In this expert interview, we speak to entrepreneurial brothers Josh and Hyrum Cook, Founders of the athleisure brand, ADANOLA.
In this blog, they tell us about their journey so far, from entering the Den to having Kardashians wear their brand.
Getting to know Josh and Hyrum Cook:
Take us back to the beginning of your journey and tell us about your original business and appearing on Dragon’s Den?
Josh: We set up our first business, Zeven Media in 2013 and then in 2014 we went on Dragon’s Den and got invested from Deborah Meaden. Zeven was a really fast-growing business and we were working with big organisations such as Selfridges.
In 2015, we were presented with a different opportunity to start another business. When we went on Dragon’s Den, they actually asked us what we were going to do after Zeven Media because it was more of a cash cow business than long-term and we told them we were going to go into activewear. To which they said, ‘don’t do it’ it’s a really tough business and hard to get into.
We spoke about developing the activewear brand for 12 months. We were out shopping one day and saw a girl wearing a neon pink Nike outfit and we thought wow, we could do that, we could create something that is both fashionable and functional. That same week we had an interview to offer someone a job at Zeven, the girl we interviewed had a fashion degree and it was sort of like our stars aligned and we offered her the job on the spot.
ADANOLA is kind of like Hyrum’s baby as it was his blog for 6 years previously. When we were trying to think of a name. We googled hundreds of ideas and spent night after night doing research, we looked at ways of merging our names, but it just didn’t work. That’s when Hyrum suggested we use the name of his blog and ADANOLA was born.
We decided relatively early on that we wanted to focus on ADANOLA and would have to exit Zeven Media. Two years on and ADANOLA is a fast-growing brand.
We talk about passion in business and as you talk about ADANOLA I can hear the passion in your voice. Two years down the track things seem to be really working out for you guys, why do you think the business with Deborah wasn’t as successful as it could have been?
Hyrum: As Josh said earlier, both businesses sort of crossed over and it got to a point where the new business became our passion. We strongly believe you should work on something you’re passionate about and by doing that people can better understand your values and who you are as a person and a brand.
One of the reasons we left Zeven behind was to focus on something we were passionate about. It started when we were younger and we used to watch our grandparents make clothes. That’s where our love for manufacturing clothes began. They used to make wedding dresses and from them, we learned about manufacturing clothes and knew at that point it was something we wanted to do.
Josh: That’s why when we had the opportunity to do it we grabbed it with two hands and two feet. No disrespect to our previous businesses they did really well and turned over a lot of money. But like Hyrum said if you do something for money then eventually it’s going to fail, whereas if you do something you love you’ve got a lot more chance of succeeding. Which is what we are trying to do now with ADANOLA.
Looking back at your journey, what have you learned? What can you share with our audience to help them avoid making the same mistakes you did with your first business?
Josh: I would say quite literally do something you have a passion and love for. That’s the first thing I learned. The second thing I learned is no man can serve two masters, you cannot give 100% to two things. As soon as you try to give 100% to two things that’s when they will both fail. That’s why we had to exit Zeven Media, we wanted to be able to give everything to ADANOLA. We were splitting our time between the two businesses and it was having a negative effect on the growth of both companies. I speak to people who own 5 businesses and think it’s impressive, but it doesn’t actually impress me, all it does is tell me they don’t yet know what they are passionate about and love to do.
I have two teenage sons of my own and they are like chalk and cheese. How does it work being business partners and brothers?
Hyrum: To be honest one of the most important things about business is finding the right business partner. I think as brothers you can’t get a better business partner because you need to be able to hate each other one minute and turn it around it into something productive the next and forget about what happened. Whereas, if you work with someone you don’t know very well, I think it’s probably harder to get over the fallout. It’s really important that no matter how much you fight you can always move forward and concentrate on the important things.
Josh: We’re able, to be honest with each other as well. If Hyrum has a bad idea I am the first person to tell him and Vice Versa. We don’t have to beat around the bush.
Hyrum: It works really well because we have different roles, we both have different strengths. So, we kind of fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.
We’ve spoken about Deborah Meaden and how she invested in your previous company. But you also have a high-profile investor in ADANOLA, who is your investor now?
Josh: Yes, Steve Bartlett from Social Chain, a massive entity that runs worldwide social media campaigns. I’ve actually known Steve for a while since we were on Dragon’s Den. One day before we launched ADANOLA, I put a post on Facebook about it and Steve got back to me wanting to know more. We showed him some samples and he just loved the brand said he wanted to get involved there and then. At the time, we didn’t have any real products only some samples and couldn’t sell something that didn’t exist. Every month for about 6 months Steve would message us to check in and see how things were going. Then 7 months after the launch we were looking to expand the brand, I reached out to Steve to see if he was still interested, we met up and he made us an offer we couldn’t resist.
