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258: THROWBACK: What It Takes To Build & Scale A $100M Lifestyle Brand With Jake Kassan

Posted by Austin Brawner on June 30, 2020

This week we’re bringing you a throwback to one of our most popular episodes of all time.

In May 2018 we interviewed Jake Kassan about what it really takes to build a $100 million business. This episode has been incredibly popular, and it still extremely relevant today.

Jake Kassan, founder and CEO of MVMT Watches, was one of my first clients when he was just launching the brand back in 2013. He talks about how things have changed since then, and how MVMT has grown to what it is today.

MVMT strives to be a best in class brand and best in class in all-around marketing, and Jake shares the strategic approach to marketing MVMT uses to achieve those goals. He also talks about how having a strong team is essential to scaling your business and shares his experience hiring a CMO and supporting team, and what you need to know to do it.


Episode Highlights

  • 9:05 How building relationships with customers through direct sales online helped MVMT scale.
  • 12:04 The best success comes in stages and this is what each stage of growth has looked like for MVMT over the last 5 years.
  • 13:12 Jake’s #1 tip for successfully scaling a business (hint: it’s not email or Facebook ads).
  • 15:07 What MVMT would do differently if they had to do it all over again.
  • 19:05 As an entrepreneur, Jake believes it’s important to always be testing and working through those results to find success.
  • 21:13 The basic math MVMT used to scale in the beginning and how they look at “spending-money-to-make-money” now.
  • 24:18 Where MVMT is testing for acquisition and where they’re seeing success.
  • 28:28 What you need to know when growing your team so you can successfully scale your business.
  • 32:15 How MVMT solidified their appeal with customers through user-generated content.
  • 35:09 What Jake loves most about building a lifestyle brand.
  • 38:11 Every business goes through low times, here’s a few MVMT went through in order to grow.
  • 43:09 Why Jake feels it’s so important to network with and learn from other founders.

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Austin Brawner: What's up everybody. Welcome to another episode of the Ecommerce Influence Podcast. My name's Austin Brawner.

Andrew Foxwell: And I'm Andrew Foxwell.

Austin Brawner: And we are fired up about this episode. This has been a long time coming.

Andrew Foxwell: Just jacked.

Austin Brawner: Just completely jacked. This is an episode that's been coming for a long time. We've got Jake Kassan, the CEO of MVMT watches on today.

Andrew Foxwell: He just shares some incredible knowledge about the history of the company, all of the things that he's done along the way in terms of thinking about user-generated content, scaling, hiring, the different missteps and positive things that happen along the way. This episode is just packed with information, and we actually went quite long. So hopefully, you'll stick with us for the whole episode.

Austin Brawner: There's a ton of gold nuggets throughout the entire journey talking with Jake. For those of you guys who don't know who he is, he's an extremely talented entrepreneur. He dropped out of college at age 21. Now he's 26, has an $80-million-plus watch business. He's won the Shopify Build a Business competition, and he really dives into the different stages of the company, things that help them be successful along the way, talks about some of the biggest mistakes that they made. He talks about hiring, HR, what his role looks like now versus when he was actually leading acquisition and how he thinks about acquisition. There's a ton of great stuff, so without any further ado, I want to welcome Jake Kassan to the show.

Jake Kassan: Thanks. Glad to be here.

Austin Brawner: Hey, glad to finally have you on the show. You messaged me back in 2014; that's when we first met. I remember getting a message that you'd listened to, I think, the Amy Africa podcast and were like, "Hey, you want to meet up?" And I remember meeting you. We met at Zinc Coffee in Santa Monica, and at the time, the business was growing super-fast. And I remember you saying... I think you did a couple of million that year, and you're like, "I think we're going to do $12 million in the next year." And I was like, "Cool. That sounds awesome," but I didn't really believe yet. And then a year later, you'd done more than that. You were just crushing it. So we're excited to have you on. Why don't you give us kind of the rundown for people who don't know your story, how you got started, what is MVMT watches, and how did you get to where you're at today?

Jake Kassan: Totally. Yeah, man. Again, thanks for having me on. It's been obviously a long time coming, I think. It's awesome because listening to you pretty much since day one of the company... fortunately, you lived down the street from me at the time, which was awesome.

