How We Bootstrapped A 7-Figure eCommerce Apparel Brand [With a 51% Customer Return Rate]

Published: September 6th, 2023
Charisse and Vicky Pasche
Founder, Dapper Boi
Dapper Boi
from San Diego, CA, USA
started January 2015
Discover what tools Vicky recommends to grow your business!
social media
Discover what books Vicky recommends to grow your business!
Want more updates on Dapper Boi? Check out these stories:

My name is Charisse Pasche, and I am COO and Co-Founder of Dapper Boi — a body-inclusive, gender-inclusive, style-affirming e-commerce apparel line based out of San Diego. My wife Vicky and I founded Dapper Boi in 2015. It’s been a wild ride ever since!

We started with a crowdfunding campaign for our slim straight jeans, which remain a flagship product. From there, and with a lot of blood, sweat, and tears along the way, we’ve been able to expand our line to include tees, button-ups, jackets, shorts, sweaters, socks, you name it. You could head to our site and put together an entire outfit, which plenty of customers do, because they can’t find this kind of inclusive fit anywhere else. (Fair warning: You’re on your own when it comes to undies.)

Our inclusivity is a huge reason for our success. Today, Dapper Boi is a seven-figure online retailer with a 51% customer return rate, which is unheard of. And we’ve barely scratched the surface.

We’ve been able to bootstrap to over a million in annual sales without the aid of a major investor. With the right investment, the sky’s the limit.

Photo of Vicky with Dapper Boi models

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

I am the product of loving and hard-working immigrant parents. Growing up, I watched as they sacrificed and saved, so my siblings and I could have more opportunities than they did in the Philippines. I’ve always worked hard to honor their sacrifices and ensure those opportunities never went to waste. So, in that sense, it’s not surprising that I own my own business. Vicky and I saw an opportunity and took it.

It’s scary to leap, to gamble on yourself. It takes conviction to leave a full-time job, security, a 401K and other benefits.

Like many business ventures, Dapper Boi was born out of necessity. Vicky was tired of feeling frustrated by the conventional shopping experience, which relies heavily on gender binaries. Clothing traditionally considered “masculine” in style isn’t often designed for bodies with curves. And shopping in the men’s section was uncomfortable and met with a lot of raised eyebrows, unfortunately.

We set out to change the status quo by creating an e-commerce clothing line that captured the best of men's designs, where people of any gender identity and a wide range of sizes could relaxed everyday styles that fit their style preference and body.

But I’ve always been passionate about people, products, and sales. At 17, I worked at a cell phone store and quickly rose the ranks. I sold phones throughout college and made my way while working on my degree. Eventually, I ended up working as an Enrollment Advisor at an online university, advanced into management, finished my Bachelors's and Masters degrees, and earned a decent living while Vicky and I built a family together.

My job at the university kept us afloat during the infancy of Dapper Boi (and our twin girls). But just like my parents before me, we had to make sacrifices if we wanted to turn a dream into a reality. We ended up downsizing from a 4-bedroom townhouse to a 1-bedroom beach shack (termites and all).

It’s scary to leap, to gamble on yourself. It takes conviction to leave a full-time job, security, a 401K and other benefits. So many things like that are seen as essential by a Filipino American family, and to most immigrant families. And our dream, which seemed far off, had no guarantees.

Wedding Photo of Vicky and Charisse:


Take us through the process of building the first version of your product.

The idea for Dapper Boi was conceived on our honeymoon—inspired by the custom bow ties we made for those at our wedding party. But instead of going for formal wear, we decided to take a more casual route. In the beginning, we focused solely on our game-changing jeans. They’re crafted in a traditionally “masculine” style, but designed to fit a wider range of body types. We also made sure there were deep, functional pockets, which so often elude traditionally “feminine” jeans. It was important for us to start here because everyone struggles to find the perfect pair of jeans, no matter what their gender is. It was also so important to us to ensure that our jeans were size inclusive and body inclusive. They were an instant hit.

Although Vicky’s shopping experience was a catalyst for the brand, I was the original model for Dapper Boi while we developed our first pair of jeans. I know the euphoria you feel when you find the perfect fit and feel great in what you wear. And with my passion for fashion, I’ve always had a sharp attention to detail that goes into every garment.

