Hobby Musings: Leaf’s New CEO Talks Company Future – Interview
Hobby Musings: Leaf’s New CEO Talks Company Future – Interview Transcript
Editor’s Note: Some text has been altered from original audio for clarity.
KS: Welcome to another edition of Hobby Musings. I’m Kelsey Schroyer, joined today by a very special guest. Leaf’s new CEO, Kevin O’Neil. Kevin, thank you for joining us.
KON: Yeah, good to be here. Thanks for having me.
KS: So it’s been a bit of a whirlwind last couple of months for Leaf to put it mildly. You joining as the CEO, replacing Brian Gray, their longtime kind of face of the company. How did you get the job with Leaf?
KON: Yeah, they reached out. I think they valued my experience, especially on the sales side. My background from working with bigger companies and smaller companies as well on the trading card side. That, and I think the relationships that I built up, over the years, being in the hobby.
KS: So, Leaf got sold very recently, how did that sale come about?
KON: Yeah, Orange Mountain Capital wanted to get into the trading card and collectible space. They identified Leaf as a very strategic partner they wanted to be involved with, and believe that we have, and internally as well, we believe we have a lot of growth potential, and they felt the same way. So, it came about pretty quickly, but great people there and looking forward to moving forward with them as the ownership group.
KS: Well, so overall, what does the sale mean for Leaf in terms of day-to-day production, card production, basically the business. What does it mean for the business of Leaf?
KON: Yeah, I don’t think anyone will see anything changing immediately, it’s kind of business as usual. They’re allowing us to run the company as we see fit. The great news is, we have a lot of capital behind us now. So anything that we want to do from a growth, strategic growth standpoint, we have the capital in order to take advantage of anything that we see moving forward and continuing our growth.
KS: Kevin, your predecessor, Brian Gray, as I mentioned about a minute or so ago. Longtime face of Leaf, company’s biggest cheerleader, very well-known throughout the hobby for a variety of reasons. Does he still have any involvement at all with Leaf?
KON: Brian did a great job, as you know, starting the company. The growth of the company, he was a big part of it, obviously, you know, along with a lot of the employees that we still have at Leaf. But as of right now, no, he does not have any involvement with Leaf and won’t going forward.
KS: So, in your new role, what have you found to be the biggest challenge in it since taking it?
KON: As you know, the hobby has seen a lot of changes over the past couple years. It seems to be even the last couple of months. I think going forward, one of the biggest things is just trying to stay ahead of the curve and stay ahead of trends. Obviously, autographs and assets are the hardest part of a trading card company. That will continue to be a challenge going forward, but every company has that.
The good news for us is we have extremely low redemption rates, which I know obviously is a big topic in the business. We’re fortunate to where we have very low redemption rates. A lot of times we have zero redemption rates in a lot of our products. So, just basically kind of staying ahead of the curve. We’re small enough where feel like we can catch on to those trends pretty quickly and move forward and take advantage of any trends that we see.
KS: Kevin, as Leaf’s new CEO, what changes have you implemented since taking the position?
KON: Nothing really. I’ve only been here for a little more than a month now. The team with Josh and Gregg, they’ve done great from a management standpoint. We have over 35 incredible employees in Texas. So, nothing really. Getting my hands dirty in every aspect. Any changes that we might have, will probably be in ‘24.
KS: Okay. You talked a little bit ago about how asset acquisition, autographs, the memorabilia, you do products like Pop Century, and the autographs range all over the spectrum of sport and non-sport. You’ve talked about the changes in the hobby. What is the biggest challenge today in doing what Leaf does, making trading cards?
KON: For us, it’s, we feel like we’re an industry leader, as far as celebrity autographs, and we want to continue to do that. It’s a matter of just really identifying, whether it’s a celebrity, whether it’s an NIL athlete, whether it’s a current athlete, a retired athlete, somebody new. It’s really just making sure you get the right players or celebrities in your products to really move the needle and to have that value factor. When you’re opening a box of our products, we want you to have fun, and we want you to have value in it as well. It’s just a matter of identifying the right athletes or celebrities and then executing agreements with each and every one of them.
KS: So we’re closing in on the end of 2023, coming up on 2024. What does Leaf have coming out soon for products?
KON: Yeah, we’ve got a couple here coming out soon. Leaf Magnificence, Leaf Eclectic Football, and Leaf Bronx Century Baseball. And then you’ll see some stuff in ’24, and I think people will be excited. We’re looking to do a Pearl Pop Century product. We want to continue to do more. And you’ll see we’re going to revamp Continuum next year as well. That’s been a great brand for us. We want to enhance that a little bit. So I think people are going to really love the changes that we’re going to make in ’24 around that product. We want to do a lot more channel exclusive products, whether it’s our website, hobby, retail as well.
KS: Kevin, that all sounds great. Thank you so much for joining us today.
KON: Yeah, no, thanks for having me.
Hobby Musings: Leaf’s New CEO Talks Company Future
Kelsey’s ability to bring hobby coverage to the mainstream sports fan has been a true asset. GTS is happy to feature his thoughts on collecting in Hobby Musings. The opinions expressed are his and do not necessarily reflect those of GTS Distribution.
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