Austin Brawner: That's true. Yeah.

Jake Kassan: I emailed you just hoping to get a response back and then realized you literally were down the street from me. So it was awesome to be able to become friends with you in person. And even someone in the office today was like, "Oh, you're doing a podcast?" And I was like, "Yeah, Austin has been someone that I used to listen to. It really helped me build my business." And I think, again, you even probably taught me early on just given the people you had on the podcast, how important networking was and learning from different people who have wins under their belt or losses under their belt. You can learn so much from both. So, it feels kind of surreal to finally be on. But I'm excited to be on here and talking with you guys.

In terms of MVMT, what we are, who we are, where we are today. So it started in 2013. It was me and my college roommate, Kramer. We both had entrepreneurial backgrounds. I had some eCommerce businesses that would kind of get up to $100- or $200,000, and I ended up opening up a store in a retail-like shopping mall, and Kramer had some Kickstarter, Indiegogos, and we were basically roommates. And I wasn't involved in his Kickstarters, but we were always fascinated and had that itch to start a business and had some stuff under our belt. We saw scaling much further than what it kind of was, and we wanted to really, now that we had the experience, start from scratch and go, "What can we really sink our teeth into? What do we believe in? What can grow into a big company and we can be passionate about?"

And we were about 20, 21 years old at the time. I had dropped out of college. He had dropped out of college. And we spent our time studying businesses and crowdfunding, kind of just the scrappy way without having a degree to do so. And for us, we really loved fashion and accessories, and when we looked at it, accessories men could wear. There were only a few. It was really like wedding rings. It was sunglasses or prescription eyewear or watches.

And we owned a couple of watches but didn't really have a brand that we absolutely loved. Like the old guys, the Fossils, Movados of the world, seem to be really disconnected. And they relied on the Macy's of the world to tell those stories. And they didn't really even stand for anything, yet they were huge billion-dollar brands.

Then we looked at brands that were a little younger but were very niche, like action sports, skate, surfboard. And I was just a skater, surfboarder, snowboarder, just action sports-oriented, and that was stuff that we had grown out of at 21, 22 years old. We wanted something we were passionate about and had this inspirational kind of lifestyle around it and actually represented more than just a physical product or a watch. It was something that really meant more than that.

So for us, that was kind of the thesis and what we wanted to build. We wanted to have a brand and a product that was high quality but also accessibly priced because one of the things about a lot of the watch brands out there, the Michael Kors of the world or Movado, is that their watches were like $400 or $500. That just seemed ridiculously expensive, especially because you could already tell time on your cell phone, right? I had a cell phone in seventh grade. I'm 26 now. So I grew up in a generation of telling time on a cell phone, and a watch was more of an accessory. So we wanted something that still had the quality components, but by focusing on a direct model and selling on our website first, we can launch with minimal capital, sell direct globally. Day one, we already were selling to 160 countries. And basically, we were just able to have a more accessible price point because we didn't have to rely on the Macy's of the world and give margin away to themselves.

It was a better model too because we controlled how we talked to our customers through social media. It's our customer service reps talking to them through our website, through Twitter, et cetera. And then we got to keep all the information of our customers because they're coming directly to us. So as we come out with new products, like we've now gone from men's watches to women's watches to sunglasses to women's jewelry now. So we're a full lifestyle accessories brand, and the goal is to become this billion-dollar lifestyle accessories brand. But we connect with the consumer better than any other legacy player out there, like Fossil, Movado, Swatch, any of those guys.

And we've just grown so fast because we really reinvested all the money. Still to this day, we're bootstrapped. We've reinvested every profitable dollar back into the business to scale because we really believe in the way that customers love the MVMT and just see the vision.

It's funny because when I met you, we were just in year two, like a few million dollars in revenue every year. Every year we've been blown away by what we're able to accomplish. And now we're at the size where we're starting to think about stuff outside of just our direct kind of eCommerce experience. I think where you sell is just a channel. Like the brand should be able to be sold, whether it's retail, whether it's wholesale, whatever it may be. So we're actually in 80 Nordstroms now, and we do some offline stuff. We've been talking about some other kind of experiential stuff. But I think at the end, the motto we chose was just to start direct because there are advantages and you can sell day one globally, where if you wanted to do that in wholesale, you have to have buy-in and you have to have huge amounts of inventory to supply the Nordstrom's in 10 different countries. Maybe a little wordy but hopefully that explains kind of where we're at today.

