Mizzen+Main is one of the most popular brands among athletes today. CrossFit Games Champion, Jason Khalipa, J. J. Watt of the Houston Texans, and Thomas Morstead of the New Orleans Saints are just a few of the athletes that can be regularly seen in Mizzen+Main shirts. Today, we sit down with the founder, Kevin Lavelle, to talk about his journey starting this brand.
Tell us about yourself
Before founding Mizzen+Main, I worked at the energy venture capital group of Hunt Consolidated focusing on emerging energy technologies. I also worked for international consulting firm Oliver Wyman in the Middle East and the US. I had the idea of Mizzen+Main many years before launch in July of 2012. I couldn’t be more proud of our growth the past four years.
Tell us about Mizzen+Main
Mizzen+Main introduces advanced performance fabrics to traditional menswear. It has changed the way men approach this staple of their wardrobe, creating a shirt that is moisture wicking, wrinkle free, has four way stretch, and requires no ironing or dry cleaning.
Most people use Kickstarter to launch their brand. Why did you decide to use Kickstarter to launch your blazers even though Mizzen+Main was an established brand?
When we decided to use the crowdfunding platform, we were still so young and new to the game, we really wanted to get our customer’s thoughts on this new product to ensure it would be a success. Listening to our customer’s needs and wants is imperative to our success.
You didn’t have a design or manufacturing background prior to starting Mizzen+Main, how did you approach finding a factory and making the first shirt?
There were years research that went into this process; from sourcing a fabric that could wick moisture yet fit like a dress shirt, to finding a cut and sew factory in the US to make the shirts, to testing the product to make sure it would withstand the wear and tear of an active work day, to being thrown in the wash and worn with confidence in 15 minutes or less.
Before Mizzen+Main was popular among athletes, you guys were hustling with trunk shows in MLB locker rooms. How did you go about doing this?
We literally cold called and knocked down doors until someone let us in. Now we have so many MLB athletes that are loyal customers as a result of that. We also had some friendly introductions from customers and long time friends!
What does a typical day look like for you?
No day looks the same. Most of the time, I am in the office, but other days I am out meeting with investors and other potential connections. I travel a lot to speak at conferences and other events.
What is the biggest challenge of owning your own business?
One of the biggest challenges of owning your own business is that you are the one making all the decisions. From the smallest decisions to the largest, it is up to you. It is a challenge because every decision you make whether it be big or small effects the business and your team.
What’s your favorite Mizzen+Main item?
It honestly changes all the time.
What was the biggest mistake you made and what did you learn from it?
In 2014, we ran a full page ad in Esquire at the direction of one of our investors. We spent a fortune on our first national in print ad, and the results were disappointing. From this experience, I now have a different approach on advice.
You guys just announced closing a $3M Series B. What do you hope to achieve with that?
We will be using this funding to purchase more fabric than we have ever before to support the amount of growth we’ve had in the last year and produce thousands of more shirts on top of what we are currently already producing.
Are there other brands or founders you look up to?
I have a great deal of respect for what Andy Dunn has done with Bonobos and a tremendous amount of admiration for lululemon and Apple.
What are your passions outside of fashion?
I am very passionate about supporting our veterans. Every November, Mizzen+Main has a week dedicated to “Henleys for Heroes.” For every dress shirt that was purchased, we donate a henley to a veteran. It is an awesome thing that we are able to do to show our support for our veterans. In October, we also have a week that supports the VA hospital in Dallas. A percentage of every dress shirt sale is donated to the VA hospital. We do many other things throughout the year to support our veterans. Personally, I use CrossFit to stay fit and maintain a degree of sanity!
Any final parting words?
We’d like to extend an enormous thanks to all of our customers! We have big things happen this next year and can’t wait to see where Mizzen+Main goes. Ultimately though, none of this is possible without our incredible team here.
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