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FlowState Marketing: How A Retail Startup Built A Brand Agency

It all started five years ago.

In 2013, Ben Thomson, Mark Grubbs, and Shamus McNutt were three best friends with a dream to start a clothing and lifestyle brand. The former engineers scrapped together $800 for materials and founded Belong Designs out of their Colorado basement.

“We came up with our name together,” Ben Thomson, COO, said. “We wrote down everything that was important to us — ‘follow your passion, do what you love, find where you belong,’ which gave us our name.”

Belong Designs started out small, showcasing a collection of T-shirts, hats and hoodies emblazoned with the Belong logo. They experimented with fabrics to create apparel with its own unique fit, design, and feel. With a limited budget, marketing efforts like website design, social media, and promotion, all fell in-house. The apparel served as what Thomson called a “walking billboard,” for their company’s core values and mission.  

And people noticed.

“People were coming to us as Belong Designs and seeing what we were doing and saying ‘man I love this blend,’ or, ‘I love this design, could you tweak it for my company?’ or ‘can you do this project for us,’ or ‘who did your website?’” Thomson said. “We were so naive — we were like ‘we did that, it’s our brand.”

The lightbulb moment came in 2016. If the Belong Designs team could build a successful retail brand, what was stopping them from helping other companies achieve their goals, too?

“[At the time], we saw a potential there that wasn’t realized yet. People wanted a company that could really look at everything they needed, and be able to assess and provide work on a high level,” Thomson said. “It got to the point where other apparel brands were coming to us, but were confused because Belong Designs was an apparel brand — and at that point we re-evaluated and developed the idea of FlowState Marketing.”

FlowState Marketing is now a full-service design and branding agency, offering a mix of digital marketing, brand promotion materials, web development, and strategy services. Since 2016, the agency has netted more than $2.2 million in revenue, doubled in size, and has produced promotional clothing items for local and national brands like iHeart Radio, Coor’s, and Breckenridge Brewery.

When it comes to growth, Thomson says there’s no slowing down. On the retail side, Thomson says they’re looking to establish an independent brick-and-mortar location for Belong Designs — a first for the brand, which is currently sold online, and at independent retailers in the Denver, Colorado area. On the marketing side, Thomson says they’re focused on building out specialized marketing teams, and developing FlowState’s two-and-a-half-year-old brand.

“They are completely separate entities, but they do grow from the same foundation that led to our scalability as a company,” Thomson said. “It’s about hiring the right people who not only work hard, but can have fun at work, and inspire others to push the limits of what they know.”

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