How a PE teacher's parody brand went from 0–$1mm/yr in 3 years
“We had no idea writing the word “SHITI” on a napkin and taping it to an old cooler would have such a following behind it”
In 2016, Trevor and Austin Zacny founded SHITI® Coolers with a basic mission: To keep using that same damn Coleman with the rusted lid and squeaky hinges in hope there were more people out there just like them. A simple SHITI sticker was enough to represent the lifestyle they had been living for years.
This is the journey of a brand that started wiuth $400 in parody stickers back in 2016 and by 2019 had grown into a seven-figure lifestyle brand.
Kurt Elster: Hello and welcome back to The Unofficial Shopify Podcast. I’m your host, Kurt Elster, and there is one status symbol I don’t own. It’s a very expensive cooler. So, years ago I had a client who tried to explain the concept of a YETI Cooler to me, and he said, “The YETI Cooler is a redneck status symbol.” It’s like if you scientifically test these things, they don’t keep things particularly cooler than a regular cooler, they cost hundreds of dollars, and the whole point is you throw it in your boat or your pickup truck so that other people could see that you could afford a $300 cooler.
And they look cool, they’ve got like a tactical look that I’m into by virtue of being a 30-something white guy. Mostly white guy. But I love these coolers, but they’re expensive, and they get a lot of shit. On that note, our guest today has a parody brand that is very successful. They started in 2016. It’s called SHITI Coolers, which is a play on the YETI Coolers name. Back in 2016, they started doing everything wrong, and succeeded in spite of that. They had their website on Weebly, they weren’t sending out emails, they weren’t building out an audience using Facebook pixels, they were doing everything wrong and survived despite all of that, and so today we are joined by the co-owner and co-founder, Trevor Zacny, as well as SHITI Coolers digital marketing manager, Craig LeBlanc, who joined after one year, and I want to talk through their journey, their thoughts, and where they found themselves stumbling, how they got past those roadblocks, and the things that helped them get to where they are today.
Gentlemen, thank you for joining me. Where are you guys located?
Trevor Zacny: Absolutely, Kurt. Thank you for having us on here. We appreciate that. We are located in Detroit, just out of Detroit, Michigan, about 20 miles out, so that’s where we grew up, that’s where we’re both from. I actually went to school with Craig back in the day, and kind of when we were struggling with our website, we kind of contacted him, he reached out and here we are.
Kurt Elster: How’d this idea get started? Where did you get the idea for SHITI Coolers?
Trevor Zacny: So, it was 2016. I bought tickets to go to a country music festival in Michigan. It’s the biggest country fest in Michigan to date. So, I got tickets, I was out at the bar, and I just kind of bought them on the spot and I went there by myself, and I met a few buddies that were there, that were at different sites, and I realized when I was there that there were people with YETI Coolers in their truck, in their tent, and what they were doing is they were bringing them out during the day, drinking with them, and then at night, they would need to bring them in their tent, they would lock them to their truck, and I was like, “This is just ridiculous.” Like when I literally had a backpack on and literally “my shitty cooler” with me that literally was nowhere near what these other people had and I was like, “Well… Why do they need that?”
So, I came home after that country festival, and my brother actually bought a YETI, so I got in my apartment. I’m like, “Why do you need it?” I actually made a Snapchat and it said, “Well, why do you need a YETI when I have a SHITI?” And I kind of fanned the camera over to my old SHITI Cooler and it literally had a piece of paper taped to it with a napkin, and it just said SHITI on there, and I actually remember asking my brother like how do I spell it, what do I do, and I just kind of giggled in the Snapchat. It’s actually on our website, too, under our story, and we kind of show that on there.
So, that kind of happened, and when that happened we laughed, and I had like some attention from my Snapchat followers, which was very minimal at the time, and they laughed at it. Months went by, and we were like, “Let’s just make stickers for your old cooler.” Like, “Let’s just label and rebrand.” A majority of the coolers at the festival were SHITI Coolers, you know? Like you said, status symbol is everything right now, and a lot of them had overpriced YETI Coolers, and we were like, “Why do you need that?”
So, we bought… I think our first batch of stickers was, we spent like 400 bucks to start. We got a few hats. It was mainly stickers at the start. We put the stickers on eBay and we sold a few, like they were selling pretty good, because all I had was an Instagram at the time, and I would just put the link of the eBay in the Instagram bio, and they would just click into there and I’m like, “Okay.” We sold a few and I’m like… I’m a teacher, so I’m like, “I gotta call off of work and make a website,” because this is kind of inconvenient at the time. That was kind of in the process, too. We were selling on eBay and also trying to sell on Google Forms, where they were just literally like… It was the most half-assed way to sell anything.
Craig LeBlanc: So, e-commerce 101, Kurt. It was just use the Google Forms and then eBay. They followed it by the book.
