#073: Rhone – Co-Founder And CEO Nate Checketts

Wednesday August 31, 2022

Athleisure is one the fastest growing and most competitive retail segments. The days of suits and tight jeans have passed. Fran Racioppi heads to New York City to sit down with Nate Checketts, Co-Founder and CEO of Rhone.

Built on the mantra “we aren’t just selling a product, we are selling a lifestyle,” Fran and Nate discuss the three pillars of Rhone, building brand loyalty, the importance of intentionality, goals, standards and holding ourselves accountable to metrics. 

Nate and Rhone are also unrelenting supporters of men’s mental health and reducing the stigmas around a man’s ability to be open, vulnerable and in need. Fran and Nate dig deep on the importance of being there for each other and accepting that it’s ok to not be ok. Plus, Fran sticks around for Rhone’s first Mind and Muscle Event.

Learn more about Nate and Rhone at, @rhone and @natechecketts

Read the full episode transcription here and learn more on The Jedburgh Podcast Website. Check out the full video version on YouTube.

Listen to the podcast here


About Nate Checketts

TJP 73 | RhoneNate Checketts is the Co-Founder & CEO of Rhone, a premium men’s performance lifestyle company founded in 2014. Prior to Rhone, Nate worked for and consulted with some of the  biggest technology and entertainment properties in the world including Cisco, The National Football League, Legends, FanVision and Sport Radar.

Nate is also an avid entrepreneur who founded and launched  4 companies before the age of 30, including Rhone and Mangia Technologies, whose patents were later acquired by the San Francisco 49ers. In addition to Rhone, Nate also serves as Chairman of the Board to Beyond Type 1, a non-profit dedicated to the community of those with Type 1 Diabetes. Nate graduated from Brigham Young  University with a BA in Finance.


Rhone – Co-Founder And CEO Nate Checketts

Athleisure is one of the fastest-growing and most competitive retail segments. The past few years have fundamentally shifted the way we think about our comfort and how we dress. For many of us, the days of suits and tight jeans have passed. They have for me. I want it to function. I want it to last and I want it to look good.

For this episode, I took the drive into Manhattan early on a Saturday. For me, this is the best time of day in the city. The sun’s still coming up. The city that never sleeps is taking a power nap as it winds down from a late Friday and it preps for the summer tourists. I travel to Fifth Avenue in the heart of the Flatiron District to sit down with Nate Checketts, Cofounder and CEO of Rhone.

In the center of their flagship store, Nate and I discuss Rhone and how he concept it while working at the NFL. Nate explains Rhone’s promise to help us move Forever Forward and the three pillars Rhone is grounded in, which are supreme comfort, luxury materials, and the pursuit of progress. Nate built the company on the mantra, “We aren’t just selling a product. We’re selling a lifestyle.” To instill this in his team and to build brand loyalty, he shares the importance of intentionality, goal, standards, and holding ourselves accountable in metrics.

Nate and Rhone are also unrelenting supporters of men’s mental health, something I’m passionate about. We discuss reducing the stigmas around a man’s ability to be open, vulnerable, and in need. Nate and I dig deep into the importance of being there for each other and accepting that it’s okay to not be okay. After our recording, Nate invited me to attend Rhone’s first Mind and Muscle Event. It was twenty minutes of shared suffering followed by an important discussion about our past and what has shaped us to be the men we are.

Watch the full video version of my conversation with Nate and the Mind and Muscle Event on YouTube. Subscribe to us and follow @JedburghPodcast on all social media. Check out our website Learn more about Nate and Rhone at and follow them on social media @Rhone and @NateChecketts.

Nate, welcome to the show.TJP - E73 Nate Checketts Rhone, Co-Founder & CEO

Thank you. This is awesome. It’s great to be here.

Thanks for coming down. We have an event we’re going to talk about after this, so we’re going to get this conversation going. We’re in the flagship store. We’re on Fifth Avenue in the Flatiron District. This is amazing.

Honestly, I still pinch myself when I walk up on Fifth Avenue to have a store. The brand had been around for a few years. We had some good moments. I don’t think my mom believed we had a real business until we opened a store on Fifth Avenue. I was like, “You’re now proud of me. We have a store on Fifth Avenue.” That was the milestone. It’s a great location. it is our flagship. It’s our biggest sales driver. We’ve got an amazing team here of really great people. I love being in the heart of the city.

TJP - E73 Nate Checketts Rhone, Co-Founder & CEO

“I don’t think my mom believed we had a real business until we opened a store on 5th Avenue.”

We have to give a special shout-out to Sebastian who came here. I was here right after 6:30 AM. He was already here putting everything together. Special thanks to him. I appreciate it.

Sebastian is the best we’ve got. There’s also Brandon, our store manager. We’ve got great people in our stores.

You are a serial entrepreneur. You have four companies by the age of 30. You had experience in some of the most iconic brands, like The NFL. You’ve worked with Cisco. Sports Business Journal named you 40 under 40. You have a glossy 50 nomination for leadership in fashion and beauty. You’re a father to three boys. You’re Chairman of the Board at Beyond Type 1 where you support and advocate for those with Type 1 diabetes.

To hear somebody give your accomplishments to you, in many ways, I’m like, “I’m just getting started. There’s still so much to do.” It doesn’t feel like I have something to fully be proud of yet. We’re still in the early innings of this.

I’m going to ask you about all of it, how you got here, where you’re going, what you’re proud of to this day, and what we’re going to be proud of as we watch this thing grow. Let’s start with Rhone. You started the company in 2014. You said, “Our promise is to help you move Forever Forward.” What does Forever Forward mean?

Part of my belief growing up is this idea that we can always get better. As we age, especially as men, we’re obsessed with competing with the guy next to us. In sports, you got to beat out the person next to you for the position. You’re trying to beat the other team. As you go through college and come out of it, you realize that the person you’re competing with is you yesterday. Sometimes, it’s three steps forward, one step back. The whole philosophy is to not get caught up in the past. Don’t get caught up in the future, but keep progressing. Keep your eye on moving forward. It’s been a mantra for me.

My lucky number is also 44. There is this nice alliteration to it. It was my dad’s basketball number in college. He always used to talk about The Flying 44 Brothers, as he called it. I adopted it at an early age. There’s this Forever Forward. When we came up with the concept, it was stuck. It has become a personal mission statement almost.

