We followed up with Roark CEO Ryan Hitzel and OluKai VP of Marketing Kerry Konrady to find out more about the new financial partnership the two companies announced last week.
Roark is considered by many to be one of the young industry brands with the most growth potential. OluKai has built a strong, healthy business in the premium sandal category. It has also acquired eyewear brand Kaenon and invested in headwear brand Melin in the past few years.
Why does this deal work for Roark? How will it help the brand?
Ryan Hitzel: As a relatively new brand, Roark has been undercapitalized for sometime. So for starters, it gives us the financial means to grow, and to invest in people, demand creation, product and other key initiatives.
We felt that OluKai was an interesting strategic investor because of the way they built their own brand, and the unique assets they offer.
OluKai is a premium company with a pure vision. Their product connects with their ethos, story and end-consumer. It’s also a business that allows them to distribute to core surf as well as premier outdoor retailers and boutiques.
All of this adds up to a brand that doesn’t compromise itself selling to people that it shouldn’t - which in turn keeps core audiences happy and engaged.
That’s what I’ve always envisioned for Roark. As a meaningful investor and partner we look forward to employing OluKai’s expertise where it fits into our own plan to create a modern business around storytelling, adventurism and purpose-driven product.
Why did OluKai want to add Roark to its growing stable of brands? Why is OluKai investing in different brands? Is there something about the state of this market that makes this a winning strategy?
Kerry Konrady: There are few other brands that are as deeply rooted in the sharing of experiences as Roark. That is why we like it. Consumers continue to seek out and collect experiences to define themselves. Roark is a rare brand that consumers see through a prism of adventure rather than just as an item.
We believe that long-term value is created by unique brands, with a true reason for being, targeting a discerning consumer. As an independent, privately held company, we are able to take the time that is necessary to build our businesses.
How will this arrangement work? What will OluKai bring to the table that Roark doesn’t have now? Will Roark keep its own offices or share space at OluKai’s new headquarters?
Ryan Hitzel: I think the highest level thing OluKai offers that we haven’t had, is a strategic investor that brings to bear capital, multi-market expertise, strategy and an operations platform.
The plan is to keep our own space. OluKai feels that Roark is an independent minded brand that's set up to operate with our culture driving the day-to-day.
Kerry Konrady: Roark will continue to be an entrepreneurially led business, able to focus on maintaining brand integrity, product innovations and sales management.
OluKai will provide shared services as well as capital to scale, allowing Roark to realize its maximum potential.
Does this agreement impact Roark’s partnership with the La Jolla Group?
Ryan Hitzel: Eventually it will, but for now the La Jolla Group team will continue to provide Roark with outstanding back-end operational services until we transition to OluKai’s back-end shared services platform.