Kurt Elster: Well, yeah. This is presented as like, “Look how wrong and bad we did it.” But when you’re starting from zero, this is still better than doing nothing. I dearly love eBay. I just… I sell, rather than throwing them out, giving them away, I sell all my old electronics and stuff on eBay. I love it. It’s a good time. And that’s how I got my start in e-commerce, is eBay at age 16, right? A bootleg account.
Tell me about that, selling on eBay four or five years ago, what was that like? Give me the rundown. How much did you sell? What it inspired you to do. What was wrong with it?
Trevor Zacny: So, back when we were selling on eBay, I had it set up to where it was kind of all on my phone, and I would fulfill orders in my car. My brothers would fulfill orders at the apartment. There wasn’t really a huge, high demand for the orders. It was just kind of trickling out, so we were able to manage it. Once we got the website going, it became like, “Okay, now we’re on Instagram.” Now I would pay other people, big accounts, like fishing-related accounts, hunting, to post our pictures, and that kind of helped grow us in the beginning where it was like okay, now it was a lot easier to link people from our page to the site, and then for them to buy something.
So, I took the day off work, like I said. Created the website, did that. Looking back at it, it was so bad. It was terrible. There was no way to gain emails. The products weren’t really linked. There was no flow to the website. They would kind of get into a pigeonhole, to where they’d go to one product, they wouldn’t be able to research anything else. But at the time, we started… Once we had the site, we started to get into Facebook ads, and once we started to do that, I went from spending $30 a day on Facebook ads the first month we started doing it, to ended up spending the next month, it was like 80 bucks a day, and then I would like… Every month I would be like, “Okay, let’s up the budget. Let’s up the budget.”
So, I think it was our first couple months, we were averaging, it was like 30 grand a month within the first couple months.
Kurt Elster: Whoa. That’s pretty good.
Trevor Zacny: Yeah, so it kind of, it was almost like the ads were going viral at the time, and we did know.
Craig LeBlanc: And Kurt, it’s worth mentioning, too. The first meeting I ever had with these guys, we’re just talking ad stats and trying to figure out where’s your primary traffic coming from and whatnot. In the month of July, I think they mentioned you had right around 70,000 hits to the website, and they truly, at the time, didn’t have any idea which ad was performing the best, where exactly the traffic was coming from, why it was coming to the website, so this thing was like… It was moving along quick. People were loving it. But they were still trying to wrap their heads around who’s loving it, where are they loving it from? Is it down South? Is it out West? Where is all this traffic coming from? So, it all really came together pretty quickly and rapidly from going from eBay to Weebly, and then when I met with them in early October of 2017, and then we decided to transition to Shopify.
Kurt Elster: How long did it take you to go from zero to 30K a month on the website?
Trevor Zacny: On the website, I would say within… It was about two, three months. It was like, “Okay, now we’re hitting 30K.” It was like… It was a rapid in the beginning, because it was mainly stickers at the time, so when it kind of got to that point where it kind of went a little bit viral and out of control, we ended up having to move to my grandma’s basement for a while to fulfill orders down there, and that was… At the time, we only had one style shirt and a couple different hats, and it was mainly stickers that we were selling. So it was pretty manageable to crank out a lot of orders, because it was stickers and just minimal inventory we had.
So, and we kept open inventory on everything, so we would just have a local t-shirt, we had a lady doing our shirts, she would literally press them, we’d bring them to the house and we would send them out. Stickers, we were able to get real quick, and then hats, we were actually pressing the hats by ourself, with actually a heat press iron to start, which is pretty ridiculous.
Kurt Elster: You went from eBay, you got a Weebly site going to do 30K a month, and you knew you needed something better. What was the pain point where you said, “Man, we gotta get off of this thing.”
Trevor Zacny: For that, it was more like when Craig reached out to me, I think, because at that time it was like we were going into our… It kind of went viral. We were doing very well, and it hit after summer, where it was like October, and if you… Thinking back, it’s seasonal, obviously. We own a cooler brand, quote unquote, where it’s end of October, November, you’re gonna kind of hit a slump. And we hit a slump that first time, it was kind of like the viral kind of wore off, and now it was back to reality, and we had our site up and running and Craig was hearing through some people that we started the brand, and he looked at our website and obviously knew it needed work. And he gave me a call and-
Craig LeBlanc: Yeah, I saw the website and I… A couple of friends had mentioned to me what Trevor and Austin were doing, and at first I’m like, “All right, that just sounds kind of silly. Obviously a big parody brand. They can’t be doing that well.” Because I had heard that they’d been doing pretty good. And I took a look at their website and on mobile, I just had a really hard time navigating it, and like Trevor mentioned, I grew up with these guys, so I just shot him a text and didn’t know what I should expect back from it, if he was actually gonna be interested, and it turned out to be that it was perfect timing to where they knew that they needed to do something to get to the next step, and that something, definitely a key point was transitioning over to Shopify from Weebly, which opened us up to just an entire platform of scaling, adding new app integrations, growing their email list, and you can go on and on with that.