[bctt tweet=”As you go through college and you come out of it, you realize that the person you’re competing with is you yesterday.” username=”talentwargroup”]

I like what you said that as we age, we got this competitive mindset. A competitive mindset starts when we’re kids. You have three boys. My son is already throwing things at me and yelling, “I won.” I’m like, “You’re yelling that you won.” I’m looking at him and I’m like, “You didn’t win.” I’m competing with a little boy.

I saw this great meme. It’s the feeling you get after you beat your four-year-old in Blue’s Clues. We’re wired to be competitive. This was the greatest moment. My mom came back from Walgreens or some grocery store with pool pong. She had no idea what pool pong was. She was like, “I got this game to play with the kids when we’re in the pool.” I’m like, “I do not want my kids playing this game. They have no idea what this is.” My dad was competing with my ten-year-old like it was the Super Bowl. We do come a little wired that way.

Sometimes, though, it’s to a fault. As we get older and we tend to become more competitive, what we need to be realizing is that these people we’re thinking we’re competing with, if we come together and support each other, we’ll drive everybody further. That’s what resonated with me when I look at Rhone and at this message.

Part of what motivated me to start the company was the idea that men tend to isolate themselves. Competition is an isolating activity. It draws us away from each other. We’re not building or forging bonds. There’s a beautiful line that has been attributed to multiple people. I don’t know who said it, but the line lives by itself. It is comparison is the thief of joy. It’s hard to compete without comparing.

TJP - E73 Nate Checketts Rhone, Co-Founder & CEO

“Competition is an isolating activity.”

What I’ve learned in my life is the ability to build off of each other, build each other up, and acknowledge that we might be in different places. If we were to go and do a strength workout, you would probably outperform me in a number of different ways, but there might be something that, for me, is a strength. Learning how to acknowledge and appreciate each other’s strengths is what builds us up and motivates us. Can we be motivated by each other without being isolated from each other?

The idea of trying to take motivation without comparing is hard. Most of us tend to be happy on a relative scale. We’re like, “Do I have more than my neighbor? Have I made more money than my brother? Have I achieved more success than my dad did?” Whatever it is, that’s how we tend to find satisfaction. Learning how to find happiness on an absolute scale is a big challenge, which is, “What am I trying to achieve for myself, not what am I trying to achieve relative to someone else?”

We’re going to talk about mental health here in a little bit, but that’s probably one of the foundational factors when we look at men and those who struggle with mental health. All of us struggle at times. It oftentimes comes back to that. The company has three pillars that you operate under. One of the mantras is that Rhone creates performance-inspired clothing for your active lifestyle.

You’ve said, “We aren’t just selling a product. We’re selling a lifestyle.” I’m interested in understanding what that means. What is the difference between selling a product and selling a lifestyle? Also, these three pillars, 1) Supreme comfort, 2) Luxury materials, and 3) Pursuit of progress, how does that tie into the vision for the company? How are you executing it?

I’ll try to unpack all of that. In terms of the mission of the brand and being a brand more than just a product, as I looked around at consumer companies that I admired, we all tend to admire the same companies. It’s the Apples or the Teslas of the world. These are companies that have found a way to become iconic. They’re more than just their products. Certainly, we love their products, and one of the reasons we love the brand is because we love the products.

Whenever I see a brand that is named, I’m like, “There is nothing about that that speaks to me.” You are singularly reliant on having a product. It’s the same thing with people. When people are surface-level deep, you can’t have a conversation with them. The best people are the ones that you could be in a bunker with for days. You tend to learn more about them. It’s like peeling an onion. The truth is most people are like that.

With a brand, we needed to create an iceberg-type foundation where what you’re going to see on the surface is the product. As you go deeper, you’re going to realize that there was a lot of thought and intention behind everything that we do from the fabric selection to the design to the features. It drives me crazy when I see some of our competitors and they haven’t even thought about why a zipper is in a certain place or why they picked a certain fabric. They start throwing around terms. We spend so much time doing abrasion testing and putting it on the best athletes in the world.

TJP - E73 Nate Checketts Rhone, Co-Founder & CEO

“There was a lot of thought and intention behind everything that we do.”

Our team jokes around with me. I am the hardest on the product of anybody. They are like, “How on earth did you rip a ripstop fabric?” I’m like, “I don’t know. This is what I was doing. I was building the tree house with my kids. I put on a tool belt. I was going up and down the ladder.” They’re like, “How many of our customers are going to do that?” I’m like, “At least one. I did it.” It’s got to be good enough to hold up to those kinds of standards.

When I think about building a brand and a lifestyle, we’re trying to equip people to live the way that people live, and that means coming out of the pandemic. I believe that our guy is all in on everything. He wants to work hard. He wants to play hard with his family. He wants to enjoy his hobbies. He’s going to work out as hard as he can. He’s going to end up suffering on a mat, then he’s going to get himself up, and he’s going to go to work.

This idea about building versatile, durable, and high-quality clothing was the motivation. Truthfully, we can create a product video and be like, “Here’s this zipper. Here’s this fabric. Here’s this waistband,” in the right context that works well, but to build something that has longevity, we’ve got to help people understand the broader mission and the broader lifestyle that we’re trying to give.

When you get back to these three brand pillars that you brought out, from a product standpoint, it has to have great materials, supreme comfort, and all of those different things. On the brand, we’ve got to be more than that. Plenty of people make good products. There’s no reason for us to live if all we do is make good products.

I’m going to plug the product here because I’m in the Mako Shorts.

I appreciate that.

I appreciate you sending them to me. I wear them all the time. I love it.

Let me take that as an example. I don’t even think half our customers know this, but the Mako Short is named after the mako shark. The mako shark is the fish from The Old Man and The Sea, which was written by Ernest Hemingway. He is one of my brother’s, who’s our creative director, favorite authors. Every year, we always go to Sun Valley, Ketchum, Idaho to Hemingway Memorial. It’s one of his favorite books.

We were like, “How do we honor Hemingway in our products?” He was like, “What if we named it the Mako after The Old Man and The Sea?” I’m like, “Zero people are going to get that reference.” He’s like, “You and I will know that we took the time to talk and think about it.” He has all these literary references to it.

