot of damage was done. Some great businesses were created, but a lot of damage was also done. You know, a lot of stores went away that were really cultural institutions like Opening Ceremony in New York or Colette in Paris. And that's a vacuum that someone else is going to fill now. And it's going to be very, very exciting and very rich. [00:43:26] So I think there's a lot more. And I also think people are building their own communities that are partnering with brands in interesting ways. So some of the communities that we've partnered with are becoming mega platforms on their own, and lots of other brands are showing up to collaborate with them. And that's great. Who knows what shape that will take in the future. I'm very interested to see.

Phillip: [00:43:47] Me too.

Phillip: [00:43:48] You're interested to see it too. Joy Howard, thank you so much for coming on Future Commerce. Where can people go and join the membership and get outdoors a little more often?

Joy: [00:43:58] EarlyMajority.com and we are @EarlyMajority on Instagram and @EarlyMajority on Twitter. Less active on Twitter. But we're there.

Phillip: [00:44:06] That's okay. I think we'd all be better for being less active on Twitter in 2023. Amazing. I'm so glad that you came on the show. Thank you so much for taking the time and thank you all for listening to Future Commerce. You can find more episodes of this podcast, and we've got five podcasts properties now and two newsletters that tell you about the future of commerce. And we're in your inbox 2 to 3 times a week. Get it over FutureCommerce.com/Subscribe and you too can build the future of commerce. Thank you, Joy.

Joy: [00:44:35] Thank you.

Brian: [00:44:36] Thank you.

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