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513 - Custom Fit, Global Impact: MADE TECH's Apparel Innovation with Dustin Butcher

February 22nd, 2024

Host Victoria Guido interviews Dustin Butcher, CEO and Co-Founder of MADE TECH, a company revolutionizing the performance apparel industry through custom and made-to-measure automation technology. Dustin shares his journey from working in the outdoor industry and running a creative agency to founding MADE TECH. The company's mission is to provide performance apparel that perfectly fits the wearer's body, addressing a common issue where standard sizes fail to accommodate individual body shapes and sizes, particularly in sports where fit and movement are crucial.

Dustin discusses the inspiration behind MADE TECH, which stemmed from personal experiences with ill-fitting outdoor apparel during activities like ski touring. He highlights the company's focus on inclusivity, allowing for 100% size inclusivity and addressing the needs of a broad spectrum of body shapes and sizes. This initiative caters to individuals who traditionally struggle to find performance gear that fits and opens the door for brands to offer more inclusive product lines. Dustin's background in the outdoor industry and encounters with the limitations of standard sizing in apparel led to the development of a technology-driven solution that customizes clothing to the individual's measurements, enhancing performance and comfort.

The conversation also touches on the industry's broader implications of custom and made-to-measure apparel, including sustainability and waste reduction. Dustin elaborates on MADE TECH's business model, which initially targeted direct-to-consumer sales but has pivoted towards partnering with established brands to offer custom-fit options. This strategic shift aims to leverage brand trust and reach a wider audience, promoting inclusivity and personalization in the performance apparel market.

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Transcript:

 VICTORIA: This is the Giant Robots Smashing Into Other Giant Robots Podcast, where we explore the design, development, and business of great products. I'm your host, Victoria Guido. And with me today is Dustin Butcher, CEO and Co-Founder of MADE TECH, powering the future of performance apparel with custom and made-to-measure automation. Dustin, thank you for joining me.

DUSTIN: Oh, thank you so much for having me, and I'm excited to be here.

VICTORIA: Wonderful. Yeah. So, why don't you just introduce yourself a little bit more and tell me about your background?

DUSTIN: Yeah, of course. So, as you mentioned, I'm one of the co-founders of MADE. We have built technology that enables the automation of custom and made-to-measure performance apparel. So, similar to how you could, like, you know, go online and design a custom suit or something like that and get it made to fit your body, we do that for performance apparel so that the product that really matters if it fits you properly and that sort of thing, and, you know, so that might be outdoor apparel, motocross, yoga. Whatever sport it is that you're into that, you need your apparel to move with you; that's what we fuel. And so, we're working with a bunch of different brands in that space to do that.

My background, I came from the outdoor industry; always been in the outdoor industry since I was able to hold a job, originally just at ski resorts and stuff as a lifty and as a waiter, and all those types of classic, you know, teenage jobs. And then I worked in-house at a bunch of outdoor companies, Voilé, a little backcountry ski company here in Salt Lake, and then Black Diamond, and Gregory Packs, and Petzl, and kind of worked around the industry a bit.

And then for the last 12 years, I ran a creative agency, specifically in the outdoor industry, working with a lot of those same brands and other brands in kind of communicating their value to the outdoor customer. And so, and then we kind of rolled into MADE, had this idea, connected with my co-founders, and really built it from there.

VICTORIA: I love hearing about people building careers in the outdoor industry, something really close to me personally. I also got my first few jobs from rock climbing and having competed as a young adult and then walking up to businesses and saying, "Hey, you have a climbing wall. Like, you should hire me, and I'll run your climbing wall." And they're like, "Okay." [laughs] So, it just, like, brings you so much confidence and such a great community to be a part of.

And so, you're talking about creating clothes that move with you. Can you tell me a time when you were doing something, some kind of performance sport activity, and you were like, "Wow, whatever I'm wearing does not fit me. This is really affecting my performance and my ability to do this sport"?

