This is a follow up story for Swoveralls. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published over 4 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
Hey there, Kyle from Swoveralls dropping by to say hello and provide an update on how we’ve been doing. I'm the founder and Chief Swoveralls Officer at Swoveralls, a comfort-obsessed brand whose mission is to create the world's comfiest and unique apparel products using sustainable resources and ethical manufacturing methods.
Our hero product, Swoveralls, is the glorious combination of sweatpants and overalls into one incredibly comfy masterpiece. Swoveralls are gender-neutral and come in a wide variety of colors and patterns to choose from.
We like to think of our customers as the Comfy Fam, a community of amazing humans who love to be comfortable and express themselves through their clothing. We’re also still proud members of 1% for the Planet, which means that 1% of every purchase made goes to nonprofits focused on helping the environment and at-risk communities.
2022 was all about top-line revenue as it was our biggest year ever. 2023 we’re focusing more on profitability and growing our bottom line. We’ll be doing that through a handful of different tactics which I’ll share below.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to. Has the business been growing?
Since our last update, we’ve seen growth in 3 main channels: Product assortment, Social Media, and Team.
- Product assortment: In 2022, we started to get into a nice rhythm of launching new styles every 1-2 months, and we’ve continued that cadence in 2023. After conducting some customer research, we discovered that our comfy fam members initially come to us for the comfort and uniqueness of Swoverals, but they keep coming back and making repeat purchases for the new styles and colors we drop.
Seems obvious in hindsight, but it’s helped us focus on what is important from a product development perspective. The most recent collection we launched was the limited edition bumblebee french terry swovie shorts, and they sold out in a couple of weeks! (me wearing the Retro Terry Bumblebee Swovie Shorts below)
Another learning we had was around the types of products we launch. We tested a pair of regular sweatpants shorts and realized that our magic is in the onesie, and as a result, we’ll be focusing on overalls (and maybe jumpsuits) for the foreseeable future.
- Social Media: Last year we went viral on TikTok a decent amount, which grew our audience from a couple of hundred followers to about 50k. I’ll define viral as 500k views or more, and we had 10+ videos that met this threshold. This was great brand awareness for us and also led to some huge spikes in sales.
You might be wondering HOW we went viral. I wish I could tell you. Last Summer it seemed like we were cracking the code which was just a variety of trending audios, original content, and replying to comments…but we’ve been consistent with our strategy and have seen a steady decline.
I know many other brands and people are experiencing the same thing, and it just goes to show how you constantly have to reinvent yourself and experiment to stay relevant. To that point, we’ve also been focusing more on YT shorts this year, since it’s a less saturated platform than TikTok.
We’re doing the old “lift and shift” strategy where you post the same content on multiple platforms, and it’s interesting to see the same video perform differently depending on the channel.
Here’s an example of a TikTok video we posted last Summer that we recently posted on YT shorts that is performing well!
Something else we learned during these viral moments was the importance of having qualified leads come to your site. Below is a snapshot of when our most popular video to date when viral last August.
We saw a massive increase in traffic to our site, but it also led to our conversion rate plummeting because so many people were just curious about the brand, and didn’t have true intent to purchase.
The good news is that with our email and SMS flows, we can start to educate people on how awesome coveralls are, but those types of “nurture funnels” can take time.
As a result, we set up a TikTok landing page to accelerate the education aspect of potential customers finding us on TikTok.
Here’s the video that causes this pop:
- Team: After an internal restructure (which I’ll talk more about below), we’re now an amazing team of 8 that is working on all parts of the business.
As a solo founder, it was just me for the earlier years, but it’s been great to build a strong team that believes in our brand purpose of making the world a comfier place.
What have been your biggest challenges in the last year?
The biggest challenge by far was a breakup we had with our strategic partners. In 2021, we were very fortunate to strike a deal with strategic investors that, in exchange for a % of ownership, would provide human and financial resources to grow the business.
2022 was our best year ever due in large part to this partnership. However, due to macroeconomic challenges, the strategic investor decided to part ways. This was one of the hardest experiences I’ve ever had.
