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His unconventional strategy for starting this new project was to seek funding on Kickstarter, the “world’s largest funding platform for creative projects.” Recently having received more than four times as much funding as needed, Flint and Tinder is now Kickstarter’s most successful fashion project ever. We caught up with Bronstein to ask him some questions about his new brand.
Underwear Expert: What were you looking for in a pair of underwear before you started this project?
Jake Bronstein: I just wanted the best product I could find. Something masculine without being overly metro. Something well made enough to do battle with my dryer and come out on top, but luxurious enough that I felt good when I put it on (like with a new suit maybe). Something classic, yet fun and smart. It’s a very tall order, but that’s why I was looking at what’s on shelves as closely as I was when I realized 99% of it was coming from China, Thailand, Indonesia, etc.
Underwear Expert: Why exactly do you want to use only American manufacturers?
Jake Bronstein: I believe they make a better product. Look, anyone could start an underwear company with one phone call to China. They’ll put your tag in whatever is the thing they’re making today and ship you back loads of it before the week is out.
Underwear Expert: Why did you turn to Kickstarter instead of going to a second VC?
Jake Bronstein: Two reasons: One, I wasn’t sure other people (customers) would understand what it was I was getting at. Without people “getting it” all of the VC money in the world wouldn’t help make it work. And two, there’s something very “of the people” about the way we’ve thought of this project from day one. Kickstarter, at it’s best, embodies the very same spirit. It felt like the right first step.
Underwear Expert: How has using Kickstarter changed the product?
Jake Bronstein: Flint and Tinder has had the opportunity to interact directly with 3,000 of our very first customers. We sent a survey to ask them what they like, what they don’t like etc. I don’t want to talk prematurely in case we can’t accomplish everything we’ve decided to do in light of that conversation, but regardless of whether it happens tomorrow or in a month or three, one thing is clear: They spoke and we listened.
Underwear Expert: Your project got a lot of play and distribution on social media. Why do you think that is?
Jake Bronstein: Sometimes speaking up is scary. Raising your hand takes guts. But when you do – and when you say something as bold as “why can’t a single company make high-quality men’s underwear in America?” – sometimes you find lots of other people have been feeling that same way, too. Once the dam breaks all of that energy becomes lots of chatter online.
Underwear Expert: Has your internet-embeddedness changed the way you think about manufacturing at all?
Jake Bronstein: When we started Buckyballs, my business partner and I looked at spreadsheets that proved that successfully retailing the product in stores was going to take money. Lots of money. Lots of money we didn’t have. Instead, we sold it online. This allowed for a lot of really exciting things; we actually got to sell it for less and make more. Eventually we had enough saved up to do the expensive wholesale program we wanted, but we still didn’t want to charge too much. We wholesaled for less than we probably should have but what we found was that it drove more sales online. It’s a tactic we’re going to employ here as well. To tie it back into the manufacturing part, I guess, I approach it all like an internet company: build it (the product) and find customers before worrying about building the business to support it and everything will work itself out.
Underwear Expert: How have people reacted to the product?
Jake Bronstein: Last Sunday only my wife and a select group of others had ever heard the name Flint and Tinder. Seven days later, by my count, Flint and Tinder had sold more underwear direct to consumer online than any other brand on earth. Hands down. That happens because people can connect to the passion involved in the project and understand the importance of supporting American industry. They feel that passion and they get passionate about it in a way they’ve probably never felt about underwear. It’s not a responsibility we’re taking lightly. We’re working very hard to ensure no one is let down.