Brian Smith Interview: Founder of UGG
Diana Landau | April 07, 2023
Carl interviews Brian Smith, the founder of the international brand UGG boots. Brian left his CPA career at age 29 and embarked on a wild ride into entrepreneurship. He's also had many other successful ventures and wrote a book, "Birth of a Brand." Brian has lived through the ups and downs of running businesses big and small. "I love the chaos and unpredictability of start-ups!" he tells us. His story is about perseverance, achievements, lucky breaks and near disasters.
Brian grew up in Canberra, Australia and eventually made his way to UCLA's Graduate School of Management. He was 29 and he says he went straight to Malibu and surfed, He wasn't so interested in becoming a career CPA. "I was looking for the next big thing in business," he says. While on the beach he noticed that no one had sheepskin boots. So my friend Doug and I bought 6 pairs from Australia as a test--UGG was born."
It was quite challenging in the beginning. "I registered UGG as the trademark and settled down to be an instant millionaire. What I didn't know is that Americans don't understand sheepskin the way Aussies do." The duo thought they'd target shoe stores and were told "No." Brian raised some capital and had a lot of boots to sell. His friend eventually got a job and Brian was about to give up when he started selling the boots out of the back of his van in beach parking lots. Sales increased. "I had a brand that was like the very first pop-up!" he tells us. Word-of-mouth sales spread.
As he started targeting surfers and surf shops, sales took off and the rest is history. You will have to listen to the interview to hear the super-crazy ups and downs Brian faced in keeping the company going for 17 years! (Being a surfer probably helped.) As sales reached $15 million, he sold the business to Deckers Outdoor Corporation. "I'm an entrepreneur, not a big corporate guy," Brian adds. The UGG brand has since exceeded $1 billion of international sales several times over. Always an entrepreneur, he has had other successful ventures as well.
At age 76, Brian is still going strong. He speaks about the principles in his book all over the world. He's also a mentor and advocate to business leaders and entrepreneurs, showing them how to find passion and follow it to a rewarding life. Still in Southern California, in his spare time Brian enjoys golf, yoga, meditation and traveling.
Brian Smith's Tips to (Un)retirement and Second Acts:
"Combine truth, beauty and goodness into your daily life. You'll start living differently as you practice this. You will lead a more spiritual and energized life!"
"Health is everything. We should be looking at it every single day. Exercising and eating less is what works for me."
"Don't force a hobby for yourself. If you are not energized and inspired to get up every day and do it, it means you haven't found "it" yet. Don't give up looking!"
Diana Landau is the Content Wrangler for Pickleball Media. After 15 years in corporate marketing, in 2012 she pivoted to write and wrangle content for Niche Media's weekly blog. She now manages the “I Used to Be Somebody” blog.
Patrick Mulvaney Interview: It Really Is A Wonderful Life!
Diana Landau | June 29, 2021
In the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life” George Bailey learns that his family business, Bailey Bros. Building and Loan, is so much more than a business. It's about the bonds they created to hold the community together. Patrick Mulvaney, award-winning chef, leader of the Farm-to Fork movement in Northern California and a local hero for his non-profit programs, was inspired by this sentiment and named his restaurant Mulvaney’s B&L. Patrick and his wife Bobbin have a successful restaurant business--- and have taken it to a whole new level of community service.
Although Patrick calls his restaurant a “shanty Irish joint” it is elevated dining using the freshest ingredients. Patrick and Bobbin believe the world can be a better place through their restaurant. They have cultivated relationships with local farmers, developed programs like Great Plates to feed hungry people in need and during the pandemic they were a vital part of a region-wide program, Family Meal Sacramento, making meals for over 100,000 families. California Governor Gavin Newsom observed the program and pledged to take it statewide during the pandemic.
Patrick’s grandparents on both sides immigrated to the U.S from Ireland. He grew up in New York with a lawyer father and an English professor mother. Then he found his true calling by working in kitchens and the rest is history! He had the opportunity to apprentice with a chef in Ireland. “I was fired 6 times in 9 months!” he says.
Patrick worked at Rockaway Beach in Queens for a time, and it was there he learned the powerful connectivity between a restaurant and the community. “It’s a place to help the community become stronger, to become engaged, and it’s also a pathway to making your voice heard to decision makers.” Patrick then worked his way up the ladder at Metropolis in NYC under Leslie Revsin. During grad school at UC Davis, he saw a 12-month growing season and winemaking and knew he wanted to open his own restaurant in Sacramento, which he did in 2006.
“It gets back to what I learned in Ireland—where does your food come from? Do you know the farmers? Sacramento felt like home.” Now he is one of the lead innovators of the Farm-to-Fork movement, bringing farmers and chefs together in a big way. “It’s given something to Sacramento that the people can be proud of.”
Patrick and Bobbin also started the I Got Your Back Project, a mental health program and education for restaurant employees, after there were several suicides in the local restaurant community. “Restaurant work can be fast-paced, stressful and nocturnal. It requires thick skin and talent, not a college degree.” The program is now helping people every day.
What’s next? Patrick is still doing what he loves to do, wishing maybe he had a little more quiet time to cook. But he’s also taking the time to think about and reflect on what he wants to accomplish in his third act, whether it’s more involvement in advocacy, mental health, food insecurity or all three. We know he will keep making the world a better place!
Patrick’s (Un) Retirement Wisdom for Second Acts:
“Keep your eyes open and be enthusiastic in whatever it is you're doing, knowing that it might not be a direct path to doing (exactly) what you want to do. But know the experience will eventually help you in some way. When you meet someone, you never know what it is they can teach you, or how they might lift you up!”
Diana Landau is the Content Wrangler for Pickleball Media. After 15 years in corporate marketing, in 2012 she pivoted to write and wrangle content for Niche Media's weekly blog. She now manages the “I Used to Be Somebody” weekly blog.