Johnny Fly: From idea, to passion, to brand

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This post is brought to you in partnership with TalenAlexander.

Modern. Minimalistic. Cozy. Stylish. These are all vibes you get when you enter the Johnny Fly Co. store on E. 36th Street in NoDa. A unique addition to the neighborhood, in three short years Johnny Fly has made the popular destination a place to call home in the Queen City.

Everyone who frequents the area knows Johnny Fly and has likely seen its team (including security dog Baxter) blending in with patrons at local hot spots. But most importantly, Johnny Fly is an example of a Carolina business that #LOVESTHEIRBRAND. And that’s why TalenAlexander wanted to get to know them. 

We ran a Instagram contest last month asking the people of Charlotte to tag their favorite local brands. The jury decided Johnny Fly Co. was too fly to pass up. After a few exchanges in direct messages, we arranged a “Chat With the Chief” and Johnny Fly himself. 

Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at how the brand came to be and a few tips from Johnny:

The formation of an idea

When asked where the idea for Johnny Fly came from, among the many reasons, “Johnny Fly was a means to prove somebody wrong” stuck out. Johnny found himself convincing the people he was working with that social media was a critical tool for building a brand. They disagreed.

Soon, using his nickname “Johnny Fly” from his racing days, Johnny began creating a brand and leveraged social media to spread the word. He started out testing a variety of products, including shoes, belts, and tees, when someone he trusted told him, “You’re doing a lot of things good, but nothing great. What is it that you’re most passionate about?”

The answer was eyewear. 

From an idea to a passion 

Question: What were the biggest challenges you faced getting started?

Answer: “Determining the definitive direction in which I wanted to go, knowing exactly where I wanted to go and sticking with it. It’s really easy somewhere in the middle of all that to make some quick cash, versus staying true to where the brand needs to go.”

That’s why when someone told him he needed to narrow his focus, he took the advice and made adjustments – he already knew he needed to push the brand in one direction in order to establish a solid foundation and set it up for success. 

“Eyewear is something that makes you feel good, that accessory for everybody. Especially with men, there are only so many accessories you can have.” And so, eyewear became Johnny Fly’s “passion product.” 

In the last three years, Johnny Fly has discovered its sweet spot. It’s focused on strengthening its sourcing capabilities and creating the best eyewear products available on the market. This involved asking the right questions, testing the right materials, and taking into account the right criticisms. 

From a passion to a brand

Question: How has your relationship with the community grown since 2012?

Answer: In the past three years, the relationship has changed significantly. Not only because of how it’s been able to contribute to the community but by being in the community. No one knew Johnny Fly as a local brand until it decided to open a brick and mortar store in the Arts District. Since then, it’s established a place to call home and a brand that the community knows and connects with. (Not to mention, it’s amassed over 20,000 followers on Instagram.)

Additionally, Johnny Fly’s passion has pushed it to perfect its product. It is constantly looking for stronger and more flexible materials and compositions that will improve its frames, lenses that will make for the most comfortable visual experience, and what combinations will best represent the brand. 

Pushing the brand forward

The brand is already separated by a number of factors. One, it has a local presence. Two, Johnny Fly is dedicated to the integration of the latest technology and best materials. Three, all of Johnny Fly’s eyewear is made of cotton and wood (it don’t use petroleum plastics). This makes it one of the most eco-friendly, durable and lightweight brands in the industry. Four, the Johnny Fly leather line has already established a customer base of its own. So what’s next? 

Question: What do you have in store for Johnny Fly in the future?

Answer: 

  1. Expanding its brick and mortar locations.
  2. Growing its customer base by putting more faces in its glasses. 
  3. Improving the optical line and putting them in optometrist offices. 
  4. Considering the expansion of its product line (wallets?!).

Advice from a successful brand 

Question: What advice/tips do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Answer: 

  1. “If I could go back in time I’d write down: Here’s where I want it to be, here’s how I want it to look and here’s what I gotta see and anything that doesn’t drive and lead there I won’t do.”
  2. “Don’t be afraid of failure, revel in it. Failure is something to learn and grow from which allows us to be even better at what we do. That’s why some people never get started, they’re too afraid of failure to begin with.”
  3. “But it’s risk versus reward too. Don’t gamble everything, weigh your risk against your rewards and make moves accordingly. 

Whether you’re a small business owner or an aspiring entrepreneur, these are the tips that everyone wants to know. Of course, there’s no one-size-fits-all guide to creating or growing a successful business. But it doesn’t hurt to chat with and learn from those in the area that are already doing it. #LOVINGYOURBRAND is the first step. 

If you want to be a part of our #LOVEYOURBRAND series, email the chief by reaching out to aerin@talenalexander.com. Let us tell your brand’s story.

How Can You #LOVEYOURBRAND?

At TalenAlexander, we build brands and we build businesses. With Charlotte roots and a global reach, we help clients create authentic engagement, reach new audiences and break through the marketing noise. 

Check us out at www.talenalexander.com/c5 for our top industry tips and tricks to increase your brand’s engagement. 

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