Nick Dutton and the power of African surf

There are millions of people surfing in Africa and yet, there was no African surf brand out there.

And you’ve had generations of Africans growing up with a narrative of blond-haired, blue-eyed surfers, presented by surf brands.

It just didn’t feel right.

And, what about the brands in Africa, telling the positive stories?

Today we are going to be talking about the power of African surf – and what my good friend Nick Dutton is doing to change the story of Africa.

Nick is the co-founder and CEO of Mami Wata, which is a global African surf lifestyle brand.

Having traveled extensively around the world during his career in advertising, Nick was able to identify the global opportunity for a premium African surf brand. So he moved his family to Cape Town, and with his co-founders, they launched Mami Wata due to their love of Africa, design, and surfing, as well as a belief that the world needs a different lens to view and understand Africa.

We talk about why what they are doing matters.

How Mami Wata came about.

Their journey of building a business and a challenger brand.

The curve ball of COVID and where this all has taken them.

The story is incredible. And super inspiring.

Please don’t forget to let us know what you think of this episode, leave a review and subscribe.

And if you’re keen to understand more about TIE and how you can get involved, just shoot me an emailhere. I’d love to hear from you.

00:00:02:04 – 00:00:27:03
Philippa White
Welcome to the show, where we unearth new ways of looking at ever evolving light around the world. Seen from a number of different industries, cultures and backgrounds. But there’s one thing that unites everyone I speak to. They all want to do their part to make the world better in their own unique ways. It’s a uniting passion. Whether they’re from the commercial world, third sector or public sector from the Global North or the global south.

00:00:27:15 – 00:00:32:13
Philippa White
My name is Philippa White and welcome to TIE Unearthed.

00:00:36:00 – 00:01:11:07
Philippa White
Hello and welcome to episode 35 of TIE Unearthed. Today we’re going to be talking about the power of African surf and what my good friend Nick Dutton is doing to change the story of Africa. Nick is the co-founder and CEO of Mummy Water, which is a global African surf lifestyle brand. Prior to founding Mummy Water in 2017, Nick had a 20 year career in advertising in South Africa and the UK, where he held executive roles at some of the world’s leading agencies specializing in global, creatively led brands.

00:01:11:07 – 00:01:46:17
Philippa White
Such as Jaguar, Volvo and Snickers. And it was when Nick was working in advertising that we met. He was my boss in London when I first started out in the industry. So we go back a long time. Now, having traveled extensively around the world. He was able to identify the global opportunity for a premium African surf brand. So he moved his family to Cape Town and with his co-founders they launched Miami Water due to their love of Africa design and surfing, as well as a belief that the world needs a different lens to view and understand Africa.

00:01:47:09 – 00:02:09:18
Philippa White
Like me, Nick was also born in South Africa. So what he’s doing really resonates with me. We’ll be talking about how Mummy Water came about, their journey, the curveball of COVID and where this has all taken them. Honestly, the story is incredible and super inspiring, so grab that favorite beverage or throw in those running shoes. And here’s Nick.

00:02:10:02 – 00:02:10:16
Philippa White
Hi, Nick.

00:02:11:23 – 00:02:12:17
Nick Dutton
Hey, Philippa.

00:02:12:22 – 00:02:16:14
Philippa White
It’s really great to have you with me today. Where are you?

00:02:17:07 – 00:02:20:02
Nick Dutton
I’m in. I’m in our new office in Cape Town.

00:02:20:19 – 00:02:46:13
Philippa White
Oh, fantastic. Well, listen, I am so excited to have you on TIE Unearthed. Naked Eye listeners, Nick and I have known each other for a very long time. Very, very old and good friend of mine. We also both come from South Africa. So I remember you talking about Herman Davis. Maybe I shouldn’t have said that. I’m you on earth, Herman.

00:02:46:13 – 00:02:55:20
Philippa White
This is a beach place just outside of Cape Town. My uncle and aunt had a place there, and so I used to go. Nick, would.

00:02:55:23 – 00:02:56:19
Nick Dutton
They still there?

00:02:57:19 – 00:03:15:14
Philippa White
I think they still have their place by my my uncles passed away, but my aunt, I’m almost certain that she still has the place there. I think so. I have I mean, I haven’t been to it in a while but. Yeah. So anyway. Yeah, we’ll get to Mummy Watch in a moment but I just would love you to bring you to life for our listeners.

00:03:15:14 – 00:03:16:13
Philippa White
Tell us a little bit about, you.

00:03:16:23 – 00:03:41:14
Nick Dutton
Know, crikey. Well, as Philippa says, we go back a fair while. I guess my sort of background is a bit of context while I’m sitting in Cape Town now. I was born in South Africa but largely grew up in England, and I went schooling, investing in England. But then I started an advertising career back in South Africa. So from 96 to 2001, I worked in Johannesburg.

00:03:41:14 – 00:04:14:03
Nick Dutton
The biggest market was for Ogilvy. There was an amazing agency, lots of great people, and but contextually it was the end of apartheid. So 9621 So, you know, South Africa just came through just like rampant optimism, just huge growth in the Rainbow Nation. A lot of amazing stuff happening. And I was very lucky to be working for a great company in Johannesburg, which is a wonderful wild African city, learning about advertising, which is a career I’d always wanted to do, you know.