Obviously, you’ve managed to get investment from high profile entrepreneurs for both of your businesses. In my training, I speak a lot about networking, building relationships and getting involved with the right people. What would be your top tips for anyone looking to get investment and how do you get such high-profile investors?
Hyrum: Getting the investment from Deborah was completely different from getting investment from Steve. The whole Dragon’s Den process is very difficult. The reason we got investment from Steve is that we surrounded ourselves with the right people, attended the right events and made sure we were in places with people we could share our passion with. No one is going to invest unless they can feel that passion, so if you’re in a place where you know there are investors then you need to share your passion for your business with them.
I completely agree. Looking at what I’ve done with my business, what I do and where I go, even when I started I’ve always hung out with the big boys, with those who are where I wanted to be and not where I am. I think it’s about investing in people who have grown their profile and that’s one of my top tips.
Your social media it is brilliant. On your Instagram, you’ve got over 48 thousand followers, which is amazing, there are some businesses that struggle just to get 1 thousand. How do you get that many followers and how much does it cost?
Josh: To be totally honest we haven’t spent that much, probably only about £300 in just over 2 years. We learned a lesson early on, we only had 300 Instagram followers and didn’t make a single sale. We decided to reach out to someone in America and because our brand aesthetic is really good because of Hyrum, they posted our products on Instagram and we got over a thousand followers, so we began to replicate that strategy.
You could just get one person with millions of followers to share a post, but it won’t have much of an impact because it’s just one post. We chose to gift 10 Instagram influencers in the same community with a similar following and got them to all post on the same day. Because their followers saw a post about us from 7 or 8 influencers they trust they started following us. We took a community approach, building our own community by piggybacking off others.
Influencer marketing is a real trend in how business is moving, even I’m sponsored by a company called 9 Spokes which offers a free business dashboard and because we think it’s great so do our following and it grows 9 Spokes database. But you’ve taken influencer marketing to another level because one of the Kardashians has worn your brand. Tell me, how do you get a Kardashian to wear your product?
Hyrum: Some say it’s luck but personally I think you create your own luck. On the back of our brand and product we have managed to work with some great influencers and one day we realised Kourtney Kardashians PA, Steph was commenting and liking a lot of our posts. We saw that Steph had a couple hundred thousand followers, so we sent her some products and she sent back a message saying, “thank you, Kourtney would love this” and for a minute we couldn’t believe it. So, we decided to send her everything, but she is quite short and we wanted to make sure she wore our clothes so we had some of the leggings specially tailored to fit. Then in 2 to 3 weeks, there was a picture of her in the Daily Mail wearing ADANOLA.
Josh: Also, there was a period of 6/10 days where she was continually wearing our clothes on Snapchat. People ask us how it’s possible and we put it down to how we have positioned ourselves and our brand. We’ve never really paid anyone to post about us on social media, our products and brand have always carried us. Steph liked it and because of that Kourtney did too and that’s all down to our aesthetic, the way our Instagram and website looks, the quality of the product and the way it makes you look and feel.
You’ve used influencers to build your following and create a community on Instagram, but how do you monetise it? How do you take that following and turn it into cash?
Hyrum: First and foremost, we always try and work with influencers for free as this generates a better ROI. If they post stuff for free and it generates sales that’s how we generate most of our cash. We know which influencers have the potential to generate sales and which don’t, all the girls we’ve worked with have had to meet a long list of criteria.
Josh: When we first started we would just view the site traffic, but now we track performance a lot closer using codes. We provide each influencer with a unique code so we can see what sales come through their promotion. We also drive a lot of sales through from our own Instagram page, in 6 months direct clicks from our own Instagram account can generate a 5 figure sales revenue.
You currently only have the female range, so what are the plans going forward? What’s next?
Hyrum: We are launching menswear in December, which is exciting because we will be finally selling something we can wear.
Josh: The thing about ADANOLA is it’s an active lifestyle brand so we believe we can create anything that fits within that range.
A huge thank you to both Josh and Hyrum from ADANOLA for sharing their business journey with is. They have shared some amazing tips and lessons with our readers that they can take away and implement into their own businesses.
I love ADANOLA, I think the boys have created something really special and look forward to watching it grow. If you want to know more about ADANOLA and check out their collection, head over to ADANOLA.com and follow them on Instagram @adanola.
The boys from ADANOLA have been kind enough to provide us with a discount code. Save 20% on your order when you use ‘ENTREPRENEUR20’ at the checkout!