Kurt Elster: What did that… When you cold texted him and basically said, “Hey, I want to horn in on your business, because I heard it’s successful, but there’s some obvious issues here.” What did that text look like?
Craig LeBlanc: Honestly, I think it was just, “Hey, I heard you guys are doing SHITI Coolers and it’s going pretty well. If you guys ever want to meet about some enhancements with your website and just some stuff that you guys could be doing on Facebook, let me know.” And being that we have known each other for a while, there wasn’t pushback into why is he reaching out, what does he want. It was kind of, “Okay, yeah. We can have a conversation.”
So, I think the first time I went and met with them, wasn’t the ceiling leaking at the building?
Trevor Zacny: Yeah. Our offices, the struggle that we went through through our office is ridiculous. It had no heat, no air, leaked, there was mice everywhere. But yeah, he came and met with us there, and just… That was the first point where I kind of showed him the numbers and he really got a look at it for himself and not hear through our friends or whatever that we were doing well.
Craig LeBlanc: I was shocked.
Trevor Zacny: Yeah, he was shocked, so that was when I knew, like having an outside somebody come look at it that knew the e-commerce world, and to have him have such a strong opinion about like, “Dude, you guys are killing it.” I was like, “I know we’re killing it, but how do we keep it going?” And he’s helped with that tremendously on just getting things streamlined and monetized, to where now we’re not just making decisions off of how we feel. It’s more like stat-based stuff, which has changed our entire game.
Kurt Elster: Trevor, what was your background?
Trevor Zacny: My background, I am a physical education teacher. I am still doing that to date. I don’t know why. I need to probably hang that up soon at some point.
Kurt Elster: How will you know when it’s time to quit your job?
Trevor Zacny: I don’t know if I ever will. I think I just need to take the leap. I don’t know if there’s a number in sales we could hit to where I would be like, “Okay, I’m done.” This year, we’re set for over a million in sales. We’re a couple years in, we’re already set for that. So, as far as… I do more a lot of the marketing and accounting part of it. I’m looking for a stronger person to handle our accounting and backend stuff before I’m financially comfortable to be like, “Okay, I’m done.”
Because I think it’s important to have the backend stuff in line before just kind of making the decision.
Kurt Elster: A million, that’s where you’re at now? You’re on track to do a million this year?
Trevor Zacny: Yeah. Craig, you can go over some of the numbers if you want.
Craig LeBlanc: Yeah, so we just actually had our biggest month to date in terms of sales. We spent probably a little bit too much money in Facebook ads last month, where we would have hoped to have had a bigger return, but last month we did, just yesterday finished, was 220,000 in sales. So, for the month, and right now we’re approaching 700K for the year, and July should be our biggest month, so we should creep up on a million in sales for the year by the end of this month, and we have one of our biggest products dropping.
We use a really good app called Back In Stock, where we have lots of people signing up for, we have a backpack cooler that has about 2,500 signups on it, which is by far the most we’ve had on any product, so we think… We’re projecting for our biggest day in sales to occur at some point this month when that backpack cooler drops. So, that’s where we’re at right now.
Kurt Elster: Congrats, guys. That’s wild.
Craig LeBlanc: Yeah, thanks.
Trevor Zacny: Thank you.
Kurt Elster: And I saw the backpack cooler on your site looks really cool. It’s fun.
Craig LeBlanc: Yeah, our designer, Austin, he does great work, man. When it comes… He’s just a funny dude, and he knows the audience really well at this point, to where the products that he pushes out, it makes them very easy to sell online, because the people love them.
Kurt Elster: And that brings me to two follow-up questions. Audience and product. Let’s go to basics. Tell me about the product mix. What is it? Why is it so exciting? How has it changed? Give me the lowdown.
Trevor Zacny: Yeah, I think our products are exciting because at first it was just stickers, and at that point, in the back of my head I’m going, “Okay, we can’t just be a sticker company.” If we want this to be a brand, it has to have a complete culture built around it, and not just a product. So, from the beginning I was really big on okay, the sticker’s one thing, but creating content, creating products that align with our overall culture, which is just cracking a few beers after a work day and casting the pole in the water, that’s all we’re looking… We’re not looking at the guy who’s out on his million-dollar boat with his beer that’s in the cooler full of ice that he can keep it for a week.
So, it’s like capturing the culture was big, and then within our products, we do a good job of that. And at first it was kind of just SHITI Cooler t-shirts, and just the basic logo kills it because it is a parody brand. I mean, people do associate it with that, but I think it has taken its own kind of turn into being its actual culture. Because YETI is kind of at the top.
Kurt Elster: YETI is a premium brand. It’s for outdoor enthusiasts. SHITI is this parody brand, but it’s taking on a life of its own and you’re steering it toward the same market, but-
Trevor Zacny: Yeah. It’s kind of like saying YETI’s up here and SHITI’s at the bottom, like if you don’t have a $400 cooler, you don’t have the amount of that much money to spend on that, we still got you down here. Like you are camping, and you are just grinding, and literally working the nine to five, that’s the person that we’re trying to hit through our products. We also do a lot of… Recently, we started releasing a lot of country shirts, like country-based shits that are referring to old country music, because if you listen to country music now, it’s a lot different than it was back in the day, back in the ‘80s and ‘90s.
