Q: How did Hobo the Original get its start?
Koren Ray: Hobo was founded in 1991 on my mother, Toni Ray’s dining room table in Annapolis, Maryland. Her vision then and our vision today really was to create a line of stylish cool leather goods for real women that really combined purposeful details with cool stylish looks and so that really is very much the founding of Hobo, the founding principles that we follow today.
Q: You are a husband and wife team. What roles do each of you play in the business?
David Brewer: Koren coming from a creative background I think was a natural choice for her mom to look to, to help to start the business, Koren and I were dating at the time and so my involvement really started more from a logistics standpoint and you know help with some of the… I do not know the earlier presentations of the line and more of the business aspects of it. Whether it was sales planning, pricing, those types of things.
Koren Ray: He bought us our first computer.
David Brewer: The first computer that kind of thing you know so that was my background, I have a degree in business and so that was sort of my aspect of working with the creative team as it were.
Q: What does the Hobo brand stand for?
Koren Ray: When I think about the Hobo DNA it really has to do with those founding principles that my mother believed in so strongly, originality, creativity, quality and I think that those are woven into the brand DNA and in everything that we do I think from our designs to our marketing to you know the company culture that we tried to create so I think when I think about the DNA it really has to do with those really fundamental things.
David Brewer: You know from the business side of things its also a lot about integrity and you know we did not set out to become the biggest brand around but we wanted to be fair and have long-term relationships with the customers that buy from us and both our retailers and our consumers. From a design perspective I think our mantra is a little bit about when vintage meets modern, I think is probably the phrase that resonates mostly with people.
Koren Ray: Sure, I think that is good, I think a large part of our brand DNA is very much about that, cool is when vintage meets modern, so we find ways to really kind of weave that into our designs on a daily basis looking for ways to be inspired by aesthetics from bygone eras but ways to introduce modern elements, be it function, be it modern materials into those kind of you know vintage inspired designs.
David Brewer: We try to be a very real company, we want live people to answer the phone when you call in. That relationship both with the consumers and the retailers that carry our line is very important. We never want to outsource customer service to any call centers; we really feel that it is important that they speak to the people that really stand behind the brand.
Q: Several years ago, you consolidated your operations into a single location here in Annapolis Junction. What impact has that had on the business?
David Brewer: We have been working with Merritt Properties I think for about 10 years or so. It was a great partnership because it was not about a move to a particular place but it was more about a relationship and building it to have us in a space that we could grow into over time.
Koren Ray: We have been very, very happy in this space, it is really wonderful to have all of our departments under one roof, to have our warehouse together with our design team and our production team for them to be able to go and see products as its arriving. I think for all of our team members to be in one place has really made a big difference and created a very positive environment and a great team spirit, so it’s a great place for Hobo. Much the way we make sure that there are very real people answering the phone when you have questions, the same is true with very real people designing the bags, we have not outsourced that, we maintained all of our design in-house and I think that is kind of unusual for a brand our size in our industry today. So we are very proud of that and I think it filters down to a lot of levels with our company. So that I think when a consumer interacts with the brand, with Hobo, they feel the real sense and I think that’s what people are looking for today, special brands that have a story that they can really have a real connection with and I think that’s very important to us at Hobo.