The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Niche Business Is Still A Business …

Recently I did a talk with a client of mine, the brilliant Hankook Kim – founder of the brilliant Gentle Monster.

For those who don’t know who Gentle Monster is … in simple terms they’re a street culture, luxury eyewear brand who do some of the most brilliant – and crazy – collaborations you’ve ever seen. From World of Warcraft to their own brand of cake shops to pretty much everything in-between.

Anyway, we gave a presentation to a bunch of venture capitalists called Mosquitos Annoy The Fuck Out Of Giants and it highlighted the short-sightedness of their scalability investment model.

For example, Gentle Monster were initially turned down by a lot of VC’s because they saw them as only ever having a small retail presence, literally ignoring the fact he started the company with the goal of having an outsized cultural impact … whether that was through the design of his stores, the collabs he would do or the focus on making eyewear for Asian facial structures – when most other manufacturers based their product on larger Western physical features.

Obviously in all of this, Mr Kim brought the credibility whereas I just brought the punches … but it was a huge amount of fun, regardless if we convinced the VC’s or conflicted them.

The reason I say this is because I recently got sent the ad above about the beatboxing funeral musician.

On first glance you may wonder how many people would want that, but then you think about it and you realise that maybe quite a few do.

Not just because they like beatboxing, but because they want to go out with fanfare.

A few years ago I wrote about the songs I want played at my funeral, and while most remain the same [though I’ll be adding Myles Kennedy’s Love Can Only Heal, to it] … I’ll still have Europe’s classic ‘The Final Countdown’ to end proceedings.

Now I appreciate some will see that as a highly inappropriate song choice, but that’s kind of the reason for it.

To make sure whoever bothers to turn up is sent off with a smile.

To ensure my last ever act one has a glint of cheekiness and mischief.

To say thank you to everyone who made my life better than I ever imagined it could be.

And while this may all sound like I’m a delusional fool, the reality is it is important to me and I would be willing to pay a premium for it – especially if it’s the last thing I’ll ever pay for – which is why this is a reminder that before you judge, [1] remember it’s not whether you like it, but whether others do and [2] your definition of success may not be the same as theirs.

20 Comments so far
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How do you meet these people?
How do you get them to want to keep meeting you?
That’s more confusing than why a VC would not back GM.

Comment by Bazza

Met Mr Kim through many wonderfully brilliant and eccentric Chinese billionaire client … who basically owns Gentle Monster and pretty much anything else cool in streetwear these days. In fact his Beijing luxury store recently was labelled the most profitable and high performing retail store on earth. ON EARTH! But then, if you knew him and also his incredibly mad and magical store, you’d know why.

As for how I met him. The usual. Happy accident. Hahahaha.

Comment by Rob

The idea behind how gentle monsters started is fascinating. And where they’re going is equally interesting. I am slightly jealous you are part of this, but I’ll deny it.

Comment by Bazza

The level of weird they share means they were made for each other.

Comment by DH

He started a eyewear company and then decided to open a cake shop. He is miles ahead of me. But I’m an eager student. Hahaha.

Comment by Rob

The title of your presentation may as well be called “This is a Robert Campbell presentation”. It does sound fascinating. Is it available for mere mortals?

Comment by George

It will be gifs with random words. You need a video of the presentation not the keynote. (It was definitely keynote wasn’t it)

Comment by Bazza


Comment by DH

Yep. Hahahaha.

Comment by Rob

Beatboxing to venture capitalists to a South Korean designer glasses to World of Warcraft and cakes to the songs you want played at your funeral is the sort of narrative flow that LSD dreams about making.

Comment by DH

Human LSD. Not sure if that is a brilliant or terrifying concept.

Comment by Rob

It’s not a concept. It’s you.

Comment by DH

I really enjoyed this post. The last paragraph is particularly good.

Comment by Pete

Meeting important needs isn’t a bad definition of niche.

Comment by John

Unlike this blog.

Comment by DH

I’m still processing the image of Sugar Ray Campbell bringing the heat to a bunch of VCs.

Comment by John

I would have loved to watch the faces of the audience as you delivered your presentation. To write about that while ending on a story about a funeral beatboxer and their validity as a business is the sort of leap only you can see and deliver.

Comment by Lee Hill

Gentle Monster sums you up.

Comment by Billy Whizz

At first I was going to say thanks.

Then I realised that means you’re saying I’m gentle for a monster – which is still probably a nightmare – compared to a monster who is gentle, which might be something bordering on sweet.

Am I overthinking this?

Comment by Rob

I only knew of GM recently when they did a collab in China with a Russian artist group that I’m friends with. Their marketing is off the hook here, but I gotta say I don’t love their glasses.

On songs for one’s funeral, I’ve long ago chosen Dress Sexy at my Funeral, by Smog, for the opening, Sir Mix-a-Lot’s Baby Got Back for the middle, and ending with Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Needless to say it’s gonna be classy.

Comment by Hutch E Wilco

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