Originally from Spring Branch, Texas, Joey Austin launched Hooey Brands in 2009 with just two cap designs.
We sat down with Joey to grab some insight into how he created such a successful brand and connected community.
Q: WHY DID YOU LAUNCH THE HOOEY BRAND?
I grew up in rodeo and when I got into my early twenties I had an opportunity to have a construction job on the West Coast, building hospitals in California, and was introduced to the surf culture. And as I became more acquainted with the surf culture I realized that surfers reminded me a lot of cowboys. I really appreciated their singular passion for what they did. Fast forward a few years later, when I came back to Texas, I started roping again, and I realized that young kids were wearing surf and skate-type apparel, that I had discovered when I was out in California.
And that's when the light bulb went on that there was a disconnect within western. Kids didn't have access to a progressive brand, that represented what they thought was cool at the time. And that's where we came in. We felt like we could build a surf and skate-style brand that celebrates the western athlete.
Q : WERE YOU SURPRISED THAT THE BUSINESS TOOK OFF?
I knew that there was a potential market there, so I wasn't surprised when the caps did well, but I have to admit that I've been surprised that we've been able to grow the brand to this point with so many other product categories. And we've found placements, not only within western, but also outside of western retail as well.
Q: DID YOU EXPECT TO CROSSOVER INTO NEW CATEGORIES?
It's something that, early on, I had to decide if I was wanting to build a fad or a brand, and we chose to build a brand. And so we had to ensure that we held onto our authenticity, and have the ability to expand beyond headwear.
Q: WHAT MAKES HOOEY A STRONG BRAND?
The word that we use repeatedly is, "authenticity." Authenticity is really where the brand begins and ends. And the fact that we're still involved, on a daily basis in rodeo and western sports allows us to remain authentic. We recently built a 15 acre headquarters, and the back 10 acres is a barn and a roping arena, that we use almost daily. And so I would say that no matter how much we've changed our designs or our product, it always goes back to the core, that we actually are within this lifestyle. It's a place that we could build our own culture, right there, in our backyard. We also have multiple people that ride horses and rope, that work for us. And it just, generally, allows us to do what we love.
We absolutely use our arena and our headquarters to test our products. If you come back and watch us roping or riding, we're always wearing something that's Hooey. So, everything is wear-tested, right there at headquarters. We're also have our rodeo athletes drop by, either to practice or to workout in our CrossFit gym. We use them as our focus groups and to get feedback.
Q: SO YOU'RE BUILDING A COMMUNITY?
We're certainly trying, and I think that the people that have been around the brand realize that the people that we have in the ecosystem are a family and we all try to support each other. the athletes on our team take a lot of pride in being on the team. They really try to support each other.
Q: WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO A NEW BRAND LOOKING TO BUILD?
I would tell them to fail forward. you will absolutely fail along the way, And sometimes you have to realize that those failures mean you should take a completely different direction. They might mean that you're just not quite there yet. We've had successes, but we've also definitely had failures that may have stopped some people, but our team continued to move forward.
Q: ARE YOU EXCITED ABOUT THE WESTERN INDUSTRY MOVE TO DALLAS?
I think that the move to Dallas is a great for western. It's, ultimately, where the first National Finals Rodeo was held, so it's good to see the market come back to such an important landmark in western history. And, ultimately, this market is where we have our connection to all of our retailers and customers.
TAKE A CLOSER LOOK AT HOOEY.