DUSTIN: Yeah, I probably have too many of these stories. And what's interesting about that is I'm a pretty traditionally medium guy. I'm 5'11. I'm 170 pounds. Like, I should generally fit into mediums, but I'm just in that weird spot where I always kind of feel like, am I a medium or a large in this? My torso is a bit long. So, my primary sport is ski touring, like, backcountry skiing. That's what I love to do. That's where I spend my time and my focus and a lot of that kind of stuff.

So, I've had lots of experiences where I might be climbing up a [inaudible 03:08], and my jacket comes up a bit on my lower back and exposes my lower back, and it's cold. And so, then I got into defaulting where I wear, like, one-piece base layers, so I can never expose my skin directly. But it's like, the ultimate solution really was to have properly fitting stuff.

The original concept for MADE came from I was out on a ski tour with some friends, and I was wearing a pair of pants, some soft shell pants that I loved the fit of. But the feature set wasn't there, and they were, like, Alpine climbing pants. They're not even designed for ski touring. They didn't fit over my ski boot. They looked a little bit silly, but I loved the fit, like, in the leg. And they didn't have like, you know, a beacon pocket and those types of things that I would want.

But I do have this other pair of ski touring soft shell pants that I wear most of the time that fit terribly but have all the features that I want. And it was like, ah, man, I wish I could, like, determine exactly what I need as a skier and then, you know, would have the confidence that it was going to fit me perfectly, that sort of thing. And that's really where it kind of started. It was a very selfish, like, how can I get the thing that I want?

You know, I connected with my co-founders, both of whom came from Arc'teryx to start this with me. And we really got to thinking, and it's like, wow, with this type of system, we can make a really big impact as far as like, we can be 100% size-inclusive. There's not body shapes or sizes we can't meet with this type of system. And so, then it really opened a lot of doors as far as, like, what we can do and how we can connect this. And that's when we all kind of came together on this idea and said, like, "This matters, and we're the ones to build it."

VICTORIA: I love that you're trying to fit something that works for you, and you realize having that ability could make it inclusive for everyone. And I wonder if you could share more about what you know about sizing in the clothing industry and, how that's developed over time, and how it may be really limiting who has access to the products that you're selling and the activity that those products allow you to do.

DUSTIN: It might sound like a crappy, little history lesson, but, you know, the further back we go...before the industrial revolution, clothing was made to fit the individual, you know, you'd go to a tailor, and you'd tell them what you need the product to do for you, and they'd measure you and make the product. And then we got into this mass manufactured thing, which is great as far as, like, efficiencies and economies of scale, and all that kind of stuff. And so, we can get stuff cheaper and still, like, high-level product, but we got into this standardized system.

And then companies deal with this challenge of like, okay, what is our small? What is our medium? What is our large? And finding those things and trying to meet the needs of the bell curve but also knowing that for every individual person, they're not meeting that person's fit needs, right? They're trying to fit as many people within the primary sizes as they can, and that's part of the challenge.

One of the things that we've run into in performance product, especially, is that, like, there are massive swaths of people that simply cannot get good performance product in their size. 68% of North American women are over a size 14, and it's really hard to find good ski outerwear, as an example, for a plus-size individual like that. And that's not even that plus size. That's an average, like, that's 68%. Like, we're not talking about like, oh, these are the ends of the bell curve. These are people who want to get out and do things, and they've been unable to do it because of clothing.

What a silly reason to not be able to do the sport that you're excited about, or even to go spend time with your friends and family, or whatever it might be, like, your motivation, but, like, what a bummer of a reason to not be able to do it. So, those are the things we're trying to solve through our system is saying, like, "Hey, we can work with these existing brands, and they can now offer stuff that is fully inclusive, meets all of their quality expectations, all of this, and still comes in with a very reasonably priced product."

You know, it's not what you think custom would be where it's like, oh, it's going to be five times the cost of the ready-to-wear product. No, we can come in at the same price or very similar with these brands and allow them to make options that meet the needs of all different shapes and sizes.

