Dylan Kim is the Head of Marketing at Brevite, a direct-to-consumer backpack company that makes fun, functional and innovative backpacks designed for everyday life. Dylan co-founded Brevite in 2015 with his brothers Elliot and Brandon after searching for a bag that could support their everyday needs, function as a camera bag for travel, and still look good. Over the last six years, the brothers have bootstrapped Brevite from a prototype they designed in college, to an Instagram famous brand with six products and over 2,000 five-star reviews. Today, Brevite is one of the top camera bags on the market, focused on creating sustainable bags that support their larger mission of giving back to the greater good.

What’s it like being an entrepreneur these past six years?

I think a lot has changed, right? Like the, world moves very quickly now and I think because we’ve been around for so long kind of identifying those changes you know, even some of these platforms, like Tik Tok and we’re seeing a lot of success there. Tik Tok wasn’t even a part of the conversation 18 months ago, I don’t even think I really, necessarily knew what it was. I kind of seen some white advertising. So the fact that it’s, you know a bigger part of our mix today is, is really interesting. So I, I would say that’s the biggest thing I’ve noticed over the past six years is that there’s just, you know, the plans change the emphasis just where people spend their time. All of that has just shifted so dramatically. 

What channels are you focused on? Whether its Intagram or Tok Tok, and are you on Amazon or no because you’re direct to consumer?

So we are actually available on Amazon, but that’s part of this. There’s just like meeting the consumer where they are something that we really, really focus on is is really kind of cultivating a community. So that’s, you know, Instagram has been amazing for that and just cultivating a community of, you know, very avid, you know, photographers, filmmakers, and just really passionate people, I would say. And really just having like a place for them to kind of showcase that and then of course, you know, like our email lists, our SMS lists. Once people are kind of like in our community, making sure that we’re really communicating with them and making them feel included as well.

Tell us a little bit more about the product line. What inspired you to launch it? What’s unique about it and tell us more about how you got started in this space.

So the, the very startup-y story was about six years ago, I was traveling abroad. I was looking for an affordable bag that could hold my camera and other things that looked nice. And so taking those kinds of. Three simple aspects, you know, affordable you know, could fit things besides your camera and then it looks nice and I couldn’t find anything. So my older brother was trying to get into design school at the time, and he’s also a phenomenal problem solver. So I went to him and I was like, Brandon, can you help me find this bag? He couldn’t find it anything either. And he was like, why don’t we just, you know, why don’t we just make one?

And so like that day, or very soon after we went to a thrift store, got a sewing machine, went to Joann’s fabric and we’re off to the races. So he actually taught himself how to sew, made a bag. And then we kind of just were off to the races from there launched a Kickstarter that became organically kind of fully funded. And then before we knew it, we were shipping out 300 bags all over the world and then it just kind of never stopped. And so even today we no longer sell that bag, but kind of the the core of what we do on the product front is very much the same.

So designing these kinds of, you know, fun, functional bags, they can hold your camera, they can hold other things. And they come in a bunch of different colors. So really kind of never losing those core tenants, even though the product has evolved pretty drastically over time. 

How do you go about finding someone to manufacture the bag and launching the product? 

So we just reached out to like pretty much anyone we could find, you know, like we reached out to other Kickstarters where you’re shut to other brands and, and maybe it was part like naivete. But we ended up getting a whole kind of myriad of responses. So you know, everything from, oh, here we are. Here’s who we use. We’d get no response or some people would be like, I’m not telling you who I use. And then, so we kind of using that approach, just reach out to a bunch of different people, figured out the names of a couple and then kind of just went from there. And then we’re no longer kind of with our original manufacturer as we’ve kind of grown in scale at our needs. And. Requirements have definitely changed a lot. But that was like kind of the great first foothold was just kind of reaching out to as many places as we could find, like learning kind of like the ins and outs and the jargon and all of that. And then kind of evolving from there. 

I’m so fascinated now the kickstart starter angle of it. Why did you decide to go that route? What did you think was the hardest part of  Kickstarter and the benefits for you? 

Yeah. So I think it’s, it’s great as a platform to validate an idea. So it’s not like we came in like well funded or anything like that. Before we launched the Kickstarter. So the Kickstarter was our first real introduction to the world. And so I, it really validated the product very quickly. You know, people either will kind of pre-order the product or not.

And it’s a phenomenal validation tool.  So when we launched on Kickstarter, that was I guess like the overall point was trying to figure out, like, would this product actually live in the real world? Yes or no. And we were fortunate enough to become like overfunded. And then yeah, that kind of was our initial launching point.

Im sure that helps because you have these consumers who are excited and they’re probably helping with seeding the message out there to friends and family, but when you finally were ready to start marketing this product, I’m going to assume that social was a big area for the push?