We were coming off an amazing top-line sales year, so it was a complete surprise when our partners decided to go in a different direction. At the time it was scary as we would have to go back to bootstrapping, and I would have to build a new team from scratch…but we did it.
Looking back, it’s been one of the most valuable experiences of my business career. I essentially re-hired myself as a “turn-around CEO”. Yes, sales were great, but we were nowhere near as profitable as we could be due to marketing and product decisions.
Twitter has become such a great resource for me, and curating the people you follow to reflect the type of business and goals you have can have a direct, positive impact.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
The biggest lessons are often obvious to say, but take on a new meaning when you pass through the fire and live them. For me, these simple phrases mean so much now:
- It’s OK to sell out - In an apparel business, inventory can be your best friend and your worst enemy, but if you have to choose between having too much inventory tied up or too little, I’d say in 99% of situations you’d rather too little because if you can’t sell inventory then you’re sitting on the cash you can’t deposit.
- It’s OK for slow growth - If you want to be profitable, you have to be patient. No shortage of “get rich quick” apps and agencies and tools out there will promise you a 10x ROI or +$1M in sales or your money back, but building a loyal customer base simply takes trust, and trust takes time. This brings me to my last lesson…
- It takes 10 years to become an overnight success - What is “success”? For me, the definition has changed throughout building Swoveralls, but now success means being able to support myself from the business. Over the years I haven’t taken a salary from Swoveralls and have been a part-time college professor, fitness coach, and consultant to invest as much money back into the business as I can. Swoveralls is turning SIX this year which is amazing! And we’ve continued to make net positive growth forward.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
This year, we’re brushing off our crowdfunding experience.
What’s the best thing you read in the last year?
I’ll give you 3 books I’ve read that have had an impact on me in the last year
Who not how by Dan Sullivan - As a solo founder, you have to be very very good at the “what are we doing, and how do we do it” as you’ll be the intern, CEO, and everything in between. However as Swoveralls has continued to grow, this book has helped me start to ask, “What are we doing, and who is going to do it?” Delegating has always been an opportunity of growth for me, and this book underscores the value of it.
Gym Launch by Alex Hormozi - Hormozi is a legend in the entrepreneur world these days, and while Gym Launch talks specifically about how to build a successful gym business, the lessons are applicable across so many different industries. The section on how to handle objections is one example that so many founders could learn from.
The Splendid and the Vile - A fascinating non-fiction book about England during WWII under Churchill’s leadership. Churchill is my favorite historical person for 2 reasons:
the guy LOVED to wear onesies! Seriously, he was known for wearing jumping into a onesie anytime he got home from work. Don’t believe me? Check out the below pic.
He was a quirky dude - would take a nap and a bath every day; even during the height of the Nazi bombings. His eccentricity, leadership, and years of failure previously in his career inspired me in more ways than one.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
My advice for entrepreneurs - never stop learning and meeting new people. If you’re reading this right now, you get it. You’ve taken time out of your day or evening to learn a little bit about another business. What worked, what changes need to be made…and also in a way you’ve met me!
I’m continuously amazed at the generosity of fellow entrepreneurs to help each other, whether it be through introductions or sharing a tip they learned along the way. Providing a specific tip here might not be relevant to a lot of people, so my advice is a little more general around the mindset of being a founder.
It’s a constant balance between focusing on building and picking your head up to connect with new people and learn new skills. As I said earlier, if you’re reading this…then you already have the right mindset!
That all said, here’s a specific piece of advice too - Use Twitter as a business coach. Twitter has become such a great resource for me, and curating the people you follow to reflect the type of business and goals you have can have a direct, positive impact.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
I’m always looking for amazing people to come and join the brand. Specifically, we’re looking for an amazing Shopify developer who can help us make the constant iterations and tweaks necessary to adapt to ever-changing consumer needs. If you’re a kick-ass Shopify developer who loves comfort (and Swoveralls) feel free to contact me at [email protected]!
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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