Shirts that don’t stink

Carina Linhares
September 22, 2022

Are you ready for this week's breakdown of the My Biggest Lessons podcast? Dan Demsky, founder & CEO of Unbound Merino, joined our host Chris Meade on the pod this week to chat about what led him to his 'aha' moment with Unbound, and the lessons he learned along the way. Watch the full episode below! ⤵

Raise your hand if you hate checking luggage when you're traveling. 🙋

When Dan Demsky was planning his travels throughout China, Thailand, and Vietnam, he made 1 promise to himself — he would only pack and bring a carry-on. Knowing how difficult it would be to pack several weeks' worth of clothing into his small bag, he dove deep into the depths of travel blogs and forums, looking for any and all types of tips on how to pack light. 

One post, in particular, caught his eye — a travel blogger mentioned how they would pack merino wool t-shirts while traveling. Thanks to their anti-bacterial and anti-microbial properties, these shirts were essentially odor-proof and could be worn multiple times, meaning Dan could pack 3 or 4 shirts instead of 14. 

Dan was on a mission to find merino wool shirts for his travels, but was met with a conundrum — the only shirts he could find in stores weren't his style or were made as base layer clothing. As an entrepreneur who was growing increasingly sick of his former business, this was his 'aha' moment. If the product isn't available for me, why don't I just make it myself?

Before Unbound Merino, Dan started a video production company, a fun dream of his in the beginning that quickly turned into an anxiety-inducing chore. He always had an urge to create a product with meaning, so once that 'aha' moment hit him, he dove in head first, taking with him all of the lessons he learned from his previous business. Interested in reading more about Dan's journey to starting Unbound? Keep on reading!  

Problem solved ✅

One of the biggest questions you should ask yourself before entering a market as saturated as clothing, is "how do I make people care about my shirts?". A need to solve a problem mixed with a little bit of naivety led Dan to start Unbound Merino, but the lesson he learned here was clear: create something the market needs by solving a problem that you personally face.

For Dan, this was a lack of stylish, versatile merino wool shirts on the market, alongside the complexity of packing light for longer travels. Although this was a personal problem, he pondered on a particular thought: "If I'm looking for this, other people might have a use case for this". And he was right — instead of just creating a business or product to make money, solving a problem and creating something the market needs will lead you to success.

Sticking to your niche 🫡

Once you've created a product that's solved the problem you identified and has filled a market need, sticking to your new-found niche is essential for scaling to success.

Dan had no urge to be the next big thing in fashion, so he saw success by approaching Unbound as a tool for travelers instead. For Unbound Merino, they've unlocked a niche group of travelers who prefer traveling light and, in general, having smaller, capsule-sized wardrobes. Finding this niche has allowed them to create a community of customers with a high lifetime value (LTV).

Learn from the past 🕛

Before Unbound Merino, Dan founded and headed a video production company. Within the first 3 years of business, they scaled their revenue from $60k to $1.2M. This explosive growth led Dan and his co-founders to feel like they were invincible. Thinking the sky was the limit in terms of yearly growth, they moved their team from a small, studio space to a massive, downtown office without preparing for the reality of their yearly sales.

Incurring these overhead costs proved to be a huge financial burden when the company's yearly sales stagnated, leaving Dan wondering if he could even make payroll some months. Dan took this lesson with him to his new business, and has an important piece of advice to all budding entrepreneurs: don't let your ego take over. Have a good grasp on your finances, take small, low-risk bets on your business, and don't take on huge recurring costs that could sink your ship if your revenue doesn't scale the way you predicted it to. 

Want to learn more about ecommerce growth through the personal trials and obstacles of industry professionals? Subscribe to the My Biggest Lessons podcast on YouTube, Spotify, and wherever else you listen to podcasts.