Mark Clayton Q&A: Ex-NFL wideout talks creating headphone company
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Former University of Oklahoma standout and ex-NFL wide receiver Mark Clayton retired from professional football in 2011 after a seven-year career with the St. Louis Rams and Baltimore Ravens. Like other retired athletes, the 34-year-old Clayton has turned to entrepreneurship.
Clayton is currently running a startup company called LIVV, a wireless headphone brand designed specifically for athletes.
After Clayton’s headphones kept falling off during practices and workouts throughout his playing days, he wanted to create a better alternative to the traditional headphones. LIVV was born shortly after his retirement three years ago.
The Oklahoma City native recently discussed with SportTechie how he utilized Kickstarter to raise capital for LIVV, what differentiates the product, how he is marketing the headphones on social media and his advice to other athletes looking to start their own businesses.
SportTechie: You utilized Kickstarter to initially get the company going, raising close to $120,000 from 620-plus backers. Why did you decide to use Kickstarter to get LIVV off the ground? What was that experience like for you?
Mark Clayton: We used Kickstarter because we were looking for a couple different things: validate the model headphone we had, raise some capital and listen to feedback and any ideas that we haven’t thought of. It was a solid experience. The feedback and thoughts we received from the backers and other project managers was very valuable.
ST: Where did the product design come from? Did you design them yourself or solicit services of a product designer/engineer? How did you select that person/company?
MC: I was able to get the design phase started with some sketches that I started with while playing with the St. Louis Rams at the time. I took the sketches and through a good friend, connected with a designer and a very good engineer to take what I had and bring it to life! Relationships are what fueled the product development stage to get to our first working prototype.
ST: How did you land on the name LIVV for the company?
MC: LIVV came from me thinking about what the headphones allowed me to do. When I thought about what I felt with the prototype I had on in 2013 and the ability to move freely without restrictions, the word “live” came to mind because I felt like I was free to do just that. Then as I went to trademark and start the company with that name, we found out there was a company with the name spelled like that. We changed the spelling to “LIVV” and were able to keep it.
ST: How are the LIVV headphones different from others like Beats by Dre, Bose and Skullcandy? What are their defining features?
MC: The core defining features for our headphones are:
1. We have the only over-ear headphones in the world that will stay on your head when you do some serious training or moving.
2. Our headphones are IP67 rated.
3. We give you the option to upload a playlist to the headphones with our onboard storage capabilities and listen to your music without a phone.
4. Our earpads are removable.
ST: What type of consumer are the headphones geared towards and why?
MC: LIVV is created for the active lifestyle, for anyone who loves full, immersive, loud and clear music while working out and training.
ST: How have you leveraged social/digital media into marketing the product?
MC: We are getting ready to launch our digital ad campaign. Our goal is to create engaging static graphics that make people look twice and grab their attention. Instagram and Facebook are our main focus for engagement to generate traffic for our product.
ST: What 2 to 4 pieces of advice would you give current or former athletes looking to start their own businesses?
MC: 1. It’s going to take longer than you expect. Be patient and diligent throughout the process.
2. Try to figure out quickly through feedback from people not in your circle if what you’re thinking about doing is viable.
3. You have a natural network from playing a sport. Connect with people you know to see if they have someone they can vouch for that is in the industry you want to get into. This minimizes the chances of getting taken advantage of.
4. Have fun! Things will go wrong, that’s a part of it. It’s risky business, but at the end of the day, you’ve got to enjoy what you’re doing.