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.