I have a milestone to report: After two years of struggle where the pandemic caused us to nearly close our doors, Bluffworks has emerged with a bright future.
Now to seize the opportunity, we are raising capital. Below is the story of how we survived the crisis and information about this fundraising round.
Here goes --
How It Started
You may recall that Bluffworks was inspired by my time living and working in Vietnam. How after two years of writing software for $4 / hour, I returned to NYC where I couldn't wear my travel clothes to the office. I was frustrated that my clothes didn't have the same high performance features of what I wore overseas.
So, as a side project I launched a single pair of pants on Kickstarter where they promptly took off.
That moment set me on a journey beyond what I expected. Through the early years (where I held a day job alongside Bluffworks), including moving in with my parents (where our 1 year old son slept in a closet) I learned that launching a startup requires sacrifice, and Bluffworks was no exception.
Once I directed my full attention to the business, we were on a growth trajectory. In fact, 2020 was to be our breakout year. That is, until the pandemic struck.
Two Years of Crisis
To survive the double whammy of a drop in travel and lower demand for blazers, we leapt to action. We radically reduced our costs, built an inventory plan with our vendor, and entered forbearance with our financial lender. We used promotion to turn our inventory into the cash necessary to survive. And at the height of the challenge, when we owed our vendors more than $1M, I kept the demons at bay by exercising on my kitchen floor.
An advisor remarked that we had crashed a plane in the desert, and that the only way to survive was to rebuild the plane and fly away. So, that’s what we did.
Where the challenge becomes the opportunity, the pandemic positioned us to run the business in a better way. Now we’re raising capital to take Bluffworks to the next level, with a clear set of priorities in mind --
Fill unmet demand. Because our website accepts out of stock requests, we have a sense of how many sales we missed due to a lack of inventory. In 2022 alone, customers requested products equal to more than 20% of our total annual revenue. We're gratified by the tone behind the messages ("I love your pants and need more!") but we hate letting people down.
Which is why our first course of action is to invest in adequate inventory for new customers and existing fans, alike.
Expand the product line. Our next priority is to expand the product line. You’ve told us you want more, from adding more colors to producing entirely new things you haven’t seen from us before.
Our recently released Lenox dress shirt is already receiving reviews like: "Best product yet" and "My new favorite shirt" because we take the time to get products right. Bluffworks has a point of view, and there is more to be done.
With investment, we will broaden our product line while focusing on sensible extensions that turn fast.
Adequately supply women. The most exciting observation about our female customer is also the most obvious one: that she wants the same thing as our guy. That is, apparel that's easy to care for, looks great out of her bag and is comfortable. She too needs to manage sweat and odor with pieces that go together effortlessly and allow her to travel with less. And, she wants pockets to carry her things. (duh).
Making the right product for women fires me up just as much as serving men.
And although women buy more apparel than men, the average value of a women’s order is half that of our men’s, showing how much room there is for us to grow.
Reach new customers. Our brand is strong thanks to the incredible loyalty of our customers. But, the lifeblood of most businesses is the acquisition of new ones. We happen to be good at meeting new customers through advertising (with a very high return on ad spend), but until now it’s been a modest part of our strategy, with a budget equal to only 10% of our gross sales.
We’re pursuing investment to change this, to introduce more new customers to the brand that will become passionate followers like the ones we have today.
Deliver inspiration. In the beginning, our story drove the business. And where the power of a great brand is how it resonates with a consumer's lifestyle, our message has periodically taken a back seat to the nuts and bolts of survival.
We want to get back there: to resume a dialog consistent with our sense of purpose to outfit our customers for the dynamic lives you live through travel and beyond.
The last time we raised capital was in the spring of 2021, when we assembled a group of customers and small angel investors to raise a modest round that powered the last 18 months of progress.
Our situation has since improved from a focus on survival to a moment of opportunity.
Now we’re raising capital to apply the lessons we've learned towards meeting our customers' passion for a dynamic life.
On our side is that Bluffworks is positioned to accept investment from accredited investors large and small. And that our improved profitability means our capital will go far.
If you’re interested in learning more - or just cheering us on - send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I will personally respond to every one.
During the challenge of the pandemic, the conventional viewpoint was that there was no way to survive. There were many, many days I couldn’t see a path forward. In one of the most vivid moments, I lay down on the floor and proclaimed “it’s over”.
But it wasn’t. Part because the team pulled together, part because we received help, and a lot because I felt like I couldn’t let anyone down. And in addition, because you stood by us.
We’re so excited that this moment is brighter. That the world has reopened and travel is on fire. Thank you for getting us this far.
Here's to recovery and growth, for all of us.
(Consistent with SEC guidelines, no offer of investment is being made.)