049: How to Build Your Brand Philosophy and Grow a Microbrand with Chris Vail, Founder of NTH Watches and Founder of Lew & Huey


About this week’s guest Chris and his company NTH Watches
As the owner of Janis Trading Company, Chris is the founder of two watch microbrands, Lew & Huey, and NTH (https://nthwatches.com/collections/subs). Janis has been profitable since its founding in 2012, and has consistently grown at double-digit rates every year, with customers in more than 50 countries, and retail distribution in seven.


A serial entrepreneur and military veteran, with a background in finance, and extensive experience in both retail and wholesale sales at a national and global level, Chris brings a diverse skill set to running his business, a role which requires competency in strategy, finance, operations, sales, and marketing.


When Chris Vail started Lew & Huey, he was out to prove something, mostly to himself. He has always said the philosophy behind the brand is inherently optimistic, and it is, although, if he’s being honest, for Chris it was always optimistic in the Sparta vs Persia, “we’re outnumbered, not out-manned” sense.


For Chris, the Chinese Mandarin phrase “luen huey”, for rebirth, always meant “You can beat me down, but I’ll keep coming back. You’ll never destroy me. Eventually, inevitably, I’ll win.”


That’s not the sort of theme which easily translates to the design of a watch, not literally.


Figuratively, it was the dog logo, which Chris always saw as being equally ready to meet friend or foe. It was the wild colors. It was the complete disregard for convention. It was Chris telling everyone who challenged him to go pound sand. Chris took great pleasure in proving all the doubters, haters, and trolls wrong.


A friend may have said it best, when he told Chris (in 2018), “You need to be the Johnny Cash of wristwatches – American, talented, slightly dangerous, but unmistakable.”

(About NTH Watches)
Why NTH? What does it mean? Is it “Enth” or “N-T-H”? In algebra, N represents an unknown value of infinite possibilities. The process of solving an equation to find the value of N is a process of reducing the unknown and infinite down to the known and finite. It’s a lot like the process of design, where we start with a blank page, but through a process of refinement end up with a final design. Sometimes the design process is an attempt to come up with something completely new, but often it’s a process of taking existing ideas further. Each NTH model puts a new spin on a classic, vintage design, so you can think of NTH as standing for “Nod to History”, or as an expression of their goal to take their designs as far as they can go, to the “Nth degree”.

Show Agenda

On today’s episode we will:

Get to know Chris and hear more about NTH Watches
Discuss how Chris has grown his company and brand over the last six years
How Chris is innovating his business and maintaining the brand that has made him popular with their “Nod to History” brand story
Then we will dive into the organizational strategies Chris uses to continue to grow a brand in a very crowded marketplace

What you will hear from Chris on this episode:

Chris’ process for developing your band story, and the philosophy he used for his brands
Chris has written that “microbrands are part of a larger trend of change within the industry; as a group, we need to up our game, if we want to continue growing in importance.”  He discusses his strategies for “upping your game”
Why Chris thinks collaboration with your competitors is so important
Chris also discusses how his business grew 40% from year one to year two; then,

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