VICTORIA: Well, I can really relate to that because some of the clothes that I would wear for climbing or even yoga are coming in at a very high price point already. And I recently tried on a set of clothing from a retailer who's normally, like, known for yoga and outdoors equipment. And I was just surprised at how it seemed that they wanted the person who fit these clothes to be very narrow all the way through [laughs]. And I was like, wow, I'm struggling to fit in these clothes.

And, like you said, like, I feel like I'm pretty average, and that was frustrating, and especially, like, getting clothes like that it can really deter people from participating in the sport and participating in outdoor activities altogether. So, I think it's really cool that you are going down that journey.

Let me ask you, how did you get the original idea for MADE TECH, specifically?

DUSTIN: So, first, we had to determine, is it possible? Can you make a system that would automate the creation of a custom pattern, all of that kind of stuff in really technical product, right? We know it can be done in suits and jeans and that sort of category that's more of a simple cut-and-sew. Whereas when you get into technical product where you're dealing with waterproof fabrics and seam sealing, you know, in a ski jacket, there's, like, 200 pieces of that product versus two pieces that get, like, pushed together and sewn between, right? Like, it's really, really complicated stuff.

So, we started with that kind of hypothesis is, yes, we can figure this out, and we did that under a D2C brand, MADE Outdoor. It's madeoutdoor.com. It's now been live for almost two winters, and we've made a bunch of product and a bunch of people happy. And, you know, we had some really early success with really tall, thin dudes, you know, like, that 6'6, you know, I'm sub 200 pounds or something. I'm really thin. And that person has been kind of forced into wearing a triple XL jacket for so long. So, they're pretty psyched. And so, like, we've had some of those early wins, and that was really kind of like, okay, we tested it. We've proven this system works.

And so, it's really just been in the last six months that we've said, like, okay, now where do we make the biggest impact? How do we make that change in the industry and in these opportunities to participate in these sports? And that's not through our own brand. That is one piece of it. Sure. But the larger opportunity is for us to work with existing brands that have that consumer trust already that, you know, like, "Oh yeah, I've worn this brand for however many years, and I have that trust, and I love the brand. And now I can get something that fits me perfectly."

Or it's that person that's like, "Oh, I've always worn this brand because it fits me, but I really would love to wear this other brand, but I know it doesn't fit me properly." And so, it opens doors for people to kind of like say like, "Okay, what's the brand? What are the materials? What's the brand ethos that really connects with me? And be able to go there and not have fit be the reason that I can go with one or the other."

VICTORIA: That's really interesting. So, you started with originally direct-to-consumer custom ski and snowboard wear and, found your initial success, and then identified a pivot point where you could expand and do direct business-to-business and make other brands more inclusive as well.

DUSTIN: Yeah, that's the big idea, right? And it doesn't need to be my name or our brand name on the thing. Like, what we've built, like, there's just an opportunity for an impact here that's bigger than just us.

VICTORIA: I love that. And it makes me want to ask you, what other core values drive your everyday decisions as you go about your process here?

DUSTIN: Yeah, the three kind of pillars we think about anytime we are working on something, and really that kind of drive our whole system at MADE, is inclusivity, sustainability, and personalization. I should come up with a better way to say that, but it's those three, right?

So, on the personal side, we want you to have the thing that you need. Your setup for some climbing clothing is going to be different than mine. You're going to want to set things up differently. And maybe you are a boulderer, and I am a big wall climber. Yeah, we have different needs for what we have. And so, we want you to be able to kind of define that rather than just being a designer in some boardroom somewhere. So, that's the personalization side.

The second is the sustainability side. 30%, and this sounds outrageous, but 30% of apparel is never sold to an end consumer. And it eventually gets destroyed or sent to the landfill, which obviously has a massive sustainability impact, not only for that product to how do you dispose of that kind of thing, but also just, like, we made it, and it took time, and it took money, and it took human hours and all that kind of stuff.

So, that's a huge opportunity for us because everything that is made through the MADE system it already has a home. Like, we never make a thing...if any of our brands are using our system, they only make things that already have a home. So, that's a huge win. We immediately take off that 30% of overproduction, right?

