StartUps: Neff

Shaun Neff has cornered the hat game. The brand began humbly, based out of California with roots in Utah, offering up a mellow softgoods line, along with headbands and a few beanies. That humble start up is now being distributed to over twenty-five countries around the world, and hasn’t missed a step along the way, now even branching into the footwear realm. The team behind Neff, headed up by Nate Bozung, is all time; and the product is flying off shelves at a rapid rate. All the growth hasn’t changed much but the income and the resources, as Neff’s remained true to his roots, and true to snowboarding.

How and when did Neff, as a brand come about?

I started Neff six years ago when I was twenty-two. At first I tried to figure out several different names for the company and all of them were taken so I just used my last name, which was an easy way to get it trademarked and set up as a company. I printed some t-shirts and hoodies, and had a couple of hats that I started selling around town in California.

Do you remember your first time snowboarding?

Hmm, when was my first time snowboarding? That’s a tough one, I think the very first time was when I was at Brian Head in Utah and I borrowed one of my friend’s snowboards and shredded with the fam’. I had been surfing a ton growing up near the beach in Cali so I instantly fell in love with the white wave.

Where, and what did you go to school for?

I attended Brigham Young University in Utah and graduated with a Marketing & Advertising degree.

How much did (Nate) Bozung’s involvement have to do with the early recognition of Neff as player in the game?

Bozung was a key player in the evolution of where Neff is today. I first met Nate at the True Life Forum video premier in Utah. We started chillin’ a ton and I wanted to get Nate rockin’ Neff but he couldn’t. Nate, at the time, was riding for Special Blend so he was not able to run our hoodies or shirts because it would be against his contract with Blend. With that the case Neff headwear was born and we decided that he could run Neff headbands and beanies without breaching his contract. From that day on Neff has been known for headwear and being on a crazy ride, picking up the biggest names in snowboarding with Nate as a frontman. Nate has put together the dopest snow crew in the industry. Nate gave Neff instant credibility as a player in the industry and helped to create the new niche of steezy headwear in the snowboard world.

I heard back in the day, maybe when you were still in school, you had beef with another startup headwear company?

It wasn’t beef, I don’t even know who these dudes were. I was at a shop in the mall and I saw a mesh trucker hat that had a karate dude ironed on to the hat with a slogan saying “Shaun Neff is a puss. So I totally bought it and wore it a couple of times. I had a ton of people say have you seen the hat and everyone was asking me and I kept saying I don’t know who is doing it. Then a month later I saw a kid runnin’ a hat that said “Shaun Neff says he doesn’t know me by the same brand. Pretty random but all good in the hood.

How far is your reach these days, how many countries are you distributing to?

Our reach is super deep. We are distributing Neff in over twenty-five countries now and have recently added Czech Republic, Chile, and the Netherlands. International business is crazy, For example at tradeshows like ISPO in Germany to have kids run up to our booth all Neff’d out and pumped on the brand, and be hyped on the new line is an awesome feeling. Even though I can’t understand them they’re catching on to the Neff movement, and that puts a smile on my face.

You’ve mentioned bringing a separate more street-wear oriented line to the light next year.

What I’m trying to do with the brand is give it a fresh feel with design and color and reach all types of kids. We definitely have softgood pieces in the linee that you would see in an underground streetwear line but with a Neff twist. Our direction is not going to be just one thing catered to one kid. We’re moving in a style that has a mix of street, snow, and fashion; I like to call it Neff Wild Style. Neff will always try to stay ahead of the curve and bring freshness every year. We will be offering a limited Neff line as well this year that only key core retailers can buy and this will help us cater to the dope shops that got us to where we are today.

Are there any special collaborations in the works? You mentioned working with Skullcandy on a headphone.

I just teamed up with Pony shoes and we’re working on a collaboration that is going to hit selective retailers in a couple of months. We took our Jet Set private Plane print and will be releasing special colorway hoodies in three limited colors that will be sold as a kit with matching printed sneakers. They are the old Pony City Wing high-tops, the ones Spud Webb won the dunk contest in, and they’re insane. We’ll be making about 500 pairs of sneakers per colorway. They’ll be sold at selective accounts across the country. Also we did a great collaboration with Skullcandy that features a Neff skull runnin’ a facemask that comes gifted as a set with a T-shirt and matching headphones. Keep your eyes open for the collab’s as they’ll be limited and will sell out quickly.

Do you see yourself branching out into any other avenues in the future?

I see Neff as a brand that has its roots in Snowboarding that will dip into fashion, street, and skate but try to maintain and float on its own wavelength. We have several collaborations and limited projects up our sleeve and I’m very excited for the future of the Brand. We’re going to keep our product line as headwear and simple soft goods for now and focus on growing the brand.

Any parting words?

I want to say thanks to Evan at TransWorld for the interview and a big thanks to all of our riders who have been down for years now and have helped grow the brand to what it is now. And to all the shredders and supporters out there much love and thanks for the support. Our new line will be up on in a couple of weeks. Peace homies.