From Dream to Reality
Lucky Soul achieves its unique mission through NBA partnerships and the spirit of giving.
Lucky Soul started as a dream — and not a dream, as in a long-term vision by its founder, Vinnie Merrill. The business literally started as the result of a middle-of-the-night dream.
“It was the eve of my birthday [in 2010] and I had this weird dream where it was pitch black and I heard a voice that just kept repeating, ‘Lucky soul,’ over and over until I woke up,” Merrill says. “I started liking the name so I registered and trademarked the name.”
At the time, Merrill was working with the Los Angeles Lakers in the team’s sports apparel department, which helped his initial attempt at incorporating Lucky Soul as a licensed sports apparel and accessories line.
“I wanted to introduce this thing to the Lakers at the Staples Center, so I came out with some graphic tees,” he says. “People started to like the name.”
After several years working with a “laughing skull” as his Lucky Soul logo, Merrill thought the brand needed a boost. So he hired a designer and attempted to revamp the brand’s image, starting with the logo.
“After a few years I wanted to come up with something different,” he says. “I didn’t have a meaning for what Lucky Soul meant at the time and I wanted to come up with something that resonated with people. We spent six months researching Lucky Soul and what it means. We came up with three things: the phoenix, which is an unstoppable force, the infinity sign, and a teardrop because when you’re born, you’re crying.”
The images were then combined, and turned into Lucky Soul’s current logo.
Making a Difference
Soon after, Merrill began partnering with National Basketball Association (NBA) teams and charitable foundations and organizations, such as the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
“In 2014 I teamed up with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and we also partnered with Make-A-Wish because I wanted this brand to make a difference with people,” Merrill says.
During Lucky Soul’s first partnership with Make-A-Wish and the Cavaliers, his company raised $10,500, with $8,500 going toward granting a child’s wish. The remainder of the raised money went to the Cavaliers’ youth foundation.
Though it’s a for-profit company that exists to make money, giving back to the community is central to Lucky Soul’s business purpose. Merrill says this always will be a top priority.
“I’m hoping that this brand can leave a mark and give back,” he says. “We’re a for-profit brand, but we want to give back.”
Lucky Soul currently does not have a league license with the NBA, but it does work with several teams in the league. “We’ve done work with the Lakers, the Cavaliers, the Dallas Mavericks and the Boston Celtics,” Merrill says.
Currently, Lucky Soul works in and sells apparel in team stores with which it has arrangements with, and is constantly seeking to partner with more teams. “We’re not trying to get every team, but we’re trying to target teams in cities that we feel we can do the most good in,” Merrill says.
Eventually, Merrill wants to get a league license, but for now he is content to expanding Lucky Soul’s reach in circles that do not require a league-wide license to make sports-licensed apparel.
“At some point we’re looking to get a license with one of the leagues — like the NFL — but I think it’s just a matter of us working with the right people,” he says. “There’s only so many licenses the NFL and MLB give out.”
Lucky Soul specializes in tees, tanks and hoodies, and each apparel line is specific to the team whose stadium in which Lucky Soul is sold. Merrill takes pride that he can provide such services to his partners.
“All our stuff is exclusive for teams,” he says. “You won’t see our stuff anywhere else [but in each team’s official retail store.]”
Because partnering with a new team means also working with an organization that gives back to a different local community, Merrill says high hopes for his brand well into the future.
“I think the future for us is pretty bright,” he says. “We have a lot of cool things that are in the works for sports and teams. We’re looking forward to showing everybody what our little company can do.”