And then the inclusivity stuff we've talked about already, but it's like, we just want people to be able to do the things that makes them happy. And it's a bummer when you can't do those things, whether it's climbing, or yoga, or whatever. Like, you know, there are some big brands that have had a hard time with size inclusivity, which is totally understandable. It's really hard to make product that fits everybody.

And so, you know, we create these standardized systems, and then we knowingly leave people off. But we know that because it's like, well, not that many people in this size have bought from us, and we have to hit our MOQs, and we have to do X and Y and that sort of thing. But with this type of system, they can hit everybody, and they're not taking those, like, big risks as far as like, oh yeah, we have to set place this big order, and then all this product is going to sit in a warehouse for three years before it'll finally sell through.

VICTORIA: It reminds me of a classic story you hear in software design about how they tried to make the first Air Force pilot chair; I don't know if you've heard this one, where they, like, took all the measurements of all the pilots and then they, like, averaged out all the, like, heights and widths and everything. So, they made this chair that fit no one.

DUSTIN: Yeah [laughs].

VICTORIA: Because no one is perfectly average. Like, you know, everyone has variations in their size and their measurements. And so, I think that's really cool. It's interesting. I hadn't thought about the conservation impact or the impact on the environment; it takes just to have to have so much error in your sizing, which is naturally part of what's going to happen when you try to make an average size.

DUSTIN: I've not been on the product design side of apparel. I don't envy them. Like, their job is hard to find that fit story that, okay, this is what the average consumer looks like. But what does our consumer look like, and then how do we find something that meets them? And what is our medium? And then, do we have to make a different medium for different markets in the world? And there's so much, like, level of detail in there.

That's one of the beauties of us working with other brands now is that, like, their level of knowledge in that stuff is huge. And so, pulling from that and being able to say like, "For your product, how should this jacket fit somebody? How do you want it to move?" So, then, when our system pulls in the 3D measurements of that individual, it can say like, "Okay, this jacket needs to sit this far off of the shoulder. It needs to have this much room around the bicep." Like, those types of things are all part of how it works and gives those opportunities for, like, an individualized fit that is determined by how the brand wants it to perform.

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VICTORIA: How did you go about, like, what was your first step when you said, "Oh, I need a system to do this type of automation and to be able to do this kind of customization"? How did you approach solving that problem?

DUSTIN: Well, we started to figure it out, and we realized that the system didn't exist [laughs]. So, that's really what it was. It was out of necessity more than anything. So, we wanted to build our custom and made-to-measure brand, and none of the systems existed to do it. So, we got to work on building those systems. You know, that was, over the last year, it's like, okay, we built all these systems. Do we just use them for ourselves, or can we have that bigger impact if we work with other brands?

VICTORIA: So, did you have the skills to build the technology already in-house, or did you have to develop that within your company?

DUSTIN: Oh, man. So, my co-founders are amazing. I started this with two co-founders, Cheryl LeBarr and Capri Philip, both came from Arc'teryx to start this with me. Arc'teryx, if people don't know, is one of the big outerwear brands in the outdoor space, a beautiful, beautiful product. They understand fit and, form and function, and they make an amazing product. And I have connections over there, and so I made a few phone calls and really, like, found the right people.

So, we got to work on it. None of us are coders. We kind of scrambled through our MVP. We figured out how we could do it with...if you look at our MVP backend, it's messy, like every startup's MVP is. And it's like, okay, this system is connecting to this system over here, and it's talking to this. And it's sending this data from here and that sort of thing. And it's like, but we figured it out, and that was the key.

You know, so the automation of this stuff really came from the pattern design side, which was Capri's specialty. And then the automation of the, like, tech pack and all of the factory details that they need to produce the garment came from Cheryl's side, from the product development side. And mine was more on the brand and kind of communication of the value and that sort of thing. We were scrappy. And we figured out how to build something that worked.

And then the next step was to bring on a proper CTO and then really build the, like, scalable system that's like, okay, now it can plug into existing systems. And, oh, you have these expectations of your enterprise-level software. Yes, this is how it works, that sort of thing. So, it's been tiered in that way. And that, honestly, is part of the fun. Like, part of the fun is finding these new problems to solve and then coming up with creative ways to solve them.