After much trial and error, we landed on the perfect design for our first pair of jeans and decided to launch a Kickstarter campaign. All our first customers came from that initial campaign. When we first launched, we reached out to all our friends and family asking them to post the news on social media at the same time. This helped us gain immediate traction with the campaign and expand the reach of our social channels. From there, things kind of exploded… in a good way!

2016 Dapper Boi photoshoot:


Screenshots of successful product pre-order campaigns on Facebook:





Describe the process of launching the business.

Our initial Kickstarter campaign offered us something far more valuable than the profit we made. It taught us that we were not alone. It taught us that mainstream fashion, sometimes exclusionary by design, neglected huge sections of the population. People like my wife and from so many walks of life just wanted clothes that 'fit', both their bodies and their identities.

Dapper Boi Kickstarter campaign video:

Crowdfunding allowed us to leverage the power of this community and raise capital for product launches. After our first few campaigns/productions sold out, we slowly began expanding our line, using market research to validate demand for specific products. This helped us reduce our risk as entrepreneurs before full-scale productions were greenlit.

About halfway through year two, we launched our pre-order model. This truly propelled the brand to a different level. The crowdfunding model enabled us to launch products before production. We discovered that our customers were willing to wait a little longer to receive the clothes they loved at a significantly reduced price. And in the rare case where demand was not there, we could refund their money without going to launch.

Dapper Boi Pre-Order Model video:

Button-Up Shirt product launch video:

Beyond crowdfunding, we began to secure funding from smaller investors—people who believed in the brand and our mission. They were also given special perks and benefits (early access, special discounts, etc.) to our products to thank them for their investment. We also took out a few high-interest loans at the beginning, a decision we would later regret but were necessary at the time.

As time went on, we realized that we had been trying to do this all on our own, from funding to business planning. We began to network with other companies supporting the LGBTQ+ community and other women founders to get more advice. We realized that we should have found private investors sooner rather than later. This realization eventually led us to apply to Shark Tank, among other pitching opportunities. You can see more of our journey to securing a game-changing investor in the upcoming documentary movie "Show Her The Money."

Show Her The Money trailer:

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

There’s no question about it: our pre-order model played a massive role in attracting and retaining customers. Who wouldn’t want to snag some premium threads for a fraction of the retail price? That said, I sincerely believe our brand’s mission is the most crucial factor in our customers’ loyalty.

Vicky and I realized very quickly that so many people from all walks of life had the same problems she did. The demand was undoubtedly there. And our mission to provide affordable, inclusive clothes resonated with more people than we could ever have imagined.

Once you know you’ve got something worth fighting for, it becomes all about strategy. How do we genuinely reach the most people efficiently? We started creating relatable content targeting a specific audience. We had a few videos go viral. And we began developing a fun, light-hearted voice across all channels. All the while, sales kept flooding in, and customer enthusiasm kept growing and expanding. We were doing something right!

We also use a diverse array of models for our content. People like seeing more realistic body types. They connect better with a model that reminds them of themselves. So, our photo and video shoots will always include people of all types of sizes, genders, identities, and body types.

The “Dapper Boi Movement” music video is the perfect example, as highlighted by the Advocate.

Recently we’ve been focusing heavily on influencer marketing as well. That’s another great way to reach people. Plus, partnering with people who align with your mission and growing a network of like-minded individuals is incredibly rewarding.

Lastly, the quality of the clothing and the demand speaks for itself. It may sound obvious, but we took the time to ensure we created a product that people don’t just want, but need. This has been huge for customer retention. And probably the reason why our customer return rate is so high.

Screenshots from successful TikTok videos:



Screenshot of Dapper Boi’s Facebook page:


Screenshot of Dapper Boi’s Instagram page:


How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

The last few years have been challenging, to say the least—COVID delays, capital issues, and rising production costs. To be honest, we had to sell our home in 2022 to keep the business afloat. Because that’s how much our mission means to us. Imagining a world without Dapper Boi, a world where we weren’t helping people dress and live authentically, was not an option. So, we did what we had to do. And we found refuge in our allies and community to overcome the challenges.

It is worth it. When you believe in something wholeheartedly and feel it’s the right thing to do in every fiber of your being, it will always be worth it.

Today, Dapper Boi is strong. We’re seeing the dividends of our resilience. Our sales are steadily climbing. We’ve been connected with a wonderful new manufacturer, an amazing PR team, and the perfect investor. We’ve been featured in numerous outlets, including ABC’s Shark Tank. And most importantly, we’ve got a string of product launches lined up after almost 2 years of playing catch up.

