October 2, 2013

MBF Profiles: Steve Bock

Have you ever heard the term …“know s__t from Shinola?” Well…it was a popular American colloquialism back in the forties and referred to a brand of shoe polish. Today knowing something about Shinola will put you in contact with unusual quality products…made in the U.S. of A. We had the pleasure of sitting down with Shinola’s CEO Steve Bock.

photo via Shinola

MBF: Steve, you’ve been with Shinola for a few years now…can you tell us how you originally became involved?

SB: I was hooked in the first 5 minutes…who wouldn’t be?

When a brand is developed around watches made in the U.S. where watches are just the core, every paradigm in developing a brand is thrown out the window.

When you know that this cannot be done in the U.S. without opening a factory, creating jobs, initiating the development of cottage industries around the products…you know you have an amazing concept.

And then starting a business with unique categories – that frankly have not been developed with the same capacity capabilities in decades, you have the beginnings of a business worthy of jumping on board quickly.

Throw in a little marketing and…welcome to the world of Shinola! I am very happy to be involved.

MBF: Shinola’s story begins with Shinola, the shoe polish -- a company established in 1907. What inspired Tom Kartsotis, founder of Fossil to purchase Shinola?

SB: We needed a name. The concept was born long before the name. Several names were thrown around and none really resonated and frustration started to build. And then someone threw out “…you don’t know sh_t from Shinola." Unfortunately, trademarking sh_t globally was not possible at the time.

Welcome to Shinola!

photo via Shinola

MBF: Today, Shinola specializes in U.S. manufactured quality watches, leather goods and bicycles. Why these?

SB: Our assortment will continue to grow. We started with bikes, watches, and leather goods to include journals, shoe polish and Shinola Cola.

Today we are hard at work on the next categories. And there is always a connection between the categories, our stores and marketing. Whether by design, style – our brands value prop, their DNA or connected by leather.

Our expectation and hope is if you like our watches, you will love our bikes and leather goods.

MBF: Shinola has offices and manufacturing facilities in the distressed city of Detroit? Why there?

SB: Detroit is a storied city with a deep heritage in manufacturing, craftsmanship, design and innovation. It is also a city with global recognition – not only for manufacturing but also music and the arts in addition to a community spirit and a can-do attitude.

It has a broad appeal and while the city continues to work through very difficult financial challenges, we also see its potential. This is a city that is rebuilding itself and while this will take time, the potential is very exciting – a new Detroit built on its heritage with renewed focus on innovation and creativity. We are very proud to be a small part of that renaissance. We love being in Detroit!

photo via Shinola

MBF: As niche-market luxury products and brands continue to develop/evolve, what are Shinola’s brand values? How do you differ from your competitors?

SB: We do not see ourselves as a niche market luxury brand.

We fill a space where quality is not only critical but is married to design and the value of our products is immediately apparent. And though our products are fashionable, they are not steeped in seasonal fashion trends.

We expect our products to retain their desirableness, be worn and used for years to come – they are not meant to be disposable; this is not about throwaway fashion.

We are filling a niche that is at the entry level to what is commonly referred to as prestige or designer level.

We use the same if not better components but by focusing our energy and drive, we are able to manufacture and assemble our products at a much better value then our competitors.

And our marketing is not celebrity-driven but rather focuses on the people behind our products, those who actually produce them. The fabrics and the components we use with our designs.

Our products represent “where American is made” and our brand is U.S. focused – not on a particular segment or market within the country.

MBF: Who is Shinola’s customer?

SB: Across the United States – broad, happy, interested and enthusiastic people.

photo via Shinola

MBF: Shinola opened their first NYC “brick-and-mortar”, the Tribeca flagship. The store is very “post-industrial” and warehouse-like. It’s a great place and a space that invites you to “cruise”. Do you have a strategy when branding your stores?

SB: Our stores reflect our brand’s DNA. We want our customers to feel very much at home with our products and our stores.

It’s more about a community and presenting products and a brand that are welcoming – in a relaxed environment, an environment that is intriguing enough that you will want to return again and again – to see what’s happening, what’s new.

MBF: How do you market them and how does this tie into your social media strategy?

SB: We combine the digital platform with more conventional marketing. Our customers are not insular – they are broad and we look to engage through all channels.

MBF: What other brands do you carry? And why?

SB: We are continuously looking for and adding to our line-up.

We want to be current, forward-looking. The “home” for exciting products that speak to great design, compelling value and beautiful craftsmanship…just like Shinola.

MBF: Do you think the consumers are making a conscious purchase? Are they buying because of Shinola’s a great story, the social aspects or because of the “Made in the U.S.A.?"

SB: We love being in Detroit and having this city as our home base. But no one is going to buy a Shinola product if it does not offer innovative design and great quality. That is what differentiates us from the competition.

The quality of our components and the value inherent to our products ensures we have a complete story.

We continue to strive and ensure we build our brand with products built with this criterion – guaranteeing this is what Shinola stands for…Made in America and competitive with any product developed anywhere. We stand above the fray given our design, quality and value props.

photo via Shinola

MBF: So the future is bright. What does it hold for Shinola?

SB: We will continue to work to make more products, remain transparent about what we can do here in the U.S. and what we cannot. We will also continue developing cottage industries that allow us to develop components and products in the U.S. And of course, in a small way contribute to creation of jobs as we continue to grow.

Our MBF Profile ends with a questionnaire that follows in the footsteps of Proust's Questionnaire and American TV show host James Lipton's "10 Questions."

MBF: Your favorite swear word?

SB: Used to be sh_t … now it’s Shinola.

MBF: Your least favorite word?

SB: Impossible.

MBF: Your favorite word?

SB: Yes.

MBF: What turns you on?

SB: None of your business.

MBF: And of course, what turns you off?

SB: Negativity, pessimism.

MBF: What sound do you love?

SB: Snow falling.

MBF: If you could pick any profession – what might you be?

SB: I’m doing it.

MBF: If you could be anywhere right now, where would you be?

SB: I'm here.

MBF: If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

SB: Go back…you have more to do and experience…there is no rush, we will be here for a while.

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