VICTORIA: That's really cool. So, you all were able to build your MVP together within your existing co-founding team. I'm curious about, like, what platforms you chose to do that in. Did you pick, like, a programming language or some sort of, like, ClickOps or some kind of, like, other tool that you could use, like low-code tool, to develop it at first?

DUSTIN: I mean, it's very low code. It's Google Docs, Google Sheets that speak to each other and, like, can share data between them kind of thing within our secret backend, obviously. We have a really great relationship with our measurement partner. We didn't build the measurement technology. That's a whole different business model and that sort of thing. So, we work with this great group called 3DLOOK that does our measurements, and it just uses a customer's phone to take a front and a side photo, and then we get a full 3D model that goes into our thing. It's super cool.

We tried to pull some things off the shelf that existed that we could use without having to build it ourselves. With my agency business, like, I have a developer that I work with a lot. And so, like, we called on them to help us build a few pieces, but for the most part, it really was just, like, getting scrappy and creative together. And, like, we built the MADE Outdoor platform on Shopify. It's like all these systems that are just kind of like, yeah, we know how these systems work. Let's use those to start, and then if it works, then we build it into a bigger framework.

VICTORIA: I'm glad you mentioned that there's take a picture because I was going to say, whenever I even have to do, like, a sizing guide chart on a website to buy clothes and you have to, like, measure your waist, I'm like, I don't want to do that [laughs]. I'm just, like, too lazy. I don't want to check that right now. So, taking a picture would be so much easier.

DUSTIN: People are so bad at that [laughs]. Like, when we first got started, and we were asking people to send in their measurements, and here's a video on how to do it, even the same person, like, with three different people measuring them, you'd get wildly different information. And so, we definitely knew early on, okay, we need to eliminate the human error aspect and get this as digital as possible. So, that's where we found the right partner. And it really is, it's, like, a two-minute thing.

You stand in front of your phone. It takes photos. The photos aren't even saved anywhere, like; they're AI, like, looks at the photos and then gives us the model. We're not sitting on a bunch of pictures of people in their base layers and underwear or anything like that. It's like, all of this is just kind of like, we have your 3D model, and now we can build the product, and we can even do digital test fits on that person, your actual body, before it even gets made, and stuff.

So, we have systems for redundancy and everything that we can test everything. And that's just the beauty of, like, the modern technology that exists. Like, we didn't build that either, but we are using the heck out of it to make sure that we can make the best product for people.

VICTORIA: That's really cool. I love that. So, you've maybe answered this question already a little bit, but was there anything else in your product discovery process, and especially as you shifted into marketing directly to businesses, anything that was in your discovery process that surprised you and had you pivot in your strategy?

DUSTIN: You know, you start with your own experience, right? So, we are sitting in our meetings, and it's like, oh man, here's all the products we want to make. And we're like, we've got this list of 40 things that we want. Oh, I need soft-shell pants. And we started in hard shell for our own brand. So, then it's like, "I live in the Wasatch. I don't wear hard shell, like, while I'm ski touring, at least. Like, I need soft shell." And then it's like, okay, well, let's start working on soft shell stuff.

Then it's like, okay, we also need mid-layers, and we need base layers. And then we need mountain bike, and we need trail run, and we need climbing, and we need hiking. And it's like, oh man, you know what would be easier? If we just worked with, like, one of the or all of the big brands in this space. And there's some really great examples of, like, smaller companies that have created really compelling systems to work with these brands, like the same group that does the secondary market stuff, so the Worn Wear program for Patagonia and the ReGear thing for Arc'teryx.

And they built that same structure for, like, two dozen different brands. And it's like, man, that is the model for us. That's where we can really connect is they've created so much value in the secondary market, and we've created a bunch of value in this custom and made-to-measure market. That's what we want to do. And we want motocross...like, the MADE brand isn't going to make motocross stuff. The MADE brand isn't going to make fly fishing necessarily. But we want these markets and these people to be able to have that solution. And we also, like, we're early in the space.