00:04:14:10 – 00:04:35:21
Nick Dutton
Before that, I’d actually done work experience in England, in BBH and Dublin. Chris Early mid 19 booking a long time ago. Anyway, so after South Africa they moved back to London where I then worked in advertising for nearly another 15, 15, 16 years. Well worth it. Yeah. Darcy.

00:04:35:21 – 00:04:43:14
Philippa White
Darcy. So. So Nick was my boss. He was my boss on set. What was the account? It was the government account, wasn’t it?

00:04:44:00 – 00:04:49:03
Nick Dutton
I did, yes. Yes. Department for Education and Skills.

00:04:49:03 – 00:04:54:15
Philippa White
Wasn’t that what I think it was? Another one I can’t remember anyway. So, yes, he was my boss. Go on. Sorry I cut you off.

00:04:54:21 – 00:05:13:19
Nick Dutton
So say Darcy. Where? You know, we just met is a fortunate moment of lots of great, amazing, talented people came together. And, you know, the agency was solid, wasn’t great. But there’s a lots of amazing, amazingly talented people.

00:05:13:19 – 00:05:32:13
Philippa White
So many people. And if we think about the people that were still I mean, if I look at the people from our friendship group, I mean, they’re all extraordinary people, all doing amazing things. And we were so lucky. Like, it was a really solid group of really good and nice and smart people.

00:05:33:04 – 00:05:58:14
Nick Dutton
Yeah. And, you know, lots of amazing major leadership roles and agencies in different careers, but largely lots of great people that we all support and regard it, you know. And so it was it was a great time. And then after that, I went to how Henry and Shakil, which was great. And the sort of is the agency is slightly past its sell by date at that point, but there was still some good people around.

00:05:58:14 – 00:06:20:04
Nick Dutton
And, you know, there’s still the different ways of working. So that was good. And then I went to Euros for a bit and that’s what I did, some jaguar Volvo and then Euros. And then I think and there’s a great well, there was Darcy merged with Leo BURNETT and then it’s a Leo BURNETT for the BBDO and great.

00:06:20:04 – 00:06:36:02
Nick Dutton
So, you know, sort of the sort of tower of London land and then left it all and got just 2016 and that both combination of yesterday and a long time ago seven start of business surf business in Africa.

00:06:36:12 – 00:06:42:03
Philippa White
So before we got there, what is a memory that you have of me?

00:06:42:18 – 00:06:58:00
Nick Dutton
I just feel like I’ve got so many, but a sort of feel like there’s one. But see you at a festival that we did other than which festival it was that neither of us thought we were going to be there. I sort of turned around and they were like, Oh.

00:06:58:00 – 00:06:58:08
Philippa White
It’s like a.

00:06:58:08 – 00:06:58:19
Nick Dutton
Big a.

00:06:58:19 – 00:07:00:22
Philippa White
Big deal, you know? Yeah. Listen, I.

00:07:00:22 – 00:07:04:01
Nick Dutton
Think is it a sort of I think is it a big chill? Yeah.

00:07:04:04 – 00:07:06:15
Philippa White
You were there. I think I was there with Tyler.

00:07:06:15 – 00:07:17:00
Nick Dutton
Yeah. I think that’s my memory, which is, you know, there’s there’s other working ones, but we never had any major work dramas.

00:07:17:00 – 00:07:17:16
Philippa White
Any work.

00:07:17:22 – 00:07:50:00
Nick Dutton
You know, any clients firing us ever meeting together or anything exciting like that? No, but I think my main one is, you know, just a great sense of positive energy. And it’s a it’s a cinematic memory, more than a specific one. But yeah. So that’s why it’s it’s slightly greater, you know, find the both on this years later but doing very very fortunate you know to be in starting our own things and doing, you know, in their own way meaningful roles.

00:07:50:20 – 00:07:54:21
Nick Dutton
But outside of what we were doing, but in some ways still related to it.

00:07:55:05 – 00:08:06:18
Philippa White
Yeah, absolutely. So tell our listeners, I’d love you to explain what happened. What was the catalyst for you to jump ship?

00:08:06:21 – 00:08:32:14
Nick Dutton
Well, I guess, you know, a number of things conspire and it’s never that well, in hindsight, you can make these things sound simple, but you need 2015. I came back to South Africa on holiday and I was having a conversation with a friend of mine who owns a surf magazine. We were standing on a beach looking a lot of people surfing, and we were like, Oh, you know, just conversation about brands and well, conversation and what are we doing in our careers?

00:08:32:23 – 00:09:11:12
Nick Dutton
And I was saying, like, I’m slightly bored of advertising, want to do something else, but my job is advertising and use like for my magazine as well. I’m not sure where it’s going to go. And anyway, I thought the conversation about African surf brands standing on a long beach in public in Cape Town and had this sort of the seed of an idea, oh, starting an African surf brand and you know I’d neither of us have been in apparel e-commerce know we had nothing to do with the industry but we did have a major passion for Africa, the sea, the ocean and and I just always grown up loving brands and being interested in them

00:09:11:12 – 00:09:35:22
Nick Dutton
and what makes them work. And so in a being born in Africa, a love of Africa and this sort of this thing sort of converged the African surf brand. And then and then, you know, the reality was know a 20 year career in advertising. And I was I just wasn’t finding that challenging or exciting. I thought, you know, there’s some really great, exciting, big global jobs.

