"Stick to what you know" - so the saying goes. Back in 2013, I didn't know much about setting up a men's underwear brand, but I did know what it feels like to have excessive sweating ruin your day. That was motivation enough to find a solution to my problem.
Having to manage one's ever-growing sweat marks is a joyless business. It is distracting at best, confidence undermining at worst. Anyone who suffers from excessive sweating knows it can be a debilitating condition. Antiperspirants are the standard answer, but for me, they made not a jot of a difference. In the end, I'd given in, hoped that others didn't notice. Of course, I was wrong - they did - they were just kind enough not to mention it.
That's how it remained until a moment of creative daydreaming prompted me to flip my problem on its head. Instead of it being a problem with me - over which I had no control - it became a problem of clothing - a problem which I might be able to fix. As Brian McGreevy puts it in Hemlock Grove "If a problem can't be solved within the frame it was conceived, the solution lies in reframing the problem."
A little while later, the Oxford undershirt was born.
Running your own business consumes an enormous amount of energy and sometimes faith. Often you have to keep going when the way forward is unclear. Keeping going may be the only differentiator between those that make it and those that don't. It's not, of course, but sometimes it feels that way. On difficult days one questions one's choices. Why was it undershirts - a product designed not to be seen? I confess, sometimes I compare us to businesses with more glamourous products.
Take The Cambridge Satchel Company, for instance - founded by Julie Deane in 2008 around her kitchen table. I met Julie in 2015 on a plane returning from Boston, just as Robert Owen was starting to get off the ground. Having spoken mid-flight, I knew she enjoyed films and kept chickens, and she had a growing business. The Cambridge Satchel Company online shop is full of beautifully crafted leather bags. From the classic satchel in brown to the sleek men's grey modern to the playfully pink ladies totes bag. Each one pretty as a picture, Instagram ready and a walking advert for itself on the street or at a fashion show. Only seven years old at the time The Cambridge Satchel Company was already a multimillion-pound business.
Similarly, visually appealing is Bala, where you can buy Bala Bangles - sleek wrist and ankle weights which crank up your yoga workout - as well as other accessories and clothing. A neat idea that is 100% at home on Instagram - cue yoga poses in beautify backdrops - and is well placed to network sell itself through the yogi community in studios worldwide.
Both are well-executed highly visible products.
Compare that to undershirts. The best men's undershirt is one that you can't see. It's not a product suited to exotic location product shoots, and it's not as if men rave about their latest undershirt purchase in the locker room. On the surface, marketing a good undershirt is a challenging proposition.
However, there is one significant redeeming factor - and that is knowing our undershirts address a source of worry and stress, and in doing so can help change how someone feels for the better. From personal experience, I can tell you the newfound feeling of liberation when one gets control over one's sweat problem. That, as you might imagine, makes it all worthwhile.
So, while there will be no photoshoot in Bali for us, the feedback we get from our customers makes it worthwhile. They motivate me to keep on keeping on.