Yes. And specifically Instagram was initially was, was quite Important and it still remains you know, our most active channel. I think something that was interesting with Instagram in 2015 was it’s so remarkably different than it is today. Like I would say a creator with, you know, a hundred to 200,000 followers in 2015 would be equivalent to someone who has probably like 10 million today or something like that. 

You didn’t really come across like tons of accounts, nowhere near as many as today that had large followings. And so we actually We were doing kind of influencer marketing very much from like the early days before it was even called that necessarily.

There wasn’t really like a coined term. We were just reaching out to people that had large followings, gifting them bags, asking really for nothing in return. And that’s, you know, that was one of the ways we were able to achieve kind of growing a community very much in the early days. 

Have you ever had any of those Instagrammers collab with you?

Yeah. So we haven’t done any of those collaborations yet. They’re definitely not out of the question for the future. But we just haven’t really explored that. It’s so interesting. I mean, I think that there’s so much opportunity for a line like this collabs with influencers, collabs, with other brands, licensing opportunities. I’m happy to share all my ideas with you as well. So we have this call. I’ll probably bombard you with ideas, big ideas guy, in terms of Instagram too.

Do you do paid media through influencer accounts and going into their backend and white listing their content?

Yeah. Yeah. So love white listing. I’m a, I’m a big fan of it. We, we do quite a bit of it as well. And then I think one thing I always find maybe a little funny about working with influencers or how brands typically perceive working with influencers is is expecting like everything to be like hyper performance driven. So like, I think a great thing for us is we still do a lot of gifting. And we love working with creators in that way. Just to really, you know, give them a bag kind of. You know, we’d love for you to post with it. If not like, you know, if you ever take photos, like send them our way. And so like, we’re able to get like really nice content for our feed out of it.

And you know, that’s more or less, the expectation is like, oh, this content that we have will now help us sell bags as opposed to like, I mean, yeah, Right, right. Whereas I think people don’t realize that, like, you’re not just getting the awareness when they promote, but then you could reshare it and then it’s like a whole content division that you don’t have to hire photographers and people, you have the content now.

Exactly. And I think a lot of, and that in turn, you know, for us sells bags right. Or sells your product, whatnot. Whereas I find that sometimes A lot of, some other brands that I speak with or things like that. They’re they’re so hyper-focused on like, oh wow. Like this one creator, like didn’t work out for us.

So we’re going to like scrap that or we’re going to like cut it way down. Whereas it’s, you know, it’s fun. Say they didn’t work it’s because they didn’t drive this many sales, but at the end of the day, they might’ve gotten a picture or a photo or a message or a video that is worth $20,000 or $5,000 or whatever.

Exactly. Exactly. And so I think it’s much more so about the process then, and it’s about the process and it’s about, you know, treating these creators. Right. And that’s, you know, why for us, like, we don’t, we kind of give like light guidelines or, you know, best practices, that kind of thing, but it’s never like, okay, here’s exactly what we want and how we want it to look, you know, it’s more just like this will make the bag look the best in your shot, you know?

That kind of thing. So much more kind of like guiding as opposed to kind of like forceful, like this is the box you must. 

In terms of the types of influencers you work with, I’m going to assume obviously photographers, but what other niches or verticals or sizes, whether it’s nanos and micros and what’s working for you and what do you think is beneficial for the brand?

Well, it’s funny because I probably would have to have nano and micro defined to me, but we work with all sizes. So even, you know, we have people just with a few thousand followers, you know, and, and for us, it’s like, if you’re, if you’re a talented photographer or a filmmaker or creator like we want to work with you and we’re pretty like niche agnostic, I would say, I think like, We want a lot of our content is very, you know, kind of light and inspirational.

And so we, we try to find people that kind of exude that vibe. But yeah, we’ve kind of worked with so many different people across so many term verticals, you know, whether it’s like travel photographers or. Fashion photographers or, you know just like fashion creators or things like that. Yeah. I think it can be inserted into anything.

I mean, you could, if you want to go more mainstream, you could do moms with kids who are older or college kids. It could be, you could, you know, everyone needs a backpack. Exactly exactly. And I, and that’s, you know, very much kind of what like where we see ourselves as you know, is, is a value that you could, you know, bring to the office, but then a bag that you could also go to high school or college with.

And it’s, it’s not too much of a stretch or us trying to, you know, square, whatever square peg circle hole or whatever. There’s so many opportunities. 

You guys are massive on Tik Tok. How did that play out for you?

