Founder, Kenny Flowers
I really had no business being in this industry but I knew the world needed better tropical shirts so I dove right in. When I quit my consulting job and started Kenny Flowers, I had no background in fashion, no business plan and I didn’t know a single thing about how to start a clothing company. I had to learn my way up from scratch, and over months, and years, of hard work on the ground in Bali, I was able to create the special shirts I could have only dreamt of, with a unique sense of the island life weaved into every thread.
I was recently talking with a magazine editor, who said this next year is going to be all about “maximalism” in men’s clothing. Meaning that guys are caring more about what they wear, taking more risks and generally looking to stand out in a crowd. Kenny Flowers has always been about finding your own unique style, and wearing clothes that make you feel your best and help you not look like just another guy on the street.
It’s no secret that clothes are getting easier and faster to make with the rise of technology. Most of the clothes people wear these days are made by machines in China, where you can find cheap, lower quality alternative Hawaiian shirts. A challenge of ours is to distinguish Kenny Flowers from that noise, and showcase the benefit of making our shirts in Bali, out of better, higher-quality fabrics, in more limited quantities, and handmade with love and good vibes in a beautiful island factory surrounded by rice fields. Through unique features, tight stitching and pattern-matching detail, we strive to teach our customers quality they can’t find elsewhere.
The inspiration for Kenny Flowers all started with one of my Dad’s hand-me-down Hawaiians that I loved and wore way too often. There was just something about that faded pink beauty – it didn’t necessarily look stylin’ or fit well, but every time I put it on, I simply felt amazing and knew I was in for a good time. My vision for Kenny Flowers is to make shirts that can give us all that feeling, and give the dads of the future something meaningful to hand down to their sons.
We want to keep things fresh as we continue to grow, and introduce a new product or two every year. I can’t share all the secrets yet but we are getting really excited about expanding our swimwear line into the women’s space this spring and we’re not going at it lightly. We’re teaming up with luxury travel blogger, and swimwear aficionado @jetsetchristina, to design some chic one-pieces that’ll take you from the elegant yacht to the Vegas pool party in style.
It’s fun being the only one in Kenny Flowers, but we believe it’s even better when everyone is rockin’ KF too. From bachelor/bachelorette parties, to family trips, fraternity formals, work retreats, etc., we love being a part of special occasions and offer group discounts so more people can enjoy the best of times in style. We’ll even make custom Hawaiian shirts for bigger groups – breweries, private equity firms, etc. – to celebrate launches of new products or successful projects. It’s always a priding point in the business that our customers are such brand advocates and choose KF as an added element to their celebration.
Also – most e–commerce brands focus solely on selling direct-to-consumer, but we go against this trend and prioritize getting our products in select shops around the country as well to help raise brand awareness and get in front of people that we might not connect with online. For example, this led to Margaritaville’s very own Jimmy Buffett buying a KF shirt – The Johnny Blunami – from his favorite shop in Palm Beach and wearing it on tour all summer long.
The most difficult phase with the business was transitioning a rookie Kenny Flowers, where I was basically making shirts for friends and family while living the dream in Bali, into a qualified lifestyle brand that provides clothing for customers out of my personal network. Not only am I now making shirts for people I’ve never met, but I also get to play a part of their good times all over the world. I love getting the opportunity to meet customers on the ground and at Kenny Flowers events to make sure the brand is delivering an awesome experience in their eyes and is continuing to inspire them to be at their best, whatever they’re up to.
When I think about my customer, I think about a guy out with his friends on a Friday night that notices another guy wearing a unique, funky shirt at the bar and asks him where he got it. He looks up Kenny Flowers the next day, and surfs around a bit. Suddenly, he can’t even imagine wearing a plain polo or a black Henley out ever again. He finds a fun, yet stylin’ shirt that would be perfect to wear to work on Aloha Friday, and a wild print that would make a great addition to his suitcase for his big vacation coming up. He can’t decide which he needs more so, what the heck, he orders them both. A few days later, he’s the one getting compliments at the bar – from friends, girls, etc, and fielding other guys’ questions on where to get one. He feels like he didn’t just discover a shirt, but a way of life.
I’m a lead by example type of guy so the best I can do is work hard towards the dream, rock a shirt every day, and create the space for others to enable the lifestyles they want to be living in the process. I always put myself in the shoes of others to make sure I fully understand what’s important to them, what makes them happy, and what their personal goals are, as well as what’s important to KF to make sure it’s a win-win. The reality is not every task is going to be glorious, even with a fun, lifestyle business like Kenny Flowers, but making sure people understand why they’re doing the less glorious tasks as well and what a major impact it makes on the overall mission is extremely important.
Be ready to always be learning and always be working through new challenges to start and grow your business. When most successful entrepreneurs around us got started with their businesses, they didn’t know how to do everything they know now. Most of them couldn’t even visualize the business they operate today but they were committed to the process and making their dream happen no matter what.
In a way, there’s a beauty to business blindness and not even knowing what to worry or be concerned about. If you have an idea that you’re passionate about, and are willing to fully commit to it for not a month, not a year, but a lifetime, then go for it – even if you don’t feel fully qualified.