[bctt tweet=”Competition is an isolating activity. It draws us away from each other. ” username=”talentwargroup”]

A lot of things get manufactured in a lab these days. There are a number of big brands that are like, “We launched our Rhone rip-off,” and they don’t even change the names of the products. When we launched the Commuter Pant, there was no other commuter pant in the market. Now, almost every single brand in our space has a “commuter pant.”

There’s a big reason why we named it that. We grew up in the suburbs of Connecticut, and 70% of the towns commute into New York on Metro North. There’s something about being intentional and thoughtful about how you create everything. This whole phrase of how you do anything is how you do everything is what is behind the brand that flows into the product.

Word on the street is that you made the concept of Rhone while you were working at the NFL. NFL is a great brand, but you were unhappy. I identify with this. I tell the story often. When I came to New York, I went to NYU for my MBA. I worked at Merrill Lynch. It’s a phenomenal organization. I loved the people. I lived here at 34th and Lexington. Every day I woke up, I was like, “I can’t do this anymore.”

Meanwhile, you must’ve had 1,000 friends who were like, “You’ve made it. You figured it out.”

Every day, I’m lying in my bed going, “No.” What was going on at the NFL for you? How did that lead you into this vision for Rhone?

My father had worked in sports. I have three brothers. I would say that out of the four boys, I was the one who was least interested in working in professional sports. I have two brothers that did a stint at ESPN. I’ve got an older brother who does a sports talk radio and leads a show in Utah. He’s amazingly talented. I was always more interested in going down this tech side or doing something disruptive or different.

That is far more different than manufacturing clothing.

We’ll get into how this whole wild, crazy journey started. I had built this mobile software company that we ended up selling to the San Francisco 49ers as they were building their new stadium. That led me to a conversation with a head guy at the NFL. He said, “You have an interesting background in tech and sports.” He brought me into the NFL. I was running the sponsorship strategy side of the business. It was a dream job in many ways. I had a chance to work in the “family business.”

I was young. It was a big role and big responsibility. I got to work on some amazing projects, like moving the combine and the draft around to extend the NFL calendar. I helped launch some amazing sponsorship deals and worked on the sideline deal. We had a goal internally to double our sponsorship revenue in a short period of time. It was a lot of great things. When you walk into the NFL offices, there’s AstroTurf on the ground and TVs every five feet.

"Don’t get caught up in the past. Don’t get caught up in the future. But just keep kind of progressing."

“Don’t get caught up in the past. Don’t get caught up in the future. But just keep kind of progressing.”

Football is my favorite sport. It has always been my favorite sport. I was confused. I’m like, “I’m unhappy.” I don’t want to admit it to myself, but I knew I wasn’t doing my life’s work or my passion. I couldn’t figure out why. I was so tortured by it, but I had this rocky road as an entrepreneur. It’s a nice tagline to say you started four companies before the age of 30. What I don’t talk enough about is how hard that was and how many failures I had along that path. The thought of doing another startup scared the daylights out of my wife.

I was sitting there. I was like, “I have a 401(k). I have a stable salary.” The NFL is not known for overpaying people, but I was compensated. I was putting money away for retirement. I had two sons. As I was going in and out of the train, because I was one of the 60% or 70% in Fairfield County that was commuting to the city, I tried to use that time and space for what I called the great equalizer. If I needed more sleep, I would rest. That’s usually what I ended up doing. I was reading personal books to try and further my self-development.

I remember sitting there and pondering this piece of why I am unhappy. As an interlude, I don’t think that we give ourselves enough time to just think. We consume so much content. It’s podcasts audiobooks, or news all the time. We have underdeveloped pondering muscles. I don’t know what muscle or part of the brain that is.

This is important. It was in 2015. I was the aid to the two-star general, James Linder, who ran Special Operations Command in Africa. He was replaced at the end of his tenure by a guy named General Don Bolduc. He was a one-star general. He was giving a talk once that I was listening to. He said, “Leaders need time to think.”

I was a young officer. As I was listening to him, I was like, “That’s stupid. What are you talking about? Leaders need time to think? You’re supposed to be making decisions and have people ingesting information.” Over the years, as you gain maturity, you start to realize that what you said and what he said are 100% accurate. Think about when you go for a run or you go and work out. I can go for a run for 30 minutes and feel like I solved the world’s problems because I’m away from everything else.

I feel like the best insights in my life have generally been informed by listening to great content, like hearing a book or a podcast, but they come in between the pages so to speak. My own thoughts that interpreted them have given me this insight to directly apply to my life. I’m sitting there quietly with no music. It was just me, my thoughts, and a journal.

I remember writing down in there and discussing why I’m unhappy. I was struggling with it because I didn’t want to disappoint my wife. I didn’t want to go back, do another startup, and scare her. I realized and wrote down, “What I want to do is build a brand that matters and that does something positive in the world.” I immediately wrote underneath, “That doesn’t mean cure cancer, but it’s something that adds value to people’s lives.” As soon as I wrote that down, it was like the universe synched for me and I knew what I wanted to do.TJP - E73 Nate Checketts Rhone, Co-Founder & CEO

I admire people that are like, “I want to be a doctor. I want to be a musician. I want to go to law school.” Whatever it is, there are people who know the industry they want to work in. I was never attracted to a single industry. I was more attracted to an idea, a concept, or a business stage than I was to the industry. At that moment, I knew I wanted to start something. I wanted to build a brand that has meaning and value beyond the product that it sells. My ears and antenna were up.

The cool thing about the NFL and where I was is I had exposure to the best consumer brands in the world. I got to see all of these consumer brands. We were pitching them. We were building decks on, “Here’s why you should work with the NFL.” Even though the ultimate pitch was like, “If you put the NFL logo next to your logo, you’re going to sell more products,” I was obsessed with telling these strategy stories of why there was all this increased brand value by laddering off of a great brand like the NFL and who our customer was.

While I’m there, one of our partners at the league, Budweiser, sends a box of Lululemon gear to the office. I received a pair of Lululemon sweatpants for Christmas from my mother. My brother-in-law was like, “I’m never wearing this. This is a women’s yoga brand. I can’t wear this.” I remember being like, “You’re ridiculous. You’re a prima-donna. These are expensive pants. I’m wearing these.”

