Sacrificing comfort for style is a common dilemma for the average working adult.
Danh Tran, a designer from Long Beach, knew the struggle all too well. Born in Vietnam, Tran grew up working in his parents’ tailor shop making his own clothes. The experience ultimately helped him design Buttercloth, a line of dress shirts made from a special blend of 100% cotton.
“I had always hated wearing a dress shirt,” Tran said in an email to CNBC. “They’re stiff, they’re scratchy, and you can’t move in them! I would wear a t-shirt to the office and change out into a dress shirt just for meetings. One day I thought, ‘why can’t I make a dress shirt that feels like I’m wearing a t-shirt?’ That was my ‘aha moment.’ So I traveled to China and worked with mills to develop what eventually became Buttercloth, and the rest is history.”
Like most entrepreneurs in the early stages of business, Tran needed capital. So he pitched the product to “Shark Tank,” seeking $250,000 in exchange for a 10% stake. Nailing the art of the pitch, Tran even brought on former NBA player Metta World Peace to demonstrate the comfort and resilience of Buttercloth as he made a free-throw in front of the Sharks.
“Before Shark Tank, we were just 4 people operating out of a small garage,” Tran said. “A year later we have an office, a warehouse, and growing team handling design, marketing, customer service, logistics, and accounting. This year we will sell over 50,000 shirts, and we plan to more than double that again next year.”
In the first six months of business, Buttercloth had made $500,000 in sales. After the “Shark Tank” airing, they did that much in just the first two weeks post-show.
“The night of the first airing we had a small ‘viewing party’ where our digital team had a big map of the U.S. on the computer showing dots where people were visiting our website, along with a count,” Tran said. “Within a few minutes of our segment starting, the map started to light up. It went from a hundred to a thousand, to ten thousand, and right before our eyes it kept going until over 50,000 people had come to our website that night – with thousands of them making purchases. I cried that night, from the emotion of seeing all our hard work finally pay off. That is when I realized there would be no stopping Buttercloth.”
In terms of growth for 2019, Buttercloth introduced polos as well as sweaters and jackets that will be available this fall. In 2020, Tran plans to begin distribution in the brick and mortar retailers. And within the next 5 years, he hopes Buttercloth will become a household brand.
In response to the advice he’d give entrepreneurs pursuing “Shark Tank,” Tran said, “Know your numbers like the back of your hand and be prepared to answer the tough questions. And don’t be afraid to give up some equity in your business for the right Shark – it could be life-changing.”
Will Tran make a deal with one of the Sharks? Find out in the CNBC premiere of “Shark Tank” Season 10 Wednesday, October 2 at 9P ET.