Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hello, my name is Maximilien Perez and I am the founder of xSuit, the world’s most comfortable suit with many technical features that address all the age-old problems with suits..
Our flagship product, the xSuit, is a modern-day redesign of a classic wardrobe staple that has fallen behind an ever-evolving fashion industry.
We started by rethinking the traditional fabrics used in suits and developed the most premium stretch fabric on the market, which introduced a new level of comfort that had never been seen before in the suit industry. We then infused the fabric with a top-of-the-line patented DWR coating to render the suit liquid-repellant and resistant to stains.
Finally, we did away with classic stitching and finished the entire suit together with fusing (the first of its kind). This added an extreme amount of durability, and most of all, allows it to be machine washable.
Our first product line launched in July 2017. We did $350,000 in sales from July to September that year, and scaled to selling over 20,000 suits to date, while also growing other auxiliary product lineups such as shirts and accessories, all strictly online.
When COVID hit in 2020, we developed an advanced mask (the xMask Pro) along with others. We sold over 50,000 masks that year and used part of our proceeds to donate certified masks to front-line workers.
We sell exclusively online, cutting out all the middlemen and allowing us to offer our product at competitive prices - comparative in quality to $900+ suits sold by other suit brands. Our main market remains the USA, although we also ship our products to many other countries worldwide with express shipping.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Fashion runs in the family. My family has been in the industry for decades, and own both clothing lines in the USA, and running trading offices out of China. My journey started when I was shipped off to Shanghai at 17 years old to study Chinese while joining the family business. I taught myself graphic design through the years as it was always my passion, and after having received my Chinese diploma, I was offered a job at an international public relations firm. I climbed the ladder there for 5 years until reaching the role of creative director, working for some big international brand names trying to make their mark in the ever-growing Chinese market.
During those 5 years, my passion for clothing and design grew more and more to the point where I decided to quit my job and pursue my passion. I approached my brothers with the idea of wanting to develop a clothing line and needing their assistance in finding the right suppliers to develop alongside. They instead offered me to partner with them, and use their experience and infrastructure in manufacturing, where I would spearhead design and marketing.
We signed a partnership agreement at that point, and I applied for fashion technology and design school to better grasp the intricacy of the industry, while at the time joining their company to get some first-hand experience handling design and quality control for some of their past clients. While both studying and working in fashion, I thought thoroughly about what kind of brand I wanted to start, and which product direction to take. I knew I wanted to create a product that added value and solved a problem in people’s lives. Not just another hyped fashion brand.
Throughout that process, I was wearing suits regularly going out to functions and events, as I had gotten in the habit of dressing in suits due to my previous job (and I loved the look and confidence a suit gave me). Though I was faced with more than many unfortunate situations. My suit pants ripping at the crotch at an event, another jacket getting strained and smelly from a spilled drink from a party, though more than anything, remember getting home and just wanting to remove my constraining jacket and pants for a more relaxing hoody and sweats. I remember continuously looking for a suit that had stretched, though only finding ones that claimed such, and the stretch fabrics used were barely felt, and the constricting polyester linings rendered it further useless.
And that’s when it came to me. Why had nobody created a super stretch suit that is easy and low in maintenance.
Be ready for a lot of trial and error, and adapt throughout the journey. You’ve got to have a big vision, and learn to break it out into tangible steps, while working daily to achieve those and bringing you to the next step.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
My design process started with extensive market research. Searching for and purchasing every suit with stretch fabric that I could get my hands on. I went from finding more accessible mass-market brands, all the way to luxury or premium brands, simply trying the products and testing them out firsthand. While trying them out I noticed that the amount of stretch on those suits was minor at best. Essentially these brands were applying a small amount of spandex to woven fabrics, which are inherently stiff fabrics. To be able to make those fabrics more stretchy and more comfortable, you would have to add a large amount of spandex to them, which causes them to lose their shape and makes them hard to work with.