Budweiser sends this box of Lululemons for the women in the office and they send a box of Nike for the men in the office. I’m like, “This is weird. They make men’s stuff.” The guy sitting in the cubicle next to me turns to me and is like, “Do you buy your underwear at Victoria’s Secret?” I was like, “There is clearly some stigma here.”

[bctt tweet=”Having the most advanced machinery or computer systems in the world is meaningless without human connection.” username=”talentwargroup”]

I remember I had access to all of this analysis on the industry. I started looking at the active apparel industry and I saw these two big buckets. On the one hand, there were all of these mass-distributed brands like Nike, Reebok, Adidas, and Under Armour had similar gender mixes in terms of the product that they sold. 80% of the product was distributed through someone else, like Dick’s Sporting Goods, Amazon, or whatever.

You then had all of these female-focused brands that were selling 80% plus distributed directly to the customer and their retail stores. It was also at a price premium to all these mass wholesale distributed brands. They had similar margin profiles, which means that they were putting so much more into the product.

I was like, “Why isn’t there a men’s brand doing that? It doesn’t make sense.” I became so obsessed with the idea, “This should happen.” I started talking to my brother-in-law. We talked a lot about it. Honestly, it wasn’t until I came home that I was looking at my two sons, thinking of growing up in a family of four boys. I was like, “These kids are growing up in a complicated, different world when it comes to masculinity and their role.

TJP - E73 Nate Checketts Rhone, Co-Founder & CEO

“Our promise is to help you move forever forward.”

If we were to build a men’s brand, we would have to stand for how to help these young men and men understand their role in society, how to live, how to give back, and how to engage in tricky and difficult conversations around gender identity and all of those different topics, and help inspire men to be at their best.” We can’t isolate any one gender, and it felt like that was starting to happen. We’ll talk about mental health and men’s mental health, but that was the genesis for me. That is when I got excited about building Rhone.

I want to throw out some things here because you went down this road. We have this term athleisure generally for the industry, and this is a tremendously competitive industry. Lululemon’s there. Alo has launched. Ten Thousand’s a little bit more of a tactical brand, but they’re out there, and then you have Nike, Reebok, and even Patagonia, which has moved in a little bit to this space.

I was doing research on this and found the 37 best men’s athleisure brands. If we have a list of 37 best, there are hundreds in this space. The market is expected to grow from $411 billion in 2021 to under $800 billion by 2028. That’s a combined annual growth rate of almost 10% over the next few years. North America is the largest market, especially here in the US. I’m going to ask you. You’ve covered a lot of it, but what differentiates Rhone from these others?

When we started, we did feel like we had this first mover advantage. There had been a lot of copycats from logo reproductions to using the same models to going after ambassadors that we had once worked with. The idea of original thought has been completely lost. I’m so driven by original thought that when I see somebody else doing it, I’m like, “We don’t want to do that anymore.” A lot of these companies tend to be more product-level deep. As we’ve spent a lot of time talking about it, I feel like the customer appreciates and starts to understand the intentionality and the thought process that goes into things. Sometimes, you can’t put your finger on it.

Apple’s a great example of this. You get a product and you’re like, “They did think about all of these different use cases. They spent time thinking about how this product would better my life.” Many times when I wear a product, especially when I use them, I’m like, “Why didn’t they put a zipper here? This is a terrible drawstring. This drawstring pulls too much or doesn’t pull enough.” Thinking through all of those different aspects was important to us.

The other thing that separates Rhone is we have what we call a full closet solution. It means that from underwear to outerwear, we have you covered using the best fabrics and best materials. I would put our stuff up against anybody. We make the absolute best dress shirt in the world, which is crazy for a brand that’s only been around for a few years. The only other company that uses the same fabric as us charges €550 for their shirt. Ours is $128. You would never need to dry clean it. It will pay for itself in ten wears. If you put that on, it ruins every other dress shirt for you.

There’s certainly a lot that separates us from the competition, but the main thing that will separate us is there’s always going to be copycats in the industry. Apple used to put these banners up whenever they launched a new product that said, “Turn on the photocopy machines in Seattle,” with a nod to Microsoft. I don’t want to be the brand that is saying, “Let’s take that and make that exact same thing.” We were certainly inspired by the giants of the industry, but we’ve never tried to make things like they did. We want to make things in a way that’s perfect for our customers.

TJP - E73 Nate Checketts Rhone, Co-Founder & CEO

“We want to make things in a way that’s perfect for our customer.”

You’ve talked a lot about quality. I told you that when we have this conversation, I am going to throw out these five Special Operation Forces Truths. We call them values. Rhone is working with Special Operations units and operators and fielding some stuff out to them. You’ve called that one of the ultimate endorsements and tests of the brand. I can tell you that certainly, if you want somebody to put this to a test, give it to a couple of guys I know and they will tell you everything. They’ll be brutally honest about it, too.

When we talk about these five Special Operations Forces Truths, they are 1) Humans are more important than hardware, 2) Quality is better than quantity, 3) Special Operations Forces cannot be mass-produced, 4) Competent Special Operations Forces cannot be created after emergencies occur, and 5) Most Special Operations require non-SOF assistance. We can apply all of these to business. I give entire talks about how to apply these to different businesses, why they’re important, how they set a foundation for the success of your team and your individuals, and how you build upon them for sustainability.

Number two is quality is better than quantity. What does that mean? It means that can we do more with less if we focus on doing it right to the highest standard and we’re not just throwing stuff out there. We’re not throwing bodies at the problem. We’re not throwing, in this case, low-grade materials to see how we can do. We’re thinking with that intentionality.

We were introduced by Jason McCarthy from GORUCK. You came up while I was sitting in Jacksonville at Sandlot JAX speaking with him. He joined me on Episode 56, which was a Sandlot JAX episode. We’re in the back of this World War II Land Rover, which was used as an ambulance in World War II by the British Military. He’s asking me, “Do you do you know Nate?” I’m like, “I don’t.” He’s like, “I’m going to introduce you.”

Within ten minutes, he had the email going. What they talk about with quality and how Jason talks about how everything had to stand the test of Jason is similar to what you said. It reminds me a lot about that because he was dragging it through everything and going back. The team was getting frustrated with him and saying, “Why?”

They were like, “You’re the only one who would ever do this.”

