Our interview with Vince Lebon, Founder and Designer of Rollie Nation, takes us into a closer yet comprehensive look at what developing a brand and making an impact truly mean. Vince has founded Rollie Nation not just to provide amazing shoes to the public, but also to create a difference in people’s lives – for his team, customers and mentees.
There’s a wealth of wisdom and inspiration you can find in our conversation with the award-winning brand architect. Here’s how you can make a winning brand, scale up a business effectively, and become a retail leader that makes an impact.
RLC: Rollie Nation has a cult following and the shoes are hands-down the best in the niche. As a brand architect, what is your best advice to retailers in terms of making a winning brand?
Vince: I recommend a value-driven approach to brand building. Identity how can you add value to people’s lives. Can you make someone’s life a little easier, can you save time or remove a pain point? Can you help your customers connect emotionally (take them back to a moment of time or make them feel special)? It’s what I like to call Value Exchange; in exchange for a purchase or personal/team satisfaction, we look for ways to add value to our customer’s lives and communities.
RLC: As a leader that spearheads a company, how were you able to scale up the business and make it successful today?
Vince: Building a brand and scaling a business is tough, it’s not something you can do by yourself. A clear vision of what you are trying to achieve will keep you motivated. It is possible to build a remarkable brand by yourself and/or with limited resources but to scale you need to inspire others with similar values to amplify and execute the vision. The best way to do that is to communicate, define, share and ensure the team values’ the vision (not one that only you value).
RLC: Entrepreneurs are always on the lookout for mentors to help them succeed. Did you also have mentors on your path in this industry? What are the benefits that you can share with us in terms of having a mentor, and also being a mentor for others?
Vince: Finding a mentor is something I struggled with to be very honest; It took me years to find my first mentor. I found having regular breakfast catch ups with people in the industry, general though leaders and friends and family a great place to table my ideas and challenges; sometimes simply having a conversation with someone can give you a fresh perspective or force you to find a solution. As a creative at my core, I am naturally curious; I read a lot of books, attend workshops and am not afraid to test and fail fast. Over the years, I have had a multidisciplinary approach to business and sought advice and learning through many people across design thinking to finance. I do quite a bit of public speaking and currently, mentor a few people regularly.
RLC: What do you advise retailers in terms of setting up shop in the online retail space and sustaining it for years to come?
Vince: The online space is very different from traditional retail, and I know many brands that are great at one and not the other. As a general rule, I found that if the customer is the center of both channels, you can create a seamless experience and manage expectations. Doing this will allow your offline customers to shop with confidence online and become even mightier brand advocators. Operations are critical to scaling, however, focusing on the customer and the user experience will enable you to develop a robust online customer base to build a sustainable business.
RLC: In terms of retail leadership, what are your thoughts in making a winning team and leading a successful business?
Vince: We’re not looking to be an average brand, so it’s vital for me to hold myself and my team accountable for greatness. It’s essential to define the short-term and long-term objectives to ensure everyone is invested and understands what we are collectively aiming for (and not just financial goals but, brand-focused initiatives); and don’t forget to measure what matters. Also, in a rapid growth company, it’s easy to neglect the need to upskill; as you and your team remain super busy, the business can sometimes become re-active instead of being pro-active. Is your (or your team’s) skillset growing at the same rate that your business is growing at? Find and develop a skilled team that share the company’s values, empower them to win every day. Do you want to be that company that simply sells shoes? Or a company that is genuinely making a positive impact in the world and inspiring people to do amazing things in their Rollie shoes?
About Vince Lebon
Vince Lebon is a prolific designer and the founder of Rollie Nation, a stylish and playful footwear brand for style-seekers and travellers. His wealth of experience as a footwear designer includes working with Adidas, Republic, Munro Footwear Group, and Subway Shoe Fusion. He is one of the winners at the Top 50 Retailer Awards held at Australia’s Retail Week last month. He also won first place at the prestigious Pensole Footwear Academy Master Class in Oregon, USA.