The word “Kinetic” is an adjective meaning “relating to or resulting from motion”. SmartBiz Loans customer Kinetic Society, LLC fits that description well. The small business is definitely on the move and, in the words of the co-founder, “We’re ready to deploy our master plan and dominate.”
How is this apparel company preparing to expand? They received a low-cost SBA loan from a SmartBiz marketplace bank to shore up cash flow and put growth initiatives in place. We caught up with Bryant Voong to learn more about his unique clothing business and SmartBiz experience.
You don’t have to speak with Voong very long to get caught up in his energy and enthusiasm. Voong and his partner Ted Kim have used the power of positivity to successfully launch a nationwide business delivering custom jerseys designed specifically and uniquely for their audience. The key products offered by Kinetic Society are custom designed baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer, and football jerseys for sports fans, collegiate Greek organizations, and a variety of organized sports teams.
Voong was completing his mathematics degree and Kim was a psychology major at University of California, Santa Barbara when they met through Zeta Phi Rho, a multicultural fraternity. Branded merchandise is a big part of Greek life and Voong was a fan of basketball jerseys.
“I love the silhouette of a jersey and it was perfect for the beach weather. Basketball jerseys have been done before but we found that no one was creating them specifically for the collegiate market."
Voong worked in the garment industry in high school, specifically with t-shirts, so he had a bit of experience working with suppliers. He and Kim started discussing a business built around custom jerseys.
“We formed a general partnership before we even knew what we were doing,” Voong reports. “In 2016, we put our first order in and ran a few ads that really hit. The business started taking off.”
In 2017, they filed as a Limited Liability Company and currently operate out of an office in Southern California with just the 2 founders, 2 employees and 2 interns.
Voong and Kim initially bootstrapped the business themselves. “We started with zero dollars. My partner set up a fundraiser and we ordered samples from overseas suppliers. It didn’t take a lot of money and we kept the costs low. Ted actually took another job and I was living at home with my parents. It was the typical entrepreneur journey.”
Voong talks about how important his family has been and the impact they’ve had on his business mindset. “My mom and dad have great parenting skills and saved to put everything into me and my brother’s education. The only way I feel I can pay them back is to be a good son and on the right path. They’re happy that I’m confidant, know what I want, and am going for it. They 100% support me.”
Work-life balance is also very important to Voong.
“You can’t be dialed into business 24/7 and get results. It’s not possible. My mental health and physical health translate to the business. When I better myself, I better the business. We even have a ping pong table in the office so our staff can get some activity during the day. I love physical activity and bring that to the job.”
When asked how he learned the ins and outs of running an LLC , Voong reports that he is constantly reading business books and listening to entrepreneurial-focused podcasts.
“I listened to a lot of Gary Vaynerchuk, an ambassador for all entrepreneurs. I really look up to him. His content about mindset is great. Entrepreneurship is a long grind and he knows it’s not about private jets and fancy cars. In the beginning, I actually thought it would be easy but there’s just so many factors to growing a business.”
In addition to reading and listening to lots of business building content, Voong had a friend in marketing who helped him get more bang for his buck and the pair also consulted with older business owners they met at co-working spots.
As business picked up, Voong knew he needed low-cost financing to shore up cash flow and help the business expand.
“Before the SBA loan, we took out $42,000 and then $62,000 merchant cash advances but the interest rates were insane. We needed another option that we could pay off over time rather than with a percentage of daily sales.”
After some internet research, Voong and Kim started an SBA loan application through the SmartBiz Loans online platform. Kinetic Society had recently hired a new accountant and bookkeeper so many of the required documents were on hand, speeding up the process.
Skylar, a SmartBiz Sr. Relationship Manager, helped guide Voong and his partner through the application process.
“Skylar was amazing in helping us out get everything situated for the loan,” says Voong. “As soon as we heard we were qualified I went ahead and got all the documents ready for her and she moved equally as fast to close out all the details. In total from when we applied for funding to when we closed it was about a month!”
Skylar says, “Bryant & Ted were a pleasure to work with. It helped that they were extremely organized with all their business documents which made the process even more seamless. You can really tell how passionate they are about their business and they have many great ideas for continuing to grow. I wish the best for them and their business in the future!”
Voong says, “Before the loan, we could only use money based on profit and performance. Now we can test out different advertising platforms and new creatives. We’re also considering hiring one more person, possibly a designer. We plan to break out into other niches as well. In 2018, we had an order with a cheer team who won a world’s competition in our jerseys so we’re going after that market through our new website www.aukori.com. We’re also targeting additional organized sports leagues.”
Voong and Kim have a solid business plan in place and a project-based mindset.
“To get where we need to be, we have to plan and execute,” Voong says. “We’re taking tasks and breaking them down, constantly trying to be better than we were yesterday.” He reports that their SBA loan will help them reach their goals. “We can make our dreams a reality now with this type of funding. We said we were going to get an SBA loan and we manifested the idea and I truly thank SmartBiz assisting us in manifesting this!”