Where did the name "Herds of The Fathers" come from?
November 23, 2010
People You Should Know: Tobi Babajide & Jason Akoi
I am really excited to present these 2 remarkable individuals to you all because the company they have built is truly nothing short of amazing. I actually attended the same school as them for my freshman year of college (Rutgers University) and the sheer fact that these 2 are in school while owning and operating their own company only adds to the reason why I have so much respect for them. So without further ado, allow me to introduce you all to..
Tobi Babajide & Jason Akoi
Leather. Timeless. Classic. Versatile. A strong, durable material that withstands the test of time. Goods that are made out this material are known to last; you can rest assured that if you buy an item made out of genuine leather you will be able to use it for a very long time. Leather is trusty. These characteristics aren’t factors you want to find solely in the products that a certain company produces, you need to also find these characteristics in the company itself. A company whose brand is timeless, classic, and versatile is a company that will have longevity. A company that is built on the same principles of durability that its products are also built upon is a company that is destined for success. I see so much of this in Herds of The Fathers, especially after getting the opportunity to communicate with them and to really get a sense of what their company is about. Herds of the Fathers is a company that offers leather backpacks, duffle bags, and mini backpacks at the moment, but plans to expand into other types of accessories for men in the future.
When did you guys start this company?
This company started as ideas years ago, but its ideas started to come to fruition in March of 2009.
This is one of the more popular questions that we receive. The name Herds of The Fathers came from the both of us just wanting a timeless name. We didn’t want to place any current slang or lingo that would fade over time. The concept is that everyday you live amongst a group of people, whether that be at school, work, or in your everyday community. The group portion led us to the word “Herd”. Out of these “Herds” there are a few individuals that help give birth to every one’s style in that group, hence “Fathers”. A Herd of The Father is a person that "creates", outside influences does not have an effect on them. They stay true to themselves. Bop to the music you create.
In a day and age where most college students are more worried about what party they are attending on the weekend more than anything else, what inspired you two to take the initiative to build your own company?
I can take this question into a different tangent but we will hold that off for a Don Lemon CNN interview, but the thought of having my own company has crossed my mind ever since I (Tobi) got my first retail job when I was 18, the thought of working hard for someone else to put money in their pockets never made sense to me. The working conditions one is forced to work under while working under someone else does not and did not fit my lifestyle. I always wanted to start a business, but I did not know what I wanted to get my hands into, until the right and bright idea came along. When the right idea came, everything just fell into place.
How do you guys balance the work between the two of you? Is one person more involved with the business aspect and one more involved with designing or do these duties fall evenly between the both of you?
We both have equal share in the company so we share equal responsibility. When it comes to design we both have equal say, we have a system where we both have to agree before we move on with anything. It works quite well, because one can keep the other in check and since its only two people involved in decision making, things can move a lot quicker. When there are more individuals involved then things can get messy and power struggles arise.
What has been the biggest obstacle in building and maintaining your own company? How did you guys manage to overcome that obstacle?
The biggest obstacle in building a company is actually gaining respect at an early stage. We are still a company in the toddler stage, we are still building and getting better at what we do on a daily basis. People are always going to be skeptical of new products. I always use the example of Ralph Lauren, before he could sell his ties to Bloomingdales, it took time and perseverance, it took Steve Krauss to believe in his vision. It took time for Ralph to get his respect from retailers. The cure for Herds to get to a place where the brand is respected is time and delivery. With time, the general public will start to believe more and more in the product, and if we keep on delivering on better and more innovative products, the respect will take care of itself.
On your website, there are 7 different bags featured. Which ones are your favorites and why?
I (Tobi) love each and every one of our pieces, but the one that stands out to me is the Logger Head. The bag is so practical. Everytime I am at the airport, people always ask me where I got the bag from, its small enough for carryon luggage, and big enough to fit the same items a medium suit case can fit.
Are you guys planning on collaborating with any other designers? Who would be your ideal collaboration candidate?
We would love to collab with other designers; there are no plans in the works now. But we would love to work with Mr. Ralph Lauren himself.
Do you guys plan on incorporating any other classic colors in your leather bag collection (black, grey, navy blue, tan, etc.)? How about a line of bags and accessories specifically for women? Is there any particular reason you have not yet?
Good question. With this first line, we played it kind of safe with the colors, in the future lines, there will be more daring colors, from the leathers to the lining, we will push limits. The world is changing; more and more people want different. People do not want boring and safe anymore. The brand has to move along with the times, but we will always keep the classic appeal of the company. A women’s line is not in the works yet. The good thing about the bags is that they have great crossover appeal, when we started this line, the void that we wanted to fill was in the male market, there are thousands of brands that cater to women and their accessory needs. Men have to go the extra mile to find quality pieces, when they do find it, they tend to be unaffordable. We also want to stay true to our company mantra.
Where do you guys see Herds of The Fathers in the next 5-10 years? Any plans for your own store location in the future? And if so, in what city would you build it in?
In the next five to ten years, we want the world to see Herds as a well established company that commands attention in the industry. A brand that people associate with a lifestyle. We want Herds products to become "must have" pieces. The idea of having a store is in the future, the internet is a great way to reach people and sell products, but there is no better feeling than having your own store and your own displays. A place where people can come to and actually see visually what you are trying to project with the brand. City wise, It’s easy to go with the typical New York, but we like to go against the grain so since we are Jersey natives and a company with its roots in Jersey, we would like to open the first store somewhere in Jersey. I want people to know that one doesn't have to run to New York to be successful. If what you are selling is in demand, and people believe in what you do, they will definitely come to you.
What advice would you give someone aspiring to start their own company? Would you recommend a partnership or a solo venture? And how has your partnership benefited your company thus far?
It depends on what type of business you are getting into. If the company needs more than one person for company operations, then I would recommend a partnership. The main thing to remember is that before getting into a partnership with anyone, do your research. Character, work ethic, morals. They are all measuring sticks. Everyone is different but at the end of the day, there are only a few personalities that can work flow together. The individual has to be someone that you can work with through the "good times" and the "bad times". I can go on and on, but just make sure you do a good background check. Plenty of businesses have gone down the tube not because they were bad ideas, but because of clashes in personalities and morals. This partnership has really benefited the company because we both bring something to the table, we are not the same people, we come from two different parts of Jersey, two different upbringings, but we both have one common goal. It would be a preposterous to say that we do not have moments that we do not agree. It’s human nature. The most important thing is that what happens after the disagreement? We have enough respect for each other that we can come to the table and re-group and move forward.
The answers to the questions I asked in this interview were so insightful and extremely inspirational. What I love most about this company is that it is so clear that these two young men put a great deal of thought into what they wanted to represent. This is clearly a company that is built on firm principles which I really respect. They realize that every person’s style is different so they made sure that their bags would cater to a variety of different tastes. And as previously mentioned, these bags really do have crossover appeal, men and women alike can most definitely rock these bags. I really do get inspired whenever I write up these interviews, they convict me and make me want to get up and just do something. We should all dare to be fathers of the herd, not the followers who lag behind. Thank you so much Tobi & Jason, you both have got that GOOD GOOD. Keep up the exceptional work.