It was a lot of fun to chat with our friend Clay Reeves for the Live Major series. Last year Clay founded his brand Clay + Bros around the ubiquitous sandal that he created. He's had a busy year; traveling, making sandals, and opening an office in a van!
Hey Clay, thanks so much for joining our He Lives Major series. First, tell us a little about where you’re from?
I grew up in McDonough, GA, which is just south of Atlanta. We lived off a dirt road and our backyard was a cow pasture so we had a lot of freedom outside. We spent a lot of time building tree houses and riding motorcycles.
Sounds like a great childhood. Then you grew up, and created a sandal!
I wanted an excuse to wear sandals all the time. I wanted to put something into the world that wasn't available. I wanted to be my own boss. I wanted to make all these other things I had in my head and I figured creating a brand was a good way of organizing those things. My dad inspired me, he has always done his own thing. While growing up, I just assumed that was standard procedure for everyone. He’s insanely creative and taught me a lot about business and how to treat people. My Mom also inspired me, she's a very visual person and she taught me how to look at things. She taught me a lot about color too.
Your parents gave you the entrepreneur bug it seems. What have been the biggest challenges and rewards with running your own brand?
The getting started part is tough. I think we all have a lot of great ideas in our heads, but that’s about as far as they go. I’ve had so many unexpected pieces fall into place just because I got it started. It’s such a truism to do what you can, with what you have, and where you are. If you wait until you think you’re ready, you will never pull the trigger. I’m a big picture person so I love the conceptual and planning side of things and small details tend to slow me down. When you’re small you have to wear all the hats. I get excited about growing the business so I can put some of those hats on other people’s heads.
The greatest reward has been connecting with people who dig what we’re doing and want to be a part of it. I don’t take it lightly that someone is handing over their hard earned money to me so I want to hand them back something that I’m proud of and that they’re going to love. I get excited about that. Every order that comes in has me looking for someone to high five.
Your team consists of "travelers, explorers, artists, fishermen, lovers, fighters, creators, brothers, and sisters". Sounds like an exciting community for your brand
Hooligans make great customers and teammates. They make noise and when you start out you need all the noise you can get.
Looking at your instagram, it's evident you travel a lot. What was your most recent epic adventure?
We were in the UK recently for the first time and got to spend some time in Ireland and Scotland, which were both incredibly beautiful.
We saw a few pics of you donning the native kilt while in Scotland actually
Once I got it, I wore it for the rest of our trip. I had a few people inform me in Ireland that they didn't wear kilts there, but I keep it on. Kilts and sandals; the air flows freely through both.
It definitely makes for a travel friendly outfit! Have you traveled a lot in the states?
We did a decent amount of bouncing around the US this past year. My brother and I drove from Atlanta to LA and made a bunch of stops. We really loved Sante Fe. When we got to west Texas we ended up in a snowstorm. We both just assumed it was going to be hot! We spent some time in Austin and Marfa; both places we felt at home in. We rolled into the Grand Canyon at 3am on our last night of the drive, which was surreal. The first time we saw it was in the moonlight. There was enough snow on everything that you still got the scale of it, even in the darkness.
While we’re on the topic of travel, in December you announced (with a rather fun video) that Clay + Bros now has an office . . . in a van!
I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time in California the past 6 months doing some creative work and freelancing while making sandals. I ended up moving to Venice after Christmas. The idea of being able to work from anywhere is a reality for me right now so that’s the plan for the immediate future. I’m still back and forth to Atlanta a lot. Splitting time between two very different vibes like Atlanta and Venice is a dream, and I’m enjoying it right now.
It's clear that you're an adventurer. In your own words, how do you Live Major?
It’s cliche but life is too short to wander around marching to the beat of someone else’s drum. Doing your own thing is major. Trying to make a ruckus with whatever you have.
I love what you guys are doing with Ursa Major and I’m happy to get to call a guy like Oliver a friend. It’s been great to be able to pick the brain of someone like him who “gets it”. I’m coming up to Burlington soon to see what you guys are doing up there in the woods.
We'd love that! We'll have to send you home with some product too
I shave about twice a year, but when I do I use your shave cream and I love it. Put me down for another bottle in 10 years. I've got some of the face wipes in the fridge right now too. We take them on road trips; they’re a nice refresher after you’ve been driving for ten hours.