Kurt Elster: Right. There’s before and after Taylor Swift.
Trevor Zacny: Right, so it’s like when we started coming out with building the culture around the country music, and staying SHITI, which is like using what you have, listening to old country, not buying overpriced products, that’s the definition of staying SHITI, so anything vintage and old is kind of right up our customer’s alley.
Craig LeBlanc: Yeah, and the timeline of the product, too, it’s really interesting, because you look back to even just a year ago, and the entry point of conversion for us, which was the first-time customer that’s adopting SHITI Coolers as their go-to brand instead of a YETI, I mean it’s costing a person 10 bucks to get in, because we’re just saying… A year ago, we didn’t even have backpack coolers. It was just stickers. So, our whole tagline was re-brand your old cooler. Like re-brand grandpa’s cooler, so you got that old Igloo, the old Coleman, and to get into our brand, it’s gonna cost you $3.50 at the time I think it was for one sticker.
Trevor Zacny: Right.
Craig LeBlanc: And we sell individual stickers. We used to sell four packs and 12 packs. Now it’s just one pack, or an individual, and a six pack. So, the evolution of identifying let’s eliminate 12 packs, because that’s a little too expensive. Let’s eliminate four packs. Let’s make it a happy medium with six. We then entered into offering a brand plate, which is just a really nice plate that you can put on the front of your cooler, and it just says SHITI on it, so it’s something that people really… That was one of our biggest products at one point. And right now, it doesn’t sell that often, because we have really diversified into the backpack coolers, and the t-shirts, and it’s now kind of an afterthought for people to buy that.
So, we’ve really updated our t-shit inventory to where, like Trevor said, we’ve honed in on that country demographic to where if you do look at our t-shirt section of our website, I think we have 9 or 10 shirts right now that are really tailored to that specific interest group, because our ad spend to that interest group is pretty insane right now on a monthly basis, and we’ve identified that over time.
Kurt Elster: So, it sounds like the journey here is you had a clever idea and a parody brand. It tapped into something. It resonated with people. You recognized it. You scaled it. And then in understanding the audience, the demographic, the niche, you were able to start making it more your own and saying, “Okay, here are our products that fit these needs, and here is our lifestyle stuff that goes along with it.” It’s very clever. I hope you realize not many people could do this.
Craig LeBlanc: It’s gotten more and more refined I would say month by month, and I mean we’ve been really lucky to this point that you look at the amount of ad spend we have, and you look at the money that we’re making on a month-to-month basis, and we’ve done all of… a bunch of A-B testing, and trial and error with Facebook ads, and we haven’t really had a month where we’ve lost money, which I expressed to Trevor like when I first came on board. I said, “It’s absolutely insane that you guys have started from scratch with a $400 investment in stickers and really not lost a dime.” Because over time, we’ve had the ability to find out that people love the stickers, and then after it was the stickers, it was just sticker packs. And then it was the hats and the t-shirts, and now it’s the backpack coolers. And along the way, we’ve kind of fit what the demand is from our audience, and we’ve just rolled with it, really. We’ve found what we get momentum with, and we’ve been quick to adopt it, and the stuff that doesn’t work, we’ve been quick to kill it.
Kurt Elster: Well, I think that’s sound advice right there. So, early on you said that it had… It went viral. There was a viral component to this. Talk to me about that.
Craig LeBlanc: Tell him about the content, too, that we put out.
Trevor Zacny: Yeah, so I would just post, we would just post on Facebook and Instagram, and then I would just hit boost. That’s literally all it would… I wouldn’t even, now looking back, that was terrible idea to do. But I would just hit boost.
Kurt Elster: Why is that a terrible idea?
Trevor Zacny: Just you can’t really… I mean, it’s not, I guess it’s not the worst idea, I just feel like setting up ads now with the instant experience and different ways you can target on Instagram, it’s a little bit more specific you can get. I guess boosting, it’s kind of just pouring gasoline on a fire, I guess. It’s not the most, it’s not the worst thing, but it’s not… I don’t know if it’s the best thing.
Craig LeBlanc: We don’t target now without a retarget in mind, so our whole goal in mind is always… We talk about it all the time. We need to beef up the pixel. We need to get as many people in that pixel as we possibly can, and retarget them based on 25% of the video being watched, or 10 seconds of the video being watched. Who landed on the add to cart page but hasn’t converted in the last 30 days? So, the whole mindset has changed from the start to where when stuff went viral, it’s funny, because it was just a simple boost with not much money invested into it, and it went crazy, because the one thing Trevor, Luke… Luke is the content manager. He’s the youngest brother of the three. He does a great job of putting good content out there, and it makes it much easier for our content to go viral, because it’s hilarious.