Austin Brawner: No, it does. It's interesting watching you guys go through definite stages in the business. You alluded to that a little bit where you were kind of selling just direct, 2014. If you were to break it down and look at the stages you've gone through in the business as you guys have scaled up, what do those look like and how do you categorize where you're at now versus the stages you've gone through over the past? I guess, what is it and how many years? Four years? Five years you're in the business?

Jake Kassan: It's been five years now. Yeah, that's a good question, man. Year one, we had six watches trying to figure out if this is a viable business. What do we really have here? Are we able to continue to grow? And then you start to see the ability to continue to scale, and you're growing fast. And then you go, "Okay, well, can we introduce new watches, new SKUs? And then you start to introduce different designs, and then you see those new designs actually do better than your previous line. And you get really excited like, "Okay, our customers are giving us permission to go into these different designs. We're really onto something. Like our aesthetic is something that the customers like, and the brand is something that they believe in."

So, I think that's one stage. We were in an apartment for, I think, the first two years. And then you get an office, and you start to hire people, and then it's like, now you're not just worrying about strategy; you're worried about management, and you actually find yourself the best chance of success now. Or the best way to succeed is actually not having complete ownership of everything and knowing every little thing about the business. It's actually hiring people who are smarter than you that you need to really lean on to operate and run things.

There's always only one, two, or three founders of a company, typically. There's a limited number of founders, always. And those founders have the ability to have conversations and meet other founders and talk about the business in different ways than some employees can. So I think it's just important that founders realize that. I know a lot of founders who are micromanagers, and there's nothing wrong with that. You have to do what you want to do. And it was hard for me. There was a time when we hired our CMO. I stopped having ownership of day-to-day marketing things, like acquisition, and what we're spending day-to-day and strategy. And what I realized, though, is I was spread so thin that I needed to give that up, and we would not have scaled if it wasn't for me giving that up and bringing someone with experience.

So that's been our outlook now. It's kind of like: yeah, it's just growing up in the business, and there's a limit. You will be limited. If you don't hand off responsibility and hire people to have ownership of things, then you will always be limited in how big your business can actually end up scaling. But the secret is hiring good people because if you don't hire the right person, then that could also be one of the biggest mistakes you make as a company owner. 

Austin Brawner: The people are obviously an incredible part of the equation. I think one question I'm sure a lot of people are asking you for advice. Now that you're the head of MVMT, people are saying, "Hey, how did you do it?" And so my question to you is, at this point today, if you were to do this again, what would you do differently than what you did before in terms of digital marketing and acquisition strategy? I think it's more expensive now. Influencer marketing doesn't work as it did on Instagram in 2013, 2014. What are some things that you would do the same, and what would you do differently than what you did before?

Jake Kassan: It's funny. I think about that all the time. I still see companies bootstrapped, figuring it out, so it works. The way we did it... We're on Shopify. We use certain acquisition channels. Influencer marketing was easier at the time. If I were to do it all over, I think the first thing that I'd probably do given that I know how difficult it is to scale as fast as we did without really any capital. We had $300,000 from Indiegogo, but if I was able to, and it's easier said than done, I would probably go and raise like a seed round through friends and family or have some capital to just scale. Because part of the struggle at this stage is like getting out of the weeds of saturation like so many advertisers trying to get off the ground. Once you have the website, the content, and you can get some data around who your customer is, even if you breakeven, you're going to need cash to do so.

So I know it's opposite of the way that we grew, and I'm not saying go out and raise a bunch of money and be like the huge businesses that have raised hundreds of millions of dollars, or anything like that, or like losing money. But the fact that we were able to have a few hundred thousand dollars on Indiegogo really allowed us to scale. And even Kickstarter and Indiegogo, there have been so many more campaigns across the board that even that's been more difficult. So it's harder. It's going to take longer to scale where we really saw that explosive hockey stick growth. A lot of it had to do with the same concept. The concept was great, but timing really helps. And it wasn't that it was easy. It was just that there was less competition in certain areas, and we executed really well in all of those areas.

