Come Out Of The Cold
Mt. Pleasant clothing manufacturer gets to pitch his product on Shark Tank
By Robert Green
MT. PLEASANT—Not even wearing the best insulated underwear in the world could keep Sanpete County’s own “rags to riches” entrepreneur Dale Lewis from getting the cold shoulder after pitching his product on a nationally televised episode of Shark Tank last Sunday.
Lewis, a resident of Spring City, is the owner of Fortress Clothing, a local company that sells cold weather products using a propriety technology that keeps users warm and comfortable, even when wet.
He appeared on Shark Tank to broaden his distribution channel and asked the panel to invest $600,000 for 15 percent equity in his company. He brought along a full line of garments, from base layers to parkas.
Although the Shark Tank investors were intrigued and impressed by the cold weather fabric, one by one they dropped out because of a “missing focus on marketing” and a “confusing message.”
At the end of the episode, Lewis claimed he was absolutely shocked that two or three investors weren’t vying for his product. “I think I confused them,” he said. “I should have done a better job of communicating.”
Nevertheless, Shark Tank investors were very upbeat about the prospects for Lewis’ company. If anything, he was “drowning in opportunity.”
Several investors suggested that all these garments are confusing to consumers and he should focus his products on a single line, like base layers. Kevin O’Leary said he would have a hard time parting with $600,000 to test a bunch of different ideas. Mark Cuban said Lewis was “bouncing around and trying to do too much.”
Although the marketing messages were mixed, the actual clothes looked and performed great. Shark Tank investor Robert Herjavec tested the Fortress gear in a super cold cryogenic chamber and said the garment kept him warm and comfortable.
Lewis said a big selling point is his clothes can be soaking wet and still warm. Using a patented insulation technology called Aeris, Fortress clothing locks in body heat and removes moisture, so users stay warm, Lewis said.
He validated his claim by playing a videotape of himself jumping into freezing ice water and warming back up 45 seconds after being pulled from the water. The fabric is also lightweight and not bulky.
Lewis said his company made $407,000 in 2018. He mentioned the primary market for his clothes are workers in the oil industry and outdoorsmen.
He has a harried experience as an entrepreneur, he said, as he failed at three previous ventures before finally hitting it big and making $33 million over nine years in the telecommunications business. He then cashed out and retired at age 40 and lived the “American Dream.”
Since filming the show last year, Lewis has returned to Mt. Pleasant to focus on his core business. Even though he didn’t land a Shark influencer, Lewis said the publicity alone of being on television for 15 minutes was worth it.
He has already seen a boost in orders for his products. And since going into the Shark Tank, he has taken the panel’s advice to focus on base layers.
“I liked the feedback from the show,” Lewis said. “Once people try the base layers they love them and then they start asking about the other offerings.”
Lewis started Fortress Clothing 7 years ago and runs his operation from a building he owns in Mt. Pleasant.
He outsources most of his manufacturing, including the compilation of the patented polyurethane insulation, from other companies throughout America and the world. He uses his Mt. Pleasant hub primarily as a warehouse and distribution facility.
Fortress carries a full line of men’s and women’s clothing, including a base layer pull-over and pants, hooded vest, vest, jacket, hybrid hoodie, parka, balaclava, bibs, gloves and booties.
Lewis and his wife Karen moved from Salt Lake City to Sanpete County about 25 years ago for the quality of life. “I love the feel of the country,” Lewis said. They spent 10 years in Fairview and then moved to Spring City. They have eight children.
To check out Fortress Clothing visit https://fortressclothing.com/.