Seph Skerritt is not your typical tailor turned online custom clothier. Equipped with a degree in Electrical Engineering, a knack for marketing, and an MBA from MIT Sloan––Seph Skerritt’s unique background makes his company, Proper Cloth, different from the competition.
In October 2008 he launched the first version of propercloth.com. He admits, “We were not an instant success. The first two years were particularly humble. We didn’t come from fashion. We didn’t have fancy investors. We made a lot of mistakes. Our manufacturing was slow. Our selection was limited. Our website was confusing. And then there was the financial crisis… But we stuck with it.”
Company: Proper Cloth
Founder/Age: Seph Skerritt, 30
Location: New York, NY
Startup Year: 2008
Startup Costs: Bootstrapped initially followed by $40k from friends and family. We’ve since raised additional capital.
How I Got Started
“Just did it. Designed a website, had it built, found a clothing factory and started selling shirts.”
During an internship in Shanghai in the summer 2007, Seph was first exposed to custom clothing. After returning to MIT Sloan, he brainstormed with friends and classmates about how the internet could be leveraged for a next generation clothing business: ultimately creating the business plan for Proper Cloth. Upon graduation, Skerritt moved to New York and founded the company.
With just a small amount of savings and credit every dollar had to count, so Skerritt chose an ultralight startup approach. An amateur (but determined) graphic artist, Skerritt designed the website himself and worked closely with talented software developers and graphic artists overseas to bring the site to life.
“To produce the dress shirts, I negotiated a flexible partnership with the best domestic custom shirt supplier I could find,” Skerritt recalls. Proper Cloth sold its first custom dress shirt in September and sales continue to grow quickly.
Customer Success Story
“Last summer we tried to arrange a photoshoot, but experienced obstacles arranging the photographer and venue. We were wary that this could potentially be really expensive to pull off without looking amateur.
“Around that time we also noticed that several customers (ten actually) were ordering the exact same design. We have literally trillions of possible combinations, so this seemed a bit strange. Later we found out that it was for someone’s wedding. A band member had gotten shirts for his entire groomsmen party to all look the same.
“I was writing a blog post about weddings and thought to email to ask him if I could use a photo. When he sent me the pictures, I was blown away with how perfect they were. He had had a great photographer and everyone looked like they were having a great time partying. We ended up putting this guys wedding on our home page and it worked out great for everyone.”
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