Like, we want them to use us rather than, like, take the time and money and everything to build it themselves. Like, come to us, like, that's our whole idea. We want to have that bigger, larger impact. So, I guess it's us just trying to say like, "What do we want?" And we're users. We know the market. How do we get there the fastest? And how do we have that impact quicker than just necessarily, like, okay, well, in 25 years, we'll have all those products that we want?

VICTORIA: Yeah, yeah, I could see that, how it went from, well, yeah, I would want this for every product, and then you're like, well, I can't build every product [laughs]. So, I like that pivot in your strategy. And what challenges do you see in being able to make that impact as quickly as you want?

DUSTIN: One of our biggest challenges right now, I think, is that this is a totally new idea in this space. Nobody's done this in this space. Like, in suiting, custom suits have been a thing for a long time, and it used to just be for rich people. And now because of, like, modern technology and stuff, it's become more approachable. Awesome. That's great. And so, like, in that kind of category, people are more used to the idea of, like, yeah, I place an order, and it takes time, and they make a thing, and then it comes to me.

Whereas with outdoor apparel and sports apparel and that sort of stuff, you go to your local shop. You try on six different things, and you walk out with the one that meets your needs the best. That's what people are used to. So, it's a little bit of a shift in the thought process. You know, we've had our early adopters, and now we're kind of moving into more people who are like, "Okay, I get it now." And so, we're seeing more of that where it's like, yes, if I give some time, then I really see the value of having something that fits me perfectly.

And in the MADE Outdoor brand, it's not an inexpensive product. We make a really premium hard shell product. Now, it's comparable in price to the other brands that make comparably featured and whatever product, but still, you're spending money, and you want something that's going to last for a while. And so, to have that perfect fit, to have that perfect feature set, to know that when I ski, I totally need a left chest pocket, and I don't need a right chest pocket, whatever it might be, like, your details, that matters, right?

So, that's probably our biggest challenge right now. That's not an unsolvable problem. We can manage that. We can get the communication out. And especially as we're onboarding these existing brands, that gives us the opportunity to have a much larger mouthpiece and be able to kind of say like, "Hey, this exists, and you should care." Yes, it's going to be amazing for individuals who have traditionally been off-size. But it's also amazing for you people who think you've always been just, "Yeah, I'm a medium, and everything fits me just fine." You'd be surprised.

Like, having something that fits you perfectly is a different world, and the ability to then move in that sport and, like, be able to do your thing, it's like, oh yeah, I guess that, like, extra fabric in my shoulders was kind of, like, limiting my movement while ice climbing or, you know, oh yeah, my sleeves were always coming up while I was climbing, or whatever it might be. Like, there's things that I think people will really kind of be psyched about when they start to experience that custom aspect of it.

VICTORIA: Yeah. I can speak to some of that, too, as, like, a climber. And you mentioned it even when you talked earlier about, well, if you're bouldering at the gym, that's a totally different experience than if you're out all day on a multi-pitch, and you're on the wall, and you're, you know, you're vertical for, like, six hours of the day [laughs]. And I think it's really interesting to be able to provide that customization.

And how are you defining success for the company? So, you just made this pivot about six months ago. Did you immediately create some goals that you wanted to achieve in three months, six months, or five years?

DUSTIN: Yeah, I mean, we have our, like, target, our sales targets and stuff that we are looking at as far as we want these many brands on board this year. And we want to bring on like, you know, as I step back a little bit, as, like, the bigger thoughts behind the company, that's more of, like, where we're trying to target multiple different categories at the same time. So, like, if we can get one big outdoor brand, great, that's what we want to do.

Now, we want all the outdoor brands. We totally want them all. But if we can just get one, then we're going to have a start of an impact in the outdoor sector. Then we want the motocross brand, and we want to be able to make the impact in that sector. And we want the fly fishing brand, and we want the yoga brand, and we want the traditional, like, team sports brands and those types of things.

