It Runs in the Family: How 3 Brothers Built a DTC Backpack Brand on a Mission for Good
March 29, 2021
Like many startups, Brevitē was born out of a need for a product that didn’t exist.
What began with one brother sewing a camera bag for another has grown into a direct-to-consumer (DTC) backpack brand on a mission to serve the greater good — and they certainly walk the walk. Over the past year, Brevitē has donated thousands of dollars to COVID relief, supported teaching civic responsibility in schools, and committed $150K-worth of backpacks to those experiencing homelessness in New York City.
We recently sat down with Shogun customer Dylan Kim, co-founder of Brevitē (pronounced “Brevity”), to chat about how he and his brothers, Brandon and Elliot, grew their company from a homemade prototype to a thriving ecommerce brand, and how they think about their store's marketing, design, and mission.
So, how did three brothers from New York end up designing their own line of beloved camera bags?
“It’s actually a funny story…”
Brevitē started with a failed search for a better camera bag: one that didn’t look like a camera bag, could securely transport equipment, and had a reasonable price tag.
“It’s actually a funny story,” says Dylan. “I was going abroad and wanted something that didn’t necessarily look like a camera bag and could hold other things besides my camera. That really didn’t exist in a meaningful way.”
When he couldn’t find anything in his price range, Dylan turned to his older brother Brandon, who was studying industrial design. Neither of them had designed a bag before — nor did they have much sewing experience — but Brandon was eager to give it a shot.
“We went to a thrift store, got a sewing machine […] and picked up some fabric. A month later, he came back to me and was like, ‘Look, I made a backpack.’ And it was great — I’d never seen anything like it.”
The siblings quickly realized they were onto something. They teamed up with their brother Elliot (who happens to be Dylan’s twin), launched a Kickstarter campaign, and got their business up and running.
That was in 2014. Now, six years later, the Kim brothers are still at it.
What started as a request to design a better bag has grown into a thriving brand loved by a community of photographers and commuters alike.
Entrepreneurship runs in the family
A family business in the truest sense, Brevitē is the product of three siblings’ complementary skill sets, years of hard work, and hundreds of prototypes.
“Our product has changed over the years and we’ve tightened up our brand values, but we’ve always just been moving forward,” says Dylan. “We just kept putting one foot in front of the other.”
The trio jokes that Dylan is the marketing twin and Elliot is the finance twin, but it makes for a seriously well-balanced team. Brandon, of course, is the original Brevitē designer.
While working with family can present its own set of challenges, the brothers say their relationship has made it easy to work together.
“The three of us are very close and always have been,” says Dylan, adding that it grants their team a deeper level of trust. “We’re able to go to each other with any issues or questions and workshop through them together.”
You can’t build a colorful brand without colorful pages
To stand out, Brevitē's visual design had to break the mold a bit.
But that didn’t mean starting completely from scratch. For Dylan and his brothers, it meant finding ways to customize their Shopify store without sacrificing their lean approach to ecommerce growth — and Shogun’s Page Builder helped them do just that.
“We’re a lean team here. Being able to leverage Page Builder and having those pre-saved templates and pre-saved blocks allows us to spin up pages quite quickly — and very nicely branded pages at that.”
Of course, Brevitē could have built pages with Shopify, but creating an especially beautiful or branded page often presents a whole slew of challenges. There’s a big difference between throwing together a generic Shopify page and creating a truly beautiful, high-converting landing page.
“Shopify is really good at commerce,” says Dylan. “But when you start to do more interesting things on top of Shopify, it helps to bring in other tools. We love that each is specialized in what they do. We’re not relying on Shopify for our emails, for example.”
According to Dylan, Brevitē has always relied on custom page designs specifically because of design limitations with traditional ecommerce platforms. Not only does it make for a more enjoyable shopping experience, but defining their brand their way has helped them stand out from the crowd.
“In terms of brand loyalty and being memorable, that really comes down to the branding on the site,” says Dylan. “We’re friendly people and wanted the store to reflect that, too.”
A large part of Brevitē's success is tied to their brand’s warm, colorful persona and their ability to convey this through marketing and visuals. Customizing the look and feel of their store has helped them stand out, attract and convert visitors into customers, and build brand loyalty.
“We are quite colorful in our branding. That’s something we underestimated with building custom pages; infusing color into them is not the easiest task. We’d end up with really colorless pages, for a very colorful brand,” says Dylan. “But with Shogun, we’ve been able to infuse that color without having to get our dev team involved.”
Being able to save and re-use branded blocks allowed Brevitē to create a custom look and feel for their store without spending hours on development.
“Since we began using Page Builder, we’ve saved a lot of segments and blocks and we have taken that idea to other parts of the marketing — like an email sign up block or a specific social feed block,” he says. “It’s been really helpful to have a folder of branded blocks we can pull from. Even though it’s simple, it’s amazing.”
Beyond evolving their product and catalog over the years, Brevitē has grown in its efforts to make a lasting, positive impact on the greater good.
Facing the uncertainty of Spring 2020, the Kim brothers reflected on their values and mission. Then they found a way to rally their customer community around a common cause. Last April, they launched a hybrid “choose what you pay or donate” initiative. This helped customers support a brand they loved (with a sweet discount), and give back.
“They could get our product for a sale price, or they could pay full price and we’d donate the sale amount.”
With this initiative, Brevitē donated $30K to COVID relief and another $10K to an organization called Generation Citizen that promotes civic engagement in schools.
“We always wanted to have our business be a vehicle for good and figuring that out has been the most enjoyable part,” says Dylan. “It’s expanded beyond making bags into how we can make a meaningful impact.”
Then, in the summer of 2020, Brevitē donated a whopping $150K-worth of bags to those in NYC experiencing homelessness. This was a huge accomplishment and solidified the Kim brother’s dedication to using their brand to make the world a better place.
“It was pretty remarkable seeing $150K-worth of bags being sent out.”
Tying their mission into their brand
“In an age when it’s so easy to start an ecommerce store — you can get a Shopify account in a day or so and start selling on the internet — what really matters is differentiating.”
That’s Dylan’s advice for entrepreneurs that want to build incredible ecommerce experiences. He adds that you can use all the gimmicks in the book (countdown timers, pricing levers), but your brand's most powerful aspect is your messaging and your mission.
Whether you’re advertising on Instagram or Facebook, or just trying to maintain a social following, it’s increasingly difficult for ecommerce brands to stand out. So, focusing on what you’re doing and why you’re doing it has become more important than ever.
“Your why and your messaging matter more than people recognize. You can have a gorgeous store, but if nobody resonates with what you’re saying, nobody will buy from you.”
By tying their mission into their brand, Brevitē can remain authentic, create a positive impact, and connect with customers who share their values.
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