I don't know that any new acquisition channels in my mind are like the new secret sauce. I still feel like people are still doing it in a similar way. It's just finding a category that is untapped. Here's an example: there's a company called Hims. I don't know if you guys have heard of this. They raised a bunch of money, and it's like serial entrepreneurs. Obviously, they've done it before. They know what to do, and they're able to raise capital. Not everyone can go and raise $10 million, nor necessarily should you. But in their example, I think the patent expired on Viagra, and so they basically sell Viagra and then they do some hair loss pill or shampoo or something. But they're just blowing up now because they were very strategic in what category they were going to do. And that's one of those things where it's working. I see them all over Facebook, and I don't know if they're profitable or what they are, but they're able to scale that business. And if they execute right, I think they'll do well.

So there's still opportunities out there. And I even think for us, if we just sold watches, if that's all we were is just watches and not a brand but just selling affordable watches, this would not continue to grow. This would have stopped a long time ago. I think it's because of what our brand represents. And so, there's a handful of things into it.

Again, I think I'm kind of beating around the bush because I don't necessarily know exactly what I would do differently, but I know a lot more now that I'd really think through how to approach it holistically. But at the same time, I do think ignorance is bliss, and if I knew everything I knew today, I probably would have been a little more pessimistic because I know it's hard. But I also think that's part of it. It's hard to predict how you're going to get from A to Z. You will go bounce all over the place and somehow meet someone that introduced you to someone, or you get some big breakthrough. And I think that's part of being an entrepreneur is just testing and just throwing a bunch of things at the wall and finding something that sticks and then working with that. So yeah, I think that's kind of my mentality and always has to be.

Austin Brawner: I think you're spot on, but I don't see a new Instagram acquisition channel right now. People are doing it the same way, but it's just a little bit more expensive. And raising the money allows them to kind of move on that. Also, it has to be the right product. Hims has a nice margin built in so they can spend on that.

One of the things I was thinking about -- I've always admired and looked at the way you guys have been able to spend money to make money. That's one thing that you guys did a really good job at and your consistent growth. We had conversations a couple of years ago where you were like, "The reason we want paid traffic is it's something we can turn on and off, spend money to make money." How did you think about acquisition and the amount you'd be willing to spend when you were in that earlier stage, maybe first under $20 million? And then how do you think about it now? How has it changed as you guys have moved and you have more products and you have a bigger vision of what you guys are doing? So what was it like back then, and then where you're at now with it, your viewpoint and acquisition spend?

Jake Kassan: Back then it was very simplified. I'm not a numbers guy. I'll be honest. I was very much understanding, generally, what it costs to acquire a customer and what my product costs were, and overhead, and then just figuring out how much profit I had at the end of the day, making sure that whatever my net profit was, I wasn't losing money, and I was making money. And as long as I was making a good chunk and I had some cushion, that was generally the way I would go about it.

I think I probably got lucky to some degree that I probably should have had someone a little bit more aggressively in the numbers helping us, but we had a profitable business and a lot of companies aren't even able to be profitable. So I knew that if we had to slow down or if I had to spend less, I always could. Or if I had to, whatever it was, if I needed to tell our manufacturer, "We're going to take another 30 days to pay you," that's just kind of what they had to deal with in a sense.

So that was the mindset that we generally had. Now we have basically an SVP of finance who essentially acts as CFO and really leads the team and all of our finance, cashflow, et cetera. And then we have our CMO who really helps with modeling out, and we're able to track exact profit on a day-to-day basis. And so we're very analytical now, and things have changed quite a bit. So very much more analytical now and data-driven, and that's their kind of wheelhouse. They've been able to manage profitability and what we're willing to spend across channels. So I think that was more of an important piece.

Austin Brawner: On those channels, what are some places now that you are experimenting and seeing decent results that you haven't done before? So you're at that stage now where obviously the brand is important, you're able to try a lot of different things that some of us may not in terms of getting outside of certain channels of acquisition. I've heard your podcast advertisements. What other things are you guys doing in that realm?