Like the videos that are posted, the images that are posted, it’s very viral-worthy content, so at the start, Trevor just putting boost on there, it was more of the humor outreach, where it’s like it was reaching the right people that just wanted a good laugh, and I think it proves really worthwhile that if you can put something out there that not only resonates with people, but can make them laugh, your brand can go a long way.
Kurt Elster: Let’s see. And how do you deal with the seasonality of this business?
Trevor Zacny: I feel like we’re still trying to figure that out, to be completely honest with you. The first time we went seasonal, I thought we were dead. I thought this was literally just a fad that would last a couple months, and then it was just gonna be done. So, that was kind of our first year, going into October, November, December. Obviously, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, holidays, all that helps, but yeah, going into our second time, we took it a little bit more carefully.
We slowed down ads a little bit, which looking back, I don’t know if that was the right move to do, because at this point, I’m starting to realize the more we spend, the more we make, and as soon as we pull that ad spend down to kind of coast and just feel comfortable, it also impacts the bottom line of what your profitability is at this point because of our employees, our building, all the stuff that we need to pay. Sometimes it just doesn’t make sense to pull back. And I think we’re at that point. Obviously we’re in the summer months now, but looking forward into October, I’ll probably also look at, because I do the Facebook ads also with Craig, and we’ll probably pull a lot of the Northern states out of the question and just hit Southern states. We also have never went out of the country and advertised in Canada or anywhere overseas, so that’s another option that we could do to prevent us being seasonal.
And we represent, we make a lot of products, too, for people that hunt, and that’s… Up here in Michigan, it’s common to do in the winter. So, we come out with hoodies, beanies, we never did jackets, but that could be an option, but that’s kind of how we deal with being seasonal, and also coming out with maybe a hunting-based cooler that you’d bring to the cabin if you’re hunting, you’d put beer in or whatever.
We also want to get in the tailgating market. That’s from October to the end of college football season, people are tailgating and you can hit the entire college demographic that way with maybe coolers that are schemed like that school, or that way, so we have a lot of work to do. It’s a little overwhelming to think about it, but it’s just one step at a time at this point for what we want to do, and the seasonality of this is definitely always on our mind. Going, “Okay, guys. It’s fun now, but wait till October.” So, we’ll see.
Kurt Elster: I have no doubt you’ll figure it out. In a business like this, you initially, essentially you had a good idea, you took a chance on it, but there’s a component of luck there.
Trevor Zacny: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.
Kurt Elster: And now you’ve got this incredible catalog, and audience, and content. How do you keep that going? How do you come up with the ideas for both of those things and make sure that they’re relevant to your audience and they resonate?
Craig LeBlanc: Yep, so just to kind of go off of the luck content that you made, I think a lot of brands that get going on Facebook and Instagram, it does take a certain amount of luck to get that initial traction, and I think if you look at the Facebook page now, I think we have 225,000 likes, and the Instagram has over 125,000. But all of that started from an initial just burst of people liking it all at once, and then you start to gain credibility as more and more people see it, to where the likes now on a weekly basis just flow in. It’s like nothing. It’s pretty easy to get new people liking the page. And I think to go off of what we’re gonna do with the product catalog in the future and everything, it’s very much based off of a lot of the feedback we get from followers on Instagram and Facebook now. When we do run these ad campaigns and we push out new products, we do pay attention to what a lot of the people comment with.
You know, we’ve seen things mentioned about our shipping costs, or certain products really being loved, and we pay attention to that for what our next step should be when we’re trying to reach these new people and produce new products.
Kurt Elster: So, the short answer is oh my gosh, listen to your audience and your customers. They will tell you what to do, where to do better, and what to make next.
Craig LeBlanc: To an extent. You know, if we looked at too many of the comments, we probably would have closed up shop and wrapped up the brand like two years ago, because people just hate us.
Kurt Elster: Yeah. There’s always the share of just utter toxicity in comments.
Craig LeBlanc: Facebook’s funny like that, man. Some of the comments that we get, we literally look at each other and we’re like, “These people actually exist.” We just… It cracks us up at times that people go out of their way to really bash us to the fullest extent. But we love it. We laugh about it.
Kurt Elster: All right. There’s one that comes to mind. I’m sure there’s, when talking about that, there’s something that popped into your head. I know I can think of some really crazy comments and emails I’ve received. Give me one example. Give me your favorite, most insane comment.
Trevor Zacny: Oh, man.
Craig LeBlanc: Yeah, Trevor’s got a lot.
Trevor Zacny: There’s many. I think it was a comment that said basically like, “I hope you…” It was something along like, “I hope you spent your entire life savings on this brand and it fails.” And looking at that, you’re like, “Okay.” I mean, there’s some other bad ones that are just ridiculous, too. Craig, do you know any other ones?
