Proper Cloth: custom-tailored shirts for the GQ set

Dress shirts with attitude from Proper Cloth

Seph Skerritt could have gotten a job on Wall Street or at a hedge fund after graduating from business school. Instead, he became fascinated with men's clothing, specifically shirts. "I wasn't a fashion guy. That didn't keep me up at night," explains Skerritt, "but it was annoying trying to shop for shirts when you're taller and slimmer than the average guy." During a stint in Shanghai in 2007, Skerritt got the idea to start his own custom shirt company. "I saw how easy and fun it was to get custom shirts in China and thought 'why can't we bring that same ease of purchase to the U.S. consumer?"

From that kernel of insight, Proper Cloth was born. The big idea: allow young men who'd never order custom dress shirts to do so online with minimal hassle, at a much lower of the cost than high-end garment makers. Skerritt was banking on the fact that he could leverage technology to keep costs down, make the online experience better and speed up his delivery times.

Secrets of Successful Startups | ProperCloth

Since Skerritt was still in business school when he thought up the idea for Proper Cloth, he had the luxury of spending two months researching his business plan. He used his "I'm just a student" status to get potential competitors to open up to him about their numbers and where they sourced their materials. "I called all kinds of suppliers and found out who was the best. Then, I ended up working with some of those people when I launched," he says.

Skerritt was also able to identify the weaknesses in the market. One glaring problem for customers was getting the right fit when ordering online. Skerritt decided to tackle that issue by developing a proprietary algorithm to help customers determine their sizes by responding to a series of questions about body type, among other things.

Today, Proper Cloth's revenues are about $500,000, but its run rate by year end will be close to $1 mm. The company has been growing rapidly and its margins are a healthy 30 percent to 50 percent. With just three employees and no debt to speak of, Proper Cloth is at a turning point in its development. Will it stay or will it grow? Find out what Skerritt has to say about growing the company. And feel free to make your own suggestions in the comments section below. [We'll be tweeting the best suggestions.]

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    Laurel Touby is the founder of mediabistro, the largest media community website in the US. Touby is an Internet pioneer, who started her company in 1996, took it to profitability, grew it to millions in sales, and sold it in 2007 for $23 million. She currently is an investor in and advisor to small Internet companies.

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