If it were socially acceptable, I bet most men would wear sweatpants more often than not. Women have been given creative license to do this over the past several years with the emergence of Lululemon, the brand that has made it perfectly acceptable for women to go from yoga class to lunch and then throw on a pair of boots, a blazer and head to a meeting, all while still in our "yoga clothes." It's been comfortably liberating.
Now, it's time for men to join in with an "athleisure" brand of pants that may do for sweatpants what Lululemon has done for the legging. "Athleisure" is the new term for athletic wear that can be worn away from the gym and looks nicer than the standard sweat outfit. Start up entrepreneurs Aaron Hoffman and Benjy Smith are launching a new line of Sweat Tailor pants.
The two co-founders say that "More often than not, men's jeans or dress pants are not versatile or comfortable enough to wear from morning to evening and beyond. Twelve hours in the office, a bucket of golf balls at the driving range, meeting clients at a restaurant downtown, then a light jog to catch the train home, Sweat Tailor has created an "everywear" solution for today's young, professional work-horse with its tailored jeans made from custom French Terry blend. By addressing the hectic schedules and changing trends of this key demographic, Sweat Tailor has created a staple wardrobe item that allows wearers to combine the comfort of sweatpants with the fit and style of a five-pocket tailored pair of pants suitable for everyday wear."
"Sweat Tailor was born out of our own frustration", says Aaron Hoffman and Benjy Smith, co-founders of Sweat Tailor.
Aaron and Benjy are determined to build a new fashion line around this "athleisure" sensibility. Here's their start up story & lessons learned from their Kickstarter campaign:
How did you two come up with the idea?
"We came up for the idea for Sweat Tailor a little over a year ago. It was conceived from our mutual frustration of not being able to find a pair of sweatpants that fit properly and looked presentable enough to wear outside your home. We started asking around and quickly learned we were on to something. We can't tell you how many men over 6'1 shared their frustrations of having to buy sweatpants two sizes up just to find a pair of sweatpants long enough to accommodate their height. The same issue held true for men under 5'10 as most of the sweatpants they purchased were too long. This occurs because most sweatpants seem to be an afterthought and most companies generally make them in one or two lengths (inseams) and offered waist sizes s-xxl."
"We figured that there was a void in the market for custom sweatpants and that it didn't make sense that you can buy jeans and pants in custom waist and inseam sizing, but were not able to do the same for sweatpants. We then talked about a name and branding that would encapsulate what we wanted to do with the brand going forward. We came up with Sweat Tailor. Sweat Tailor is not only a play on the idea of "tailored sweatpants" but also represents the dichotomy of fashion on the one hand and comfort on the other hand and combining the two."
How did the partnership come about?
"We became close friends in college. We were roommates in New York and worked at the same internet company in 2009. Aaron was actually one of my groomsmen. A little over a year ago we were discussing our shared distaste for the lack of proper fitting sweatpants on the market for men. It seemed like the only options were either nylon workout pants or old-school sweatpants, neither of which could be worn in the public with pride. That idea quickly turned into a business endeavor and Sweat Tailor was born. We spent the past year working full-time jobs while spending nights and weekends creating Sweat Tailor."
Why did you decide to go with Kickstarter? Did you look into other ways of funding the biz?
"We had always been familiar with Kickstarter and had seen the wild success of multiple projects, including one of our friends, so we decided to go with them. We live in a day where you can create a product and use crowd funding and social media to determine if you have a viable without having to raise or borrow substantial amounts of money. This is not to say we didn't each still invest a significant amount of our own capital, but it allowed us to avoid having to borrow or seek money from outside while still testing the market for our idea. Our decision to go with kickstarter was immediately validated when we started receiving pledges from all around the world (i.e. over 20 countries and over 25 states) and reached our fundraising goal within our first week of our official launch."
What's your professional background?
Aaron: "I come from an online marketing background with roots in business development."
Benjy: "I passed the New York Bar in December 2008 and the California Bar in 2009. My practice focuses on business litigation, intellectual property and commercial transactions for internet and technology companies. I also represent students in public and private schools who are victims of bullying, harassment and online/cyber bullying".
Aaron: "Benjy had previously started a small internet focused law firm and I had consulted for multiple internet companies. This is our first experience in creating an actual product. We had previously been roommates and have been good friends for over a decade so we figure we know each other well enough to go into business together. Hopefully five years from now we feel the same way."
When did you realize that you had found a solution to a very common problem? What were the first steps you took?