TJP - E73 Nate Checketts Rhone, Co-Founder & CEO

“If I give you one of our shorts it’s gonna be the first thing out of your closet every single time.”

He was saying, “If I did it, someone else is going to do it. They’re going to do something I didn’t think about.” You said you had a sensitivity to clothing. You also said you shared it a bit with your sons. There is this commitment to quality. It’s about getting it right or keep redoing it. It has to be perfect. Can you talk about that sensitivity and how that has permeated the culture of the organization? You mentioned culture at the beginning as one of those sustainable efforts that keep a company and allow a company to grow and sustain itself over the long term. How does that attitude that you have as the cofounder and CEO spread to everybody?

Maybe this never happens in your house. It doesn’t often happen in our house, but imagine everything in your closet is washed and clean and hung or folded in a drawer. Do you tend to grab the same thing first out of your closet?

Yes. Every single time. I have to always stop myself. I always grab the same thing.

That is because you have favorites. I hear from people all the time. They’re like, “Why would I ever spend $68 on a pair of workout shorts when I can get three shorts from Nike?” I’m like, “That is because if I give you one of our shorts, it’s going to be the first thing out of your closet every single time. It’s going to outlast those other three shorts.” You hear about these fast-fashion companies talking about sustainability. It drives me crazy because their stuff is only meant to last for 20 to 30 washes. It’s meant to break down over time. It’s planned atrophy. I’m like, “How long could something of ours last?”

[bctt tweet=”Society raises men to have a tough exterior, which is why we don’t want to show weakness. ” username=”talentwargroup”]

There’s this whole new space called re-commerce, which is reselling existing products. It only works for companies like Rhone, Patagonia, or stuff that is made to last over a long period of time. I would rather have five amazing shirts in my closet than 30 terrible, mediocre shirts that I never even want to wear. A whole other piece about the dirty part of our industry is when I started looking at most activewear, it is made from polyester.

This is gross, but it’s not news for a lot of people. It’s reality. When you sweat, your skin starts flaking. That is where the odor comes from. Polyester will adhere to the odor that’s coming off of your skin. What they do is they treat garments with these pesticides to make sure that it doesn’t adhere and doesn’t bond, but it’s a topical spray. Every time you wash your garment, it gets worse and less likely to prevent it from adhering to sweat.

That’s why if you’ve had from one of these mass brands, the lifecycle that it has to last for is twenty washes. I remember hearing that and I’m like, “That’s like a week for me.” I never buy something to be like, “I’m only going to have this for twenty washes.” We infuse golden silver particles into the fiber of our garment. After 100 washes, it’s still 98% effective against odor. It’s that stuff that is quality over quantity, which is something I believe in. It makes a difference.

You talked about the sensitivity piece. My sons, almost without fail, are sensitive about hangtags on the back of their shirts or if the fibers of the shirt are a little bit itchy. My son can wear a Rhone, and it’s hilarious to watch him. He’s like, “This is so much better than everything else I’ve been able to wear.” I was that way, too. I was uncomfortable in my own skin. There are lots of reasons why that might be the case. It was probably some condition.

The team will always be like, “Is this soft enough for Nate?” I’m like, “I don’t want to be the one that’s most sensitive.” The truth is I’m like, “This waistband is not soft enough. We’ve got to figure out how to get it softer because I know I’m not the only person who is like this.” It’s hard to get things soft, comfortable, and durable, but that’s what we talk about. There’s a whole cultural aspect in terms of how we build our team and how we hire people. It’s hard to build a company. We went from a couple of people in a room and we now have over 100 people that work for us. That is probably where I spend 80% of my time on. It’s on the people inside our company.TJP - E73 Nate Checketts Rhone, Co-Founder & CEO

That is soft truth number one. Humans are more important than hardware. We get fixated on technology. We can get fixated on the product, but at the end of the day, someone has to create that product. They have to visualize it. They have to go through all the steps, all the details, and all the testing. Everything comes down to the quality of the people that you have. Do those people take the ownership that you have and invest themselves into meeting this quality day in and day out?

There’s no question. I spent a lot of time. I sat on the board of a company that’s public and considers itself to be the largest cognitive media platform in the world. I went down this deep AI, Artificial Intelligence, binge in terms of trying to understand the way that computers are going to inform our future. The truth is that in many cases, these machines are better equipped to do certain tasks for us, especially when it’s like, “Take hindsight information. Organize it. De-duplicate anything in there and then give us a prediction based on what’s happened in the past.”

Where computers suck is saying, “Take some inspiration. Take some creativity. Blend that with that historical information, and now, make a prediction.” That’s almost everything in life. We can get some weather thought patterns. Having the most advanced machinery or computer systems in the world is also meaningless without that human connection. I don’t know about you, but I like to be surprised, and computers aren’t great at surprising you.

Rhone weathered the COVID storm well, and much of the industry did because everybody made this transition that we’ve been talking about and joking about. I never wear jeans. I never put pants on anymore. I put a piece in one of my notes of what I was going to ask you about. Maybe it will come up. The question was, “Why is bottom wear the fastest growing segment within the industry?” This is important because you focus the company on one of those pillars, the pursuit, what the customer needed, and what was driving them as everybody had to become adaptable and had to change.

During this time, you also led Brands x Better, a coalition of 140 brands that came together to generate funds for COVID-19 relief. You raised under $4 million. We’re staring down the barrel of a potential recession and market pullback depending on who you talk to. They will give you a different opinion, so we won’t argue that. Inflation is at some of its highest levels. There are high prices on the things we need to survive like fuel and food.

Discretionary spending is expected to dry up. Certainly, we can argue that clothing is not discretionary spending. We need it, but you can choose where you go. What’s your outlook over the next 12 to 24 months on the luxury goods market? How are you thinking about the company and about the potential to have to pivot and be adaptable? That is 1 of those 9 characteristics we talk about a lot on the show.

I have a fairly optimistic view as it relates to our customer base. We certainly do skew to a higher household income. Those are people who are willing to invest in quality. What’s been interesting is in watching the market and how it’s unfolded, if you look at the data, discretionary spending is already down. People tend to trade down in recessionary environments, which means at all levels.