00:09:35:22 – 00:09:51:23
Nick Dutton
And but it felt like I was doing the same thing again and again. And yeah, and I just, you know, and you’ve got to be have fresh energy to it. And I think or I think you’ve either got to own your business and then you’ve got then you’re in a different thing. You’re running your business happens to be in advertising.

00:09:52:08 – 00:10:18:03
Nick Dutton
But if you don’t have enough, you don’t own an agency, then it’s a different, you know, then you’re working incredibly hard and you know, you’re not getting any of the value. This is my perspective. And I think, you know, you get to a point where you’ve got to go as one. And I love creativity, I love ideas. I love to love marketing, I love the creating stuff, but it’s so still everything.

00:10:18:03 – 00:10:23:02
Nick Dutton
I love the advertising I still love, but I was just bored of doing it in an emphasizing company.

00:10:23:08 – 00:10:25:08
Philippa White
So tell us about Mummy Water.

00:10:25:12 – 00:10:48:18
Nick Dutton
Yeah, well, the name the name means Mother Water. And in West Africa, it’s sort of the mermaid figure with the surf and it’s called Mummy Water and it’s pidgin English, mummy water, mother water. And she is the sea spirits and those who believe in her believe that if you go into the ocean and she takes you to be her lover and you survive, you’ll come back and be better looking and more successful.

00:10:49:04 – 00:11:09:20
Nick Dutton
So. So this. Yeah, that whole thing is everybody needs to top up and but you know, it’s got this great story about transformation and about the sea and also some wonderful African storytelling to it, you know, but children who grew up in West Africa that parents will go don’t go near the sea, otherwise mummy water will get you.

00:11:10:03 – 00:11:30:04
Nick Dutton
You know this thing? Yeah. You know, it can be a warning of this rip. She represents, like, both the dangers and the traction and amazing stuff of the sea, the duality of it, sort of life, giving nature. And it’s like life taking nature. But the idea to call the brand that was, you know, I’ll take one step back.

00:11:30:19 – 00:12:06:11
Nick Dutton
At the same time, when I had this conversation with my friend Andy about South African surf brand, I saw an African iced tea brand bus iced tea, which is really popular in South Africa. And it had amazing design and I love design and a wonderful packaging. And it’s the sort of for me, great brands will take people into a category they didn’t think about being in or want to be a, you know why some do get like a big car into a mini because of what it says about them and then have all these people drinking iced tea and they weren’t drinking it before, but the design was just amazing.

00:12:06:20 – 00:12:26:20
Nick Dutton
And then you it turns out Andy knew the designer of that he’d done some magazines with and he said, Look, we must try to paint to see if he wants to get involved. And so Andy sent me a message on Facebook, and it was living in Medellin, Colombia, at the time. But he said, I want to do an African surf brand.

00:12:26:20 – 00:12:28:02
Nick Dutton
And then it was like, Great.

00:12:28:08 – 00:12:30:20
Philippa White
Oh, well, so let’s see the designer.

00:12:31:02 – 00:12:32:18
Nick Dutton
Yeah. So the feels.

00:12:33:07 – 00:12:34:04
Philippa White
Really.

00:12:34:20 – 00:12:53:10
Nick Dutton
Said and he, he’s been very fortunate before this to work with a couple of amazing people, but it’s a phenomenal world class, amazing, original creative thinker and doer and strategist and stuff that is incredibly sort of in a lucky bounce, you know.

00:12:53:11 – 00:12:58:24
Philippa White
CHANCE So how many people are there partners at the at Miami Water?

00:12:58:24 – 00:13:22:08
Nick Dutton
Well, the venture gives us is the three co-founders. And then just after we launched a guy called Caelum, a massive killer, his father was it was Hugh Masekela, who is a globally renowned trumpet and horn player who lived in exile during apartheid, then lives in New York and Salama was born in the States but grew up in Venice, but was big in action sports.

00:13:22:08 – 00:13:45:09
Nick Dutton
And he when he saw our brand film, we sort of got connected and he was just like, you know, he’s African American. And he said, like, nobody is. I’ve been in the surf industry 20 years and, you know, nobody no brand is ever spoken to me before in a way that you have in terms of like representation, but also Africa anyway.

00:13:45:09 – 00:14:04:11
Nick Dutton
So he and he’s very connected and he’s been like he’s the voice of action sports for ESPN and the X Games. So funny, we are on our journey meeting people who grew up watching the X Games and Solomons voice was the comment and said, Oh my God, I’ve lifted your voice. But you know, he’s got an amazing voice.

00:14:05:01 – 00:14:12:07
Nick Dutton
And so he joined us about six months after. So we’re the three the four co-founders, then we’ve got a number of other shareholders.

00:14:12:07 – 00:14:37:19
Philippa White
And so so let’s back up just a little bit because you touched on basically the essence of money water when you when you said the reason why he got him on board, because you were the only surf brand that spoke to him. Maybe you can tell a little bit. I mean, you’re South African. Maybe just touch on where this came from and why, what your how you’re a challenger brand.