We’re currently fundraising as well. If we can raise $2M on our current SAFE note, conservative 5-year projections show the potential for $30+ million in annual sales. An investment of this size would be a game-changer, not just financially but for our mission and impact.

We would be able to expand our designs to include even more diverse fits. Ultimately, we want to provide clothing for people—regardless of size, body, gender, age, or any other factor that currently dictates fashion norms. And if we can fundraise the capital, we’ll be able to do just that.

Dapper Boi Shark Tank 2023 segment:

On a personal note, Vicky and I have also prioritized our health this year. It’s been a game-changer! We set aside time every day to workout and stick to a healthy vegan diet. Those two things have had such a huge positive impact on our overall mindset and productivity. On weekends we focus on our family. We always make time for our twin girls, whether going to Disneyland or cooking a delicious vegan meal.

Family photo of Charisse and Vicky with their twin daughters:


Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Where do I start? You learn so much through starting a business, not just about your industry but about yourself. Launching a business and working with my wife Vicky taught us so much as individuals, co-founders, and a couple. We’re able to discuss all business decisions together and collaborate for the growth of the business. We have also learned to set boundaries at home to ensure a healthy work-life balance. Our relationship is so much stronger than it was 8 years ago when we launched!

As the business has grown, I’ve also learned that there is great power in networking. If I had to do it over again, I would have started networking with other entrepreneurs and business owners sooner in our journey. You can learn and grow so much from connecting with your peers. It’s all about lifting each other up. All boats rise with the tide, so to speak.

While 2021 was a hugely successful year for us, COVID-related supply chain issues took their toll in 2022. This experience revealed some limitations in our initial business model that we worked to address. But some of life’s greatest lessons come from overcoming adversity. Even though it was rough at the time, our business is ultimately better for it. We took a potentially business-ending situation and turned it into a stepping stone.

On a more specific note, all budding entrepreneurs need to tread very carefully when it comes to high-interest rate loans. Another term for them is “predatory loans.” That should tell you everything you need to know. Luckily, we’ve been able to navigate through ours, but that was no easy task. Even when we had six-figure months of sales success, we would barely make a dent. Rally your community to find sponsors and funders early so you can avoid predatory loans when times get tough.

Dapper Boi Pride 2021 video:

Behind the Brand 2019 video:

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

We use a variety of tools and platforms to run the business. One of our favorites is ClickUp, a project management tool. It helps us prioritize tasks and intuitively communicate with the team. It allows everyone to monitor progress, ask questions, or give input! It has completely improved our productivity.

We run our site through Shopify, which has been vital to the growth of our business. We’re in the top .5% of all Shopify businesses in terms of annual sales—a fact we are proud to share. We use Front to manage our customer service emails to ensure we promptly respond to customer emails. And we use Klaviyo for our marketing emails, which has been instrumental in our growth.

Most recently, and perhaps most excitingly, we launched our very own Dapper Boi app for customers on Apple and Google Play through Tapcart! It’s still a new venture but we love the push notifications that instantly grab a customer’s attention. We also give incentives like early product launches and exclusive discounts through the app, which is a win-win for everyone.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

One of my favorite books is “The Buddha and the Badass: The Secret Spiritual Art of Succeeding at Work.” In it, the author gives practical steps for bringing real meaning to your work (and life) by drawing on a deep awareness of yourself and utilizing your unique talents to make an impact.

For podcasts, I love listening to Limited Supply and Mindset Mentor with Rob Dial. Both of these have helped me become a better version of myself and a strong leader of Dapper Boi.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

It is worth it. When you believe in something wholeheartedly and feel it’s the right thing to do in every fiber of your being, it will always be worth it. (Bonus points if you’re doing it with people you love.)

Many people become overwhelmed with imposter syndrome. So surround yourself with other entrepreneurs. Attend networking events, read books, listen to podcasts, and humanize your business idols. Immerse yourself in your business and create goals to optimize daily tangible tasks. Those sorts of things can help you realize you’re right where you belong.

Lastly, hang tough. You will need resilience to get through the bumps and push through the roadblocks. It’s hard to fail if you don’t give up. We’ve come close. Frankly, there were times when it would have been a relief to throw in the towel. But we didn’t. We made it out to the other side, and we’re better because of our persistence. Better business owners, better life partners, better parents... Better humans.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

The table is currently full, but maybe we’ll need to add a leaf one day! Stay tuned.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!