The Chiefs’ Sunday-night victory over the Buffalo Bills not only means Kansas City’s return to the Super Bowl, but a repeat opportunity for local small business owners amid a rush of hometown pride, said Chase McAnulty.
“When the Chiefs won [in 2020], we were fighting as hard as we could to get as many blank red T-shirts as we could for printing,” said McAnulty, founder and CEO of Charlie Hustle, maker of the iconic KC Heart shirt and a league’s-worth of sports and KC-centric tees. “This year, I think we’re very well prepared. We have some really cool stuff. We’re having a lot more fun with it.”
Click here to check out Charlie Hustle’s latest launches, including the Arrowhead Collection.
With an expected economic boom from excited football fans looking for ways to represent their team, many makers hope to reverse sluggish buying trends that have defined an ongoing pandemic — one that disrupted sports seasons across the spectrum of college and professional athletics.
“It’s a Super Bowl for small business too,” McAnulty noted. “Their success creates an amazing hot market for apparel. It helps us grow our company, and allows us to do some of the things that we have been looking forward to doing.”
But to capitalize on the opportunity, makers must be ready to sell well in advance of kickoff, said MADE MOBB co-founders Vu Radley and Mark Launiu. For the Chiefs’ second consecutive Super Bowl run, looking beyond the obvious — even best-sellers from 2020 — is a critical play, Radley noted.
“I think this year, everybody’s closet is probably 50 percent red already — I know mine is,” he said. “So it’s one of those things where local companies like ours need to get creative. We can’t be releasing the same stuff we had last year — it has to be something new that the city’s going to want to see.”
“Especially when we go to the Super Bowl 10 years down the road with Patrick Mahomes, you know what I’m saying?” Launiu added, smiling.
Both MADE MOBB and Charlie Hustle released limited-run commemorative Chiefs-inspired merchandise moments after Sunday’s win.
Click here to shop MADE MOBB’s new LV BOUND collection.
Click here to check out 21+ ways to wear your Kansas City Chiefs pride while shopping local.
Fan spending around the Chiefs’ 2020 playoffs success brought MADE MOBB three months of rent within 24 hours — an achievement they’re hoping to repeat, Radley said.
Click here to read more about how the Chiefs’ 2020 Super Bowl run impacted MADE MOBB.
Conquering through COVID
Despite early year success, MADE MOBB wasn’t afforded a bye year amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Like many, the team was forced to adjust tactics mid-play — temporarily closing the MADE MOBB storefront on Southwest Boulevard and slimming its operation to a skeleton crew, Radley said.
“It was a big changing point for us; we had to pivot and learn a lot of things quickly,” he shared, noting the storefront has since reopened, though foot traffic remains dramatically reduced. “Things like the Chiefs provide a sense of normalcy again, and it just helps the vibes in the city with everything going on.”
A boost in sales during the first few months of 2020 helped the Charlie Hustle team be more aggressive about pushing forward during the pandemic, McAnulty said.
“It allowed us to be in a better place and, financially, accomplish our goals,” he added.
Click here to read about Charlie Hustle’s early pandemic mask-making effort.
With a recent Super Bowl championship already under their belts, fans this season aren’t quite as hyped up as in 2020 — or at least they aren’t buying as much Chiefs-related merchandise, acknowledged Keith Bradley, co-owner of Made in KC, a retailer of locally made goods with stores across the metro.
And fewer makers might be chasing fans as a result.
“We haven’t seen as many new designs or new products come out as we would have typically liked to or as we saw [this past year],” Bradley said. “That could be because of the pandemic.
“But, one thing that’s really helped us is that everyone is a little more prepared,” he continued. “Turnaround times have been quicker. A lot of people know how important it is not to miss a week or weekend of sales following a win. That’s really important for us as a retailer because one of our goals has always been to help other businesses grow.”
Along with a boost in sales for those makers jumping into the game, many small businesses have used the opportunity to connect with and help each other, Bradley said.
“During all the excitement, we were trying to get our hands on as many red products as possible,” Bradley recalled. “That really opened the door for us to work with a handful of new artists and vendors, who we likely wouldn’t have worked otherwise.”
One of those newly-founded relationships was with Cherry sports gear — which set up shop at Made in KC’s Country Club Plaza and Lee’s Summit marketplace locations in 2020. Pivoting Cherry from online-only sales to a physical retail space was a big step for the brand, said founder Thalia Cherry.
Cherry has also partnered with the Chiefs themselves for the past few years, she noted.
“We’ve designed different things for them, just depending on their needs,” Cherry explained. “We created and designed their 2020 playoff shirts. It is an exclusive, so it’s not for private purchase. But I think it’s pretty cool that the Chiefs are locally purchasing from us.”
Click here to shop Cherry.
One maker even partnered with another small business on the rivalry team’s side. Charlie Hustle challenged Buffalo’s Oxford Pennant to a $1,000 wager — resulting in the Oxford Pennant donating $1,000 to Children’s Mercy Kansas City after the Chiefs’ Sunday-night win.
Eat and drink like a champion
The Chiefs ripple effect isn’t limited to apparel, said Matt Shatto.
Shatto Milk joined the lineup of Chiefs enthusiasts this season, releasing a limited edition “Coach Cow” bottle and new milk flavor.
“Once the Chiefs made the playoffs, we knew we wanted to do something unique — so then we ended up launching the red velvet milk,” Shatto said. “We packaged it in a fun bottle to provide some attention to [the Chiefs’] head coach.”
The “Coach Cow” logo on the bottle features a cow in a recognizable homage to Chiefs head coach Andy Reid — glasses, mustache and all — an idea inspired by Shatto’s mother, he noted.
“I have three boys at home who are always talking about the players and wearing their jerseys, and my mom was the one who was like, ‘Why don’t the coaches get a little bit more notoriety around here?’” Shatto shared. “So we wanted to draw attention to Reid.”
The release went extremely well with numerous happy customers and fans, Shatto said. But unlike some other local makers, the Chiefs’ success has not necessarily increased sales for Shatto Milk.
“We only have a certain amount of milk, and we sell 100 percent of our milk every day,” he explained, noting it leaves no product waste. “So whenever we release a special edition like this, we cut back on other flavors we typically offer.”
Click here to read more about Shatto Milk and its home delivery options.
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Noting customer trends Made in KC observed during the pandemic — namely increased food and beverage purchased — the retailer launched “Playoff Party Packs” featuring local products with a Chiefs spin, Bradley said.
Why shop local?
For every $100 spent at a locally-owned retail store, $58 is recirculated into the local economy, according to Made in KC research. $31 is injected from non-locally owned companies.
Made in KC — where Charlie Hustle, MADE MOBB, and Cherry products are sold — recirculates more than $93 back into the local economy for every $100 spent in its stores, the company said.
“The party packs have dozens of local food items, as well as a couple of growlers of local beer and a few other fun products like a Mahomes prayer candle or a locally-made koozie drink sweater,” Bradley said.
Customer orders for the party packs were open throughout the week preceding Sunday’s game, with pick up from a Made in KC location on Saturday. Bradley teased a similar option will be available in the run-up to the Super Bowl.
The past year has been a wild ride, Bradley said, but the Chiefs’ carrying a winning spirit back to Kansas City has brought a positive impact for the entire community.
“Whether it’s the national media talking about Kansas City, or those local ‘How about those Chiefs?’ conversations — all that energy pays off in some way,” Bradley said. “When people are excited about Kansas City, they think to go to Made in KC and shop local. We’re really proud to have a football team full of great players and great coaches who represent our city.”
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.
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