Jake Kassan: We test everything, to be honest. That's a core kind of strategy that we have of an internal kind of marketing team and brand team. It's really keeping that close to the chest, I feel like. What makes the brand special is the brand and how you communicate with the customers where some brands own their manufacturing plants and some brands own their fulfillment like shipping, warehouses. We've actually outsourced a lot of those components and really focused on what we want to be the best in class at. And we want to be a best in class brand. We want to be best in class in product. And we want to be best in class in just all-around marketing. So being able to do that, we've tested TV, we've tested radio, we've tested direct mail. What else have we tested? Radio. We've tested Pandora. We've tested just about every channel you could probably think of and are data-driven and are able to understand things. And as new ones pop up, Snapchat or whatever, we'll test every single thing that comes out. And I think that's an important piece.

And you can find wins in other areas. There's definitely wins. But I think you have to be careful. When you're a small business, when you're under $10 million, you shouldn't spread yourself too thin. There's a lot of room to really spend in certain channels. And I would focus on the channels that can really scale the most and require minimal capital.

When you look at TV, or even some radio and podcasts, you have minimum investments in some of these, and it's expensive to get started. I don't think we got started in those until a later stage. And again, a lot of these other marketing channels are actually becoming more and more saturated, so it's hard to get into a lot of these areas. I still think the general, like a typical influencer, Instagram, social, I think there will always be a strategic advantage, or at least for the near future, there will be some sort of strategic advantage that people can leverage in Instagram, whether it's a newer influencer that's not getting a lot of coverage. I don't know. I could even say like maybe some of the gamers. Maybe some of the video gamers who have these huge followings that the general public doesn't know, and maybe they're being overlooked by a lot of these brands because they don't know if they have influence. And I actually don't know if they have influenced other than maybe games, but that's a good example of maybe some brands -- these gamers have a ton of influence, and that's a good genre that's being overlooked.

So I think there's still strategy like that that people are finding more and more of. The thing is, every single year, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, change. Literally, the strategy changes a little bit every single year and what worked three years ago doesn't even work at all today. So you just have to adapt, but I still think there's an opportunity there.

Andrew Foxwell: One thing you mentioned as being one of the keys to your guys being able to continue to scale was the ability to hire at the right time and also hire the right people. Be that you were like the founder responsible for acquisition, how did you determine when was the right time to hire a CMO? And what did that search look like to find the right person?

Jake Kassan: I was spread pretty thin managing a handful of channels, and I knew I needed to hire someone for one of the channels, otherwise... I was fully committed and tied to our eCommerce site, and I was tied to every acquisition channel possible. But I just felt like I wasn't as available as I wanted to be, and I was just working a lot. I was just really busy and just felt like if I had to, I couldn't do podcasts like this. I couldn't go out and meet people. And every time I just forced myself to do it. And even though I was exhausted and went out and met someone, I'd find so much value there. And I just realized I can't run the day to day and do this at the same time. I'm just limited.

Then I started talking to people within my network, other marketers, and CMOs, and anyone I could, people under CMOs, and said, "Hey, what does your CMO do on a day-to-day basis?" just trying to figure it out. And I just learned that there were a lot of these areas that I just didn't even know. I didn't even have an experience in. So I just realized pretty quickly that there were things that I was completely overlooking that I didn't even know.

And I was trying to figure out: well, is that necessary? Like, I scale this business to $30 million. I didn't have a CMO. Do I need a CMO? So a lot of it was just talking to people, and then kind of figuring out the things that are important. I understand why that's important. I don't know how to do that. That's going to take a... You can't just learn that in a couple of months. That takes years of understanding and expertise.

We have an analytics person in-house now. The team is primarily marketing. So you have a lot of marketing guys in the house now, guys and gals. And just to manage the team and helping to make sure these people were set up for their careers. Making sure that my team was learning from the best in class executives was something I really wanted to do so that whether they're at MVMT or five years down the road they're somewhere else, they can look back at MVMT and go, "Yeah, I set myself up for an amazing career because of MVMT and Jake. Because I feel like I would be a bad CEO if I wasn't helping my team better their careers. It's just as selfish as you want to be about your business. You want to help your people. So it was kind of a combination of all those things.