00:14:38:07 – 00:14:38:17
Philippa White
What do you.

00:14:38:17 – 00:15:02:18
Nick Dutton
Challenge? Yeah, well, I guess what we’re challenging, you know, the norms of the category and says grown up the surf industries blown up with a sort of Californian Australian brand story because that’s where a lot of surf culture did come from. And that’s ultimate sort of largely. We always say that where the opportunity for us is, you know, those brands all look exactly the same.

00:15:02:22 – 00:15:28:15
Nick Dutton
You know, they’ve got the same design esthetic from the same designers and they’ve sort of got a California Australian sort of surf vibe to it. And the opportunity for us came around a number of things. One of which was is very practical. You walk into a surf shop, I wouldn’t buy any of that stuff. You need to have brands like Billabong, Quiksilver, Rip Curl, you know, slightly like these old tired surf brands.

00:15:28:23 – 00:16:06:18
Nick Dutton
And there’s also just no differentiation between them, even if you’ve got like new brands like Volcom and Hurley. But if you get into a surf shop, it all looks the same. And actually people outside the surf don’t really want to wear, you know, just those brands aren’t cool. It’s a really interesting thing if you look at like what’s happened in skate, you look at brands, you know, like Sushi and the projects they get involved in, like working with your Supreme Worth and LVMH like Skate Brands or Palace Skate is cool, and these brands are doing really interesting things, whereas none of those brands that those brands live in is the echo chamber.

00:16:07:05 – 00:16:25:14
Nick Dutton
But part of that, you know, they all look the same manufacturing, the same factories in Asia. And also none of the companies are doing any interesting things. They’ve all been bought out by private equity firms. You know, it’s the big corporates that want to sell loads of t shirts and watch the WCL and just live in that space.

00:16:25:14 – 00:16:43:20
Nick Dutton
And for us, when we started this, it was around a love of Africa. All three of us were born in Africa, a love of design, and also a desire to make create a company that was doing good. And, you know, a lot of people that big purpose led. But that for us is was essential to what we wanted to do.

00:16:43:20 – 00:17:06:18
Nick Dutton
And that is based on, as the three initial founders, a lot of the issues we’ve got that people have with Africa and we wanted to challenge people’s perceptions about Africa. And so our thing was, right, let’s make a story. You know, people, associations with Africa, disease, crime, AIDS, corruption, war, because that’s what the news cycle is. But there’s so much more to it.

00:17:06:18 – 00:17:35:16
Nick Dutton
And frankly, I think the world’s hypocritical around a lot of those things. But they Africa doesn’t get a story. So we were like, well, we want to create a brand that tells an honest story about Africa, one rooted in African surf culture, as Africa is the final frontier of surf. You know, it’s got all of these surf locations that developed and it’s also got its own surf culture that isn’t being reflected at all in in these other brands.

00:17:35:16 – 00:17:56:09
Nick Dutton
If you wanted to be a surfer before, the idea was to have blond hair, blue eyes, to be from California or Australia. And so how does that speak to a young kid from Mozambique or a black kid from a township in South Africa? And so the amazing thing about Africa is, is actually Africa’s diversity. And so, you know, some people say, you know, black surf brand said they were an African surf brand.

00:17:56:19 – 00:18:15:03
Nick Dutton
And we want to represent that breadth and diversity in our brands also got like almost proportional representation. And as we’ll touch on our book in a bit, but, you know, it’s largely black because, you know, the Mandela talks about the rainbow nation is a rainbow. It’s a rainbow largely with blacks and browns, but there are whites and banks and other colors within it.

00:18:15:05 – 00:18:41:19
Nick Dutton
So for us, it was about creating a brand that captured the diversity of African surf culture and all the exciting parts of it. But I guess one of the things that developed when we started it, we weren’t. We just wanted to create an African surf brand. The initial conversations with 2015 and then into 2016, you know, we were wanted to change perceptions, but you know, you started with three white African founders.

00:18:41:19 – 00:19:12:20
Nick Dutton
We didn’t have a black perspective within that. So what happened when Solomon joined said, Look at what he brought more into our conversations. This is the only time you said why what you’re doing is meaningful and why it means a lot to him. You know, we approached this just with love and positive energy, but not really understanding in a deep way to our firsthand way what it meant to be black in a surfer or brown in a surf, and what representation meant.

00:19:12:20 – 00:19:49:23
Nick Dutton
So so that’s actually been a journey for us as well as we’ve navigated. You know, when you’re building a brand, it’s got so much to it. And when just when you’re starting one, you’re just chipping away at stuff and working out find what it’s going to mean and what how it should express itself. And, and then, you know, and then we’ve got really exciting meta issues around diversity and you know, for us for what it means to be a white African doing this, you know, how what you’re doing, you know, how do you make sure that this whole thing is balanced in an equitable way that people will go, right?

