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Local firm uses crowd funding to launch new clothing line

Phil Tuttle, while fishing in Iceland, tests a prototype of a Mt. Pleasant-based Fortress Clothing's new product line, the Hybrid Hoodie, which was launched using funding raised entirely from crowd-funding campaigns.
Phil Tuttle, while fishing in Iceland, tests a prototype of a Mt. Pleasant-based Fortress Clothing’s new product line, the Hybrid Hoodie, which was launched using funding raised entirely from crowd-funding campaigns.

 

Local firm uses crowd funding to launch new clothing line

 

Robert Stevens

Managing editor

9-22-2016

 

 

MT. PLEASANT—A clothing company based in the Mt. Pleasant Industrial Park has successfully taken advantage of the crowd-funding trend to raise the money needed to launch a new product line.

“After being on the Internet and seeing some of the successes of the new products that were able to be introduced to the market without having to ‘risk the farm,’ if you will, Kickstarter looked like a good idea,” says Dale Lewis, owner of Fortress Clothing, a company he started in 2011.

” A lot of people wondered why (launch a crowd-funding campaign). I mean, we already had a business that was doing well. The number one reason was the cost of inventory with a small business.”

With the crowd funding-business model under which customers would order clothing products before they’re manufactured, Fortress Clothing can know exactly what sizes and colors it needs and build that inventory, Lewis says.

Fortress Clothing started a campaign on Kickstarter, early in August. The company’s goal was to raise $18,000 to launch its new product line, a hoodie sweatshirt that took advantage of  special insulation technology.

Kickstarter is a place where individuals and businesses raise money for their startup projects by taking small investments from online backers who like the project. Fewer than eight days into the 38-day fundraising campaign, the company had exceeded its goal three times over.

When the campaign ended on Monday, Fortress had garnered 2,155 backers, for a total of $471,558, 2,600% of their original goal.

The original focus of Fortress Clothing was on making mid-layer clothes for industrial workers who work in extreme cold (-35 degrees Fahrenheit for example). After four years of applying their proprietary insulation technology to industrial needs, the company decided try using it in a garment targeting a wider demographic.

The results was Fortress’s Hybrid Hoodie. The Kickstarter campaign page claims the garment is comfortable in temperatures from -5 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

“Almost everyone who has used our industrial model has said how well it works and (how) they wish they had something they could use as outerwear,” Lewis says.

However, Fortress Clothing had to modify its product for consumer use. Most people don’t need to have -35-degree capability for day-to-day use. So the company scaled back to the -5-degree model. And, he says, “We tried to make it good looking and in a variety of colors.”

“Henry Ford had great success just offering one model, in black, but those days are changed and people demand options,” Lewis says. “The campaign has actually acted as a great market test for us, to find out what colors and sizes would be high in demand without producing it first.”

According to the Fortress page on Kickstarter, the first batch of Hybrid Hoodies, scheduled for release in December, will go to the early  backers.

Lewis said he did some research on the crowd-funding trend, including contacting other entrepreneurs who have conducted with successful campaigns.

“We met with a couple of companies that launched Kickstarters and did very well up in Salt Lake, so we picked their brains quite a bit,” Lewis said. “There are many things we would have done different looking back, but that’s how an entrepreneur does things. You make your decision and move forward.”

Lewis and his wife, Karen, moved from Salt Lake City to Sanpete County about 25 years ago. They spent 10 years in Fairview and then moved to Spring City. They have eight children.

Lewis operates a cattle ranch with property near Spring City and near Wales. He founded WRLD Telecom (the acronym stood for Western Rural Long Distance.) The company bought long-distance minutes in large quantities at wholesale prices and sold the minutes in smaller quantities to rural phone companies in the West. He sold the company in 2006.

Lewis says he follows what he calls the “fail fast principle.” If you think you can do something, Lewis says, try your hardest to get it out there on the market quick, and if it fails, well it fails, you start again with another idea.

After the Kickstarter campaign wrapped up, Lewis and his company immediately began looking towards the future. They opened a campaign with Indiegogo.com, and although Lewis says that crowd-funding model is a little different, it’s going to allow them to keep moving and sell even more hoodies than the Kickstarter campaign lined up.

The link for the Indiegogo campaign is https://igg.me/at/hybrid-hoodie/x.

Kevin Christensen, Sanpete County economic development director, says Kickstarter is a great way for a local business to raise money to develop a new product. “It’s the new trend to raise capital.”

“We are really excited for the opportunity in front of us,” Lewis said.