Craig LeBlanc: Yeah. I mean, anything offhand, whenever you get someone that’s a huge YETI fan. They really, really take it personally. We have a really good ad that went viral at the start, where it’s Trevor at, I think it was actually at Faster Horses, but we have a shirt, and it’s called the Classic SHITI t-shirt, and on the front it says SHITI Coolers. I’m actually wearing it right now. And on the back it says SHITI in big, bold print, and it says built for the broke. And he’s standing in line next to a guy that’s wearing a YETI Cooler shirt, and on the back it says, “YETI: Built for the wild.” And we have a picture of these two people standing next to each other, and Trevor’s talking to him, and that photo alone, when it went viral, the amount of YETI people that were saying just terrible things about the brand, and how they hope we get sued, and this is probably somebody that’s starting a business with all of daddy’s money.
Trevor Zacny: Oh yeah, that was good.
Kurt Elster: Oh, geez.
Craig LeBlanc: But the funniest thing is our fans are so loyal to where when there’s a YETI guy making a comment like that, you’ll have four or five SHITI Coolers fans that comment on his thread and start going after him. It’s comical. We get a lot of laughs out of it, to where people are just backing up the brand, but yeah, people make everything from a personal jab to they think this is a fake brand. A lot of people do really think it’s fake, and they’re like, “I don’t even think they actually sell these stickers. Blah, blah, blah.” So, it can be interesting. It’s all across the board-
Kurt Elster: Why would they think that? That’s so bizarre.
Craig LeBlanc: Yeah. Some people just… They really don’t get how the sponsored ad thing works on Facebook. I mean, it’s funny. We’ll get people that reach out to us, our customer support guy, someone reached out to him recently and was like, “Hey, quit showing me your ads on Facebook.” Like went out of his way to message us and say, “Quit showing me your ads.” But he obviously clicked into the website and everything, you know how that goes. He’s in the funnel. It’s gonna be hard for him to get out now.
Trevor Zacny: He’s stuck.
Craig LeBlanc: Yeah.
Kurt Elster: I had one. We were doing a big giveaway. I think it was $16,000 worth of stuff, and there was a six in the total number. And we just, it was a giveaway, I organized it, I paid for it, and so it’s costing me money, and I’ve got videos talking about it. I boosted them, and I had… It was in December. It was like a week before Christmas. Somebody just wrote on it, “Shut up.” Just shut up. And it was so pure, and simple, and absurd, that I replied to it and said, “Merry Christmas.”
Trevor Zacny: That’s so good.
Craig LeBlanc: I love it. I mean, it’s just the comments like that, where-
Kurt Elster: It’s like what are you doing? You know-
Craig LeBlanc: Yeah, you can’t help but laugh.
Kurt Elster: I think they don’t realize there’s a real person on the other end, like the moment it’s on a phone and it’s a video, it’s like, “Well, they’re not real. It doesn’t feel reel.” Of course it’s real!
Trevor Zacny: We actually had a YouTube video built up that we were up north sitting around the fire, and we developed this video called Prime Beef, and it was my brother and our other kind of like actor. I don’t know what you call Maverick. He is the face of the brand. They were by the campfire and literally called Prime Beef and they were reading off comments that were just basically hateful comments, and they would just, they’re drinking around a fire commenting back about the comments, and it was just… It was a great way to kind of get back at the fans, because we have a different brand. The brand is a swear word, so when people lash out at us, it’s kind of… We can lash out at them and it feels like it’s okay. Which is good about our brand. We can kind of be ourself, and we really don’t have to hide it, like I guess another brand would probably comment very nicely back.
Kurt Elster: Right. Yeah, they have to be professional, whereas for SHITI Coolers, it’s like Ed Debevic’s diner type deal, where you get to be abusive back.
Trevor Zacny: Exactly, and people like that, like we go to trade shows, we are proudly the most drunk people there, and it does not matter, because people… We look at it like we’re repping the culture of the brand, and they see us having fun, they see us playing music, when somebody’s across from us trying to sell duck calls, and it’s some old, boring man just sitting there trying to sell his shit, and we’re just killing it. It’s like we do embrace that. We do like to drink.
Craig LeBlanc: Yeah, Kurt. With the tagline Quality Gear for the Average Outdoorsman, I would say the majority of people out there are the ones tangling up their fishing lines and everything. That’s who we’re going after. It’s like, “Damn. Yesterday sucked, but at least we drank a lot of beers and we had a good time. We didn’t catch any fish.” But that’s kind of who we’re going after, just that humor approach, and it’s enjoying yourself and having fun.
Kurt Elster: Yeah. That’s the keyword there, is fun. It is a fun brand. I’m looking through your Under the Lid videos on YouTube. They’re so good, and the magic of them is you’ve got this guy Maverick, who is such a character.
Craig LeBlanc: Yeah, he is.
Kurt Elster: That’s the thing when people first get into video, I think they often miss, is don’t show me the expected, the average, because it’s uninteresting and boring. Show me the most interesting, wild character you can find, and put them on there. And like yeah, you’re gonna get some comments where people are offended that you would do something the slightest bit out of the ordinary, but then everybody else is gonna pay attention. And even the person who left the crappy comment, they spent the time to watch it, comment, and then go about their day.
