Industries change. And a lot of times from an idea that people thought was insane when it was first introduced. Initial investors thought Airbnb was absurd. Who would want to rent their home to a complete stranger? Now the hotel industry will never be the same.
Back in 2000, Netflix proposed to Blockbuster that they run their brand online. Ex-CFO of Netflix, Barry McCarthy, recalls the meetings saying that “they just about laughed us out of their office”. Now, Blockbuster doesn’t even exist.
The list can go on and on. But the concept is summed up no better than from a man who has executed on his fair share of wild ideas.
“Those who are crazy enough to think they can change the world usually do.” – Steve Jobs
And that brings us to Kevin Lavelle. This week’s guest on G&E The Podcast and the founder of Mizzen + Main. For those who are not familiar with the brand, Mizzen + Main is currently changing the landscape of the menswear industry with their performance fabric dress shirt. And it all started with what was then called an “insane” idea.
A Million Dollar Idea From a Hot Summer Day
Every man knows the feeling. It is nearly 100 degrees out and you’re on your way to work in whichever metropolis you call your home. You may walk, take the subway, or even be so bold to ride your bike. That fresh shower feeling from thirty minutes ago is gone. You are now entering the office feeling sweaty in your dress shirt and pants. It’s not fun.
One sweltering summer day while he was interning in Washington DC, Kevin saw this disheveled scene enter an office building and the light bulb went off. Why is there not a dress shirt made out of the same materials athletes use during hot, summer days?
The idea marinated in Kevin’s mind for a few years while he started his career in management consulting. But he had an itch to start his own business. To him, the idea was a gamechanger. He had to see where he could take it.
Having played golf for the majority of his life, he saw the changing landscape of golf apparel and took it as some inspiration for his own idea. Performance fabric polos started taking over the course. At first, they were considered unexpectable. Now, it is all you see.
“Even at Augusta, their signature logo polos became a dry fit polo from Nike. If that could happen in the most traditional environment out there, country clubs, why couldn’t what guys wear even more often than polos, a dress shirt, be made from the same fabric.”
Introducing Mizzen + Main’s flagship product. A dress shirt made for the modern man. You can take the shirt right out of the wash and it is ready to go in 15 minutes. It never wrinkles, allowing you to get rid of that iron you never use. And since it is made from performance fabric, it’s incredibly breathable and wicks away moisture. Almost forgot, since the material allows it to stretch, it fits nearly everyone right off the rack. Look good. Feel good.
Seems like an awesome idea, right? Well, people in the industry thought it was a bit insane. But he had the self-belief to keep pushing on. Especially after their first trade show experience.
“We were laughed out of the building. People told us no one will ever wear this product. “My customers will only wear cotton”. It is pretty deflating when people who are supposed experts are telling you why it won’t work.”
Look whos laughing now. In just five and a half years, Kevin has built a remarkable business that has achieved 400% year over year growth. They have locked up partnerships with iconic athletes such as Tim Tebow and J.J. Watt. And have expanded past their primary channel of e-commerce into 450 stores around the country. This includes over 100 golf pro shops. Not to mention personally winning the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2016.
Episode 26 of G&E The Podcast
In this week’s episode, Kevin gives us an in-depth look at what it took to build his business. We talk about his experiences during the first few years of the grind, how he landed partnerships with high profile athletes, what the Tim Ferris show did for the brand’s exposure, and much more.
To listen on iTunes, click HERE.