I don’t know that I would put us in the luxury category, but we certainly consider ourselves in the premium category. We use luxury materials and fabrics. Our customers might be making different decisions about real estate, vehicle purchases, or more expensive decisions, but they haven’t shifted their decision-making on investing in a high-quality product. The types of product they’re buying from us has shifted. During the early stage of the pandemic, we couldn’t have enough sweat pants and shorts in stock.

Typically, in the apparel industry, tops sell 2 to 1 to bottoms. That was not the case in the pandemic. They’re going back to the office in some cases. They’re returning, in some cases, to a more normal silhouette but they don’t want to wear scratchy cotton Docker-type pants or suit pants, or cotton dress shirts. They want to wear technical fabrics with stretch and comfort

TJP - E73 Nate Checketts Rhone, Co-Founder & CEO

“They want to wear technical fabrics with stretch and comfort.”

because they got used to doing that for two years. We can’t even keep our commuter collection in stock. The amount of reorders we’re having to do on our dress shirts and our pants has been high. That’s going to normalize at some point.

Specifically, as it relates to Rhone, I’m optimistic. The one thing that I do think has shifted for consumer brands is the need to breathe your own oxygen. In theory, this should have always been the case, but because of probably irresponsible levels of investing and inflated valuations of companies, money is being thrown at companies with no rhyme or reason. Those are companies that should never be worth that. You saw some pretty irresponsible spending.

I have competitors opening leases where they’re paying above the asking price because they’re sitting on cash. We’re trying not to do that. We’re trying to be responsible. There are companies in our space that are losing $40 million a year. We don’t do that. We tend to say, “We’ve got to make money. We’ve got to be profitable. We’ve got to build a responsible long-term sustainable business that isn’t consistently relying on investor dollars.” That was the biggest fundamental focus for us over the last several months.

You had a good mentor growing up, and I want to ask you a little bit about that. The reason why I bring it up is that you said something that I felt was impactful in a speech that you gave. You said you come from a place where much is given, required, and expected. You raise three boys. I have two with one on the way. It shifts your whole perspective when we think about our parents, how they raised us, and the values that they instilled in us.

I’ll hear different ways people parent and I’ll look at my wife like, “We don’t do that. Should we be doing that? Are we doing it right? Our kid’s going to be all messed up when they grow up. I have no idea.” Your dad was an instrumental figure for you, your siblings, and in professional sports. He was the youngest CEO and GM in NBA history at age 28. He was the President of the New York Knicks and the MSG. He was instrumental in the founding of the WNBA and the MLS. He is also a father to six. What did you take away from that leadership and that mentorship? How did it shape you?

For me, it’s been everything. One of the reasons why I believe so much in investing in men in this country and trying to help them be at their best is because what a great father figure can do for a family and children is impossible to fully explain. I didn’t have any idea growing up how impressive my dad was to the outside world for a long time.

I remember we were going into the city. It was a Saturday and we had to get church clothes on. We’re like, “We’re not going to church. It’s Saturday.” Mom said, “We’re going into the city because your dad’s receiving an award.” My brother, Ben, who was probably seven at the time said, “What award is he getting?” My mom goes, “He’s receiving the Father of the Year award.” Ben looks at me, and then he looks at my mom and goes, “Why are we really going into the city?” We didn’t fully appreciate how unique it was. It’s what we knew.

[bctt tweet=”You don’t have to be a superhero to give back.” username=”talentwargroup”]

As I’ve grown and seen other people’s parenting and experiences, the only mistake people make in terms of giving my dad credit is they don’t give my mom enough credit. Without them, I would be nowhere. I remember somebody saying to me something along the lines of, “No matter what you accomplish in life, everybody’s always going to give your dad the credit. That must be hard for you.” I was like, “It’s not hard at all. They deserve all of the credit.” I get that I was so lucky and so blessed, and trying to acknowledge anything else would be insanity. I would have no ability to do what I’m doing now. Forget the economic advantages or relationship advantages. I could not function as a leader without the principles that they instilled in me.

TJP - E73 Nate Checketts Rhone, Co-Founder & CEO

“The lessons they taught me…I could not function as a leader without the principles that they instilled upon me.”

I can’t remember exactly how the adage goes, but it’s like, “My father drove a model A. I drive whatever. My son’s going to drive a Mercedes. My grandson’s going to drive a Lamborghini, and his son’s going to go back to driving a bicycle.” There’s this idea of wealth cycles and what happens. My grandfather sold mobile homes. My dad grew up with almost nothing economically. He came from relatively impoverished circumstances. They were great parents but didn’t have much, so he was hyper-focused on us as a parent. We had 4 to 6 hours of Saturday jobs every single weekend. This is not a joke. When I tell people this, they’re like, “No.”

My sister somehow escaped with a lot less than we did, but he was tough on his boys in terms of, “I want you to learn how to work.” He would say that to us all the time. He wasn’t like, “Go mow the lawn.” He was out there with us. He was pulling weeds. He could have easily hired a landscaping crew. We lived on four acres. This was not like, “Go mow the little front lawn.” It was a lot of work.

I remember my friends in New Canaan. We moved to New Canaan when I was eight years old. We were six kids. We stuck out like a sore thumb. It was like, “Which country club did you belong to? Do you belong to the New Canaan Country Club or the Fairfield Club?” I was like, “I don’t know what a country club is.” They were like, “What’s your handicap in golf?” I’m like, “I don’t know how to play golf.” We didn’t fit in as a family at all.

When people would be like, “Do you want to come over Saturday morning?” I’m like, “I got to finish my Saturday chores.” They’re like, “Are you churning butter at your house?” I hated all of it. I was like, “This is so unfair. Tommy gets $20 from his mom and dad for allowance every week. You guys make us take homemade lunch in a sack. Why can’t we buy lunch at school? How come I have to do Saturday chores?” I fought every step of the way. That’s the hardest thing about parenting. You do have to listen to them in some cases, but you also have to play the long game. Trying to get your kid to learn the piano, they’re going to complain every single day for probably years, but at least months depending on the stubbornness of the child.

I complained for years when I played the piano.

It’s the consistency, and eventually, they’re going to turn back and be like, “Thank you so much.” From the time I was seventeen, I could never pay them back. They mean everything to me. They’re still the most important people to me. I rely on my dad. Every time I face a personal or professional problem, the advantage I have is to be able to pick up the phone and call him that he didn’t have because his dad died at a young age, I try not to take that for granted.