I’m best at thinking through things from multiple perspectives and connecting the dots in different ways. I love connecting people that I know will get along with each other well – in business and personally. I think part of being an entrepreneur is connecting all sorts of people doing awesome things and helping each other succeed.
Being aware of the work/life balance that makes me most happy and always showing up as my best self… aka always having a Kenny Flowers shirt on, whatever the scenario. I know I’m at my best as a person when I’m working hard towards something I’m passionate about and am equally able to disconnect from work when the time’s right and I’m around people I love.
I’m looking forward to growing Kenny Flowers to its full potential and making it a leading lifestyle brand that makes a difference to the world. This will require breaking boundaries and being more than a clothing brand. As I continue to learn, I would love to mentor the next generation of social entrepreneurs.
On a personal level, seeing new places has had such an impact on me and the clothes I design, so I’ve also made it a goal to travel to at least one new country every year.
My proudest accomplishment was starting a nonprofit called CEO4Teens that has now provided college scholarships for 100+ Balinese teenagers in need.
Making the jump – quitting a well-paying job that I loved and leaving the familiar to move halfway across the world and start from scratch in an industry I knew nothing about.
I strongly believe that success isn’t about comparing yourself to others. It’s about comparing your past self to your present self and seeing improvement. Especially in this day and age, it’s too easy to get caught comparing yourself to those around you – in real life and online – and it ends up being counterproductive to you being at your best and enjoying life.
I’ve always looked up to my parents so much and appreciated how, growing up, they were always there for my siblings and I while also providing for the family. I always wanted to be a small business owner and entrepreneur like my dad, I just didn’t know back then that my version of it would be inspired by his hand-me-down Hawaiians.
Another role model of mine is definitely Jimmy Buffett, how can it not be? From a desired lifestyle perspective, he’s a hero – one that doesn’t wear capes. He actually bought a couple Kenny Flowers shirts this Spring and was wearing them every night on tour this year.
And of course my girlfriend – she has the coolest job out there as a luxury travel blogger and she absolutely rocks it. She literally combined everything she is passionate about to shape her dream job and she inspires me every day. Everyone can learn something from her.
I only set up Kenny Flowers’ production in my favorite places to base, like Bali and Colombia. But also, through my girlfriend’s line of work, I’ve been fortunate to travel to some incredible places. We recently went to the Maldives and it’s all the hype. I’ll be happy anywhere there’s a private island, warm weather, a couple cocktails and a few hours of airplane mode, but that place is special.
I’m mostly living out of a suitcase that’s half full of Kenny Flowers shirts and swim trunks, so there’s not much room for goodies. Can I say a massage chair? If not, I’m a huge fan of a foldable, full year calendar poster that allows me to see what’s happening when and to plan my high-level business/life schedule accordingly.
I love travelling to new countries and helping friends with their dream businesses, especially the creative brainstorming and strategic aspects.
Walk away from it knowing it was a step in the right direction.
“It’s gonna be a good day.”
Picking 1-3 projects a day and getting after them.
I like to open doors for people.
If you manage others, make sure they have everything they need to get their job done.
A Day in My Life:
What do you love most about Your City?
I travel quite a bit and switch up locations a lot but I mostly base over in Bali, where the shirts are made. I love that paradise is at your fingertips here. It goes a little unseen, but I actually do work a lot every day, more than I ever did in corporate America. But at the same time, you can always find time for a break – be it a quick coconut on the beach, an amazing massage or a sunset happy hour with friends.
Favorite breakfast meal & restaurant?
Acai / Smoothie Bowls – there’s a Nalu Bowls connected to the co-working place I love grinding from in Canggu, Bali
What are you doing at:
6:00 AM – Ooh, still sleeping. I’m not an early riser.
10:00 AM – I’m getting into my deeper work zone after a healthy breakfast and start to the morning.
12:00 PM – Favorite Lunch spot/meal?
I’m most productive from 10-2 so sometimes I put off lunch or just grab something quick. My favorite lunch place is this spot called Criminal Taqueria – it’s like a glorified taco stand, with incredible taco options and awesome hip hop music playing at all times.
7:00 PM – This is about the time I realize I didn’t get everything done on my to-do list, but that it was still a pretty productive day and that I should do my best to disconnect and go eat some dinner with my lady.
11:00 PM – You caught me winding down – wrapping up a show or reading a little, enjoying quality time with my girlfriend, and sometimes some last minute work things after she goes to sleep and depending on which time zone I’m in.
What drink do you need to get through the day and at the end (and how many)?
I love a fresh carrot+orange juice for a hit of health, and at the end of the day, cold local beers usually sound best, wherever I am.
Most used App/Favorite Instagram Account?
My most used app is probably Whatsapp – it’s ideal for team communication all over the world, and it’s a great way to stay in touch with family and friends as well.
My favorite instagram account is obviously @jetsetchristina – she’s my girlfriend, and the top luxury travel blogger in the world. Her account is a constant reminder of how fortunate I am to get to experience (most all the places) she does. I’m actually the photographer most of the time!
What should everyone try at least once?
Turning their phone off for 24 hours while on vacation.
Where do you enjoy getting lost?
Somewhere on an island, usually when my phone is off and Google Maps isn’t working.