OK! Kimonos is a newly launched BJJ gi company that is carving out a niche in the kids market. Founder Brendan Hufford answered our questions about this new endeavor and how wants to do bigger things than make nicer pajamas for kids to run around in.
So what was wrong with kids gis?
I think that right now there isn’t necessarily wrong with kids gis. Lots of companies make “good” kids gis. The problem is that in order to buy your kid a “great” kids gi, you have to be really wealthy.
Great kids gis with ripstop pants, special gussets, contrast stitching, embroidery, patches, etc. are all priced around $150. Who can afford $150 every few months when your kids outgrow their old gi?
To me, that’s just unacceptable. I think that BJJ gis for kids need to be affordable and high quality. Why shouldn’t parents be able to buy a great gi at a reasonable price?
What do you guys do better?
My aim is to better on two fronts: the gi itself, and the support that goes along with it.
I recently polled thousands of BJJ parents about what they look for in kids gis. Based on those results, I put together a gi that I think kids are going to love. The first model we are releasing really addresses the real concerns of BJJ kids and parents: it keeps kids cool, prevents scratching, the pants stay tied, and parents are able to save money through our gi buyback program.
In addition, I think a lot of companies really miss out on opportunities to make customers happy. Customer happiness is my number one goal and I feel very strongly that nobody cares about their customers as much as I do.
Last, I think that we provide the most value for BJJ parents. Not only in the form of gis and customer service, but also in helping parents improve their kids’ experience with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I started a website called BJJParents.com to that aim. My goal is to provide as much helpful advice for parents and coaches as possible regardless of whether or not people ever buy a gi from me.
What’s different about the approach to designing for kids?
I think kids want two things in the design of a gi: they want to have all the cool features their parents gis have, but they also want something that is fun!
When I first approached Meerkatsu (Seymour Yang) about working with him to design our first gi, we decided early on that we would put those two aspects above everything else. And let’s be honest, Meerkatsu did some amazing work and really crushed it with this design (but then again, I’m biased haha).
When designing a kids BJJ gi, you also need to take into account that kids needs are very different from the needs of adults. Kids may not be able to express what those needs are, but their parents have been really helpful in providing guidance. I feel incredibly fortunate for all of the emails, facebook/twitter messages, and message board responses that I received from parents that have helped design our gis.
I really owe them a giant THANK YOU because without the input of all of the parents (and their kids!), our gis wouldn’t be as awesome as they are!
How does the gi exchange work?
The gi exchange is actually something that we do at the academy that I train at. I love how parents can trade in a gently used (clean) gi to get another gi for very little cost.
This is great because, as I mentioned, most kids grow out of gis before they destroy them.
I wanted to bring that same mentality to Ok Kimonos not only to help parents with cost, but also to help gather up gis to send to Drive-In’s kids BJJ project in Rio de Janeiro.
I’ve been extremely passionate about helping the project ever since I first saw it on the Real Rio Show video of Christian Graugart’s BJJ Globetrotter trip.
[Brendan sent along Christian Graugart’s photos of the academy to give people a better idea where these gis are going.]
All that a parent has to do is send me an email at OkKimonos@gmail.com with what size and style gi they want to donate to the project. Then, I’ll give them a 20% off discount code to use in our online store at http://www.OkKimonos.com.
While I realize that this may be a logistical nightmare for me, I’m extremely determined to make this work for the parents and kids that enjoy and buy OK! Kimonos, and also for the kids that it will benefit in Rio!
Is there anything else we can do to support the kids in Rio?
Absolutely! Beyond trading in your used kids gis, you can support Drive In directly by e-mailing him at email@example.com. While my project will be able to help supply kids with uniforms to train in, competitions still cost a good deal of money, so they are always on the lookout for sponsors.
Right now, Drive-In has to pay for everything himself. The kids train for free as long as they present good school attendance cards and he pays for all of the tournaments themselves. They are one of the strongest youth teams in the world and I think in our hands we hold a very real chance to make a difference for Drive-In’s students.