Product designer, lover of languages, and fly-fishing enthusiast, Kory Stevens is the founder of Taft - a clothing company that got their start focusing on men’s no-show socks. Kory grew up in Los Angeles but has lived in Cambodia, India, New York City and Utah.
Kory loves playing guitar, golfing and watching sports but nothing beats out his love of being a dad and a husband. He has one busy, blueberry-loving little boy and a sweet little lady coming in September. He and his wife Mallory fell in love on a field study in India - Kory was studying linguistics and cricket, Mallory’s emphasis was women’s studies. When they weren’t busy conducting interviews they spent their time exploring Andhra Pradesh together. Kory has traveled throughout Europe and South East Asia fairly extensively but no matter where he goes his most meaningful experiences come from studying the language and getting to know the people he meets.
Kory had the idea to start Taft back in the summer of 2013 while walking down the steps of Sacre Coeur in Paris. As soon as he was back in the states he got started with prototyping and hasn’t looked back since. Taft got it’s start on Kickstarter and is continually evolving and growing. With over 125k followers on Instagram, Kory’s specializes in social media marketing and is constantly thinking of innovative ways to engage followers. When he’s not responding to comments on Instagram or playing with his family, you’ll find him staying up late to design new socks, work with factories, and brainstorm new products. He wants beautiful, high-quality products to be available to the masses and works hard to deliver just that. For more information visit taftclothing.com
What’s Your NativeAdVantage:
What do you do best?
I tell my wife all the time that I’m a jack of all trades and master of none. I used to be so frustrated by the fact that I didn’t have that one thing I’m best at but the further I get into this process of running a business, the more I realize that being a jack of all trades is what I do best. I’m learning to see it as a strength rather than a hinderance. When I graduated college I felt like there were a million different paths I could take and none of them felt right. Becoming a small business owner requires me to wear a lot of different hats and having a varied skill set has really enabled me to succeed and carry that weight.
What makes you the best?
There’s this tendency in business to forget what it’s all about - people. We make it less about trying to get ahead and more about connecting to people and I think that’s what makes us the best at what we do. I run a really niche business and the way we’ve found success so far is by being connected to our customers. I have this acute awareness of who our customer is because I am my customer. If I weren’t running this business, I would be buying from it. Knowing who we’re selling to and making sure we’re connected has been crucial.
How will you become the best?
Being in the fashion industry is tricky - there are new brands emerging everyday and many of them have more funding and more connections than we do at Taft. The competition is stiff. For me, the way to become the best is by connecting with the people who support us and support our brand. I think that, more and more, consumers are in a place where they want to feel a connection to the people they’re buying from. Our goal with Taft isn’t to be this distant, ominous corporation - we want to people to see us as we really are. We want to give people insight into what it’s like running a business. We want them to know there are humans behind this company - I think there’s something endearing about that, and I think that connection is what drives success in small businesses. It’s difficult to do - because your gut reaction when you’re running a business is to try to appear bigger than you are. But there’s something unique and irreplaceable about that transparency.
What are your aspirations?
Personal: It’s all about family for me. I have a sweet son and a little daughter on the way and a wife who loves and supports me in everything I do. My biggest personal aspiration is to be smart and creative and hardworking in a way that enables me to spend as much time with family as possible. That’s the drive behind everything I do. So my personal aspirations are very family centered - travel as a family, have a lot of kids, be in a position to raise children who feel like they can pursue their passions. We want to have a home where our family can gather and the means to spend quality time making unique memories together. But really, at the end of the day my wife and I just want to be kind, loving people.
Business: I want to be in a position where I can have a flexible schedule and the ability to work from home - I have that right now but it’s something I want to make sure is sustainable. I want to learn how to code. I know it’s not necessary to my line of work but it’s a skill I really want to have. As a small business owner, I never want to feel like anything is out of reach. I want to feel like I could move forward with any project and feel confident I could make it successful. At some point I’d really love to teach in some capacity.
What fascinates you?
Computer programming. Back end design. Both things that I can’t do, so I’m fascinated by people who can. I’ve always been intrigued by disruptive innovation. I’m drawn to companies that not only create better products but do it in a way that completely revolutionizes the whole industry.
give people the benefit of the doubt.
look for the best in others.
You never know what someone is going through - they could have just lost a love one, they could be struggling to feed their family. There are so many times I wish that people could get a peek into what it takes to run a business. I wish they could see the late nights and the worrying and the effect that a harsh comment can have at the end of a rough day. There are so many times I know people would be kinder if they just knew the situation, and I never want anybody to feel that way towards me.
I’ve never been the type to get starstruck over anybody - of course there are people I admire in a business capacity who I would love to meet but most of all I’ve always been drawn to ordinary people doing ordinary things. Some of the sweetest people I’ve ever met have been the ones waiting our table or delivering our mail or passing by as we’re watering our lawn. There’s something endearing about those regular, pedestrian encounters. There’s something I really love about seeing people as they are and realizing how extraordinary that is.
I lived in Cambodia for two years and a day hardly passes that I don’t think about going back. The people are some of the sweetest and kindest I’ve ever met. I’ve never been to Bora Bora but something tells me I’d love it there. I love to travel but nothing beats home. Home will always be my favorite place - wherever that is.
I’ve always been impressed by the cleanliness and minimalism of Apple. A double screened desktop Mac is pretty high on my wish list - it would just be a dream for designing and emailing all day. Aside from that, I’ve really never been the type to need the latest technology - it’s just not something I really think about. For me, my interest in products is always based on needs, not wants. That being said, I don’t know what I would do without my iPhone. Having the ability to work from anywhere, anytime something comes up is so crucial to a small business and my phone is really what enables me to do that.
I’m pretty crazy about fly fishing. A few years ago I really wanted to get into fishing so I borrowed a bunch of gear from my father-in-law, watched a ton of YouTube videos, and hit the river. I’ve been hooked ever since. The morning we found out the gender of our first baby my wife and I went up the canyon at 5am and spent a couple hours fly fishing before our appointment. All I could think about was how this was something I want to share with our kids someday. It’s amazing how quickly we can go from being ignorant about something to completely passionate.