A little photoshop magic from our first "photoshoot" ever. Shot by my good friend Sam Jossen.
How I came up with Swoveralls
Author Kyle Bergman / Published: Nov-7-2019
It alllll started with a buzzfeed article. I was really just trying to solve a personal problem - Sweatpant overalls didn’t exist, and I wanted a pair. I’ve always loved overalls for reasons I can’t really explain. Perhaps it’s the fact they’re a little unique to wear...yet functional and practical.
Normal sweatpant overalls did not exist online after a quick google search, nor in any stores that I visited. Sooo I made them.
It was my friend and coworker Helena who sent me the infamous BuzzFeed article that would change everything. Helena knew about my affinity for overalls, and the article was about a novelty pair of sweatpant overalls - they looked like denim overalls but were made of a sweatpant material. I said to myself, “Man, I would never wear those...but regular sweatpant overalls I would 100% rock!”.
Alas, “normal sweatpant overalls” did not exist online after a quick google search, nor in any stores that I visited. So I made them. But let’s back up for a second...
When Helena showed me the article it was early 2016, and I was a merchandise planner at Bloomingdale’s. Right out of college I went into the Bloomingdale’s executive training program and was there for 4 years learning the ropes of being a retail merchant. For those that aren’t exactly sure what that is - a merchant or buyer is someone who manages vendor relationships and decides what products a store will sell. Every item you’ve ever looked at in a department store like Macy’s or Bloomingdale’s, or even non-traditional retail stores like Equinox or Cabela’s has a buying team behind it that is making decisions on what products should shown.
In May 2016, I left Bloomingdale’s to pursue an amazing opportunity as the Men’s Grooming Buyer at Birchbox. Birchbox is a disruptive tech/e-commerce company that pioneered what is now a massive and very competitive subscription box environment. A little after I joined Birchbox, I began my MBA journey via the part-time program at NYU’s Stern school of business.
Around Winter ‘16/Spring ‘17 is when a few interesting things happen. I learned through school about Alibaba’s B2B platform, where a potential buyer no matter how big could procure goods from a seller. Additionally, I learned about Google’s Keyword Search Planner tool, where you could see what the search demand was for a given keyword, during a certain timeframe. Lastly, I began to learn more about Amazon’s fulfillment service. These 3 concepts would be instrumental to my company ever even getting off the ground.
My friend Helena rocking the Swovies!
Me wearing the first sample ever (in the Birchbox office haha)!
The moment I realized there just might be a business opportunity with Swoveralls
happened when I discovered the Google Keyword Search Planner. I believe it was my Strategy Professor Rob Seamans at NYU that told us about this device, but I'm not 100% certain! Anyways, once I realized other people aside from my sister Jenna and girlfriend Elizabeth might also want sweatpant overalls, I used this tool to see roughly how many people were looking for this term online. In the month of March 2017, this tool showed that between 100-1,000 people were also looking for sweatpant overalls. That was enough "market research" for me to seriously explore the opportunity further.
A screenshot of the actual page where it showed me the demand for people looking for "sweatpant overalls" in March 2017
A part of me was shocked, but after I thought about it...it made sense - probably a little awareness created from the BuzzFeed article, but more importantly, people just like me were looking for an awesome, comfy combo.
Amazon’s FBA service
Once I realized I had a supplier, and there was some sort of demand for this unique apparel item that didn’t exist, I knew the only way I would have any chance of selling sweatpant overalls was through Amazon’s fulfillment service.
Living in a shoebox apartment in NYC, I didn’t have any room for inventory, nor did I want to spend my time picking and packing orders….or finding a warehouse that would do the same. Additionally, I didn’t have any experience or budget to do a meaningful marketing campaign, but I knew Amazon would help me overcome these obstacles by
1.) holding my inventory in their warehouses
2.) listing my product on their site
What I didn’t realize is that you needed a legitimate business to start an Amazon seller’s account, and so I incorporated The Great Fantastic, LLC. in March 2017.
Why The Great Fantastic? Well, I knew I didn’t want to pigeonhole myself right out of the gate with a company name like “Sweatpant Overalls, Inc.”...so I chose a funky term that I thought could one day could become an amazing brand. Taking a trip into the great fantastic is something my Mom would say when referring to risk-taking and adventuring into the unknown.
It always stuck with me, and I thought it was such a cool term that could comprise the vibe and message I was trying to communicate..which was something like, “We don’t take ourselves too seriously, but we don’t mess around when it comes to comfort.”
Funding the business
But how did I initially fund it? Well, in order to pay for business school, I had to take out a bunch of student loan money. For better or worse, I took out too much money for my first term and received a disbursement to my bank account for the funds that were not used for tuition, which was about $10,000.
A rationally-minded individual would send that money back to the lender as it’ll lower your student loan debt. I decided to use this money to kickstart my sweatpant overalls project, and used most of it to pay for my first order from overseas.
Me with my Sister, Mom, Dad, and Dr. Honig (the family pupper).
And a brand was (kind of) born
I say kind of because what started out as a personal problem, and then a fun side-hustle/school project has turned into a real business. My main objective these days (aside from creating enough inventory to meet demand) is to understand the new WHY. Solving a personal problem doesn't cut it anymore. That problem is solved, but there's still something deeper there. Comfort, sustainability, inclusivity...these are all of the concepts that are not only important for me, but also values that I think should be top of mind for the brand. Onward!
Thanks for reading :)
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