The big thing in my house from my twelve-year-old is, “You don’t even know.” At first, you become viscerally upset, and then it’s like, “Take a deep breath. You’ll see.”

It is hard. It’s hard to navigate some of those waters. I remember as a kid being like, “I’m never going to forget what it’s like to feel like a teenager, but you do.” You forget. You forget all the pressure, the stress, and the different things. I have a teenager, and watching him go through it is a different challenge.

It’s horrible.

You also have a teenage daughter, right?

Yes. She’ll be 13 in November 2022. We’re there. When we get done here in a few minutes, we’re going to partake in Rhone’s Mind and Muscle Event. You’ve been a vocal advocate for men’s mental health. I was stalking your Instagram where you’ve created this Mental Health Minute, which is pretty good. You’re not giving yourself enough credit.

I like that it was pretty good. This is good. I went in with low expectations. It wasn’t bad.

On your first, you were self-deprecating. I was like, “This is good. You’re doing your job.”

TJP - E73 Nate Checketts Rhone, Co-Founder & CEO

“If you are struggling…the best thing you can do is to start to talk about it with someone.”

I’m not a social media guy.

Rhone also hosted the Men’s Wellness Summit in conjunction with Men’s Health and EVRYMAN back in June 2022. We have focused a lot of our conversations in a lot of our episodes on mental health. How do we reduce stigmas? How do we improve our habits? How do we be there for each other? A big phrase that I use a lot is, “It’s okay to not be okay.” We as men specifically often think, “I’ve got to keep it to myself. I have to hide it.”

We cannot show any weakness.

Why is mental health so important to you? Why is it so important to the Rhone mission? How are you moving the needle forward on reducing the stigma?

This is a tricky topic to talk about because there is some research that shows that giving a lot of attention to this normalizes the behavior and therefore, might increase bad decisions. First and most importantly, for anyone reading this who is struggling with their own mental health, the best thing you can do is to start to talk about it with someone.

Ideally, that would be somebody that you trust and you know will have your best interest at heart. Certainly, that’s a friend or a therapist. The worst thing you can do is to not talk about it. I want to start there because I always go back to that point.

There are some sobering stats. Men commit suicide at almost four times the rate of women. Suicide is one of the leading causes of death for men between the ages of 15 and 35. It is an unbelievable problem. When we talk about diseases, heart disease, diabetes, and all of these different things that are hurting us, we simply cannot talk enough about mental health.

[bctt tweet=”Mental health shouldn’t only be talked about when it’s a problem.” username=”talentwargroup”]

What’s been great is it has become a bigger time and attention. People will say, “Women need mental health resources, too.” I agree. Our role as a brand is to sell men’s products. Unfortunately, this is a more serious issue in our time and history with men. It’s for a lot of the reasons that you outlined. Society raises us to have a tough exterior. We don’t want to show weakness. All the stigmas around men not wanting to ask for directions are all true. It’s at least generally true. It might not be true for every single individual, but generally, it is true. The stats around veterans is sovereign.

I got involved in an organization called FitOps a few years ago. We launched this whole Superman challenge to help people realize that they don’t have to be superheroes, that they can give back, and that they can find rehabilitation. My grandfather was a Marine. As I’ve talked to friends who have served and I’ve thought a lot about this, there’s something about going and doing meaningful work feeling like your country relies on you or your family relies on you.

People look to you as a hero when you’re still in this maturation cycle, and then you come back. Even if you have a good job or you work in finance, the level of meaning is different. You want to find that same level of meaning that you had, so instead of doing something that’s not as meaningful, you end up doing nothing. You end up sitting in isolation so much that it leads to all kinds of negative results.

The reason I care about this is 1) It is a massive problem, and 2) I do feel like talking about it makes a difference. The biggest thing that I don’t feel like people understand is that mental health shouldn’t only be talked about when it’s a problem. We talk a lot now, thankfully. When it comes to physical health, our country is the leading by far in terms of prescription drugs. We’re great. We’re the best in the world at dealing with a problem once it has come up. If you’ve got a heart attack or a disease, we can put a stent in and give you this medication. We’re great at it.

What we suck at is preventative medicine. There are 100 countries ahead of us when it comes to preventative medicine from the nutrition levels and the treatments of it. Mental health is similar. The way we talk about mental health is we immediately jump to things like suicide, depression, and anxiety, but mental health is for everyone. It’s for people who have never struggled with those things. The truth is that mental health should be viewed as developing a tool belt for when things get hard because all of us will go through trials, challenges, and difficulties.

TJP - E73 Nate Checketts Rhone, Co-Founder & CEO

“Mental health should be viewed as developing a toolbelt when things get hard.”

This isn’t about reaching some zen-like state where we’re all going to be Buddhist monks and sitting there and finding true inner peace. I don’t think most people are going to ever achieve that. I admire the people who have done that, but for me, it’s about knowing how to slow my mind and calm down the negative thoughts and the downward spirals. My mom has this phrase called the dreaded what ifs. We’re like, “What if something happens to my children? What if something happens to me? What if I slip and make a mistake?” It’s all of this anxiety that these feelings can create.

I have spent a lot of time trying to focus on my mental health every single day so that I’m prepared for when something might go wrong. It’s similar to your physical health. You can’t prevent heart disease with one workout, but consistently moving your body and consistently eating nutritious foods will reduce the risk that that will happen to you. You can’t prevent suicide by writing in your journal one time. You can’t prevent anxiety from happening in your life completely, but you can improve your resilience by doing things like cold exposure therapy and having a social circle and a social safety net. When you have a challenging time, develop the ability to talk to yourself when things are hard.

We don’t talk enough about the toolset. Even though I make fun of the fact that social media is a bunch of kids with their cell phones taking pictures of themselves, it’s the most self-indulgent thing that exists in our society. I also try and remind myself that I have the ability to take my phone at any point in time and reach thousands of people. If I was in front of an audience and there were 500 people, I would take it seriously for how I prepare and what I communicate. I’ve tried to take that point of view, and I hope it’s making a difference and an impact.

