The Build Cycle Podcast #024 – Boulder Denim founders Brad & Taz

How would you like to launch your own company, head out on an 18-month road trip hitting all the best outdoor climbing spots and indoor gyms, and have someone else pay for all of it?

That’s basically what 20-somethings Brad Spence and Taz Barrett did with Boulder Denim. After a hilariously random assortment of jobs and small business ventures, they both fell in love with climbing. Being entrepreneurial at heart, and finding a need for something they could wear climbing and out on the town, they launched a patented stretch pair of jeans called Boulder Denim. Now the adventure really begins…

DISCUSSION TIMELINE

  • 01:45 – Where the name Boulder Denim came from?
  • 03:10 – The odd jobs that brought Brad & Taz together…and taught them about business
  • 10:00 – How those odd jobs led to Boulder Denim
  • 11:40 – How they designed the original prototypes & launched on Kickstarter
  • 18:00 – They put together a team and Kickstarter with virtually zero dollars
  • 28:30 – The first steps to production
  • 30:20 – Going on Dragon’s Den (Canada’s Shark Tank) and why they didn’t take the money
  • 33:30 – Where the money came from after Kickstarter was fulfilled
  • 36:30 – Living the dream to promote the brand
  • 40:00 – Switching from consumer direct to retail pricing, and their retail strategy
  • 45:10 – Some challenges and advice
  • 49:00 – Yes, they really are traveling the country and climbing on someone else’s dime.
Taz (left) and Brad on the bouldering wall at the back of their custom Airstream trailer…
…which doubles as a changing room so customers can try on their jeans.

POST GAME ANALYSIS

The odd jobs these two came up with prior to launching Boulder Denim remind me very much of a young me, except they were far more ambitious and successful. Their resume-builder concept is clever, but provides an interesting lesson of making sure your potential customers can actually afford and be willing to pay for your product. So, not all of them were successes, but all of them taught Brad and Taz valuable lessons. Your lesson? Don’t be afraid to launch something quick and see where it goes.

The creation of Boulder Denim, like so many other businesses, came from a personal need. They wanted something durable and flexible enough to climb in, but stylish enough to wear straight from the climbing gym to going out with friends. What’s a need you have? Chances are plenty more folks have that same need, which means there’s an opportunity to sell them something.

On my bike rides around town, I often duck down side roads and look around. That’s how B&T found their denim supplier, which saved the day. The only way that worked was because they had the courage to cold knock on the door, so don’t be afraid to introduce yourself and ask. The worst that’ll happen is you’ll get a “no”. But you might just end up finding a great business partner.

I love that they managed to launch their Kickstarter campaign professionally with real production value, acting talent and more by offering to pay on the contingency that they raised the funds. See what services you can trade out for or get on loan so long as it doesn’t become a distraction from the main objective. You don’t want to be trading your time if it means you can’t spend time on your business.

Their campaign was a success because they also put in place a good referral bonus program ahead of time to capture emails so they could promote it as soon as it went live. Combine that with good PR at launch and a great video and story. But, as they pointed out, the traditional PR firm didn’t do it for them…they took matters into their own hands and spent the time to send a personalized email to each media outlet. It also helped that they sent samples to well known athletes to get their feedback and having them act as mini ambassadors. One caveat at the end of the episode: Make sure you’re covering your real costs and leaving something for future growth. If your campaign is only covering the cost of that first batch, you’ll be left with no money to order the next round or ship the product.

Their parting advice? Test fast. Find people you don’t know (and don’t know you) in your target marketed, get product in their hands, take their feedback and iterate. Keep making the product better.

Boulder Denim founders tell how to launch a business and share their company startup story

LINKS & RESOURCES

boulder denim founders give entrepreneurs startup lessons on how they launched their business

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