So I went looking at different fashion industries more suited for stretchy clothing, specifically sportswear since they’re more geared to making garments that move the body thanks to their applications. Most of those garments being made of knitted fabrics, I took the route of finding a knitted material that would feel as comfortable as sportswear, but still retain the integrity of a suit in terms of draping, overall outer look, and feel. So after an endless amount of sourcing through some of the top knitting manufacturers worldwide, we arrived at the fabric that we felt would be fitting for a suit without compromising its outer look and giving a new level of stretch comfort.
Once the fabric was confirmed, the next application or feature that we wanted to add to the suit was some kind of anti-maintenance formula that would remove the burdensome maintenance of a suit such as dry cleaning due to any small staining or odors, as well as overall wrinkling of the garment requiring steaming or ironing. So once again, I went back to the drawing board and saw what alternatives I had available. I discovered the best approach would be to add top-quality nanotechnologies such as Gore-tex to the suit used in extreme outdoor garments, which could render the suit liquid and dirt, as well as further odor and wrinkle resistance.
After about a year of intensive research and development, sampling, iterations, and testing, we finally arrived at a product we felt truly shamed all of our competitors’. I had at that point gotten my product in a bunch of people’s hands, and received tons of feedback and opinions from professionals and suit enthusiasts, though needed one final test - the public’s unbiased opinion. And so I felt launching on a platform like Kickstarter made perfect sense.
Within the first few days, I validated my concept by seeing the incredible demand for the xSuit. And it proved that many people suffered the same issue I did when having to wear a suit in whatever situation required to. The launch was above my $50,000 milestone and grabbed so much PR attention which I never expected to reach. We ended up closing our funding at $650,000.
Being that my family has been in the trading and manufacturing industry for as long as they have, finding a supplier and manufacturing the product was actually the easiest part. They were able to use their connections with their outerwear suppliers, who manufacture suits as well, to offer us great pricing based on the smaller order volume we were starting off with. With their vast experience of manufacturing quality premium products, quality assurance, as well as time management was all overseen by their team and was quite smooth from start to finish, which is an advantage that a lot of starter brands wouldn’t have off the get-go. From the moment we had a working prototype to the final product being ready to process took some 90 days. This includes, of course, producing the fabric, shipping it over to the manufacturer, and having the whole garment cut and sewed, packaged, and shipped to our warehouse facility.
Describe the process of launching the business.
As mentioned above, we launched our brand on Kickstarter as a crowdfunding project. During the entirety of the prototyping and development of the product, I spent countless amounts of time researching and learning about digital marketing as a whole. I understood the importance of visuals and content, and that was one of the areas where I focused the most amount of energy on. I began with photo shooting, as well as outsourcing video production to introduce the product, and was very involved in the entire creative and story process of that video.
From that point, I created a landing page that serves as a teaser and lead-generating magnet and launched some Facebook ad campaigns to test out and gauge the interest of our audiences as well as build initial demographic points before scaling any kind of budget. Having a good amount of graphic design experience, I designed both the landing page as well as the kickstarting starter page on my own.
The entirety of that process took about 2 to 3 months to set up and the landing page lead generation campaign went on for about a month prior to our official launch, where during that time we were able to stabilize our lead acquisition cost, at about $1 an email, which is around where you want to be to see a real interest in the product and have a better idea of the longer-term performance.
I also spent time personally building our social community on Instagram as well as Facebook using contacts that I’ve accumulated over the years, friends and families as well as actively speaking of the brand through various media channels, blogs, and editorial - as much as I could get my hands on. Once I felt that we had acquired enough information about our prospecting clientele, I decided to go live on Kickstarter for a total of 45 days in July 2017.
Within the first 24 hours, we had surpassed our $50,000 goal and the project was proven to be successful at that point I reached out to a PR agency that took on promoting our project to various press outlets that furthered the virality effect that our marketing was doing. We of course continued scaling our Facebook ads budget while creating numerous UGC (User-generated content) videos to show off the product first-handedly to our audience and community, which resulted in our entire campaign generating over $350,000 within those 45 days on Kickstarter. At that point, we transferred the project over to Indiegogo as we began manufacturing our suits. And within the consecutive two months generated another $350,000 of revenue on IndieGogo.
