Building a Brand Begins with Passion: UGG Founder

He started with $500 in capital in 1978.

He used passion, entrepreneurship and energy to build one of the world’s most recognizable brands.

At today’s Accelerent/Benefit Commerce Group Breakfast Event, Brian Smith, the founder of UGG, talked about how entrepreneurs can leverage their most precious assets from within to build brands and success.

In 1978, he used his cash to import 6 pairs of sheepskin boots from his native Australia. From that beginning, Smith built a multi-million-dollar international enterprise which he sold in 1995, and the brand has continued to grow to exceed a billion dollars in annual sales for the past six years.

He admits that the first boots didn’t look great, the product wasn’t perfect.  But Smith’s advice is, “The product doesn’t have to be perfect, just get it out there.” Then, go talk to potential customers and learn what people want, to help accelerate development.


The Phoenix division of Accelerent is the area’s leading business development organization, and Benefit Commerce Group is proud to be the Title Sponsor of this division. Through breakfast events throughout the year, guests invited by members of Accelerent hear from nationally-recognized speakers and experts like Brian Smith.

Lessons in Brand Building

Brian Smith equates building a brand to raising a child to adulthood: “You can’t give birth to adults.”

–You have to keep feeding the baby, changing the diapers.

–Then they start to toddle (your message starts getting out there).

–In the “youth” phase, you get predictable orders, with warehouse and operations running.

–But then the teenage stage hits and you want to “be at every party on Saturday night.” He says that runaway success, growth that is too fast, can take down a company.

“Your brand is not your trademark; it’s not your logo; it’s not your product. It’s what customers think about you,” he said. You need to put out the “vibration” that resonates with the people you’re trying to sell to. You need to target market and advertise the feeling and emotion of what you are selling, not the product itself.

Smith and UGG had many ups and downs in the early years: difficulty getting funding from investors, finding the right market, finding the right way to approach the market, working with the right suppliers, and so many more challenges and triumphs.

Entrepreneurs need to face and expect tough times. “When you hit a wall, you have to find a way over it or around it,” Smith says.  That’s why he relies on his four mantras:

  • Feast upon uncertainty
  • Fatten upon disappointment
  • Invigorate in the presence of difficulties
  • Enthuse over apparent defeat

Along with adversity, Smith and Ugg landed some good breaks along the way, such as being one of Oprah’s “best picks for Christmas” one year.

But the tough times were indeed tough, with a lot of trial and error before big success. Smith said that had there been a support system where he could go for help, like Accelerent, he would have found the partners he needed to reach out to learn and access resources.

One of the analogies that Smith uses is a tadpole. “The quickest way for a tadpole to become a frog is to live every day joyfully as a tadpole,” he says. Entrepreneurs are those tadpoles.

His book, The Birth of a Brand, is available on Amazon.

BCG’s Brand

In his introductory comments prior to Brian Smith’s presentation, Chris Hogan, Executive Vice President and Principal of Benefit Commerce Group (BCG), talked about BCG’s brand.

“Our brand is so much more than a logo, or blue and gold colors, or how our materials are designed,” Hogan said. “Our real brand is the heart of our company: our thought leadership, the service and savings we provide for our clients, and the way we truly partner with our clients. We are committed to help them be successful, not just in their employee benefits, but in the growth and development of their business overall.”

BCG has taken its brand and applied it to a new initiative through the firm’s own entrepreneurial stance. Hogan announced BCG’s new initiative to partner with start-ups and other smaller employers (10-50 employees) to help them grow their business and win the talent war by providing best in class and affordable employee benefits.

“We are bringing the same commitment to innovation, strategies, solutions, savings and service to these employers as we bring to larger groups,” he said. “We are partners with all our employer clients.”

Next Accelerent Phoenix/BCG Breakfast Event

This was the last of these events for 2022, but 2023 will be an amazing year of quality speakers and motivating topics!! The next Accelerent/BCG Breakfast Event will be January 27th.  Our guest speaker will be Dan O’Brien, former decathlete and Olympic gold medalist, TV personality, motivational speaker, author, and coach.