00:19:49:23 – 00:20:23:20
Nick Dutton
What you’re doing is good and representative and notable and authentic. But we’ve all we’ve just said, right. Well, with that, there are real issues in the world, but when it comes to things like let’s not skate around it, let’s just sort of go into it. And part of it is what we don’t want to discuss these things, but we’ll actually let’s let’s get into it and work out what it means and and have an open conversation around some of the issues on all of the issues and work out to sort of, you know, move forward in it.

00:20:23:23 – 00:20:42:05
Philippa White
So the last time we met each other in person was just before COVID hit. It was in January, I think of 2020. Yes, it would have been January 2020 when we were in Covent Garden and you were about to go to Milan for a fashion show. What was that?

00:20:43:05 – 00:20:54:17
Nick Dutton
We’d been approached by Moncler to do a collab and I was came once again. I was getting, I was going to see Moncler and and do something else. I can’t remember what else it was.

00:20:54:18 – 00:21:17:07
Philippa White
But yeah, I can’t remember what it was. They said you did have a couple of meetings and you had your bag of shirts and I got this as a guest when we met, which is what we went to. And I remember the conversation just catching up on life. And you were feeling, you know, you knew you were on to something, but you were feeling a little bit unsure about things.

00:21:17:07 – 00:21:35:23
Philippa White
It sort of felt like a bit of a funny time. Obviously, this was just before COVID, so this wasn’t even a thing really that we were talking about. It was more just the the evolution of the brand. And I remember you just you were you were just feeling unsure. And then COVID hit. And I remember thinking of you actually as I was struggling.

00:21:35:23 – 00:21:52:19
Philippa White
And, you know, it was, you know, hugely challenging for Ty. But I did think of you quite a bit, actually, just thinking, oh my God, I wonder how Nick is doing, because I knew that things were really, you know, even at a funny moment. Talk to us about what happened.

00:21:52:22 – 00:22:11:07
Nick Dutton
Yeah, well, I guess that at that that time and this is anybody that’s done a start up, it’s an absolute journey. You know, you hear of these amazing startups and they’re out there, the brands that suddenly stood up within three or four years, they suddenly doing hundreds of millions, you know, worth billions, etc.. You know, that hasn’t been our journey.

00:22:11:23 – 00:22:35:13
Nick Dutton
We went into an industry we knew nothing about, but none of us had been in clothing, e-commerce, manufacturing, export. And so my son’s. What would you have done if you knew? But maybe not, then we would have achieved a but. But at that point, you know, we had struggled and one of our challenges has been being based out of Africa and trying to get investors and corporate structure.

00:22:35:21 – 00:22:56:06
Nick Dutton
So we were at that point looking at, you know, a bit about how do we how do we structure this in a direction? Is it going to go in and how do we get investors on board? So, you know, we had lots of heat and energy around what we’re doing, but, you know, you need capital to grow and we get we haven’t got that locked in yet.

00:22:56:06 – 00:23:13:23
Nick Dutton
And we had a few things looming. But, you know, you learn it’s never on until it’s on, but it’s never in the bank until it’s in the bank. So that was where where we were. And I think, you know, you go in energy cycles as well around that. And so I think that we we were looking at, you know, what could happen.

00:23:13:23 – 00:23:23:04
Nick Dutton
But then and then COVID hit and, you know, the the joy of not joy. But, you know, with all that hindsight now is probably the best thing that ever happened to us.

00:23:23:08 – 00:23:28:02
Philippa White
So talk to a lot of it’s it’s huge. I don’t even know where you going to start but.

00:23:28:03 – 00:23:46:13
Nick Dutton
Well well, I guess I’ll start that for the first month we all were like the that’s the end of that. You know, we were for all the, you know, when nobody really knew what shape COVID was going to be and what was going to happen. But it felt like this apocalypse and also South Africa went into immediate hard lockdown.

00:23:46:13 – 00:24:06:06
Nick Dutton
It was hard. I was like, yeah, you know, you couldn’t leave your house and stuff. But they are smart. It’s a bit like, Well, you know what’s going to happen here. And then after a month when the dust settled but we were like, okay, least of all views, founders is like, let’s just there’s energy around what we’re doing.

00:24:06:06 – 00:24:22:20
Nick Dutton
We haven’t really managed to get to like export in the scale or what was the core of the business. So we said to our investors that Will you just help us keep the lights on for six months? And then all of all we had all these great orders going out the door, 85% of them canceled in three days.

00:24:23:08 – 00:24:48:03
Nick Dutton
And so we sort of had stock, no money, and that was going to that money was going to keep us going for another six months. And suddenly we had our sales council no no cash flow, no money. And so we said to our investors, look, will you help us keep the lights on for six months? And we just said, look, we’re absolutely committed to leaving with more momentum than we’ve got.

00:24:48:03 – 00:25:11:07
Nick Dutton
Now, look, we’ve all done this. Let three in a bit before three of is amazing media people are excited but and so they all said okay I’ll chipped in a bit and then we got really reduced already lean overheads further and then we had this idea we’d always spoken about doing a book and so we said, Look, let’s do the book.

00:25:11:10 – 00:25:38:23
Nick Dutton
And we said, Got no money. How are we get to how are we going to do that? So the idea we had was to do a book. I named a coffee table book on African surf culture and we’d done a Kickstarter the year before where we raise money for a to build a clubhouse for waves to change the surf therapy organization in Harper, Liberia, which doesn’t see where you go to buy a range of clothing through Kickstarter and then all the money build this thing in Liberia.

