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  • Writer's pictureDeanna Meador

From Tech to Threads: 5 Key Lessons Learned from Acquiring an Apparel Brand

On September 29th, I signed an agreement to do something I thought I would never do- acquire an apparel brand. Don’t get me wrong, I love fashion. I love how clothing lets me express myself without words and how a beautiful suit makes me feel when I walk into a room or how a comfy pair of shorts make me feel when I curl up to watch a movie. 


The reason I thought I would never do this as a serial tech founder came down to fear. Fear of inventory, fear of cashflow challenges, fear of returns, fear of producing something that customers wouldn’t love. 


So what changed? What moved me from saying I would never to do this to saying yes and signing on the dotted line? It was the chance to do things differently- to see if it is possible and what it would take to avoid the challenges that often impact companies producing physical products. It was the opportunity to create a lab environment of sorts for new technologies. 


We planned to relaunch the brand just in time to make some 2023 holiday sales and looking back now, that was never going to happen. There was fabric sourcing, updating designs, moving to a new manufacturing model, and the list went on. However, we were able to get it done in just 4 (very fast) months and relaunch Freedom Company on February 6th. As we grow in this journey, I’ll be sharing what I learn along the way. 


Here are the first 5 things I have learned as a tech founder that acquired an apparel company producing 100% made-in-the-U.S. garments:


1. On-demand manufacturing: That fear of inventory- gone! Moving to an on-demand manufacturing model is probably the best decision we’ve made. As a brand that sells entirely online, it doesn’t make sense for us to have capital tied up in large amounts of inventory or to store large amounts of inventory. So, how does it work? Our rolls of fabric are shipped to our manufacturer and stored there. We integrated our website with our manufacturing partner and as orders come in from customers, we review and approve them. Once we approve, our manufacturer gets to work- cutting, sewing, checking the quality, and shipping our garments out to our customers.  So far, we have seen garments arrive to our customers in 5 days or less from the time the order was placed. We can place bulk orders to have garments on hand for events and photoshoots, but we don’t have to make predictions on what sizes and colors to produce. And yes, our margins are a bit lower than what we might be able to get manufacturing overseas, but still strong and we have full visibility into our supply chain and no cash tied up except for in the rolls of fabric. 


2. Integrating emerging technologies: We acquired Freedom Company (F/Co) to take risks, try new things, learn quickly, and iterate to offer a customer experience that’s different from what exists on other websites. We integrated Couture Technologies’ VisualizeX virtual try on technology before we launched and used what we learned to quickly develop a v2. We learned that customers didn’t like seeing their avatar wearing F/Co garments beside photos of the garments on the models. It is a better experience when they can focus on the look and fit on their avatar and switch back and forth to see the models’ images. After integrating v2, we saw the amount of users completing the process to build their own personalized avatar increase by 70% and Freedom Company’s return rate remains less than 1%, remarkable when compared to the industry average of 30%. We’ll be publishing a case study once we get a little further along. 


3. Standing out and getting noticed: This is really difficult in a crowded marketplace and honestly we are still figuring this out. We’ve been working to optimize our SEO, start a Pinterest account, become an Amazon seller, engage Freedom Company’s prior customers, as well as bring in new customers, find influencers that would represent our brand well, and bring in some world-class fashion powerhouses to do some collaborations- whew! We’ll soon be implementing a new strategy to also support high-impact non-profits. We don’t have it all figured out, but we are tracking our every move and the way customers are engaging with our brand through our Couture Technologies’ data dashboard- something all brands get when they utilize Couture’s tech. We’ll be sharing our insights via our blog and our bi-weekly webinar. 


4. Some surprises, the first in corporate gifting: A surprise for me came during a 1:1 meeting at a trade show. A tech company booked a time slot with me and I truly thought the conversation was going to revolve around their desire to provide software development services for my company. Instead, I was surprised when they approached to talk about Freedom Company providing garments for their company to use as corporate gifts and employee incentives. They talked about how much they thought the combination of being able to use an innovative virtual try on technology and also receive a high-quality garment that was produced in the U.S. would delight their customers and team members. There have been many other surprises like this and I’ve been inspired by how others want to engage with the brand. Take the meetings and be open to where they lead. We stood up a corporate gifting page the next week after this meeting. 


5. Made in the U.S. and reading the fine print: Maintaining our Made in the U.S. mission has required us to read the fine print. As one example, when shopping for eco-friendly packaging, we sought out companies that touted their items were made in the U.S., but we learned that this didn’t include all their items. We had our new packaging in a shopping cart and were getting ready to make the purchase when we noticed small print at the bottom of the ordering page noting that the packaging we were about to buy was made in Vietnam. It turned out only a handful of the products in this company’s massive catalog were made in the U.S. If you are trying to buy U.S. made products, watch out for products that say they are designed or assembled in the U.S. and read the fine print. 


Companies don’t often share costs. In total, we spent just over $20K relaunching Freedom Company. 


So, would I do it again?


As of today, yes but not without on-demand manufacturing and not without virtual try on. No inventory, no large amounts of cash tied up, and no returns- three of my fears addressed. I’ll answer that same question again in 6 months. 


Interested in checking out the brand? Visit freedomcompany.co

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