Today we’d like to introduce you to Harrison Bevins.
Hi Harrison, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I come from a big family of 6 kids. My parents were entrepreneurs in the restaurant business and I grew up helping them out here and there but mostly watching how they were able to support us through their own hard work and persistence. I think this instilled something in me from a young age—the importance of having a strong work ethic and going after what you want. When I got older and tried to figure out what to do with my life, I opted to study business because it was general enough and would give me options. I finally narrowed my focus and got a degree in finance.
After college, I moved to New York City and worked as a financial analyst for little over a year. I quickly realized I was not the corporate office working type and didn’t enjoy being holed up in a cubicle all day. I eventually hit my breaking point and decided to take a leap of faith.
In 2015 I quit my cushy finance job and bought a one way ticket to China. I had heard of other guys out there starting their own businesses and thought “why not?” I settled on Guangzhou in the Southeast because of its reputation for manufacturing and its proximity to Hong Kong.
Without much of a plan and a small amount of money, I dove headfirst into online marketing, teaching myself about copywriting, sales pages, and anything I could about online business. Eventually, I came across the term “dropshipping” which was gaining popularity at the time.
In a few days, I built my first dropshipping store and began testing the waters with Facebook ads. After lots of trial and error, sleepless nights, and what felt like an eternity, I got my first sale.
It was then that I became addicted to the e-commerce business model. The idea that you could make money while you sleep was fascinating and invigorating.
Within a year, I had scaled the store to profitability and sold it later to a private buyer. I used the earnings from my sale to start an “Amazon FBA” business. Basically, I found keyword opportunities based on search volume on Amazon’s platform and created my own private label brands to serve those opportunities.
Being in China allowed me to get samples quickly, so I had a leg up on Western-based competitors. This process also taught me a lot more about manufacturing and how to do business with Chinese factory bosses.
Over the course of two years, I built up my Amazon business and was living off the monthly income, working about 5 hours a week. I left China and traveled around Southeast Asia with my girlfriend.
Eventually, the business became mundane as I didn’t really care about the products I was selling. I wanted to create a more meaningful brand.
After traveling Asia for several years and meeting businessmen and entrepreneurs, I realized there was a need for a more modern travel bag built specifically for that type of business traveler. I wanted to create a bag with multiple compartments and functionality to accommodate everything a professional would need for a short trip—laptop sleeve, shoe compartment, tech compartment, and more.
As I tinkered with this idea for a new brand, I worked with a broker over several months to sell my Amazon business. I then started developing Oak & Rove full-time.
I spent months doing market research and looking at the biggest complaints that customers had about existing travel bags. The big issues seemed to revolve around quality and functionality. Furthermore, many customers complained of outdated and “ugly” design.
I took this information and with a designer, we created the first prototypes of the “Kennedy Weekender,” our first product.
Near the end of 2019, we launched an Indiegogo campaign and raised $30k to fund the initial inventory order.
A few months later, the pandemic began, delaying production and delivery. We got off to a very rough start, not sure of how things would turn out.
After finally shipping out more than half a year after our crowdfunding campaign, we were ecstatic to hear the extremely positive feedback from our first customers. This gave us the drive to keep going.
We’ve since developed a very loyal fanbase that has helped us to design other products with their direct feedback.
This Spring, we launched our Alto Briefcase and are excited to continue to grow as travel and work return to some existing levels of pre-pandemic normalcy.
Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
It has been anything but smooth. The biggest hurdle we faced was launching a “travel” bag company just months before a global pandemic. This pretty much eliminated demand overnight. Luckily, we had developed a strong and engaged email list of loyal fans who we continued to communicate with. They’ve supported us throughout the whole ordeal and many customers have purchased multiple times.
We’ve been impressed with Oak & Rove, but for folks who might not be as familiar, what can you share with them about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
We’re a men’s luggage and accessories brand. We create high-end travel and work bags that combine premium materials with thoughtful functionality to give its customers a stylish and convenient way to carry their essentials.
We’re known for the durability and functionality that our products provide as well as the close relationship and open dialog that we have with our customers. We’re not a huge company like TUMI, so it’s possible for me to get to know many of our customers one-on-one. To date, I’ve probably interviewed a few hundred customers and speak to them regularly via text. This gives us a special insight into what our customers want and what we can do to improve.
We understand there are plenty of quality travel bag companies out there, but I believe we offer a luxurious product that is the same quality, if not better than major brands, at a fraction of the cost.
Can you talk to us a bit about happiness and what makes you happy?
What makes me happy is watching a concept go from idea to final product. It’s extremely satisfying to take something that exists in your head and work with other talented people to turn that idea into a reality. The cool thing about it is realizing that as an entrepreneur, you don’t have to be a talented artist or know how to design a tech pack. You just have to be resourceful, finding the right people to help and execute on your vision. It makes it feel as if anything is possible.
- Kennedy Weekender – $449
- Alto Briefcase – $349
- Dopp Kit – $119
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: https://www.oakandrove.com/
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/oakandrove/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/oakandrove/
Alex Hutchinson Jose Coli Harrison Bevins