Mark Bollman IV, 26, is the president and founder of Ball and Buck, a sporting inspired lifestyle brand making all its products in the USA. Ball and Buck operates a brick and mortar store located on Newbury Street in Boston that has been voted Boston’s best menswear store. The Brand manufactures many of its products in the Boston area and has been recognized by press including GQ, Esquire, NY Times, Boston Globe, Improper Bostonian, and Men’s Journal to name a few. Under his leadership the company continues to grow at over 100% year over year since its founding. In addition to Ball and Buck, Mark serves on the Board of American Made Matters an organization focused on educating consumers as to the importance of USA manufacturing, and is the retail advisor to Main Street Partners a non-profit with a mission to empower, improve, and support urban small businesses. Mark has been a FoundersCard Member since 2011.
1. Ball and Buck prides itself on being an all-American company. Where did your inspiration to create such a brand stem?
Being a sportsman, first and foremost, I have been hunting, fishing, and camping for the better part of my life. Throughout my childhood, relying on well made products was imperative to having an enjoyable experience in the wilderness, especially when the weather turned on you. I could always remember the products that lasted the test of time were proudly stamped with “Made in USA.” Fast forward twenty years to when I was graduating college and we had moved into a time of increased outsourcing and decreased quality. Most companies no longer crafted products with pride, but rather focused on achieving a (low) price point. It was at this inflection point when I knew there was an opportunity to create a brand built on the same values of the heritage brands I grew up with, and a keen focus on quality above all else – that brand is Ball and Buck.
2. What was the best piece of advice you received when embarking on this endeavor?
Narrow and Deep – don’t do everything, do a few select things and do them the best.
3. Talk briefly about what makes Ball and Buck different. From the quality of the merchandise to the type of labor used to create these unique garments.
At Ball and Buck it is our goal to make the best products in the world. We never make decisions based on what is cheaper, but rather make them based on what is better. Take our Hunter Shirt for example, we use double needle stitching throughout the entire garment, use a dense yet buttery soft oxford cloth material, and reinforce both elbows — all things that are very expensive to do, but things that are critical to our mission of absolute quality. We believe that our products actually grow in value the more you wear them and more you experience in them. We offer a full repair program for our products because we don’t look at mends and patches as blemishes, but rather as badges of honor.
4. From a small store on Newbury Street in Boston, your online sales have started to skyrocket. Which has been more difficult to build, retail or eCommerce, and why?
Ball and Buck is a lifestyle brand for those who appreciate quality and heritage. Our stores reflect our values and transport our customers into the world of Ball and Buck as we control the sounds, smells, and everything else around you. On the website, we have much less control. Consumers visiting the site on the computer could be anywhere, doing anything so it is much more difficult to convey the complete lifestyle through a computer. We have faced challenges in both brick and mortar and eCommerce and have arrived at a realization that our pathway to success is the successful integration of both mediums.
5. You and your team have both created the brand, but also live the brand. Describe the Ball and Buck lifestyle and what you all do on your free time?
The Ball and Buck guy loves the outdoors. He is fashionable but doesn’t look like he is trying to be. He isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty and has a passion for working with his hands. The Ball and Buck guy is as comfortable hiking through chest high briars with his trusty over and under on the hunting field as he is wearing a tux in downtown Boston. He is the modern day sporting gentleman.On my free time I like to stay really active. Whether its fly fishing the Housatonic River, Shooting clays off my deck in the Berkshires, or just exploring, I like to do anything outdoors. This summer I am road tripping to Montana in America II (my f250) with a pot belly stove and a canvas wall tent to post up by the Blackfoot River for a couple weeks and live off the land. Very excited about that trip.
6. Aside from Ball & Buck, you carry a passion for American-made products. How are you helping others get their companies and products off the ground?
In addition to Ball and Buck, I’ve built a multi-city event called American Field which celebrates all forms of American Craft. We bring together the best 100 brands that are making amazing things in America. In addition to the brands, we have 2 full days of great musicians, a group of excellent food trucks, and even a speaker series to talk their stories and passions. This event is the perfect platform for new brands that are starting off expose their ideas and products and begin building a following. It’s my favorite time of the year – reminds me why I love doing what I do so much.
7. You have a belief that men need to be gentlemen and also dress better.
I spent the first 20 years of my life in the South where manners and respect are held to the highest level of importance. This genuine attitude of helpfulness and respect provided me with a sturdy foundation for how I run my businesses and my life. Being a gentleman goes hand in hand with dressing well. Whether we want to accept it or not people do judge a book by its cover, and clothing is your “cover.” My philosophy around dressing is to fill your wardrobe with a selection of versatile, high quality garments that look and feel great when you wear them alone, and even better when you combine them for an outfit. Being the utilitarian that I am, I never want to make something that you are afraid to wear for a game of pick up or changing your cars oil. What you end up with is a wardrobe that know will last, trust to make you look and feel great, and will hold up to whatever you throw at it.
8. Who has been someone you have looked up to and shaped your beliefs?
I have been fortunate to be surrounded great role models my entire life. My parents were both entrepreneurs who showed me how to turn a dream into a reality. I was also extremely fortunate to have both of my grandfathers around for most of my life. I remember one time when I was hunting with my Grandfather in Michigan, we went to the store to buy the hunting license before heading north to the hunting field. I had just turned 14 years old so I had changed from a minor to an adult which didn’t mean much to me, but did to the licensing board because my fee went from $1 to $50. For some reason the clerk behind the counter misread my birth date and issued me the license for $1. Thinking I had beat the system I had excitedly told my grandfather when we got into the car. Surprisingly to me then, he was upset with the news and told me we would make it right.Sure enough after the weekend of hunting we came right back to that same store parking lot before going to the airport. We showed the clerk the license, explained that a mistake had happened, and I had to fork out the additional $49. Until I was about 20 years old I looked back to that day with utter frustration. But now, that story stays in my mind as one of the biggest lessons I have ever learned–there is no amount of money that is ever worth more than your word and doing the right thing.
9. What is your favorite cocktail ?
1 cube sugar1 jigger Rye Whiskey¼ ounce Herbsaint3 dashes Peychaud’s BittersLemon peel
10. What is one book that you would recommend to everyone?
Give us your best plug/brag a little about as to what you’re working on now/next?
We are doing a limited edition Ball and Buck Over and Under Shotgun that’s launching this fall – it is fire.
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