00:25:38:23 – 00:25:59:08
Nick Dutton
So we had the experience of Kickstarter, so we said, Let’s do a coffee table book with surf culture. And we said, We do it on Kickstarter. We said, We’ve got a budget of $2,000 to do the marketing. We said that the minimum we need to raise to make the book was ¬£30,000 and we did the Kickstarter me raise that 90,000.

00:25:59:08 – 00:26:25:14
Nick Dutton
So it was so suddenly we then had to make a book. And I think one of the ideas we said and we had four months to do it, so we went from getting the money in four months in total. So this is like July and we said we’ve got to ship it in November. And we had the define it now as we had the, the powerful constraints of no time, no money, and we couldn’t travel.

00:26:26:01 – 00:26:26:10
Philippa White
Yeah.

00:26:26:20 – 00:26:56:15
Nick Dutton
And we were like, how do we get like the photographers? But those constraints totally shaped the book and we ended up getting like 60 contributors from around the continent, photographers, writers. And it creates this sense of, well, just diversity in creative content, storytelling, different flavors, different types of photography. And and it also in this mad time of COVID first six months, you know, it gave us a real sense of purpose as a team on that.

00:26:56:15 – 00:27:09:16
Nick Dutton
And then Piers is amazing design. And by the time it came out, we printed 2000 copies. We’d already got a global publishing deal with Penguin Random House, who we sent a proof to.

00:27:09:16 – 00:27:12:13
Philippa White
And you know, by the way, you can get it on Amazon.

00:27:12:24 – 00:27:43:05
Nick Dutton
It’s on Amazon yet muddy water. Yeah, we do Mombasa Afro surf it comes up and you know and it just that created a pocket of air for us to stabilize ourselves. We then started selling off the stock. We had just the low levels to any revenue that that came in but we’re still fairly businesses bootstrapping in terms of super lead and that sort of kept kept going.

00:27:43:05 – 00:28:13:08
Nick Dutton
And then while that happened with this restructure that we’ve been wanting to do to set up a holding company in the UK as an investment thing came through so suddenly we were we had the right structure to get investors on board and, and the book just, just went on fire. We were in like the garden height these days, you know, just dream, dream PR and it just gave us it was just it just brought so much light and attention to the brand and interest in it.

00:28:13:08 – 00:28:30:02
Nick Dutton
And so it meant we had a really good story when we finally said, right, let’s go to investors. We went to Crowd Cube, you know, we went we’ve done some really cool stuff and really interesting people involved and amazing media. And I mean, the other thing that happened also obviously during that year of lockdown was Black Lives Matter.

00:28:31:10 – 00:28:42:00
Nick Dutton
So the whole thing around people going representation, diversity suddenly also you think of an African surf brand and it just sort of just amazed.

00:28:42:00 – 00:28:45:17
Philippa White
Me then it just makes sense globally, right? I mean, the world needs it.

00:28:45:21 – 00:29:22:07
Nick Dutton
And it’s it’s and so all of these things, none of it had happened before. So suddenly we’ve got the cultural context of the brand and where we’re living and the world shifted. We had the book, and then so suddenly and then we did. Can No Crowd keep crowdfunding at the start? Well, in like May of this year and and blew that out of the water so suddenly we’ve now got funds have got my sort of analogy is we’ve got we’ve got a rucksack full of supplies, a map, and we know where we can see the you, the light through the trees, we know where we’re going, you know.

00:29:22:07 – 00:29:28:24
Nick Dutton
So I’m not there yet, but definitely swimming with the tide now and again. We’ve got so many amazing things in the pipeline.

00:29:28:24 – 00:29:48:11
Philippa White
And I mean, necessity is the mother of invention, right? I talk about that so much with time and I just feel it’s just so true. And I remember actually in January, that was when you you told me about the obstacle is the way I just figured. Yeah. You just completely showed that that is actually the case. Is it okay.

00:29:49:00 – 00:30:09:14
Nick Dutton
If it isn’t? And if I look at the thing, it’s a diary of going back to South Africa news that Gulf has had more practice. The luckier we get, it’s, you know, you can you can plan for some amazing things and some of them. But a big thing has been more some amazing like lucky bounces of things that have happened.

00:30:09:18 – 00:30:29:19
Nick Dutton
And like, you know, our biggest investor now is this American guy that had come to had come to our shop in South Africa. Yeah. And fallen in love with the brand is a lovely guy and he’s like he’s in his view is like, you get such great things as he goes. You think you need America. He goes, I think America.

00:30:30:16 – 00:30:47:05
Philippa White
I couldn’t agree more. That’s great. That’s exactly the kind of person that needs to be involved, because you’re just going to attract so many more people that see that. Oh, that’s just really great. Tell us, you know, what have been some of the biggest surprise since you started good and bad?