Yeah. So it’s funny because I feel like we still have so much growth to happen and it’s been quite recent. I would say, I think since we’ve been kind of blatantly active for about a year, just really kind of figuring out the platform, like kind of what works for us in terms of content. But I think what I love about Tik TOK is that it forces you as a brand or a person to really communicate a lot and really work on kind of the messaging that you’re kind of crafting like your narrative with, so for us, we’ve seen a lot of success within the past two months. And a lot of that has come from just us really kind of telling the world like who we are. And I think Instagram kind of achieves that in a different way than let’s say, like YouTube achieves that and then take talk it’s used that kind of in like a completely different way as well.

So they’re each kind of. Each platform is great for different types of messaging. But I think for us, like getting across a lot of like very quick messages has been great. And so and it’s allowed us a really good platform to respond to any sort of criticism. So we reach a lot into kind of like, I wouldn’t say like hate comments, but they’re kind of like internet troll comments, you know, like.

Why would I pay this much for a backpack? And so we were just, we just reply. And so we kind of use that as a, as a, as a launch point to have a much larger discussion. So will a great example would be like, you know, people are like, why are your bags so expensive? And then we’ll take that and be like, Our bags are expensive because, you know, we’re using high quality materials, you know, it’s our own custom design you know, made in a sustainable and ethical factory.

And you’re, you know, your profits are the profits that we make are going to good endeavors such as like we just did a, a large bag donation. And then we’ve also just. Donated to a bunch of different charities over the past year. So kind of like allowing that language to kind of come out in a pretty organic way has been great.

It’s it’s interesting. Cause you know, that’s where you see the white listing, like, and a lot of the influencers are hesitant. They’re like they want to be let white listed cause they’ll get more eyeballs, but then they’re afraid because all of a sudden you get all these haters and comments and it’s like, how do you just, so that’s a great tip.

Like just feed into it. Yeah. Yeah. And I think Tik Tok in particular kind of allows for that a little more maybe than Instagram. But I, I completely, I mean, I feel like white listing is just, it’s such a wonderful tool for influencers do have, and to be really able to expand their reach. You know, there’s some creators that we’ve been working with for, well over a year.

Over 2,000 five star reviews…What does that mean to you and how did you make that happen?

I mean, it really comes down to the product. And so that’s something that we really, really focus on is just having, you know, the best product, the highest quality that we can. That’s really, really what it comes down to. So the idea is that we’ll, you know, we have this like very light and fun branding, but then at the end of the day, the product speaks for itself.

And so we actually see a lot of recommendations. So a lot of it, a lot of customers are like, oh, my best friend had this bag and I loved it. So I bought it or you know, my cousin’s obsessed with this, so I had to get it, you know? And so having kind of the product be almost its own marketing channel because we’ve really focused on delivering the highest quality at the best price we can has been amazing.

So you have the backpacks, but what’s next?

Yeah. So continuing, just within the bag space, we feel like we’re kind of just getting started in that sense. We’re really big on kind of like like feedback and, you know, we love hearing from our customers, things like that. So we have a lot of really exciting stuff in the future and then just, you know, continuing to.

To grow on Tik Tok and really harbor this community of very driven people. Primarily it’s been photographers, filmmakers but really just, you know, we are, we do create backpacks for the internet creator, and I think we’re just in such an amazing time where that internet creator can be really anybody.

You know, I feel like I laugh to myself almost cause like, even just like some of the, like, Creators that I’ve seen on Tik TOK that come to mind, whether it’s you know, like a mother cooking in her kitchen and like, that is what she does, you know? Or just like, I think there was even one guy he came across and he has like, he’s super passionate about like, Raising goldfish.

And I, I know nothing about that, but it’s amazing that at this, you know, in 2021, that you can really kind of follow your passion. And that’s really kind of who we want as our customers is just this unbelievably passionate group of people. Yeah, so very, very excited. You are very, very inspiring and I’m smiling from ear to ear.

Where can people find you? Website, Social Media?

Yeah. So we’re just at brevite B R E V I T E. On all socials. And then we’re brevity B R E V I T E.CO. That’s our website. 

Name an influencer you love to follow, but hate to admit that you do.

Oh man, I’m trying to think. That’s a, that’s a great question. What I like, I’m going to take out my phone. I feel like it’s probably someone on Tik TOK. See, I just have easy ones. Like I follow all these Snoopy accounts cause I’m obsessed with Snoopy. So it shows how nerdy I am. But yeah, I’m trying to think.

You can get back to me if you want. I’ll have to. I’ve never been asked. So I, I don’t, I don’t know. That’s a great question. Maybe it’s like the mother cooking in the kitchen. Yeah. Oh my God. Or there’s this goldfish guy, the goldfish guy, but I’ll I’ll I have, I have a good answer. So I’ll let, let me get back to you on that, but there’s definitely some like, you know, awesome.

Well, thank you so much. We’re wishing you the best of luck and please stay in touch and you know, we’re always here for you. Yes. Thanks Sherry. Thank you.

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