Like, we want to kind of, like, spread and have an impact across categories and as kind of a first attack. And then to really kind of go from there and say like, "Okay, now let's build out, like, oh, fly fishing really is connecting with this, or the yoga community is loving the, like, idea of a really custom fit product." So, like, those types of things are where we can kind of go from there.

But as we begin, it's really like, can we make an impact across these different categories? And those are a lot of our goals as we start out. It's like, how can we connect with surf? How can we connect with hike? How can we, you know, like, and it's just looking at each of these little categories because we know there's people being stuck that can't get out in each of those things, and we know we can help. But we're not going to design the product personally. So, how can we make that impact with the right partners?

VICTORIA: Oh, that's great. And I'm even thinking about surfing and getting a wetsuit. And there's just so few women wetsuits, period, in the store. And it's very limited in range and can be really challenging. And I took a friend surfing last year and did not enjoy that process. She did not like it [laughter]. She liked the surfing part, but the getting the wetsuit on and trying them on was not great [laughs].

DUSTIN: I can only imagine, yeah. And there's some really cool, like, in surf, there are some great small brands, like, new brands that are doing custom fit. I don't know their systems. I don't know if it's an automated process or if it's a manual process, but the reality is it's not readily available enough to the general public. And that's where it's like, oh man, our system makes it readily available.

And so, then it's like a simple kind of like, okay, I go online. I fill in this information. I decide, do I want a hood on my wetsuit? Do I not want a hood? Do I want this kind of entry? Do I want...Like, you decide the details that you want, and then the product is made for you. That's the beauty of it, right?

VICTORIA: Yeah. And I'm curious to kind of get back to marketing to existing businesses because you not only have to sell them on this is the art of the possible. Here's, like, what you could do to get the same performance with these custom measurements of your existing high-performing apparel. But you also have to encounter this change management process where they have a way of doing things. You'd be a new product. They'd have to figure out how to change up all their operations. So, I'm curious: what's your strategy for getting involved in that and working through it?

DUSTIN: Oh man, some of these companies are giant ships with tiny rudders, right? So, to get them to shift any direction or the other is tricky. A lot of our current sales pipeline is more medium-sized brands that have a little bit more of a nimble; yeah, we can jump on this. But one advantage we have is that some of these categories do have some custom programs, like I mentioned, the custom wetsuit stuff, like, that is in the market. So, like, wetsuit companies are aware that this needs to exist. Fly fishing waders: there are some custom fly fishing waders, now, not necessarily made-to-measure, but you don't make them in a 4XL or something. You could order a 4XL from a certain company.

So, like, there are systems like that. So, they've actually already kind of figured out the manufacturing side, which is one of the challenges of it that we can help the brands figure out those details because we've done it, and we know how to, like, take advantage of the efficiencies that they have in place with their current supply chain, or they can use our supply chain that we've built out. So, it depends. But that is one of the challenges is to get them to just kind of commit to say like, "Yes, this is worth putting in the time."

So, we do have...actually, the secondary market company I mentioned earlier, the way that they do it is it's, like, a separate site. And so, it's not run through their existing site. And so, they get around some of the ways of not necessarily having to be tied directly into a lot of their internal systems, and it's run as, like, a secondary system. Like, there are guitar manufacturers that make custom that they don't even produce them. They basically license out their shapes and stuff to custom builders.

So, we're trying to take a lot of the learnings from these other categories that do something kind of similar to what we're doing and learn from them and say like, "Okay, that's one approach we could take, or that's an approach we could take."

And then, really, we're going to the sales conversations with those brands and saying, "What do you need? Because we can be flexible." We're the opposite of the giant ship with a tiny rudder. We're that tiny, little motorboat that can, you know, like, spin circles and stuff. Like, we can do whatever is really needed at this point for these brands to be able to tie into them. So, we are flexible, and we try to learn as much from them as possible to be able to build the right solution.

VICTORIA: Yeah, I think that is the draw of you get your foot in the door with the middle businesses, and you can prove out that it works, and then maybe eventually the bigger brands start to take notice and pick it up as well. But it is going to take time. That's really cool. I think it provides that, you know, for those mid-size businesses, it gives them an advantage that a larger enterprise wouldn't be able to offer.

