If Your Customers Aren’t a Part of Your Product Design Team, Your Sales are Suffering: With Laura Dweck

Yitzi Weiner
Apr 24, 2018 · 6 min read

By Casmin Wisner and Yitzi Weiner

“We’ve received such valuable insight from our customers about their preferences, and every time we listen it works in our favor.”

I had the pleasure of interviewing Laura Dweck, Co-Founder and Creative Director of Basic Outfitters, who has been named one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30, featured on ABC’s Shark Tank and is revolutionizing the way men shop for their basics.

I grew up in Brooklyn and graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Fashion Merchandising and Management. While there I interned for WWD and Bloomingdale’s fashion office. I loved that my courses included the history of Coco Chanel—how awesome is that?! My first job was working for Sam Edelman where I was promoted to Fashion Director in my first year. I went on to launch the women’s collection at Onia and eventually designed and merchandised for both men and women’s collections.

Around that time I got married to my incredible husband Michael. Co-living in NYC proved to be a challenge with our limited closet space and when I saw Michael’s socks and underwear drawer stuffed to the brim, we had a serious conversation. It was time to get rid of his old, worn out basics and start fresh. That’s when Michael became really frustrated with the shopping experience. Trying to refill his socks, underwear and tees was stressful in stores and expensive online. We knew we could create an incredibly seamless shopping experience for men that would eliminate the stress, save time and offer unprecedented value, so we created Basic Outfitters.

Starting a company that sells men’s underwear naturally opens the door for many interesting stories, like people shouting to me from across the street “I’m wearing your underwear right now!” The most interesting has to be cold emailing the producers at Shark Tank and actually hearing back from them a few months later. Getting on the show was a wild ride and ultimately airing on the show was incredible for our business.

Our flagship service, Create-a-Drawer, allows you to customize a drawer full of socks, underwear, tees and joggers in under 2 minutes, all for $60. This offers customers an innovative and convenient way to refresh all their essentials at once at an unprecedented value and has proven to solve a very real problem. On average, men keep their underwear for seven years! We’re working hard to change that statistic. We’ve had women from all over the country write lengthy thank you letters to us, telling us the gory details of what their significant others’ drawers used to look like before they found Basic Outfitters.

We recently launched a partnership with JetBlue, featuring our SuperSoft socks in all of their Mint amenity kits. We love being able to offer the ultimate comfort of our incredibly soft socks in-flight! We are also launching our first ever brick and mortar retail initiative at the Market @ Macy’s Herald Square store in May. We are extremely excited to have a physical presence in such an iconic store and to be able to meet our customers and give them the opportunity to interact with the product.

Give your team a platform to share their ideas. Each team member is bringing a different perspective to the company and usually has some incredible ideas to bring to the table. As long as you give them the opening to share those ideas, you will find tremendous value.

This may seem like an obvious one, but undoubtedly my husband and co-founder, Michael. Other than being an amazing CEO, he has always been so incredibly supportive of me and a true partner in every sense of the word. Working with your spouse can be challenging, however with a partner like Michael, it has been one of the best decisions I’ve made.

We like to say that through Basic Outfitters, we are saving marriages! In all seriousness, we work hard as a team to make sure we do our part to give back, whether it’s donating to relief funds or on a more personal level, our team has a VTO policy, Volunteer Time Off, where they are encouraged to take paid time off of work to give back. Michael and I also take the opportunity to speak to college students about entrepreneurship whenever asked.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I became CEO,” and why?

  1. Find a partner who balances your talents. I am a perfectionist with an obsessive attention to detail which is amazing for branding, designing and reviewing contracts, but tends to work against me when it comes to getting stuff done and hitting deadlines. Michael is amazing at getting it done, not overthinking things that don’t need overthinking and trusting his gut. If it weren’t for him starting the company, Basic Outfitters probably never would have gotten off the ground!
  2. Fail fast. Starting Basic Outfitters, I didn’t have a background in marketing and it was the missing link we needed to get our name out there. Michael and I took the approach of ‘let’s test a lot of different strategies on a really small scale, fail fast and scale the ones that work’ and that’s exactly what we did.
  3. Get creative, get scrappy. We ran into a challenge when selling our SuperSoft socks online. We had designed these life-changing socks and yet all customers saw was a 10 pack of black socks on the website. We needed to figure out a way to get the message of the quality of the socks across with no added budget. So we got scrappy. We took a video camera and a bag of our SuperSoft socks to Times Square and asked strangers to give us their honest opinions of the socks on camera for a free pair of socks. The content turned out to be just what we needed and told the story of the world’s softest socks for us!
  4. Buckle up, this business will become your baby. I knew starting a business was going to be challenging and I’d need to put in more hours but I never anticipated how much attention, hard work and time it would need. I’ve had to make sacrifices for this business and work harder than I ever have. It’s taken me on an emotional roller coaster of highs and lows and it has tested my stamina and endurance. Ultimately, growing a company of your own is so rewarding, and it’s all worth it.
  5. Let your customers into the design process. We’ve received such valuable insight from our customers about their preferences, and every time we listen it works in our favor. For example, customers wrote in asking for a zipper on their jogger pockets. We listened and they are now one of our best sellers.

“Stay hungry. Stay foolish.” — Steve Jobs

I would love to have a private lunch with Oprah Winfrey. I grew up watching her show with my mom and sister and was always in awe of her story, her success, and how she used her influence to create positive change in the world.

Note to our readers: If you appreciated this interview, please click on one of the buttons on the top left to post to your Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest. If 2,000 people like you do this, there is a good chance this article may be featured on the homepage.

If you would like to see the entire “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me” Series In Huffpost, ThriveGlobal and Buzzfeed, click HERE.

Thrive Global

More than living. Thriving.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store