"We knew we were on to something when we started sharing our idea with people and their eyes would light up with excitement. Our second step was using crowdfunding to to really test the market. Now that we know we hit our goal and know we have a product people want we are now devoting 100% of our time managing the Kickstarter campaign, fine tuning the business plan and making sure everything is ready to go for production."
"We hired a fashion consultant with 20+ years of experience to help guide and show us the ropes which was one of the smartest things we have done to date. While a lot of manufactures offer a 'full-package' where you can tell them your idea and they essentially source everything for you, we went the extra step sourced everything ourselves. We handpicked every detail from the custom molded rivets to the fabric our pocketing was going to be made of. From this process we truly learned our product from the inside out. There is no passion in not understanding what you are making."
How did you prepare for Kickstarter & what did you learn from the process?
"We spent a year testing and refining our idea before we launched. It's important to have everything lined up and ready to go. In our case we made sure we took into account manufacturing, shipping costs, packaging and shipping so if/when our project was successfully funded we would be able to deliver our sweatpants on time. we have heard and personally witnessed long delays on backers not receiving their product on time. "
"Kickstarter has been a full time job. Replying to backers, answering questions etc. has taken up much more time than we originally expected. Our biggest obstacle was pitching different manufacturers to work with us without having a guaranteed order in place. We had to convince them to take a risk on us as Kickstarter is a all or nothing model. If we could do it over again we would have started reaching out to bloggers and media outlets months before we launched. The excitement of watching people back your product from all over the world (in real time) that you poured your heart into for the past year has been priceless. When someone pledges or donates their credit card is charged if the goal is met and the campaign ends. We then place our order with our manufacturer, make the sweatpants and send them to our backers."
"Our sweatpants are going to retail for $98. We are selling our pants on Kickstarter from anywhere between a 20 - 30% discount off the retail price. We offered our first 50 pairs at an "early bird" rate of $69. The rest are priced at $79 and and a sliding scale discounted rate for up to 6 pairs."
Advice to others considering Kickstarter:
"The first and most important thing we focused on before we launched our Kickstarter campaign was to make sure our video was well executed and that the passion for our product was conveyed. We knew that the video was the first thing that most people clicked when they landed on our Kickstarter page. We figured if we didn't execute this properly we could basically kiss any pledges or support goodbye. We spent countless hours fine tuning every detail until we thought it was ready."
The Initial Push
"We can't even begin to explain how important the initial push is. We started building followers on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter months before we launched our campaign. We then started a 30 day countdown before our product launched to help create excitement. Writing an email to friends and family a few weeks before and the day of your launch will help with the initial push. The goal is for the initial push is to get your campaign into the popular section of Kickstarter which will significantly increase the traffic to your campaign. Your product, video and content will do the rest."
"People claim that one of the biggest factors to take into consideration is the timeline for your campaign. You can run anywhere from 1 - 60 days We have read and were told to keep all Kickstarter campaigns to 30 days or less due to the audiences attention span. They say campaigns with a longer funding period will hit the dreaded "dead zone". While our sales have slowed in the middle of our funding period the internet is a very big place, increasing your funding period will give you extra time to engage with different bloggers, forums, comment sections etc."
How did you decide on the amount of money needed on Kickstarter?
"It really depends on your product and your comfort level. We have seen some projects ask for $10,000 and ultimately raise hundreds of thousands. We have also seen some projects ask for several hundred thousand and raise very little. Some people believe the lower you set your goal the more likely you are to get backers. At the end of the day, backing a project is an emotional investment and due to the "all or nothing" nature of Kickstarter the higher your goal the less likely it is that someone will back you not knowing if they will definitely receive the product they backed. We chose $35,000 because if we reached that goal we felt we had a viable product and it would help us meet the minimums to create our first round of inventory. "
How you were able to use Kickstarter to collect date & google analytics?
"Kickstarter has a great dashboard to see where your pledges are coming from. We used Launchrock as our landing page to help generate an email list. We also embedded our google analytics ID into the site to gather more information on the composition of people interested in our product. We believe this information will be critical to determine ordering patterns and buying habits for the demand of particular fits, sizing, colors etc."
Your goal has been reached, but there's still a couple of weeks to grow the funding. What are your next steps after the campaign ends?
"Our number one priority is making sure that everyone receives their pants on time. We set our delivery date to October but our goal is to get them to everyone sooner. We are hoping to under promise and over deliver."
Aaron Hoffman and Benjy Smith have their work cut out for them as their Kickstarter campaign winds up this month. As they begin to transition from other jobs to focus on this new venture, they will be busy with long days working the unglamorous side of the fashion industry, but they will be proving their point by looking good & feeling comfortable in their Sweat Tailors.