STARTUP OF THE WEEK: Seifer
Ben Siverly, 24, spent seven months of 2016 living in his Nissan Sentra in the streets of Los Angeles.
A tall, bookish type with a degree from Santa Barbara’s Westmont College and a promising career in garment research and development, he isn’t the type you would expect to find living in a car. But in March 2016, he gave up his apartment and moved to Denver to start his own business: an ethical activewear company by the name of Seifer.
“Seifer” means victory and peace, Siverly explained. He believes it perfectly encompasses the ethos of his company, which hopes to marry comfort and fit with sustainability and functionality.
“Men seem to be almost entirely served by brands that think everything is about athletics, that think that everyone is harder, better, faster,” he said. “For the majority of adults, our types of activity are a little more fun — like going on a hike, going on a jog, or something that brings joy.”
He describes Seifer as a high-quality brand for the man who leads an active lifestyle, but doesn’t pick sports as his primary activity.
As of Seifer’s launch on Oct. 25, Siverly had produced one shirt, called “Lewis,” after his grandfather. The shirt seems unassuming at first — a plain, black tee with no specific brand indicators — but it is soft and airy, and fits better than your average Fruit of the Loom.
And Lewis sizing is based on a new, nine-size scale. Instead of “small,” “medium” and “large,” men may pick from three heights and three widths to personalize their fit.
Seifer’s fabric is composed of eucalyptus cellulose, called Tencel, mixed with recycled polyester. Tencel feels a bit like bamboo fabric, but it is naturally antimicrobial, meaning minimal odor retention, since the fabric retains eucalyptus oil. Tencel also has moisture wicking properties that cotton lacks, meaning you won’t get hot-boxed by your own sweat.
Siverly said he chose eucalyptus as much for the fabric’s natural activewear properties as for the plant’s eco-friendly growing conditions. And when it comes to ethics, Siverly hopes to maintain high standards at each stage of product development and manufacturing.
At first, Seifer will be produced small batch from a factory in LA. Siverly has formed personal relationships with everyone in his production chain, a move he said was inspired by his former work with a women’s clothing holding company.
“My job was to design fabrics that functioned and looked like expensive fabrics, but were basically as cheap as you could get them,” he said. “To get a $7 price tag on something usually someone is getting taken advantage of.”
Seifer apparel won’t be cheap, Lewis runs about $30 on Seifer’s Indiegogo site, but Siverly plans to keep prices under $50 for any given item. And he believes the direct-to-consumer model and focusing exclusively on online sales are key to moderating prices without cutting corners during product manufacturing.
Direct-to-consumer cuts out the retail middle man, enabling companies to charge on average 50 percent less — or wholesale prices — for their products. Siverly believes the reduction in cost at the retail level will help him maintain higher standards elsewhere.
Siverly’s relocation to Denver was another cost-cutting strategy — at first. Siverly praised its affordable tax codes for starting a company, and cheap shipping costs to both New York and Los Angeles. But he says after about three months here, it feels like the perfect home for his brand.
“If you are starting an activewear brand, [Denver is] a really good place to test it because it is such an active scene,” he said. “People want to hear about new things and they are also very into stuff that is born in Colorado. If it is a Colorado brand that is also active, they are all over it.”
Short-term, he hopes to raise the approximately $14,000 he needs to fund the research and development on his upcoming clothing line. Although he has 11 pieces designed, Siverly plans to release the items one at a time, every four months, providing ample opportunity to take advantage of early consumer feedback.
Long-term, he hopes his direct-to-consumer model will help his company grow, and serve as an example of alternative success in textile manufacturing and sales.
Founder: Ben Siverly
Industry: Direct-to-consumer retail, textile manufacturing
Founded: March 2016
Launched: Oct. 25, 2016
Funding: Self-funded, Indiegogo (ongoing)
Offices: Galvanize Golden Triangle, Denver
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