Landlocked is a brand many Kansas Citians recognize on sight, founder Andrew Morgans said. Marknology is the behind-the-scenes engine that sells it.
While his dual companies — an apparel startup known for its popular hybrid pennant tee and a bootstrapped digital marketing firm specializing in Amazon sales — complement one another, the pairing is an example of how Kansas City makers can find success on the online retail giant’s platform, Morgans said.
“We’re killing it on Amazon,” he said. “There’s not really anybody selling a product that doesn’t need to be on Amazon. And if they’re not there, that’s just silly. The brands that are resisting now? They’ll eventually be there.”
Along with marketplace management, Facebook advertising and building e-commerce sites, Marknology first helps new and existing Amazon sellers capture a wider audience starting with the low-hanging fruit: labels, keywords, photos and reviews, Morgans said.
“We take brands and launch them on Amazon. Or if they’re already there, and they’re not happy with their results, then we audit their program. We improve their branding, as well as their direct sales,” he said. “We call that ‘the Marknology Effect.’ Simply put, it’s a system that works if they have a good product, the right price point and the logistics to make fulfillment happen.”
In addition to Landlocked, the firm works with such wide-ranging Kansas City brands as Made in KC, Modigliani, Faultless Starch, Helio LLC, The 1502 and Tappecue, Morgans said, noting the Westside Kansas City-based company also works with national and international clients.
“When an entrepreneur is first getting started as a maker, they don’t always think of Amazon. But there’s so much potential — Amazon has millions and millions of shoppers,” he said. “It’s a place for startups too.”
Lessons online, off the grid
No degree exists for the ever-changing world of e-commerce, Morgans said.
“You only know by doing,” he said. “We’ve worked with more than 120 clients, so I’ve seen fashion and chocolate chip cookies to jewelry and card companies.”
But as much as Morgans credits his Amazon expertise to years of heads-down initiative working for startups and as a freelancer, he also acknowledges the role of his extraordinary upbringing.
Born in the city of Montreal in Quebec, Canada, Morgans was the child of American missionaries who at a young age went to Canada to learn French so they could minister to French-speaking people across the world, he said.
“The next few years of my life were all over the place as we went from Montreal, to Kansas City, then to Cameroon, Moscow, Botswana and eventually Congo, formerly known as Zaire,” Morgans says in the introduction to his forthcoming book, “The Marknology Effect.”
“Being a redhead from Africa, coming over just in time for high school, I’ve heard all the jokes already,” he adds.
Morgans looks back at his time abroad as a lesson in street smarts, compassion and gratitude, he said.
“As I get older and learn about things like self-awareness and the psychology of the mind, I think about those early African years more and more,” Morgans writes. “We were always overseas on a missionary’s budget and my dad was always looking for ways to make a dollar and taught me the hustle from a very young age.”
His family — including sisters Veronika Kramel, Marknology vice president of operations, and Brooklyn Morgans, content writer — survived numerous close calls amid their travels, he said.
“From airports burning down with us inside, a military coup where the U.S. military evacuated Americans from the capital of Congo — we didn’t go with everyone else — kidnaping and harassment by police, home invaders more times than I can count, and countless double crossings by desperate men in a desperate land,” Morgans recalls in his book. “On the flip side, I was also privy to see relentless work ethic, smiles and happiness in people that had nothing in comparison to the everyday American. … I was given the gift of perspective.”
Passion spelled with a tee
Landlocked brings an immediate smile to Morgans’ bearded face.
“It’s my project baby,” he said.
The well-known Landlocked hybrid pennant tee was inspired by the Kansas City Royals 2014 World Series’ run, Morgans said. Tailgating at one of the playoff games, he noticed fans sporting Chiefs coats over their Royals gear — many unprepared for a postseason crossing into football territory, he said.
“Instead of people trying to double down in wearing something like a hat from the Royals and gloves from the Chiefs, how about we come out with a shirt that’s both?” Morgans said he asked himself. “I didn’t even really know what I was doing, since it was still the early days. I got on Twitter just so I could tweet about it. And ESPN and (Chiefs fan account) Arrowhead Pride picked it up and retweeted it, and I got a couple hundred orders in one day. I was like, ‘Ah! I’m not ready for this!'”
Since then, Landlocked has embraced a less sports-centric approach to its designs, he said, prefering to offer a city focus. Morgans is most proud of the apparel company’s current Equality collection — “designed with the thought that we are all equal and everyone, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, or color, should be treated with dignity and respect.”
“I have never gotten more appreciation for wearing one of my shirts out from all races around Kansas City,” he said. “When that happens, I know immediately that person is a kindred spirit.”
Working with graphic designers to bring his clothing ideas to fruition, Morgans said he’s proud to have the freedom to pursue projects that align with his passion.
“I wasn’t ever really trying to launch an apparel brand. It just kind of happened and I’ve rolled with it,” he said. “I’ve already learned so much on the retail side because these are the kind of brands that I work with through Marknology. And working with Landlocked, I’m also getting a sense of what my clients are going through.”