What can be accomplished in three years? A lot, if you hustle.
With the third anniversary of our first Kickstarter launch almost upon us, it felt fitting to ask Kit, Gihan, and Aman to grab beers and chat more about the journey. Limited resources plus unwavering passion and grit can give way to some pretty formative moments – from the game-changing milestones to those scrappier situations which, in retrospect, are tough to even fathom.
When launching a company to literally re-invent apparel, those formative moments come with the territory. Here, the co-founders share the ones that stood out the most.
Gihan: We were nominated for Coolest College Startups, a campaign run by Inc. Magazine. We pulled an all-nighter to put this application video together and ended up getting accepted. Two weeks later, they put us up on their site and we got a ton of sales through it. It was then that we started to see that our story resonated with a lot of people. Many of our early advisors actually heard of us through that article.
Gihan with a test-batch Agent shirt.
First-production batch of Apollos.
Kit: The Apollo Kickstarter was the big one for me. It was the first time we got that real validation. We realized that people actually wanted what we were making. Comments were like, ‘I’ve been waiting my whole life for this! I never knew this existed!” It was so exciting. We knew our friends and families liked it, and of course we liked it – but we’d never seen the demand on a larger scale. We were doing something right. And the fact that showed so clearly – it was such an amazing memory.
Aman: January 2012, before Kickstarter, we probably only owned 40 shirts but we merchandised them like we owned thousands. And at MIT's Executive Development Program – which we’ve now done four times – we sold $1100 worth of shirts, while we probably only owned about $2000 worth of shirts, to these high-powered executives who probably thought we were this big company.
Our very first batch of shirts. (In a dorm room.)
Gihan: In 2012, after we’d just made our second batch of shirts, we were invited to this blogger dinner in New York. There was going to be a buyer from Saks and a GQ editor there, and it was our first time even dabbling in the fashion space. Kit took the bus down, and I drove down – really fast – with a box full of shirts. We sat in the back of my car in New York, trying to package care packages for all these bloggers. And we’d planned on driving back after the dinner, which we figured would only be a couple of hours – but it went until midnight. So Kit and I still had to drive back after, switching drivers, trying to stay awake, eating at random gas stations. It was the first time we had to pull an all-nighter like that.
Kit: The New York Times article. Someone wrote in to [the helpdesk] saying, “Hey, I’m a writer for the New York Times.” We literally thought it was an April Fool’s joke. But they sent a photographer here and it was an all-day thing.
Gihan: We used to do early packaging by hand. Back when our shirts used collar stays, we’d order these branded cards from Moo and hold “packaging parties” where we’d manually hole-punch every one, stick collar stays in them, and then ship them down to New York.
Aman trying on one of our first Apollos.
Kit manually building packaging for collar stays.
Aman: Lexus partnered with Joe Zee to do this Tech Style series highlighting companies that were doing innovative things with design, and Joe picked us as one of those companies. So we went down to New York, had this conversation with Joe Zee about Ministry of Supply, and then drove this sick hybrid Lexus with a film crew hidden in the back through the streets of New York. It was so bizarre and fun. (And Joe, if you're reading this – we're forever grateful for the validation you gave us when we were getting off the ground!)
Aman and Kit talk tech style with Joe Zee.
Cruising for the New York Times.
Gihan: Our second retreat – in January, on the top of a mountain, with no gear, in a lodge that had no heating. It was miserable. We had this huge pot of spiked cider just to keep us warm, and people were putting Nalgenes of hot water at the foot of their sleeping bag – which of course would freeze, and then you'd wake up because your feet were touching ice. It was -20 out.
Aman: Two of the most magical moments – and maybe because they came off of two long nights of prep – were both store opening parties. It’s that out-of-body moment in between two conversations when you stop and look up, and are like, ‘What the hell is going on here? This many people have shown up and are excited to celebrate with us.’ It’s pretty incredible.