In 2004, Peter Smathers Carter and Austin Branson started Smathers & Branson, a company with a focus on making stylish and high-quality needlepoint belts. The belts definitely take on a preppy look and have been featured in countless magazines and even worn by a former president (George H.W. Bush wore one to the AT&T National at Congressional Country Club in 2007). But in addition to more traditional designs, Smathers & Branson has several lacrosse-themed belts. After all, Branson is a former lacrosse player (at Bowdoin College) and understands how laxers love their sport. Lacrosse Playground spoke to Branson, who gave us insight into the business and lacrosse influences.
How much has lacrosse influenced Smathers & Branson on the business side and creatively?
There’s clearly something to the lessons we learned on the practice field that have helped develop a work ethic that leads to success in any field. Starting a small business requires lots of hard work and a competitive edge to make the business succeed rather that just exist in the marketplace.
We’ve noticed a few of your products pertain to lacrosse, “Lacrosse Sticks and Helmets” and “Old school Lacrosse”… How are these particular belts doing in comparison to your other vintage and classic belts?
As we know, lacrosse players love to wear gear that shows off their passion. I got a good laugh with Peter because he played college tennis and he didn’t quite anticipate how well our lacrosse themed belts would sell in comparison. We’ve also found that we can make custom belts for teams (including Duke, Middlebury, Bowdoin, Yale, Princeton, and Brown) and these have been a pretty big hit. They typically work as fundraisers for the squads.
Who is your target market?
We’ve been surprised by how broad our audience is, we sell in eight countries and almost every state. We have a pretty diverse level of style among our customer base, from the low-key outdoorsmen who loves our fishing belts, to the really flashy dresser who likes our stuff only because of the bright colors. Probably our broadest segment of customers live or were raised on the East Coast, and are the type of people who appreciate products meticulously made with the highest quality standards. They spend their weekends on the golf course, spending a day on the water, and obviously watching their son or daughter’s lacrosse game.
Are any more lacrosse-specific accessories in store?
We’ve just launched wallets and flasks – we’ll have each of those with lacrosse themes dropping soon. We also will have lacrosse themed dog collars this fall. Both of my dogs much prefer lax balls to tennis balls.
How has lacrosse changed since you’ve played?
I just went out to Vail and played with my Bowdoin team, pretty much the first time I had touched a stick since the North-South game after graduation. Aside from losing a few steps myself, it was pretty fun to play with a shot clock in that tournament. The pace of the game became much more unsettled and relied on quick hits rather than allowing the offense to set up long developing plays. The game is becoming much more flashy as everyone seems to be developing a more solid repertoire of stick skills. Bigger, faster, and stronger – it’s how the game keeps developing.
For more information on Smathers & Branson, or to purchase any of their products, visit www.smathersandbranson.com.