DUSTIN: Yeah, no, I think, at first, especially, like, the idea to be kind of first to market-ish with something totally new and exciting and to create that brand value with their customer in a way that they haven't been able to before.

VICTORIA: Right. And you mentioned fly fishing a few times, and I feel like it's one of those sports that I've done it when I was, like, really small, like, maybe with my grandfather, like, fishing in the river. And as I get older, I'm like, it does sound nice.

DUSTIN: Right? [laughs]

VICTORIA: Like, sitting alone in, like, a beautiful place. Like, maybe you get a fish, maybe you don't. I think I like the idea of it more than the reality of it, but will try it out some...I have enough other sports [inaudible 33:02].

DUSTIN: I think you'd be psyched if you gave it a shot. Like, fly fishing is something that, like, if you like being outside, it's something else. There's a beauty to it, for sure. And there's a beauty to all of these sports. And, honestly, if people are being active, whatever it is that you're doing, good for you. And that's part of it is, like, we are trying to be as sport agnostic as we can in all of this because, yeah, we don't care if you are a diehard snowmobiler, right? Amazing. Great. Let's get you some product that fits so you can get out and do your diehard thing.

Or, you know, maybe you're a mountain biker or a road cyclist, or, like, you know, there's so many things that we wear clothing that we hope allows us to perform in that sport, and yet so much of it is holding us back, even maybe to a degree that we don't even know. Professional athletes and stuff, much of their product is made-to-measure. Olympic speed skaters, like, it's not like they had to just choose a medium or a large type of product. Like, it's made to fit their body so that they can perform at their pinnacle level. That's awesome.

Where that stops is in the, like, general consumer, and, like, I want to get out and do my sport. It's not about being the best at this thing. It's just about being my best at this thing and having the most fun that I want to have in it. The fit and the details of your product matter just as much as it does for the Olympian as far as I'm concerned.

VICTORIA: Absolutely. And it reminds me of a story that happened to me. I was climbing in this very popular pant that is known as their climbing pant from this particular brand. And it was maybe the fifth time I'd worn these pants and just ripped the inseam while climbing.

DUSTIN: [laughs]

VICTORIA: You know, lucky it wasn't that cold that day or anything, but it's just [inaudible 34:50]

DUSTIN: Your belayer got a kick out of it, I'm sure.

VICTORIA: Yeah, there was a layer to this, right? Yeah.

DUSTIN: [laughs]

VICTORIA: And I've heard that happens to lots of climbers who wear those same pants. Like, they're known for that because it's really hard to get that measurement right, especially with that kind of material, which was great. It's like this material that was supposed to not rip, right? [laughter] [inaudible 35:09] what is this? Yeah. Maybe I do want to go outside, and I want to go fly fishing, or I want to go skiing or snowboarding, but, oh, they don't even have pants in my size. Like, I'm not even going to try. And that's really demoralizing. So, I think it's great to be working on that problem.

Oh, wonderful. Thank you so much for joining. Is there anything else that you would like to promote today?

DUSTIN: No, I mean, I think I love having these conversations, and chatting with you has been so great. It's fun to talk about what we're working on and to, you know, get the word out a bit more. There's not really other things to promote other than, like, you know, if you're a smaller or medium-sized or a large apparel brand hearing this, like, please reach out to me. I want to talk to you.

We've built a system that really can help both the brand and the customer. It helps the brand with revenue and with margins and reduced waste and all of these things, but it also just helps the customer have a better product and a better experience. And ultimately, that's, in theory, what we are trying to do when we make product. So yeah, that's my focus, and that's what I want to talk to everybody I can about right now.

VICTORIA: I love that. Thank you so much for sharing your story and for coming on the show today.

You can subscribe to the show and find notes along with a complete transcript for this episode at giantrobots.fm. If you have questions or comments, email us at hosts@giantrobots.fm. And you can find me on Twitter @victori_ousg.

This podcast is brought to you by thoughtbot and produced and edited by Mandy Moore. Thanks for listening. See you next time.

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