And then I brought our CMO in and just quickly realized he helped, from again, building out the team. He helped from building out different dashboards and figuring out how to build a spend plan and forecasting, which helped us buy into inventory. And there's just so many pieces that I didn't even realize I was missing until he really came in here and took over. So it was eye-opening. And then once I had that experience, I was like, okay, that just validated a lot. I need to go and hire a bunch of really smart people.

And you need to make sure you don't hire too quickly. You don't want to hire someone when that doesn't even necessarily exist yet, especially if you're bootstrapped. But it was like, "Okay, we're a $50-million company now. We need to bring someone in to own and operate the finances so we can make investments and feel safe about those investments. So we need to bring in an SVP of finance." And we've been talking about other roles as we get bigger like, "Okay, we want to go and do this. And this is an initiative." So, as you get bigger, you learn.

And then I think the difference now is I'm at the stage where it's like, I want to go do that. Well, we're not really there yet, but I'm not even going to start to explore that opportunity without having someone who's been there and done that in-house. So now it's like, okay, let's bring someone who's best in class in their specific field knowing that they're going to have to build that side of the organization and bring value there. So it's a little different as you get bigger. I feel like early stages, you almost need to do it yourself until you're about to bust. And then when you get bigger, you're like: okay, rather than putting the whole company at risk by just tiptoeing into it, you actually want someone to really help guide you and avoid as many potential mistakes as possible.

Austin Brawner: I think that is incredible advice, to be honest with you. One thing I've heard you mentioned on another podcast that I thought was interesting was the focus talking more about that brand and more about not only the diversity of products that you have and introducing new products, but the power of user-generated content and doing that. I think that's an opportunity that a lot of people miss out on, right? They don't understand that we want to see validation. Can you tell me about how that's built into MVMT, how user-generated content and the customer-centric experience are built into not only what the customers are getting but also your marketing flow and how you think about that?

Jake Kassan: So for us, we were crowdfunded. We just had this community from day one who would just post organic pictures and went viral. We used a hashtag, which was, #jointheMVMT and by the abbreviated MVMT. And we would just have people, customers, fans of the brand posting what MVMT meant to them, what the experience was, and why they love MVMT so much. So, it just kind of turned into this viral organic campaign, I guess, where the lifestyle was so inspirational to our customers, and that they wanted to post pictures. It wasn't almost intentionally gamifying it, but we started posting pictures of our customers and tagging them. We felt like it was only right to credit them. Or we were looking at other brands, and they'd have pictures but wouldn't tag the photographer over it. And we're like, "Why are they doing that? They're not giving credit to the people who are supporting them." And for us, it was like, we were proud and happy to do that. And then more and more people would take pictures to then just be on our Instagram.

So it was just kind of embedded into who we are. Again, join the MVMT was like a movement. We promised our customers from day one on Indiegogo that we would continue to come out with more products, more watches, and accessible price points, kind of our, again, best in class designs inspired by us. And it's just turned into a promise from day one and a campaign that we just stuck with. So I don't know, it's just embedded in our DNA.

And it's also a good way to start a business when you don't have to rely on one photographer, two photographers you sometimes have to really pay a ton of money for versus sourcing it from around the world. So it's hard to imitate now because we've just been doing it for so long. We've been doing it for so long, and we know Instagram, the photographers, and the influencers, and the content creators so well that it's just like second nature to us. But it is hard starting off because you have to learn the ecosystem of Instagram.

Austin Brawner: Sure. No, it's a unique... as Chase Fisher from Blenders, but he's always talking about the 'Gram and just like the community there and actually understanding and knowing what those people respond to and how to speak the language. One thing I'm interested in is you have, even from let's say 2014, you could tell that your vision for the company was large and very, very big. What drives you to grow, like you mentioned, a billion-dollar accessory company or lifestyle company? What drives you, and what does the end game look like for Jake?

Jake Kassan: I don't think about the end game. I think just more about the end game is just continuing to grow this brand, and I like seeing people interact. I like seeing people love the brand, like really building something from scratch that people really, really love. I like having a business that people are building their careers out of. I think that it's an amazing experience. They get to meet some of the people that I meet. I like to give back, like I would love to have this billion-dollar business globally, being able to help other entrepreneurs, being an expert in the field. Those are all things I like and enjoy. I think the goal for everyone is just to be happy. And so, I think about that all the time, and well, what's going to make me happy? And I think progress is a big piece of that. It's just, continue to progress.