Craig LeBlanc: Exactly.
Kurt Elster: Either way, mission accomplished, bud. Right? So, I think-
Trevor Zacny: Yeah, and like… Oh, I’m sorry to cut you off, Kurt.
Kurt Elster: Oh, I was gonna say in your videos, with your content, what are some of the things you think make it successful? What would your advice be, like the one tip you would give someone who wants to start creating effective brand content?
Trevor Zacny: Right. I think there’s two ways to go with it. There’s a YouTube route, to where you create funny stuff for YouTube that’s kind of long, a longer type video, and then there’s ads. I’m really big on ads, so when I look at, like I work with my brother, Luke. He does all our video, so we’re lucky to have him. He’s actually out of high school, so he’s just working for us and this is what he’s doing instead of going to college. So, we work together as far as like I’m looking at ad stats with Craig and going, “Okay, Luke. Let’s whip up a video and let’s…” I look at the first six seconds to the ad to make it really exciting. Like never starting an ad on a black screen. Always having the most exciting part within the first two to three seconds of the ad, to keep them engaged.
That’s what I look at as far as ads, is just like keeping the start of that thing so exciting, where like somebody’s just stopping their scroll. Also having ads that are vertical and not horizontal that take up more of the phone. So, now everything we do is vertical, so that they… It’s just more of the screen real estate. As far as YouTube content, we haven’t really monetized our YouTube yet. That was one thing we were kind of looking at kind of approaching next. We have such good luck with Facebook ads and Instagram ads, and we know what we’re doing, to where like jumping in the YouTube route right this second doesn’t make sense for us as far as the amount of people we have on our team.
But YouTube, our YouTube is awesome. I just wish we kind of will take the route of pushing it a little bit more, but we’ll get there on that.
Craig LeBlanc: Yeah, when it comes to ad development, though, Kurt, I would say biggest thing is now, the change within the last 12 months, just last year in general, would be we now approach everything in terms of how it correlates with Facebook. So, it’s like how are you shooting your ad, what are the dimensions, what’s the length of the video gonna be, how are you starting the video. We don’t look at it as just like a Gary Vaynerchuk thing, to where it’s like, “Hey, you gotta put as much content out there as you possibly can. It doesn’t matter if it’s bad content.” We’re like, “No, reel it back in. We’re an e-commerce brand. If we’re gonna come out with a 30-second video, let’s make sure the first six seconds, where we’re gonna retarget people within our pixel based off how much they view, let’s make sure those first six seconds are memorable, so when we retarget they remember who we are and want to visit the site.”
Kurt Elster: That’s brilliant. I love it. So, looking forward, and you touched on this a little bit when we were talking about seasonality. What’s next? Where do you see this company going in 12 months?
Trevor Zacny: I see us, like right now we only have a couple backpack coolers on the site. They’re our main things. I see us literally being the party backpack kind of go-to, eventually. We’re starting to develop a backpack cooler right now that looks like a vintage cooler, so we’re like, “Okay, you like the brand, you’re into old things, you are into the old Coleman, now let’s take that Coleman that your grandpa used and let’s put it into a backpack format.” And we don’t even have it on the site now, but it literally looks like an old cooler. It’s got duct tape holding it together.
Kurt Elster: That’s cool.
Trevor Zacny: And it looks vintage already. It looks already worn, so that’s kind of like our next venture.
Craig LeBlanc: Product route. Yeah.
Trevor Zacny: I mean, down the line you could literally… We could recreate a old looking cooler, a new cooler that look very old, and probably be pretty successful with what we’re doing. It just would have to match the price point. That’s what’s nice with the bags. We can stay within a price point that’s “built for the broke.” You know, we don’t have to sell a cooler for $80, $90, $100. So, that’s kind of where I see us going in the next year or so, is just really branching these backpacks out.
Craig LeBlanc: It’s a common question, though. At what point is SHITI Coolers a cooler company? I get asked that somewhat often by people. It’s like, “When are you guys gonna come out with a cooler?” And I think we, looking at it from being the ads guy and just the statistics and the analytics of everything, surpassing 50,000 customers, our email list is well over 60 or 70,000 people. The amount of sales we have to date. Me, I’m talking with Trevor all the time, like I think we have a good enough footprint to where if we did come out with a cooler, there’s a demand for it now. And there’s an established demand, to where maybe it’s not a year, maybe it’s two years, but I think that at some point could be a next step for us.
Kurt Elster: I think that’s a great idea.
Trevor Zacny: It’s the ass backwards way to make a cooler brand, Kurt.
Kurt Elster: No!
Craig LeBlanc: Don’t come out with a cooler. Come out with all the stickers, everything around it, and then-
Kurt Elster: Build the audience first, right? And build the stuff, and sell the stuff that’s easy and low cost. A cooler, I mean, you’re already into five figures, five figures in tooling just to go build a cooler. I mean, it’s a huge… There’s a big difference between 400 bucks on stickers and $25,000 product development.
