After a few years traveling through North and South America and doing odd jobs in home remodeling and catering, Babson College graduates Michael Maher and Barrett Purdum, along with business partner Mike Armenta, launched clothier Taylor Stitch in San Francisco. "We couldn't find shirts we liked that fit us," Maher says. "So we decided to start a clothing company to make our own custom shirts."
The trio started small, launching online in October 2010 with $20,000 of their own money. Their bespoke shirts--which cost about $200 and are cut and sewn domestically--quickly found a dedicated following. In March 2011 they opened a storefront in the city's Mission district. But soon after, they found that Magento, their low-budget, open-source e-commerce web platform, was slow and incompatible with their retail point-of-sale system and inventory-management requirements. Maher realized a new setup was needed to match his vision for the clothier's growth.
Maher researched the options, then chose Shopify to manage e-commerce, Xero for bookkeeping and Vend to handle in-store transactions, for a total cost of roughly $200 per month. After the three weeks it took to set up a new website and link the apps, Maher was pleased to see that the cloud-based programs, all from different companies, worked together seamlessly. Maher says Shopify, in particular, is dedicated to developing new features: "This program has really excited me. It has a very well-integrated rewards program, which will coincide with both our web platform and the in-store experience."
Taylor Stitch's sales have tripled each year since launch and are expected to reach $1.5 million this year. The company has expanded to women's shirts as well as a full line of custom-tailored menswear. And its web platform has grown right along with it. Because the apps it uses are cloud-based, Taylor Stitch has been able to go mobile, routinely establishing pop-up stores without having to set up a local POS system for each one or losing contact with business back in California.
"We have a pop-up store in Boston in a few weeks, and these three programs will allow me to manage everything in San Francisco on my laptop and smartphone from Boston," Maher says. The pop-up stores, which stay open anywhere from three days to six months, are used as a marketing tool and provide a small portion of the company's total revenue.
A second opinion
Jason Vazzano, CEO of Vectorform, a multiplatform interactive design company in Detroit, believes Taylor Stitch has gained a competitive advantage over some of the country's well-established retailers. "Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus, for example, still have entirely separate universes of online shopping and the physical store," he says. "Taylor Stitch's web platform allows for total integration, and that allows the owners to move quickly compared to the department stores."
However, having separate services for managing customer transactions, inventory and accounting is not without its pitfalls, according to Vazzano. If issues were to arise from the integration between services, dealing with three different accounts, schedules and support staffs could lead to long, frustrating downtimes. "For the most part, though," he says, "these apps are a great accelerator for a startup--one that doesn't require a massive capital outlay."