The biggest lesson that I learned in launching a product is that it is not necessarily that you have a good product that it will sell on its own. Marketing is as important, and the people you are surrounding yourself with to build that marketing strategy is even more. I believe some of the key components of a successful launch come in doing market research and competition research, as well as creating the right type of content that will drive emotions from your customers, and of course, knowing who your target audience is.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
The most important thing in launching and sustaining a business has to do with having a goal or vision and continually optimizing and improving on a daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis to reach that specific goal. Of course, running a business is very specific to your product and industry as well as your demographics, so learning as much as you can about the different aspects of your industry is imperial, though also knowing that that knowledge is not a set in the stone manual that will allow you to foresee every single issue that you’ll face as your business grows.
I think the dynamics of running a business change continually, and you need to be able to adapt and pivot to sustain yourself over an extended period of time. To be able to continually attract and retain customers you need to create a product of quality and give the best customer service and customer experience to keep your fans loyal.
To increase new customers, the key here is staying creative and thinking outside of the box. Taking bold risks in your marketing approach or advertising creatives to separate yourself from your competition.
There are very few new and revolutionizing products, and more so a repackaging and rebranding of products that have been around for quite a while. Start by attending eCom World & AdWord to gain knowledge of and learn about other brands’ dollars.
In our specific industry, and it applies to many others, content is by far one of the most powerful tools at your disposal that can attract new prospects to your business. So making sure that you have or are continually creating and testing new content is one of the most successful approaches to increasing traffic and sales. The other marketing strategies that we use are creating; a community through social media platforms that are relevant to our specific demographic (for us that’s Instagram & Facebook). Continually improving upon our website as that is our storefront, where we can customize the USP/UVPs of our product, and what people will often perceive the brand. That includes everything from design to conversion rate optimization. Taking a course at Harmon Brother University is a great place to start.
Email and SMS marketing is another great tool to fill the hole in the bucket and convert those people who might not instantly convert on a first visit (especially on higher AOV products that have a longer consideration period). People often undermine the power of email and SMS marketing though it represents about 25-30% of our revenue. Klavyio is the best platform to get started on for eCommerce email and SMS.
SEO is another great tool that is very hard to build up as it takes time, though if the right strategy is implemented and consistent work done, can generate a great amount of low-cost revenue. Most people resort to Google when looking for a product, meaning those are higher intent buyers, so if you can build up those non-branded keywords efficiently, and maintain them at the top of the search pages, then you can get a lot of eyes on your website organically. SEMRush is a great platform to use here for research on the right keywords.
Partnerships are also a great way to get others to promote your site for a commission after the sale is made. Whether that be cross-branding, influencers, or affiliates, they can all help you to propel your brand, of course getting your customers excited enough to refer your product to their friends is another great way of spreading the word. And utilizing public relations as a trust and authority tool when you are launching a new product is another great way to gain much mass attention. Checkout ShareASale to find some affiliates or influencers that work on commission sales.
When it comes to retaining customers, one of the best strategies that we use remains interacting with our community through a series of well-timed email flows and newsletters that are non-promo specific, and more so educational and value-added. That is alongside well-timed product launches that are easy to upsell or cross-sell to your core product offering.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
One of our greatest achievements to date was going from a breakeven point to being profitable, which came about two years ago. That came with spending an endless amount of time analyzing and breaking down our finances and optimizing our spending on a monthly basis. I think that a lot of new entrepreneurs are not aware of the importance of managing their finances from the get-go and setting budgets as well as KPI‘s for every department from the start so you can foresee at what point you can reach profitability.
