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Build Your Business: Shop Talk
Stealth SuccessFrom graphic designer to serial entrepreneur, Rich Khun has grown his company Hustle Ninjas to where it is now a major social media presence as well
Engaging with the wider decorating community is what it’s all about for Rich Khun. Photo courtesy of Hustle Ninjas
Rich Khun is a man of many talents. He began his career in 2004 as a graphic designer, creating among other things, CD covers, nightclub flyers and billboard designs. At one point, he even added videography to his repertoire.
A decade later, Khun started a clothing brand and began selling T-shirts on Etsy and Amazon in the process immersing himself in the decorated-apparel industry. A few years later, in 2019, he began sharing his experiences of printing T-shirts at home and then selling them online via his Hustle Ninjas YouTube channel. Hustle Ninjas now strives to be a clearinghouse of sorts for newcomers to the apparel industry, offering everything from instructional videos on selling shirts to print-on-demand tips and suggestions on the ins and outs of finding the best manufacturers to work with.
Hustle Ninjas is an apt name, perfectly describing Khun and his vision for his business: an enterprising entrepreneur with ruthless determination who challenges the status quo. When Khun first entered the industry, he says he struggled to find the resources he needed to get started, especially those same kinds of resources that matched his particular learning style. Moving forward, he knew some day he wanted to educate others via a similar format. Sure enough, when the time came for Kuhn to begin posting the kind of how-to content he’d envisaged, he felt an instant connection.
For those running an online business, for example, the ins and outs of pricing and ordering can be hard to make clear to first-time customers. That’s where Hustle Ninjas’ use of its YouTube channel—one of the many subjects Khun addresses—comes into play. By explaining how to place an order via a video format, a newly arrived customer not only becomes more educated in terms of the nuts and bolts of how the process works, they also develop an affinity for the content provider.
Then there’s the added benefit of the feedback these kinds of interactions enable.
“Social media has given us the ability of instant reaction,” says Khun. “We know exactly what’s popular and trending because we’re able to get answers right away. By doing this it allows us to know what to sell immediately in the apparel world…in the content world, this also gives us the ability to know what type of content we should be making.”
In terms of printing and selling T-shirts online, Khun says the thing that separates his company from much of the competition is the mindset of never giving up. “We went through almost every printing process before finally seeing what worked for us,” he says by way of an example of mindset he’s used to develop his still-growing business.
As for his YouTube channel, Khun says, “Everyone has their unique story and that’s what makes everyone’s platform different…The real difference is between the ones who know how to tell their story for a purpose versus those who are on there for some quick exposure.”
As an example of Khun’s presentation style, one of the Hustle Ninjas’ more popular posts not only details how Khun started his T-shirt business but what Khun wishes he knew if he had to start over.
Interestingly, Khun starts the video by humbly—not to mention, refreshingly—admitting he is still nowhere near the definitive source of information on the T-shirt business. He then proceeds to share his experiences, providing motivation for others to reach for their dreams, not to mention making clear the pitfalls they should be aware of and would do well to avoid. The result is a message that clearly resonates with aspiring entrepreneurs. As one viewer posted: One of the most genuine videos I’ve watched, felt like you were talking directly to me. Thank you so much for this.
Since Khun began his business, it has grown to where he is now part of a team of four, and he says he is hoping to add more employees soon, both to increase the company’s production capabilities and grow its social media footprint.
“The [social media component] is something that I took on top of us already running a business,” he says. “Finding balance in the time we make content…creating a schedule for the YouTube channel that does not interfere with the business that we already have is always a challenge.”
As for the decorating side of things, although the pandemic adversely affected many businesses Khun says it proved to be a boon for Hustle Ninjas, with the online retailer seeing an influx of orders. Kuhn says the pandemic also helped accelerate his YouTube channel, as countless aspiring decorators across the country began thinking it was finally time to try and make their dreams come true.
Not surprisingly, he says already being and established concern paid dividends on both fronts, adding, “It helps that we were already ahead of the curve by being in the business instead of having just started it…that goes for both printing and YouTube.”
As has been the case throughout his career, whether it be creating CD covers or promotional flyers, Kuhn says his favorite thing about running Hustle Ninjas is the fact it provides him with an outlet for his creativity. The fact he’s able to take advantage of his filming and editing skills to produce the kind of video content he produces is tantamount to being the icing on the cake.
“A great highlight has been the ability to give people purpose in this industry. I enjoy what I do, and now I enjoy helping new and struggling business owners start and finish what they’ve started,” Kuhn says. “My journey through everything in business has always been a struggle, and if I can help anyone struggle a little less in life then I’m happy with knowing just that.”
Interestingly, for all his success, Kuhn says he’s still searching for that “aha” moment. Along these same lines, while he enjoys his work and is proud of his accomplishments thus far, he is not even close to being ready to rest on his laurels. In addition to meeting his daily and monthly goals, for example, he would like to create a successful clothing brand. Already, Kuhn and his employees are prepping for this next step of transitioning from a production focus to more of a focus on marketing.
And, of course, his Hustle Ninjas channel will continue to serve as a resource for anyone entering the print and promo industry—all in a style entirely his own.
“It’s more than just information, it’s a lot of inspiration,” Kuhn says, adding. “It’s a paradise for anyone who is not only looking to enter the industry, but those who are looking to expand their business as well.”
Chelan David is a freelance writer based in Kansas City. His work has appeared in such publications as Smart Business, Entrepreneur, The Seattle Times, Writer’s Digest and Apparel. In his spare time, he enjoys running, watching sporting events and traveling.
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