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Core Careers: Kevin Flanagan of The People’s Movement

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  • MOVMT's upcycled cardboard display. Photo by Joielala Photo.
  • The People Movement's ballet flats. Photo by Joielala Photo.
  • Wallets handmade from upcycled plastic bags found in Bali oceans. Photo by Joielala Photo.
  • Wall art featuring The People Movement's first Facebook fan. Photo by Joielala Photo.
  • From The People's Movement offices in Solana Beach, CA. Photo by Joielala Photo.
  • The People Movement's Kevin Flanagan. Photo by Joielala Photo.

 “Imperfection inspires me. I am so imperfect that I like to see mistakes that remind me that I am not alone.” Kevin Flanagan

The People’s Movement’s CEO, Kevin Flanagan, is well respected and thought of as one of the most likable guys in the industry.

With his experience in action sports through brands such as Reef, Globe and Oakley, Kevin is now pursuing an entrepreneurial path with The People’s Movement (MOVMT).

MOVMT has been creating hip footwear styles and goods which incorporate ecologically conscious choices, such as using upcycled materials in their products and packaging.

Kevin, or Flanny, as he is best known, shares his thoughts on leading his own company while helping to spread the word about toxic threats in our global oceans.

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He also tells us about a key new sales hire.

What is the best part of starting your own brand and what do you find challenging?

The best part of starting The People’s Movement is that I am able to put my hands in everything. I especially love tinkering and building, so every day is like an arts and crafts class.

The most challenging part is that I need to learn how not to put my hands in everything. For example, co-founder Chris Swortwood has tons of finance experience so I need to learn to keep my big Fred Flintstone hands off his forecasts.

What is one key thing you’ve learned since starting your own company?

I’ve learned that “money loves quick decisions.” At the MOVMT, we make decisions faster than anywhere I’ve ever worked. No long meetings, no second guessing and no long chain of command. About 5% of the time we screw it up, so we fix it fast and keep moving.

As a CEO, what characteristics do you value most when working with others?

Good listening is a quality that I admire most when working with others and a trait that I need to improve. In my quest to be efficient, I sometimes don’t listen deeply. I want to be a more empathetic industry leader. 

See Page 2 for Kevin's take on "fashion," an exciting new hire, and more


Is there something in youth or education that brought you to where you are today?

I suppose I am what you call an overachiever. I am average athlete who managed to get a scholarship; I am a painfully slow reader who graduated from college; and I am not charming but married the girl of my dreams.

This may sound corny or self-deprecating, but it is the truth. I am an average individual who was blessed with a hard work ethic and an “anything is possible” attitude. 

The importance of being eco-conscious − is it embedded in the designs, operations or both?

I would say that it is embedded in us as responsible leaders. We see a big problem with the amount of single use plastics being consumed and discarded. Because everything eventually flows to the ocean, we began noticing plastic in the line up when we were surfing.

Now, no matter how remote we travel for surf trips, the plastic trash always beats us to the beach. It is estimated that 10% of single use plastic winds up in the ocean, threating our entire food chain. Take a minute to watch this newly released documentary called Plastic SEAS by Jeneene Chatowsky (http://vimeo.com/65569968), which features MOVMT co-founder Mark Wystrach. It will blow your mind and make you say, “No straw please,” next time you order a drink.

We are focused on filling an eco-hip niche of the market. We are upcycling plastic bags into materials that we use in our super stylish shoes, accessories and packaging. We raise people’s awareness of the plastic problem.

With The People's Movement, you have moved from the surf world into the fashion world as well. What has that been like? How is it different?

Some people in the action sports market feel “fashion” is a dirty word as if it’s at odds with their authenticity. Ironically, young people love freedom of expression and they are experimenting with fashion and creating their own looks. Blogs give them the audience and affirmation to go for it.

At the MOVMT, we don’t over-think fashion. For example, Purdom Thomas (RVCA’s Eric Thomas’ brother) just joined the MOVMT as Sales Director. Purdom surfs but has also worked for Diesel, Levis and Ksubi.

We like to hire people we find interesting; we make stuff we like to wear; and we sell our shoes in places we like to shop. 

Outside interests that inspire you or your company?

Imperfection inspires me. I am so imperfect that I like to see mistakes that remind me that I am not alone. I read a quote in Dwell magazine by Dutch designer Hella Jongerius who said, "Perfection is macho. And boring. I like to see the hand of the maker.”

You are one of the most liked guys in the industry. What is your philosophy about interacting with people?

I am an underdog, so I don’t have a lot in my toolbox. I go through life with a firm handshake, make eye contact whenever possible, and I wear my smile.

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