Three and a half years ago, Cotton Bureau grew out of the t-shirt line United Pixelworkers, which was a side hustle for the guys running web design studio Full Stop Interactive. Those guys are Jay Fanelli and Nathan Peretic.
If you're a design savvy t-shirt wearer, you've no doubt come across Cotton Bureau. It's is an online t-shirt shop where you can submit and buy beautifully designed, super comfy tees. The Cotton Bureau team proudly operates out off Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, shipping anywhere from 4,500 to 15,00 t-shirts per month. Right now, they're in the process of moving from their 800 square foot space to a 4,500 square foot warehouse to accommodate their growing business and make way for a huge new project — blank tees.
In this episode of Well Made, Cotton Bureau founders Nate and Jay drop the big news about why and how they're launching Blank by Cotton Bureau, their own line of blank tees that they're making totally from scratch.
So, why blanks and why now? The biggest reason is the sad state of fit in the world of women's tees. For years, Jay and Nate have been looking for blank tees that come in a wide range of colors and fabrics, made with manufacturing they agree with and a modern fit. The fit factor has been nearly impossible to find, especially for women, so their entrepreneurial solution is to make their own, from scratch. That means making the fabric, cutting, sewing, dyeing, and creating new sizing.
In typical Cotton Bureau fashion, the launch of the Blank line won't come all at once. The community will be part of the story with customer testing and total transparency from the Cotton Bureau team every step of the way. They're going to keep tweaking the fit until their Blank tees fit most women and feel great on all humans.
“Everybody has this image in their head of what it looks like to run a startup, and people get caught up in the 'hustle' of startupdom. That never — and I mean never — appealed to us.”
“This kind of place is what turned the election. I think we understand, based on where we are, the culture of manufacturing in the U.S.”
You can't think of Cotton Bureau without thinking of Pittsburgh. For Jay and Nate the mid-west upbringing of the brand has set them apart from a lot of tech and design startups. The culture of manufacturing isn't a distant idea, but an ever-present reality of the economy in their city. The access to manufacturing and the distance from Silicon Valley seems to be what gives their brand the grit, honesty, and total transparency that prompts a whole new way to think about entrepreneurship.
It's this different type of "hustle" that made VC funding a tough and carefully considered choice for Cotton Bureau. After a lot of deliberation and years of proving their concept, they went with a seed round of funding from Indie VC. The hope is that with their new space, new funding, and growing knowledge of yarn gauges and fabric weights, one day they could be the go-to place for the best blank tees in the business. And along the way, they're creating a manufacturing process they can stand behind. We can't wait to see how they do it. To keep up on how the Blank story unfolds, sign up for their newsletter.
Also mentioned on the show:
- Medium's major layoffs
- Coudal Partners
- American Apparel closing all of its stores
- Foxconn is considering a $7 billion US display factory in cooperation with Apple
- Jiro Dreams of Sushi
- And they tried hard not to talk about the election.
- Nate announced their seed investment on Medium
- Frank Chimero
- Inkodye on Kickstarter
Header photo by Maykel Loomans
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