(Interview excerpts included from Dallas Market Center "Daily Dose")
A native Texan living in the rural hill country community of Spring Branch, Joey Austin launched Hooey Brands in 2009 with just two cap designs.
Q: HOW DID YOU LAUNCH THE HOOEY BRAND?
"I grew up in a small Texas town with a passion for rodeo and football. I was lucky enough to enjoy all the fun you can have being raised in the country...from fishing to hunting to ATV's...we even rode our horses to Dairy Queen on the weekends. I stopped rodeoing in my teens but never lost my enthusiasm for the sport.
When I was in my early twenties, I was in construction and my job gave me the opportunity to build hospitals on the west coast. I had never been to California, so it was all completely new to me. The more I became acquainted with the surf culture, the more I realized how much surfers are like cowboys. I really appreciated that same singular passion for doing what you love.
Fast forward a few years later, when I came back to Texas and started roping competitively again...I realized that many in western and rural culture, especially young kids, were wearing those same same surf and skate brands I had discovered in California.
That's when the light bulb went on that there was a disconnect within western. Western kids didn't have access to a progressive brand that represented their interests. I knew they were proud. I knew they were passionate. So I felt confident we could build an action sports style of brand that celebrates the western athlete and western culture.
That western connection with surf and action sports may seem more obvious now. But you have to remember this timeframe was pre-social media when we were living in a much more disconnected world."
Q: WHY THE NAME HOOEY?
"The term 'hooey' refers the to the last wrap, actually a half-hitch, taken during tiedown roping...right before you throw your hands up to stop the clock. I competed primarily in tiedown as a kid so it was a word I heard all the time. Plus it's a term everyone within the sport is familiar with. If you listen for it, you'll probably hear the announcer mention 'hooey' at just about every rodeo. You could say the term 'hooey' has been around since the first rodeo back in 1872."
Q: DID YOU EXPECT TO CROSSOVER INTO NEW CATEGORIES?
"Early on, I had to decide if I was wanting to build a fad or a brand. We chose to build a brand. Of course, we started with hats and we're still very proud of our position as leaders of that market category. But we had to ensure we had the ability to expand beyond headwear, while maintaining our authenticity"
Q: WHAT MAKES HOOEY A STRONG BRAND?
"The word that we use repeatedly is 'authenticity.' Authenticity is really where the brand begins and ends. And the fact that we're still involved, on a daily basis in rodeo and western sports, allows us to remain authentic. We recently built a 15 acre headquarters. The back 10 acres is a barn and a roping arena that we use almost daily. We also have a full gym. Sometimes our athletes drop by to rope and/or train with us. Some days one of our staff will be out back riding a colt on her lunch break. We even built a stage for our musician friends when they decide to drop by and play some tunes.
So I would say that no matter how much we've changed our designs or our product, it always goes back to that core principle... that we actually live within this world. Hooey Headquarters give us a place that we can build our own culture, right here, in our own backyard. Most importantly, it allows us to do what we love.
Plus, we use our arena and our headquarters to test our products. If you come back and watch us roping or riding or training, we're always wearing something that's Hooey. So, everything is wear-tested, right here at HQ."
Q: SO YOU'RE BUILDING A COMMUNITY?
"I guess you could say that.