00:30:47:11 – 00:31:19:02
Nick Dutton
I think the the biggest surprises. It’s been a lot, as anybody will tell you. You know, when you start with you’re sort of entrepreneurial idea, you get what I call sort of entrepreneurial reality distortion glasses. Like you’re like, hey, you know, like the first three boxes of stock we made, we never sold any of it. Like, Yeah, I had this chart and this is you having this chart and these wife going, you get the silver and I’m like, Well, we launch this month, we sell 20%, 30%.

00:31:19:15 – 00:31:45:01
Nick Dutton
And then and then all of and then she’s she’s like, well, that’s quite ambitious. You just said, you know, you’re so caught up in your excitement for why the world needs whatever your idea is. And so I sort of say, you people like love our brand and it’s great and and I love it as well. And, but the bit you see, it really is the the iceberg on the top.

00:31:45:11 – 00:32:16:24
Nick Dutton
Underneath that is a vast amount of failures, learnings, mistakes, missteps. And so of the learnings, just how long certainly it can take and how hard, how hard that is and the amount of energy and stuff you need and how much you’re willing to risk for that of of Elon Musk’s biography or Musk’s really he’s got a line in that that resonated with me and he just said and he’s just amazing.

00:32:16:24 – 00:32:42:24
Nick Dutton
But he had this line and he just said, I mean, just I knew I was prepared to go and live with my mum again, with my kids and my wife to make this happen. And, you know, it hasn’t been that far for us, but if you get into though, you get into those situations and you’ve got to just have as the bit of the appetite for that sort of level of risk.

00:32:42:24 – 00:32:48:18
Nick Dutton
My wife is you know, I did mention her as a co-founder, but she’s been essential to this chili.

00:32:48:18 – 00:32:52:09
Philippa White
A huge shout out. I know you’re going to be listeners. I love to we I work for you.

00:32:54:05 – 00:33:20:19
Nick Dutton
You know she got involved so but the highs of it are better than I thought. And I guess the highs of it, the the lows are worse or worse. But it’s it’s I’m I feel it’s probably been the most challenging four or five years of my life, but the most rewarding and yeah. And so for me, the risk was more in not doing it than in doing it.

00:33:20:19 – 00:33:39:02
Nick Dutton
Like always thought was in a point when you’re discussing something like this rather than go, right, we’re going to do it or our way. And at some point you got to step off the ledge and just remember that moment. I was just like, If I don’t do it at any level, you know what would need to happen for me to do, to do?

00:33:39:02 – 00:33:46:16
Nick Dutton
And I said, Look, great people, it’s something that I love loads that we don’t know and love. Spend it, be an adventure.

00:33:46:21 – 00:33:49:02
Philippa White
Is there a story that stands out, I.

00:33:49:02 – 00:34:06:17
Nick Dutton
Guess at the birth when you get moments like when our film came out with a book came out and people go, Oh shit, that’s really what you’re doing is pretty amazing. I love it. And your brain means a lot. You know, we’ve had people email us and go, You know, why? Why? Your brand’s really important to me and that’s really nice.

00:34:06:17 – 00:34:22:20
Nick Dutton
And when we do, you know, we work with these surf surf therapy organizations that are doing unbelievably amazing and really effective work and anything we can do to support them and how much those guys appreciate and benefit from where, you know, we’re able to help them.

00:34:23:03 – 00:34:26:11
Philippa White
Where do you see Miami Water in ten years?

00:34:26:16 – 00:34:48:04
Nick Dutton
And I’ll see us in ten years. Well, I see us in a few places around the world on really dark days when I when I’ve been having to motivate myself, I’ve always got this thing. Imagine opening a store in Japan. I don’t know. I see it being a really big, impactful global brand, you know, ideas about smart African surf lodges.

00:34:48:04 – 00:34:50:11
Nick Dutton
So they’ll be one of those.

00:34:50:11 – 00:34:52:13
Philippa White
Yeah, right. But there’s only.

00:34:53:01 – 00:35:19:20
Nick Dutton
So you can see how it folds out. But I think an ambition for me is when people represent or talk about, you know, the apples, the nights, etc., that we want our brand in that space to be a bit to be more of a reference point. But I’d love it to conversations with the intersection of like a Nick and Patagonia, where people reference us from being like a purpose led business in terms of, right, look at what they’re doing.

00:35:19:20 – 00:35:39:12
Nick Dutton
You know, we’ve given all, for example, with the book, all the profits and the rights have gone to waves for change and surfers, not street children. So we look at what can we be doing about being a creative force for good to deliver for those organizations? And, you know, as we grow, we’ve got to think about who do we employ in Africa?

00:35:39:12 – 00:36:00:15
Nick Dutton
And, you know, we employ some people that have come up through those organizations. So that’s something that is really, really exciting. So I’d like to be a reference for well, look at this business. This isn’t some old business. It’s a sort of bolt on some purpose. It’s we’ve grown up with it and how that manifests itself. And it’s a creative perspective.

00:36:01:04 – 00:36:24:06
Nick Dutton
We want people to have a reference us to the sort of creative process, the quality brand and the over time. I’ve got a slight anecdote which is relating to our book and some a connection of a connection, bizarrely, and it was having a conversation with Bill Gates about an about our book. It’s a long story. That’s the short bit.