Craig LeBlanc: A really good stat, too, and Trevor pointed this out to me a while ago. Out of the top five cooler companies on Instagram, what are we, the fourth biggest one?
Trevor Zacny: Third.
Craig LeBlanc: Third biggest one?
Trevor Zacny: As far as followers. Yeah.
Craig LeBlanc: Yeah, if you look at YETI, Coleman, all of those, we’re the third biggest one on Instagram with the amount of followers and everything. So, it’s funny how it’s worked out so far, that we’re like… We’re in that group, but we technically don’t even have the same products as that group.
Kurt Elster: And you’re the black sheep of the industry, of that niche.
Craig LeBlanc: Yeah, that’s a really good way of putting it. Yeah. YETI’s CEO in a… Was a Fortune 500 article?
Trevor Zacny: Yep.
Craig LeBlanc: Or Forbes article?
Trevor Zacny: Yep.
Craig LeBlanc: He actually was quoted at the end of the article, talking about… They asked him, “What do you think of parody brands?” And he actually mentioned SHITI Coolers. I’ll send you the link after it. It’s really funny. It was cool for us to see that he actually does know who we are, because we’ve always talked about that.
Trevor Zacny: He laughed.
Craig LeBlanc: Yeah. Do the people at YETI know who SHITI is? And that kind of established it for us that they do.
Kurt Elster: And there’s… I tried Googling that article, and found in Fortune there’s an article about you.
Trevor Zacny: That’s the one. That’s the one. Fortune, yeah.
Craig LeBlanc: Yep, that’s it. Yep. Sorry.
Kurt Elster: Where could people go to learn more about you?
Trevor Zacny: They can check us out on Instagram. It’s just SHITI_Coolers. S-H-I-T-I_Coolers. Or visit our Facebook page, which is just SHITI Coolers, or go to our website, which is www.shiticoolers.com.
Craig LeBlanc: I think there’s three Ws in it. It’s www.dot.
Trevor Zacny: Did I only do two?
Craig LeBlanc: Yeah, you did two. It’s all right, though.
Kurt Elster: www dot. You know what? I think they’ll be okay.
Craig LeBlanc: I think so.
Kurt Elster: And I’ve got a note here, if you use code UNOFFICIAL10, you get 10% off the purchase price of your SHITI Coolers purchase.
Craig LeBlanc: There you go.
Trevor Zacny: Absolutely. We might throw something else in there, too.
Kurt Elster: Cool. Guys, this has been fantastic. I appreciate it. One final question: If you had to go back in time, change one thing, do something differently, what would it be?
Craig LeBlanc: Tell him about the NASCAR.
Trevor Zacny: I have two. I would not have sponsored a NASCAR.
Kurt Elster: No shit.
Trevor Zacny: And I would not have bought fishing buffs. We sponsored a NASCAR. I’ll be short, because I know this is the end, but we sponsored a NASCAR last year, and the amount of money we put into it and the return we got was nowhere near what we would have gotten if we’d just put it into Facebook ads.
Kurt Elster: What’s it cost?
Trevor Zacny: It was about seven grand, and then the cost to go there was like hotels, and to see it, and all that, it was about 10 grand, total.
Kurt Elster: And this is for like a sticker on the car, not like a-
Trevor Zacny: It was actually the back tailgate of the car. Long story short, we got ripped off of it and then put back on it. It was a complete debacle.
Craig LeBlanc: Yeah, NASCAR said that when they were actually showing the car, like on TV, you couldn’t see part of the sticker, to where it just looked like it was reading SHIT instead of SHITI, so for obviously profanity reasons, they had to rip it off. So, we had like a way-too-professional meeting with the NASCAR officials, where they had to go inside the RV and talk to them about the brand, and why we should be on the back of the tailgate and everything, and yeah, it was a whole debacle. And it was in Canada, too, which we at that point were like, “We’re never coming back here. We’re going back home.”
Trevor Zacny: I look back at it and I wish we would have… We didn’t want anyone to know about it, kind of. It was a little embarrassing at the time. We were like, “Oh, we were gonna be on it, we weren’t, now we got a little sticker on the back, whatever.” We wish we would have just made content kind of making fun of the whole thing while we were there, which it would have been more valuable than us just kind of hiding… Not hiding it, but not wanting to share it with anybody.
Craig LeBlanc: We should have embraced it.
Trevor Zacny: We should have just embraced it completely, and just kind of made fun of the whole thing.
Kurt Elster: Yeah. Yeah. But hindsight… Yes, but hindsight’s 20/20. Yeah, that’s a good story. We’ll close it out there. Gentlemen, this has been fantastic. I appreciate it. Thank you.
Trevor Zacny: Thank you, Kurt.
Craig LeBlanc: Kurt, thanks a lot, man.