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Custom Headwear For Every Shop? Pukka Inc. Is Making It Happen

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Pukka Inc. CEO Shawn Rogers and head of Business Development Ryan Zies.

FDI CEO Shawn Rogers and his father, Kent Rogers, started a bulk accessories manufacturing company a little more than 22 years ago. Back in 2003, the father and son team saw a niche for small shops and brands and created what is known today as Pukka. Earlier this year, the company merged names to become Pukka Inc.

The concept behind the company is fairly simple: to create innovative, customized headwear and mobile cases at a low minimum and quick turnaround. Brands, retailers, and consumers get to build the product from scratch—meaning they chose every panel color, fabric, thread color, custom embellishments,  down to the interior woven labels and printed seam tape—and orders can be kept as small as a 48 piece minimum for headwear and 24 piece minimum for mobile cases, an option rarely provided by mass production manufacturers. The company also provides free POP display stands for mobile case orders over 36 pieces, and free shipping to all its clients.  

With four offices across the US and globally in Findlay, Ohio; Irvine, California; Providence, Rhode Island; and Shaghai, China, Pukka has carefully positioned itself and has started gaining traction within the boardsport market, among others, through its unique business model that supports small retailers and brands. 

We recently caught up with Pukka CEO Shawn Rogers and head of Business Development and action sports industry veteran Ryan Zies to find out more.

Shawn Rogers, CEO of Pukka Inc.

Who is Pukka?

SR: Pukka is a fully custom, low minimum, quick turn headwear and mobile case program. Our company is made up of industry veterans all pulling their experience and knowledge together to help create, maintain, and expose this unique innovative action sports program to the market place out of our Irvine, CA office. Please check out our website or shoot us an email for specific program details.

What sets you apart from other companies that operate low minimum, quick turn models?

SR: We view ourselves as innovators in the overall customization process. We are the first in these particular product categories to allow retailers to play the role of a designer by letting them pick fabrics, colors, trims, silhouettes, logos locations, which they’ve never had the opportunity to do until now. Also, with our low minimums and quick turnaround it allows retailers to show a wide variety of styles without investing in a lot of overhead. Now retailers can really give their shops a sense of brand presence.

What markets are you involved in besides action sports?

SR: We have three divisions, Authentics (action sports), Golf, and Team (high school and college teams).

Ryan, what were you up to before joining the Pukka team, and what’s your role with the company?

RZ: I’ve been in the Action Sports Industry for just over six years, mainly as an accessories designer for Quiksilver and head of accessories at Element Skateboards. My role at Pukka is Business Development. I do a little bit of everything including marketing, design, and sales. Most of our California office is made up of industry veterans from the top Action Sports brands.

What other action sports brands or companies do you work with besides I Ride I Recycle?

SR: We currently working with a lot of the top action sports shops from HSS, Surfside, Spyder, Katin, Jack’s, Val Surf, 17th Street, Dr Jays, Catalyst, and BC Surf and Sport. We also have partnerships with the National Scholastic Skateboarding League and numerous photographers and artists, including Scott Sporleder and Wade Koniakasky. Sanuk and Reef have found use for our program for their marketing departments for events and promotional material.

Ryan Zies, Pukka Inc. Business Development & Jack of All Trades

What untouched opportunities do you see existing within action sports?

RZ: Shops always have a small amount of their own branded product. It’s becoming more important for retailers to build a brand around their shops. Our programs allow them to take advantage of these untouched opportunities. The action sports industry is always seeking new categories or newness in current categories. Headwear has been a category that needed newness. Our programs give customers options that they never had before and create new opportunities for brands to distinguish themselves from competitors. Custom mobile cases are a new category and our program provides a new source of revenue for the shops.

Do you hope to branch out further into the action sports market, or any other markets?

SR: Our program is unique that it’s not limited to just the Action Sports market. With our three divisions, Authentics (Action Sports), golf, and team, we really have geared those silhouettes, fabrics, and color offerings towards those markets, however, any brand, shop, restaurant, bar, winery or any other industry can utilize our programs for custom headwear and mobile cases. It’s truly a flexible program that can cross boundaries into any market.

What do you see as the immediate challenge for brands within the market, and what solutions exist to overcoming these challenges?

RZ: The immediate challenge for brands in the action sports market is being able to gain floor space in retail shops. With our program, shops are now able to expand and broaden their core product offering (headwear and mobile cases) without increasing inventory risk. Our low minimums and quick turnaround keep overhead low; yet still allow variety in product offering. More variety equals more options for the consumer, ultimately resulting in higher incremental sales. It’s very minimal risk. Retailers (both small brands and shops) can get the same type of product that traditionally has only been offered to the larger brands/retailers. In this particular case, we see our proprietary production and business model as the solution to this challenge that they face.

We’ve been grateful that the shops and industry have embraced our program. This positive response tells us we are onto something meaningful. We are the solution to needs that exist. Our recent acceptance into SIMA is another positive indicator.

What are Pukka’s goals over the next 12 months as far as growth, distribution, etc.?

SR: We will continue to expand in the US, Canadian, and Latin American markets within the Authentics program, as well as continue to expand industry awareness of our program through trade shows and marketing initiatives. We will continue to capture market share within the action sports industry, but other industries can utilize our programs as well (bars, restaurants, marketing departments, etc.). Our goal is to help shops and small brands expand what they can offer their consumer base and continue to bring attention to our program.