00:36:24:15 – 00:37:08:03
Nick Dutton
And he said, Hey, I’ve got this this African surf brand and this book. And Bill Gates, his thing was, here’s the thing Africa needs is African brands, because he goes, you know, people’s perception of America is being informed by trillions of dollars, of marketing of of brands that represent family, hope, Disney, McDonald’s, friendship. All of these attributes that we associate with America, if you strip that off and then your perception of America is based on its diplomacy or domestic policies, you gave us a bit of a shit place, but but actually so he’s like, the world needs African brands to start getting the broader perception and just not the news cycle perception, let’s say, for,

00:37:08:10 – 00:37:36:18
Nick Dutton
say for me. And there’s this you’ll see in the book, one of the surfers from Ghana is opening line. And his profile is, yes, I want people to understand that Africa is a great place, not just a place of poor people and disease. And he is I want to do that through surfing. And so that’s say, in ten years time, in our own minuscule way, can we help reframe people’s perceptions of Africa?

00:37:36:18 – 00:37:56:22
Nick Dutton
That would be great. And that for me. But then also hopefully, you know, because starting brands is really difficult, but hopefully this other athlete will be other amazing African brands coming out. And actually the landscape, if you talk about brands in the category, won’t just be the known Western brands, they’ll be a mix of other brands in there.

00:37:56:22 – 00:37:59:00
Nick Dutton
And Naomi Watts will be one of those.

00:37:59:05 – 00:38:15:21
Philippa White
Yeah, you because we’re coming to the end of the podcast. But I do want to just talk very quickly about ways for change because I know that they’re an important part of your work. And I’m just keen to understand and for our listeners to understand what’s the relationship, how does that work? What what’s the collaboration there?

00:38:16:00 – 00:38:42:11
Nick Dutton
Yeah, so, so when we first started and we had a connection with Tim is that guys started ways to change and Ways to change as a therapy organization based out of Cape Town. And they were a target of the Laureus Sports Awards. They had won the Global Award for Best Effective Sports Development Program, but they run it. They put 1600 children a year through a surf surf therapy program.

00:38:42:15 – 00:39:09:19
Nick Dutton
But that surf therapy program is being developed by some psychologists. And it is really, really effective taking children that grow up in really traumatic environments and give them a sense of belonging, but also social skills to deal with stuff. You know, their stats are like an average Western child will experience one or two traumatic incidents in their lives when they’re 18, you know, like the death of a parent seeing it.

00:39:09:19 – 00:39:30:00
Nick Dutton
Really gnarly accident, that sort of thing. These kids see on average one a month like I’ve been somewhere. The guy’s like, Oh, yeah, we saw somebody get shot this morning, you know? And so they’re living in incredibly traumatic environments. But this group, like once a week since they go and they surf for a couple of hours and the program is just phenomenal.

00:39:30:00 – 00:39:52:08
Nick Dutton
And so we’re involved them, you know, we help them. We do uniforms for the coaches. We’ve raised money in a number of different ways, but we built the clubhouse for them in half Liberia. And they’ve got a program that’s going to grow through Africa. And we’re supporting that. So they’re the funds from the book are going to a thing called the Wave Alliance, which helps them set up these programs around the continent.

00:39:52:23 – 00:39:59:22
Nick Dutton
But it also goes to surf. Is not street children who are an organization and then also surf therapy, a slightly different model.

00:40:00:00 – 00:40:04:22
Philippa White
Listen, what haven’t I asked you that you’d like to tell our listeners? Because we have come to the end.

00:40:05:23 – 00:40:28:08
Nick Dutton
For our website. It’s a discount list. The discount, I don’t know. I think we’ve touched on it. But please, you know, this has been interesting. They just go and check us out, follow us on Instagram. Or if you’ve got a made a made in Africa with an African content product, give it a go. But I think we’ve.

00:40:28:19 – 00:40:33:07
Philippa White
Where can people so if I if I live anywhere in the world, can I buy your.

00:40:33:21 – 00:40:52:13
Nick Dutton
Yeah, yeah. So we’ve got a website and we’re a website that does UK and Europe stop there and then we’ve got a we’re launching the big thing for us is launching into America at the end of September. So we’ve set up a warehouse website, you know, we’re shipping Slack, Nordstrom and Socks and all.

00:40:52:13 – 00:41:00:23
Philippa White
The comfort of your new office in Cape Town to told throughout and ordinary isn’t it? It’s extraordinary.

00:41:01:02 – 00:41:03:08
Nick Dutton
It is extraordinary.

00:41:03:18 – 00:41:10:05
Philippa White
Yeah I hear being based in Brazil but yeah the struggle is real for ordinary extraordinary.

00:41:10:05 – 00:41:13:12
Nick Dutton
The struggle is real.

00:41:13:12 – 00:41:25:04
Philippa White
It has been so good to connect with you. Thank you for taking the time because I know obviously launching your US store in a in a few weeks life is busy and I know life is busy, so thank you for taking the time to chat.

00:41:25:08 – 00:41:28:10
Nick Dutton
No, I think what you’re doing is amazing. So super happy to chat.

00:41:28:23 – 00:41:31:12
Philippa White
Amazing. Listen, thank you. And until next time.

00:41:32:04 – 00:41:32:20
Nick Dutton
So thank you.

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