Austin From Scratch, Episode #20: Hobson Brown & Billy Nachman, Co-Founders of Criquet Shirts
Austin From Scratch is our favorite series on the blog and involves Owen (age 11) and Malia (age 9) interviewing local entrepreneurs who have created a thriving business here in the heart of Texas. For this session, we sat down with Hobson Brown & Billy Nachman, Co-Founders of Criquet Shirts. We choose Criquet because their shirts seem to be everywhere you turn these days and what better way to learn more about them than to go straight to the source. We hope you enjoy!
Owen (our 11-year-old son): What were you favorite things to do as a kid?
Billy: For me, I loved to draw…and I drew a lot. In fact, my last job before Hobby and me got together to start Criquet…my last career was as an architect. So I would draw a lot of floor-plans and boats and houses and things like that…even from a young ago. And I also loved to play basketball.
Malia (our 9-year-old daughter): Wait, doll houses!?
Billy (laughing): No, not doll houses. Just normal houses.
Hobson: Yeah, I was also into sports as a kid. Billy and I grew up in New York City and we used to do dunk contests and we would go at it pretty hard. One day after having a dunk contest, we got a call from our downstairs neighbor to let us know the paint and plaster was falling onto his bed. It’s funny now because nobody was hurt but I loved to play basketball.
Malia: How did you go about learning as a child?
Billy: For me, I would say taking lots of notes…so as I was listening to someone like a teacher explain something, I would write things down as it would help me remember. When I was a kid, you really had to be a good listener and you had to take good notes.
Hobson: For me, it was really doing the thing that I was trying to learn. For example, if it was a reading assignment, I’d have to read it and then process it by doing some writing or answering some questions. So for me, that was the most effective way to learn.
Owen: How would you describe your company?
Hobson: We say that it’s an apparel company rooted in classic style but targeting the modern guy. So a brand that’s got a lot of influence and pulls from the past but really thinks forward in terms of business practices and how we’re talking to our customers.
Billy: And I would say that we try to embrace the lifestyle of Austin. Austin’s really got a laid back and outdoorsy kind of lifestyle and that’s what we try to exude through the brand as well.
Malia: When did you know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
Hobson: It wasn’t when I was a kid. I wasn’t doing my own lemonade stand and that sort of thing as a young guy. I knew from a pretty early age that I didn’t want to work for a gigantic company. I liked working at smaller companies where you could figure out what you were good at….so I really decided over time that I wanted to do my own thing and start something from scratch. I think the fact that I was able to do it with one of my oldest friends, that was a really awesome opportunity. So really it was all of those things combined.
Billy: I never really thought about being an entrepreneur specifically and to Hob’s point, we came up with an idea in Criquet at a certain time in our lives when it seemed appropriate and felt right to take a chance. And in starting your own company, you’re definitely taking a chance. You’re not only responsible for yourselves but you’re also responsible for all the people that work for you. So it definitely adds another level of commitment but it’s very rewarding to build something and to be able to affect people’s lives in a positive way.
Owen: What is your favorite thing about being an entrepreneur?
Hobson: Sleeping late! (Everyone laughs…) Actually, it’s taking an idea that you came up with and making it happen. So creating something that you are responsible for and seeing that all the way through to an actual product. It’s especially gratifying if you enjoy doing it as it can be a great way to spend your 9-5. It becomes less of a job and you get to be involved with it all the time and you can build a great career.
Billy: One other thing is we got to create our own work environment. As you can see, we like to have fun with our space and these cool murals that we’ve done and we have a little putting green out here. That’s one of the neat things and people really like coming to work every day as opposed to it being kind of hard thing for people to do. It’s pretty exciting to come to work.
Malia: What is the most challenging thing about being an entrepreneur?
Billy: Things don’t always go your way. Sometimes you hit some bumps in the road and the most challenging thing is to stay positive when they’re not going your way. I think that’s a great lesson for life too is to always have a positive outlook and believe in what you’re doing and the challenges will become easier and easier to conquer.
Hobson: And I think that as emerging company, you can’t do everything. As much as you want to be able to do everything and make a bunch of stuff and reach a bunch of people, you have to really pick and choose the things you want to do even though you’d like to more stuff. You really need to be patient and you need to celebrate the small victories along the way.
Owen: What is your favorite Criquet product?
Hobson: Mine is our best selling shirt, it’s called the Player’s Shirt. It’s what I’m wearing right now and what I wear most days. It’s the shirt that represents about 60% of our sales. It’s the shirt that we started the business on and it’s one thing that we’ve really focused on doing well.
Billy: For me, there’s one shirt we make and although it’s a small part of the business it’s also a shirt that we designed after something my dad wore a lot and it’s called the JR Shirt. It’s sort of a classic shammy and it’s probably my favorite product. It’s not one that we’re necessarily known for but it definitely has some sentimental value. We take inspiration from a lot items that our dads and grandfathers wore.
Malia: What would you be doing if you weren’t involved with Criquet?
Billy: I would probably still be doing architecture. That was my first love and I still love it. It’s not as fun as Criquet but it’s still something that I get great joy from so I’d probably be doing architecture.
Hobson: I’d probably be doing some sort of copyrighting or advertising work. I did some writing before Criquet. I actually wrote some advertising and also did a young adult book series which was written for a teenage audience. That was a lot of fun. The nice thing about Criquet is that you get to run a business but also there’s a creative component to our jobs and Billy and I are both creative so to tap into that is pretty awarding.
Owen: Do you have any advice for young entrepreneurs?
Hobson: My advice is don’t be afraid to ask for help. That’s a great lesson that Billy and I have learned….we’ve been lucky to have other people interested in our work and willing to help but you have to ask for it because most of the time it’s not going to just fall in your lap. When you’re open and willing to ask for help it’s going to help you get better at what you’re doing.
Billy: I would say stay true to who you are and don’t forget who you are and what you believe in. I think one of the most important things as an entrepreneur is to connect with your customers and the best way to do that is to speak truthfully with your own voice. We’ve been very good about talking to our customers and advertising to them and they get a sense of who we are through our work.
Owen: What made you choose golf over other sports?
Hobson: Bill and I both love playing golf and have been playing since we were young kids. So it’s something we’ve always enjoyed. But we’re not trying to be a performance golf company where we say our shirt will improve your score. Our brand is rooted in golf…
Bill: …it’s rooted in golf because the shirt is designed after a shirt that was popular back when we were kids. Guys like Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer wore shirts like this and it’s what we remember when we were kids.
Owen: Where can people find your shirts?
Hobson: You can find them online at our website (criquetshirts.com). That’s where we sell most of our shirts. You can come to our store or showroom. You can also buy them at stores like St. Bernard Sports and we also sell them at a number of golf shops and golf clubs around the country. We’re currently in about 100 stores and hope to grow that to around 300 or 500 stores.
Pure awesomeness. Thank you Hobson and Billy for sharing the story behind Criquet Shirts!