That impact is important. I say all the time, even in this show, that we can impact one person. With specific to mental health, we did an episode on SailAhead. Jenny’s brothers started SailAhead. She’s involved. I’m involved. As an organization, that’s important for us in healing veterans by teaching them how to sail. Our goal is to save one. If we can save one, that’s where we got to start.

You think about the ripple effect of that. You save one veteran and this is a future father, a future grandfather, or a future person in the workforce. I think about the people that helped me like my grandfather and my relatives through the years. I wouldn’t be here without that.

[bctt tweet=”When you jump straight to the goal, you’ll miss the whole purpose of it.” username=”talentwargroup”]

I want to ask you about goals and standards. You talked about goal-setting and goal monitoring. You said that we all set goals, but how do we track our progress? I would take that thought process a step further. I would talk about the process and loving the process and loving the journey. We’ve had a number of conversations on the show about it. The concept for me comes down to creating standards versus setting goals.

Often, what happens when we set goals is we become fixated on the goal, and then everything becomes a chore. Every day, we wake up, and it’s like, “I got to do this to achieve this goal.” This ties into your comments about intentionality. Are we intentional about what we do? I feel that when we talk about standards. If we set a standard and every day, we seek to achieve and surpass that standard, then we’re enjoying the process. We’re loving the process. We’ll get to the goal. If we don’t get to the goal, that’s also okay because we left everything out there.

I’m interested in your thoughts on the goals that you’ve set for yourself and for the company. As you look to the horizon and as we talked about many of these things, how are you balancing and adjusting your mental health, where the companies are, and how they’re going to conduct their operations as we move into the future?

This is a hot-button topic for me. I feel like we could talk an hour about this. I do believe in goal-setting. It can drive real results. The challenge is when people jump straight to the goal, to your point, they’re missing the whole purpose of it. You could set a goal to lose ten pounds, but why? What’s the why behind the goal? My personal mission statement, which I say to myself every single morning that I wrote down probably many years ago, has to inform every goal that I do.

If the objective is to make friends and build a great company and you set a goal that’s congruent with that or not consistent with that, then it doesn’t matter. You’re never going to achieve it because it’s not consistent with your main mission. Tying that back to a why is powerful. Goal-setting is the easy part. It’s easy to take a piece of paper and be like, “I’m going to lose ten pounds.” What’s hard is monitoring that. There are tips, tricks, and things that you can do.

TJP - E73 Nate Checketts Rhone, Co-Founder & CEO

“Goal setting is the easy part…what’s really really hard is monitoring that.”

I’m a big believer in visual cues. Any goal that I said is on my wall. I look at it all the time. If I start with my mission and start with my why, it can’t get in the way of my why. It has to be consistent with my why. You got to do what works for you. I haven’t met anybody who has accomplished anything big that isn’t good at these check-ins. Some people believe in visual goals and writing specific goals, but the people who tend to accomplish more are checking in and saying, “Are the steps I’m taking consistent with what my ultimate dream, mission, and objectives are?” Otherwise, we’re just floating. There’s no progress.

As we close out, the Jedburghs had to do three things every day as core foundational tasks. We can call them habits. They had to be able to shoot, move, and communicate. They did these three things and train these three things with the utmost proficiency and execution every day, they could have applied their focus to more complex challenges that came their way because they didn’t have to think about this. What are the three things that you do every day to set the conditions for success in your world?

Everybody has different degrees of spirituality. I always start my morning on my knees. I like to remind myself that I need to be grateful and humble and realize that I’ve been given so much. For me, that is a foundational part of my day. It sets the day up the right way. The second thing that’s important to me is movement. The modality for me has changed through the years. I have an addictive personality. I will get obsessed with things. I’ve done deep dives into running, yoga, and strength training, but what I’ve learned is that it almost doesn’t matter as long as I move my body for 45 minutes to 60 minutes. It’s the crease for the engine.

The third thing is for my mental health. I like to journal. That’s what works for me. I spend 10 to 15 minutes planning out my day. I always write down what I’m grateful for and try and take some time to reflect on that. It’s one thing to be like, “I’m grateful for my wife. She’s so great,” but closing your eyes, stepping into it, and being like, “I really appreciate my wife and what she does for me,” and tying it to emotion and visualizing it is not like anything else. It makes a big difference for me. When I do those three things, I tend to have more successful days.

Start the day with spirituality, and then have movement of any kind. I agree with you there. I’ve gone through the whole realm of all the different types of workouts, and I’ve realized, “Do something, whatever it is.” The third one is to journal for mental health and gratitude. The nine characteristics of performance are defined by Special Operations Forces.TJP - E73 Nate Checketts Rhone, Co-Founder & CEO

One of the driving forces within our conversations that we have on the show is drive, resiliency, adaptability, humility, integrity, curiosity, team ability, effective intelligence, and emotional strength. High performers exhibit these characteristics all the time. That’s why Special Operations uses them as the basis for assessment and selection. We display them in varying degrees depending on the situation that we’re in, and never all of them at any one time. Every one of these, we’ve covered at some point of our conversation as we’ve spoken here.

At the end of these conversations, I take one and think about the conversation we had. I think about your journey. I think about how you’ve built this company. You started not in commuter pants on the commuter train, thinking, “How do we disrupt and change this industry? How do we create something? How do we fill this gap?” I think about emotional strength for you.

This is an extremely competitive industry. It’s a dynamic industry. There are a lot of forces and factors that affect it. It requires a tremendous amount of maturity to be successful in this industry. That’s something that you’ve demonstrated as you’ve built companies at an early age and as you’ve been charged with a tremendous amount of responsibility.

Every time, you’ve risen to that challenge. You’ve seen that challenge. You have thought at a more broad scale. You tend that younger ages get focused inward and that we get myopically focused. It takes a tremendous amount of emotional strength to take a step back and make calm from chaos. You’ve weathered the storm of COVID. You’ve pivoted. We’re here in the flagship store on Fifth Avenue. There’s so much more to come. There’s a line outside because they’re waiting for us to be done so that we can get in here and have this event focused on mental health and fitness. This has been an amazing day.

It’s been a pleasure. Thank you so much. It’s an honor to be on with you. I remember going to breakfast with you and saying, “This is the kind of person I want in my life.” If we get to choose the people that we spend time around, effectively, we’re choosing our destiny. You’re the kind of man that I like spending time with. I appreciate you having me on.

Likewise. Thank you.


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