Hustling. That’s what Simon Beard, founder of Culture Kings, has been doing his entire life. Hailing from the tiny town of Mount Isa in Queensland, Australia, Beard had always made it his goal in life “to never work a job in my entire life.” He has wanted nothing more but to work for himself. So what did he do to get Culture Kings to where it is now?
Since he was young, Beard was always on the lookout for the next place he could make a dollar. When he was in school, he used to sell the answers of the L’s test to his schoolmates for $20. Soon he tried his luck at the local markets selling Dickies shorts imported from America. Somehow, even at 17, Beard had connections. A friend of his lived in America and would buy all the Dickies shorts at his local Walmart and ship them to Australia for Beard to sell at a profit.
Taking what he had learnt from the local markets, Beard started selling his goods on eBay. He sold expensive hats and sneakers, making the kind of money that most people his age could only dream of. But he didn’t just invest in his business, he invested in himself.
He attended the Queensland University of Technology to complete a business degree but found that what they were teaching he was already learning better for himself. But he thought, if he wanted to be the best he had to learn from the best. $120,000 is what he spent on his own career to try and better himself. From Tony Robbins programs to one-on-one sessions with Jordan Belfort, Beard did it all. To learn from the best, to be the best.
On one of his ventures, Beard was working with a boutique in Miami named Culture Kings. Beard was reselling their exclusive American sneakers. Business was good for a while, but Culture Kings was struggling and eventually went under. The business may have died but the Culture Kings name would live on.
Beard thought the name was pretty cool and wanted to keep it for himself. But securing the trademark wasn’t that easy. The asking price was a staggering $30,000. It was all the money Beard had. But to Beard, the name was more than just something that sounded cool. It was a name that invoked something universal not just another shoe or clothing store. It wasn’t just one thing, one business, it was uncategorisable. So, Beard took the opportunity and made sure that his investment wouldn’t be wasted.
Beard acquired the name and opened the first Culture Kings store in 2008 on the Gold Coast. Beard and his wife, Tahnee, put everything into this store. All their money, all their time, everything. But they had an idea, a good idea, and any good idea can give you that essential edge.
Take of tour of any shopping centre and you’ll see countless streetwear stores, shoe stores, or whatever that all look the same. They’re sterile and they’re boring. They serve a purpose – if you want shoes you got to a Foot Locker, try them on, buy them, and leave. Culture Kings wasn’t just going to be just another shop hoping that things would go well. Culture Kings was going to make things happen. It was going to provide a unique experience that you couldn’t find at a Foot Locker.
Other stores were lit in such a sterile way that you might think you walked into a hospital. Inside a Culture Kings is different. There’s moody lighting, a live DJ providing the soundtrack, a basketball court, and barber shops. It’s insane and it’s a completely different experience to anything their competitors were offering. It worked too, shortly after the first store opened, another opened in Brisbane, then in Sydney, soon stores were appearing all over Australia.
There are three core foundations that Culture Kings is built on– a blending of music, sport, and fashion. They are a premium streetwear brand/outlet providing access to exclusive brands with a superior selection across a variety of genres, styles, and cultures. This is what they promised but any brand can make promises, Culture Kings delivers.
The entertainment provisions, like the basketball court, are also used for promotional activities that keep customers engaged. They offer opportunities to win exclusive collector pieces and limited ‘Not-For-Sale’ items through their Sharpshooter Challenge free-throws, the Culture Kings Claw Machine, and the Holy Grail. All the prizes are huge too, ranging from Air Jordans, NFS products, paid experiences, and custom holiday packages. What other store offers the same kind of experiences? None. That’s why Culture Kings is what it is.
2013 was a big year for Culture Kings. Their unique approach to retail must have been making waves because it attracted Justin Bieber to visit their Sydney store, and it absolutely blew up. Bieber was huge at the time with his first album of his adult music career, Believe, having just released. Not to mention his controversial antics were all over the news. “Anne Frank would’ve been a Belieber” indeed. But that didn’t matter, Bieber was all over the news and so was Culture Kings. Customers went nuts. The staff went nuts! The flood gates were opened, and others followed suit from Drake to Christiano Ronaldo, Playboi Carti, Juice WRLD, almost anyone who is anyone associated with streetwear has visited. Game recognises game. But there was one problem.
Culture Kings’ online presence was severely lacking. The brand struggled to find a way to replicate their in-store experience online. How do you provide the same kind of personalised customer service? How do you represent that atmosphere and vibe of the in-store experience online? Beard needed to find a way. To expand into an international market in the 21st century, a good online presence is a must.
The brand created a website that worked, and they didn’t just stop with a simple online storefront. Weekly lifestyle photo and video shoots were implemented on the site to extend the culture and vibe into the online space. This isn’t just another shopfront website, it’s an online experience. The Shop The Look page was another innovation on the brand’s part. This page uses the Culture Kings’ in-house team to curate outfits and post them online to replace the personal recommendations often given instore.
Beard and co. might have felt daunted by their first foray into the online space but Beard knew that a true hustler has no fear. Regardless, his fears proved to be unfounded as the brand’s ecommerce sector exploded. Sales online leapt ahead of instore sales and makes up 60% of Culture Kings’ revenue today.
The Culture Kings brand has been a pure blending of hip-hop culture, streetwear, and fashion into one unique store experience. It is clear that Culture Kings have a passion for what they do as it shows in their work. Throughout his life Beard has been hustling to be the best and now he is seeing major success. Culture Kings is no joke. If you walk into a store today you will get a premium experience no matter who you are.