How Ben Perkins is using AndCollar.com to produce affordable apparel that will make you comfortable and not break your bank.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Ben Perkins: We are doing great and have been very fortunate with our situation.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded AndCollar.com.
Ben Perkins: I hated dress shirts. As a 13-year-old living in hot and humid Hong Kong, I felt cotton dress shirts were the worst thing on the planet and thought that if only I could make button-down dress shirts out of the same material as my soccer jerseys, life would be great. That is how Wick-A-Sweat, the precursor to &Collar, was born.
Fast forward nine years, I had just come home from living in the similarly hot and humid Philippines for two years wearing a cotton dress shirt every single day, and I knew it was time to make a better button-down shirt for men everywhere. While I started the development process for what became the performance dress shirt we now make and proudly sell today, I reached out to my sister and her group of friends in a local university’s advertising program to come up with a name and logo for my new company because the Wick-A-Sweat name and logo I had designed on Microsoft Paint on my family’s desktop computer wasn’t particularly good. They came up with Blue and White Collar, and we were off to the races.
Skipping past the fun days of fulfilling the few orders that would come in each week [mostly from friends and family – we would lose our minds when someone we didn’t know would order!] out of college dorms and girlfriends’ garages, Jordan and I decided to pursue this full-time in the summer of 2019, and here we are today with a small but incredible team of 10! We are doing the exact same thing I had in mind in 2009 when I first designed the logo and came up with the idea – to help men feel more comfortable, confident, and like themselves in dress clothes.
How does AndCollar.com innovate?
Ben Perkins: We are innovating by offering some of the greatest apparel technologies and sustainable processes available, bundling them into one single shirt, and democratizing it by making it affordable. One would be hard-pressed to find a better shirt than ours (I am biased, though!), but we think it would be impossible to find one comparable that didn’t cost two or three times more.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Ben Perkins: It’s interesting – the pandemic accelerated work from home and casual wear by several decades, it felt like – and we sell men’s formal wear. We were panicked at first, for sure, but thanks to fantastic and loyal customers that kept supporting us along with great marketing campaigns orchestrated by our partners to help us attract new customers, we were able to grow significantly through the pandemic. We are particularly excited about the potential this summer holds with people emerging from home, meeting together for weddings, graduations, and new jobs. We think everyone will want to make good “first impressions” after being stuck inside for over a year, and with our investment into building brand awareness, and we hope customers will choose us to help them look good!
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Ben Perkins: Yes, we absolutely did have to make difficult choices. The main one was whether or not to continue to invest in marketing and brand awareness with the knowledge that people were bundling up in loungewear at home. We decided to bet on ourselves and our product mix and spent on marketing. It was difficult as customer acquisition costs were high at first and knowing there wasn’t an immediate end in sight to casual wear, but as we are starting to emerge from the couch, our faith is starting to be rewarded.
What specific tools, software and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Ben Perkins: We are using a data-analytics software, Glew, to help us make incredibly informed decisions as we navigate this crisis. Having actionable data insights on our side is helping immensely in our efforts to continue to grow profitably.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Ben Perkins: Our competitors are other menswear brands producing and selling dress shirts, but also with the pandemic, loungewear and more casual wear clothing companies have emerged as competitors for our customers’ wardrobes as well. We plan to stay in the game with our positioning, which is an affordable and superior solution to these other menswear brands but also just as comfortable as loungewear. We’ve started to see success from our investment into marketing last year and hope that trend continues!
Your final thoughts?
Ben Perkins: A message of hope – if a men’s dress shirt company can grow exponentially during a pandemic where everyone went inside and stopped wearing formal clothes, any company can make it!