Want to start your own outerwear company? - The NWT3K Interview
There are a lot of people out there that aspire to be part of the snow industry. Whether it be to become a pro snowboarder, a pro skier or something else just as involved. You find as many people wanting to be involved in the industry to create their own outerwear but these people do exist... you just have to find them.
For a while now I've been chatting to Nick Marvik, Founder and CEO of NWT3K. I can't remember how we got in touch but it's been interesting following the company and seeing how they've progressed as time goes by. He's the perfect example of how to start up your own company and definitely a good source of advice if you're tempted by it. I decided to get him on tape and ask him how, why, what, when and where about his business so you lot could have some inspiration.
How did you start? Was it just an idea that popped into your head or had you planned on creating outerwear for a while?
Growing up in the Northwest and being a skier all my life, I constantly went through ski jackets. Every season was a new jacket, and while that was great, there was always something missing. The jackets either didn't have the features I needed, or had too many features in general. Let's be honest, who needs 15 pockets in a ski jacket? I knew exactly what I wanted, so that led me to design and build my own ski jacket. My good friend Richard taught me how to sew and from there I started making more and more coats for my friends out of my college basement.
Getting further into my college degree (Marketing) I realized I needed to develop my working knowledge skill set outside of the classroom – I wanted to obtain some "real world" experience while still being a full-time college student. For 2 years I was sewing jackets in my basement, essentially validating the concept that there was a need for customized products in the snow sports market.
Come my senior year, I took two independent study courses focusing on entrepreneurship and lean startup practices. We spent a lot of time exploring and practicing the underlying principles of Lean Startup; developing a testable hypothesis, testing by gathering data, revising the original hypothesis and testing again until the experiment showed repeatable, positive results.
These courses were the tipping point for me. Come the end of my senior year, I made the decision to scale and go full force with NWT3K. I teamed up with a graphic designer and software engineer to design and build our new platform – allowing users to customize and design a waterproof jacket via a simplistic online product builder. Along with the new website, I developed a relationship with a high quality manufacturing facility located in Seattle, WA.
What made you want to create outerwear? Did you feel there was a gap in the market?
As humans we crave individualism – it's a natural trait. I felt that there was a huge gap in the snow sports market for riders to express their individualism via their outerwear. There is nothing more frustrating than going out and spending x hundreds of dollars on a new jacket, only to run into someone on the hill with the same jacket.
Also, I wanted a jacket that met my needs and wants as a freestyle skier - I wanted wide arm cuffs that easily fit over my gloves, a big hood that slid over my helmet, a longer fitting jacket, and a durable waterproof product that would last.
My good friend Richard taught me how to sew and from there I started making more and more coats for my friends out of my college basement.
Was there a point where you thought it wouldn't work? Had anyone advised you not to do it?
Looking back, the two years I spent in my basement really validated the concept. Yes, there are nights where I struggled to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but at the end of the day I just keep reminding myself how much I'm learning and growing as a person. I’m 22 and have had experiences many people won’t have in a lifetime.
Have any companies out there helped you? Or gone out of their way to make life difficult for you?
Big shout out to Gavin Gibson at Skiing Magazine, and Brandon Watts at Freehub Magazine, both have helped me out tremendously.
We're currently such a small player that many companies haven't heard of us…yet. We've gotten a few interesting emails from individuals working at larger brands, but nothing degrading.
What's the biggest obstacle you've faced?
Manufacturing. Anytime you are selling custom products you also have to develop a custom manufacturing process. The first (and biggest) obstacle was finding a facility that was willing to work with us. A lot of people I reached out to thought I was crazy.
We have been fortunate enough to partner and develop a relationship with a local production facility here in Seattle, WA. We have worked together for months ensuring the correct and most efficient processes that would allow for both businesses to have a positive experience.
Would you say you're more technical focused or image focused? Is this something that has changed from when you started?
Considering I was the one sewing the jackets at the beginning, our technical focus has changed dramatically. Yes, our unique value proposition is that we provide snow enthusiasts with their own image and a customized product, but we also make high quality technical outerwear.
From the stitch quality to the taped seams, we have worked extremely hard to ensure our custom jackets meet the high quality standards people expect from big name brands.
Our customers have been extremely satisfied with the quality of their custom jackets. Not only do they get to customize and design their own image (see below), but they also get a quality product as well.
How involved are you in the manufacturing process now that you're growing?
Highly involved. On average I'm at the factory two times a week. I'm always overseeing production and where we can make changes to make the process more efficient.
Where do you hope to be in 5 years time?
Great question. First off, I hope to be working at NWT3K fulltime – I'm currently working at Amazon as an online marketer. We will definitely be extending our custom product offering, allowing multiple products for customers to customize. We are also working on an innovative strategy to work with specialty retailers – both in store and online (more on this later).
Would you recommend this to anyone else? Any words of advice?
Students – the best advice I can give you is to take a step outside the box. Don't just go to class and take the tests, you're probably not going to retain much from it. I encourage you to learn outside the classroom while still being a student. Whether you pursue an internship or a venture of your own, obtaining working knowledge outside the classroom is going to make you much more attractive as a future employee.
Business owners – take risks! That's what it's all about. I challenge you to work with domestic businesses, create jobs and support your local economy.
* * * * * * *
Hopefully Nick's inspired you to start thinking about creating your own outerwear and if you want to see more of his stuff then check out his site - http://www.nwt3k.com/