Chase McAnulty is on a mission to build Charlie Hustle into a national brand, he shared, without losing the company’s roots in Kansas City.
“We’ve really driven the narrative that not only celebrates culture, but civic pride. It’s a challenge to go to these other markets and give them their version of the KC Heart, and we’ve thought of ways to do it. But we will always have it in the strategy to continue to nurture the loyal fanbase we have here in Kansas City,” said McAnulty, the founder and CEO of Charlie Hustle, a clothing and design company known for its iconic KC Heart tee.
Click here to read more about how Charlie Hustle got its start.
Over the past few years, Charlie Hustle has added such wholesale customers as Dick’s Sporting Goods, Rally House and Scheels to help with brand awareness, McAnulty noted.
“It’s not necessarily a revenue tool we’re using to become this great wholesaler,” he said. “But our intent is to grow out to an eight-to–10 state region and ultimately turn into a national brand. There’s strategic ways to do that. We need new customers to touch and feel our product.”
The distribution footprint from wholesale retailers is also important in being able to reach other parts of the country and secure collegiate licensing, noted Greg Moore, the chief operating officer at Charlie Hustle, as he spoke to attendees at a Spark Coworking Business Hour session.
“When we go to Oklahoma or the University of Iowa and say ‘Hey, we’d like your license so we can create some more unique designs,’ they’re looking for distribution,” Moore explained. “Now we can go out with three of the biggest box stores around, and that’s what’s allowed us to grab a lot of these really big licenses.”
The Charlie Hustle team has found success in creating designs and merchandise for numerous universities, McAnulty said, adding that targeting schools is a way they are able to bring the Charlie Hustle spirit and pride to a new location.
“We’ve leveraged collegiate licensing to get into these other markets because everybody loves their college team,” McAnulty said. “… We think we’re good enough as a design house to bring those fans something new and gain some new fans of our own. Once they know who you are, you can start offering more and really digging into the culture of those towns and cities.”
McAnulty’s idea to design for universities started with him wanting more apparel options for the University of Kansas; and it has now grown to designing for between 50 to 60 schools, including Kansas State University, University of Nebraska and Texas Christian University.
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Charlie Hustle’s growth and impact on Kansas City was acknowledged in 2021 when it was honored as the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce’s Mr. K Small Business of the Year. The award gave the business momentum to work with some of the biggest names in Kansas City, McAnulty said.
“We were really embraced by the local business community,” he shared. “We had built a lot of fans through our brand, but to be working with businesses like H&R Block and Garmin was the validation we hadn’t received before. It was definitely a sign of future growth.”
Click here to read about Charlie Hustle being awarded Mr. K Small Business of the Year.
As the business continues to grow, so will the apparel company’s team, McAnulty said — noting it is currently at 35 employees with plans to add more talent in 2023.
Charlie Hustle also recently added Crux KC as its official marketing partner.
“[Crux KC is] an extension of our team,” McAnulty said. “We needed more bandwidth, as well as some expertise in certain areas. Marketing is robust, and the digital work is ever-changing. I think Crux was the perfect fit for our team.”
Customers can expect more original designs coming in 2023 with Charlie Hustle currently working on a campaign with the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, McAnulty teased.
Charlie Hustle will also be featured inside the Made in KC Marketplace at the new Kansas City International Airport terminal, which is set to open Spring 2023.