Seph Skerrit was a student when I taught an entrepreneurship class at MIT a few years ago. (Thanks to Michael Cusumano and Ed Roberts for arranging the very interesting year as visiting prof.) He seems to have found a new idea in mass customization – congratulations! I don’t recall my reaction when he proposed the concept, but I might have guessed that “all the good ideas have been tried already” — a classic error. The students in that class were amazingly entrepreneurial – I now think that “serial entrepreneur” is a personality type.
Custom clothes are not my thing, but this would make a nice Father’s Day present. Seph’s team seems to have done a nice job on PR, too, with lots of press coverage in Style sections.
Today, Mr Skerritt is the founder of Proper Cloth, a New York-based e-commerce dress shirt company that allows shoppers to mix and match fabrics, using computer-generated tailoring for the right fit. Its early success largely derives from being one of a growing number of start-ups that use blogging and social networking websites in place of conventional, more costly marketing. Revenues since launch last year have grown at a rate of 40 per cent a month, and it is on track to be profitable by July, with earnings of about $30,000 a month.
Mr Skerritt emptied his personal savings, scraped together about $50,000 of leftover student loan money, and racked up his credit card debt before raising about $100,000 in seed money from friends and family. He says that the use of social media, as well as being a less expensive form of marketing, provides an easy way for customers to interact with the company and each other. “We want to hear what our customers have to say,” he says. “It’s useful to us and lets our customers feel connected to and engaged with Proper Cloth.”