And I think good things come when you grow, if you're just continuing to grow. I think work-life balance is important to me. I've learned that early on. The first couple of years, you try and outwork everyone. And then, sometimes you burn out. And then you go, "Okay, well I've got to work smarter than everyone, so I've got to hire some good people and have some balance in my life." Otherwise, I don't know how sustainable this is. Some people can do it. The Elon Musks of the world can do it, but I need to... I'm not Elon; I need to have some sort of balance.

Yeah, I think I just try and remain healthy from a physical perspective, from a mental perspective, and then as long as I'm passionate about what I'm doing and growing this business and I'm learning, those are all things that I really enjoy. And there are days where it's exhausting. I know some people were like, "Oh, you got to wake up every day and love what you do." And I do truly love what I do, but there are harder days. I won't say I love every component of what I'm doing. You have ups and downs. The highs are high, and the lows are lows. That is literally entrepreneurship in a nutshell. So you need to know what you're signing up for.

But I think I've probably had more highs than lows with MVMT, but before MVMT, I had a lot of lows. I had multiple, two or three businesses that went under and lost money from my parents. My dad's complete life savings went under from the economy. So I've definitely had lows. And now we're highs, but I obviously anticipate there's always going to be ups and downs.

Austin Brawner: A lot of people have seen you guys win the Shopify Build a Business competition, and every year, especially the last couple of years, we've seen press like that doing $60 million, $80 million in revenue. Where do you feel during this time of growth that was those low periods for you, what did those look like, and how did you work out of them?

Jake Kassan: Having the answers about the CMO and hiring certain individuals and management -- those are not easy. Those are not easy decisions to come about. The easy decision would have been just going and finding any CMO maybe and try to just, "Hey, I need a CMO. You're a CMO. Want to work for us?" But we did an intense search and candidates and interview process and really stuck to our core that we need someone who fits the culture, who understands the business, who... So there are components to that, and it's stressful because you're about to... I moved my CMO up from San Diego and his entire family. You're moving people from across the United States, too. I moved some people from Chicago, New York, like big bets, and that's on me. I feel personally responsible for making sure that I made the right choice and that I interviewed them long enough and that I had the right move.

So stress in that sense, I think early on, I definitely crashed and burned just mentally. I was so mentally exhausted and high strung around certain decisions or stressing about every little thing and like work over health. There was a period of time where I really kind of stopped going to the gym or running or anything like that. It was all about, I just have to work, work harder than everyone else, and sacrifice social life or physical fitness, which had a huge toll on my mental health. And I ended up having some bad anxiety issues back in the day. This is early on, like year one or two of the business. And after I kind of came out of that, I realized I need to have a balance.

So now I have this, and it's a struggle. It's not like you just figure it out. But I think now in year five, I know that this is a long win. It's not just going to be a quick win. I want this to be a billion-dollar business. There's going to be a lot of ups and downs. I need to make sure that I'm in a good place mentally, physically, emotionally, and in order to do that, you need to have a work-life balance. You need to spend time with family. You need to make sure that you sacrifice some work time to go to the gym or to have a personal life or to date or whatever it is. There are still sacrifices. I still think I sacrifice more than the average 26-year-old, but I also get to experience really cool stuff. And this is what I signed up for.

Austin Brawner: You are 26, which is kind of crazy, right? You started at 21 years old.

Andrew Foxwell: It's insane. It's just insane.

Austin Brawner: Well, it's been really interesting to hear you walk through the different steps and talk about how progressively the bets get bigger and bigger. I saw something on Twitter the other day. It was talking about how your quality of life increases based on the amount of risk tolerance that you have. It's interesting as you kind of progress, and you're making these bigger bets, and you're deciding to move somebody's entire family up from San Diego. Yeah, I can imagine that could be pretty stressful. What does your day to day look like now? So you're the CEO, but what do you actually do at this level on a weekly or daily basis? What's your main focus?