My best advice is to start on Quickbooks Online or Xero, and to separate your product, marketing as well as overhead properly while allocating a percent breakdown to each of those, for example, 30% goes to your product, 30% goes to your marketing, and 30% to your operations. Then breaking down what expenses you might encounter for each of those three separate categories. In our business, the product is broken down by the cost of purchasing that product, shipping, warehousing, transportation, merchant fees, returns, and exchanges. The marketing includes our ad budget, content creation, commissions, and 3rd party services. As for overhead, those will typically include legal fees, accounting payroll, and rent. Once you can reach that 10% bottom line, or at least a breakeven point, then you can spend further effort in optimizing those three categories to reduce cost and bring your profitability to a higher point.
Other data point that we track and monitor improvements on is our cost of acquisition, which essentially combines all our marketing expenses divided by the number of customers acquired during that month. Given the above 30% marketing spend cap, and an AOV (Average order value) of $450, we try to stay within a $150 CPA (Cost per acquisition). Our overall ROAS (Return on ad spend) has to of course be higher than that since we do incur other marketing fees. This will then feed into your website analytics such as your site’s conversion rates, which is the number of customers you convert on a monthly basis divided by the amount of traffic you get on our website.
This number can vary greatly based on your AOV and your industry. You might see numbers being thrown around the 1 to 2%, though the bottom line is, are you converting enough people to sustain your advertising cost as well as your business as a whole? As we are a DTC (Direct consumer) brand that sells solely only, our advertising and overall marketing budget might look much bigger than a brick-and-mortar operation.
An advantage of being a DTC brand is that we are able to work with people from all over the world, with greatly different skill sets not being restricted by a one-location office. Our staff spans six time zones and works in over eight countries worldwide. At the current moment, our main market remains the United States and Canada and our main goals for the next 3 to 5 years are in our product expansion, continuing to innovate in work essentially that are high in quality, high in tech, and easy on the maintenance.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
The biggest mistakes that I’ve personally made as I mentioned above is not being as involved in our financials from the get-go and being complacent with such. When I started to analyze everything from the profit and loss sheets to the balance sheets, on a regular basis, I was able to further optimize every operation and bring us to a profitable level.
The best decisions I’ve made today was internalizing our marketing department and stray away from marketing agencies, allowing us to learn and adapt our marketing specific to our industry and demographic, and on the way, meeting, some great people that have become integral part of our team, and we’ve been fortunate enough to have grown with our business over the years..
One of the greatest assets was, of course, being ahead of the casual modern stretch suit innovations, which I believe we helped propel to a new level thanks to the way we’ve marketed our product and have made suits a joy to wear again for a younger generation. I think the biggest lesson that I’ve learned is to listen and ask many questions to people who are even just a step ahead of you, as well as take a birdseye view of your daily business as often as you can to reflect on the growth you’ve done over time, as well as envision the amount of growth you have to do in the future.
One of the best habits I have is sitting down at the beginning of every week and planning out entirely my week ahead based on big goals and big wins. Likewise dividing my workdays into deep work zones where I am uninterrupted and can focus on top dollar first activities that create the most amount of results for our business. Another very important skill set in running a business is, of course, organization, delegation, and teamwork, and these are things I strive to improve every day as they are the cornerstone of creating a successful business.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Some of the top tools that we use are;
amongst many others.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Some of the books I would recommend are:
The Personal MBA by Josh Kauffman
Principles by Ray Dalio
Start with Why by Simon Sinek
Ecommerce Evolved by Tanner Larson
Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek
The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman
Value Proposition Design by Strategyzer
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Be ready for a lot of trial and error, and adapting throughout the journey. You’ve got to have a big vision, and learn to break it out into tangible steps, while working daily to achieve those and bringing you to the next step.
Most businesses fail, some within the first year, others make within 3-5 years. Though the reality is most will fail. And as cliché as this sounds, it’s only the people who stick to it, don’t give up and learn to pivot and adapt along the way, are those that will plow forward past those failures, and reap the rewards of hard work and perseverance.
An idea is just that, and it might be a great one that ends up being a successful business, or it’ll end up being a great lesson that’ll serve as a stepping stone to the next one.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We are continually looking for creative people such as content creators, graphic designers, as well as copywriters.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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