New York City-based Basic Outfitters launched in November 2015 with a unique “Create-a-Drawer” concept. Men can overhaul their underwear drawer in one fell swoop at a bargain. For only $60, you get three sets of boxers or briefs, three undershirts (or one depending on the style), one pair of sweatpants and between three and 10 pairs of socks, depending on the style. The boxers and socks come in a wide range of colors and whimsical patterns, appealing to hipsters and preppies alike. They also sell the products separately for $15 to $30.
“We started Basic Outfitters to disrupt the men’s basics industry by offering the best value product and changing the way men shop for their basics,” said Michael Dweck, who started the company with wife Laura. “This service provides our customers with the most convenient, affordable, fast and customizable experience in the market.”
Basic Outfitters made the top 10 finalists in the Microsoft Small Business Challenge. It has appeared in an array of media outlets including Good Morning America, Forbes 30 Under 30, Men’s Health, Vogue, Inc. Magazine, Star and People. The Dwecks pitched on Shark Tank in January 2017. But the Sharks got their panties in a bunch over how much equity they’ve already sold.
Disrupting a Seemingly Oversaturated Market
Laura and Michael started the company out of Michael’s own need for affordable, high-quality underwear.
“When Michael and I first married and moved into a cozy apartment in NYC, we had very limited closet space,” Laura explains. “When it was time to divide up our dresser, naturally I monopolized five out of six of the drawers. Michael was left with one drawer for socks and underwear. When the drawer wouldn’t close, I knew we had a real problem. I made Michael throw out all his old basics that he hadn’t worn in six months. This turned out to be 90% of his drawer.”
They discovered an unmet need in a seemingly oversaturated market. There are plenty of high-quality, high-priced basics or low-quality, low-cost ones — but not what Michael wanted. The quest for high-quality yet low-cost products stressed him out. He figured he could not be the only one facing this dilemma.
“We did some research and found a crazy statistic that pushed us over the edge,” Michael says. “On average men keep their underwear for seven years. We were pretty bothered by that and made it our mission to put an end to that statistic. We saw the opportunity to capitalize on the white space in the market.”
Laura and Michael are the ideal New York power couple to capitalize on an opportunity. Laura earned a bachelor’s in fashion merchandising and management from the Fashion Institute of Technology. She interned at Bloomingdale’s fashion office and Women’s Wear Daily. Her first job after college was working for shoe designer Sam Edelman, where she quickly scaled the ranks to fashion director.
Laura later launched a fashion blog, Edgify Me. Then she lead merchandising and designing at Onia, a men’s contemporary swimwear line trying to break into women’s swimwear. She designed the inaugural collection. Its success led to a promotion to design and merchandise of Onia’s men’s collection.
Michael has been an entrepreneur for as long as he can remember. At age 9, he sold cold drinks at the beach. He put himself through Rutgers University by chauffeuring big wigs at Century 21. After college, he worked at Memorial Sloan Kettering, the No. 1 U.S. cancer hospital. He was promoted six times in five years. He managed 36 people as the operational manager for chemotherapy and surgical units.
Massive Growth Potential
Basic Outfitters had to move three times in the prior year to accommodate its rapid growth and overcome problems with logistics and order fulfillment.
“Running a startup is grueling,” Michael said. “But when you surround yourself with talented and positive people, the only way is up.”
Laura and Michael aspire to expand the company into a full lifestyle brand within five years and may consider licensing opportunities for products outside of their expertise. Basic Outfitters prides itself on tailoring designs based on customer feedback and manufacturing in factories certified by WRAP, Worldwide Responsible Accredited Products. The nonprofit, with offices in China and Bangladesh, strives to promote safe and ethical manufacturing standards around the world.
“We just launched an update to our fleece sweatpants based on customer feedback,” Laura said. “We added zip pockets when we noticed customers writing in about how much they love our fleece sweatpants but wished they had a place to securely hold their phones and wallets. It made a lot of sense to us. So we designed it.”
Laura and Michael hope to super-size their Create-a-Drawer concept to Create-a-Dresser. They are expanding into women’s underwear in response to an overwhelming amount of customer demand.
“We have proven our concept with our Create-a-Drawer service at a 99% confidence level, based on Experian statisticians,” Laura said. “Knowing that there is a real demand for our product and service, knowing that we are making our customers’ lives easier and better is what makes us excited to get to work every day.”
“We get such incredible positive feedback from our customers daily,” Laura added. “I bust out my happy dance when I hear that we made a customer’s day.”