Jake Kassan: I think my vision is really to make sure that we continue to seize the opportunity. So figuring out where the opportunity is within the business from product, to our website, to where does MVMT go in a year or two or three years? Just thinking overall big vision.

A big piece of that is understanding that vision, and then making sure that MVMT as a whole has the infrastructure to support that. So one of the things is just hiring the right people. For everyone we hire, I like to have at least lunch with or go and meet with. I want to make sure that I sign off on that culture and that person because hiring the wrong person from a culture fit could be a huge red flag for the company.

I may not be able to always validate their expertise. I rely on certain people on the team to, you know, who's an expert in email or an expert in even influencer marketing, certain areas to validate people, but I want to make sure that their culture and they're the right fit for the team, and I see eye to eye. And at this stage, I've probably hired more people than anyone at my company, so I think that I'm probably the most qualified to do that. Hiring people, thinking about senior hires, I think also just like the network effect of talking to people, talking with other founders, talking with other executives. That's a huge thing that it's often difficult to get as much transparency or to talk about businesses to other founders than it is for me to be able to do that. I'm a founder. I can talk about my business better than anyone else. And I can just ask founders questions and get some tidbits of information that really could impact our business tremendously overnight.

And I've found that being a founder having an open dialogue conversation, I'm the only one that can do that in the company. And even if I sent an employee to go and network or talk with a founder, it's just going to be a different dialogue. So, I think it's important, the networking aspect of it, and it's why I live in Los Angeles because I get access to that every single day. And I actually have to turn down meetings sometimes because I don't want to just spend all week having coffee with people. But I found that every time I'm going to go to this event... A great example, I went to Shoptalk. I went to one speaking event and either had coffee with people, had lunches, had drinks. I met people on a personal level, and now, when they come to LA, we're friends. And I've learned so much more from that than sitting and listening to a scripted kind of PR release to the world. And not to say you can't learn from both. There's definitely learnings from both, but it's different when I can ask questions and have a friend that I can call on the phone.

I have friends that are running hundred-million-dollar businesses. I have friends that are running billion-dollar businesses. It's insane to be with... I have to pinch myself. But having friends like that to be able to ask questions and learn from is huge. And I like the fact that in another two years from now, everyone's growing. This whole industry is growing. I believe in a lot of the businesses outside of that I'm friends with too. So just to have that networking and making sure to maintain that network. Continuing to grow is important.

I'm still involved in the marketing and the brand and the product. I'm still very close to all of those elements. We have a designer now that's in-house full time. So it's like, I'll have the inspiration regarding the product. We'll work together figuring out the vision of like the next product line, or sunglasses, or a big marketing event. I'm still involved in the conversation, but it's not like day-to-day planning or managing. My team is doing a little Coachella thing this weekend. I'm clearly not there. I should've gone. I was going to go. But I just need a weekend, man. That mental health, you know what I mean?

Andrew Foxwell: It's huge. Yes. Absolutely. I think that's insane. I think it's very true, and you're dying the minute you stop learning. And so, I agree. You are very privy to a lot of those people, and I'm sure that's incredibly helpful and good for the business, so it's interesting to hear what you're doing at this point. Well, we've clearly taken enough of your time, I think. It's been wonderful to have you on the podcast and sharing some of your just mad knowledge. If people have questions about stuff, they just hit you up via

Jake Kassan: Yeah, you can either go to I think if you want to check out the product, the site, learn more about the brand, you can go there. If you want to touch base with me directly, either shoot me a message on pretty much any of my social platforms or go to my website. My handles are just Jake, J-A-K-E K-A-S-S-A-N. That's pretty much how it goes for Twitter, Instagram, anything. And then my website is just JakeKassan. So Jake as well. And you can just shoot me an email there. I suck at responding, but I typically try to at least respond to a handful, and I pretty much read everything.

Austin Brawner: Jake, it's been awesome, man. I really appreciate it. Thanks so much.

Jake Kassan: Thanks, guys.

Austin Brawner: What's up everybody. Welcome to another episode of the Ecommerce Influence Podcast. My name's Austin Brawner.

Andrew Foxwell: And I'm Andrew Foxwell.

Austin Brawner: And we are fired up about this episode. This has been a long time coming.

Andrew F...

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