WELD at Work: The Official Need Launch
WELD AT WORK: NEED — The Official Launch!
WELDER: Matt Alexander
Interview by: Kristin Read
Let’s talk “NEED.” In the excitement of today’s big launch, share with us what NEED is all about.
NEED is an online hybrid between a magazine and a retailer for men, localized to wherever you are in the world. We don’t offer flash sales or anything of the like. We just sell a really limited amount of men’s lifestyle products (clothing, coffee, alcohol, literature, furniture, whatever it may be) based on the market in that particular region. We have over 70 brands we're partnered with that will provide limited edition or exclusive co-branded items and our typical men’s products will be cheaper than the competition. In our first month’s collection (November), for example, we're only selling 6 products. December will likely be 7 or 8 products. And we select those things based on a theme, which befits, in this instance Dallas, in November and December.
Then, around all of that, we commission photography and journalism. The easiest way to explain it is, if you imagine a digital-only and localized version of GQ or Esquire, where you there’s a beautiful pictorial section where they show great products — and an explanation as to why each piece is relevant — and you can buy all the items in-line. This way, it’s more convenient, attractive, digestible, portable, and cheaper. So, we sell it online at a better price and make it easily accessible to fashionable men.
How do you go about choosing themes and products?
The easiest way for me to think about it is, if I went home and all my clothes were ruined — and I could only buy 5 or 10 suitable things every month — what would I buy? That’s informed a lot of our product selection.
At the moment, there's not too much science to it. In November, when it really starts to get colder in Dallas and people are going outside for events and such, we came up with an “Open Season” theme. In December, ahead of Christmas parties, formal events, family events, and so on, we’ll offer more formal selections, as well as some good gift ideas. You’ll have to check out the site to see what’s available.
How do you plan on breaking product sales down by region?
The concept is that we thrive on restraint. So, in that light, what we pick in Dallas for August would be far different than what we'd pick for New York. We’ll adopt a local mindset — with local people — for each market.
On top of that, thanks to our technology and investor support, we already have a lot of infrastructure in place as we move into new regions. We’ve been planning it for it for some time.
What really inspired you to pursue and launch NEED?
After evaluating how current online retailers offer their products, I realized that there was an opportunity to build a really relevant publication that’s enjoyable and enabling — that doesn’t feel prohibitive. Almost like working with a non-pushy, local, and really familiar personal stylist who cares about your taste and lifestyle.
Last year, I was approached by a bigger startup in this space. They were looking for help with an expansion, particularly to do some interesting things with localizing what they were experimenting with in cities around the U.S. They were — and are — extremely impressive, but have a lot of issues with their business model. I walked away from that in December 2012. Still, though, I knew there was a way to make the business effective. Male consumers, I learned, respond very well to confidence, good customer service, education, and restraint. It was that knowledge that came together to inspire NEED.
How does it feel latching your name to a brand/idea knowing that (up until now) you've done entrepreneurial consulting and your own thing for so long? How does that transition feel?
It's strange just because I've helped publicize so many people launching their companies and their projects. When you're on that side of things, you’re primarily focused on quality publicity and a successful launch. But now my name is attached to this brand — from concept, to launch, to ongoing services. It’s the first time my name is really out there and tied specifically to one thing. It's just a different feeling. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not concerned about our success. I’m very confident in what we're doing. We’ve poured ourselves into this brand, this idea, this business for the past 8 months, and I can’t wait to see how people respond. I hope you enjoy it. It's weird, but it's fun.
What's the most exciting part and the scariest part of this transition for you?
Well, scariest is probably that I now have a board of directors and a group of investors. Up until now, it’s been my brainchild and entirely in my hands, and now there’s a good number of people involved. We can’t just focus on a successful launch; we have to focus on ongoing improvements with quality products and satisfied members from here on out. That’s excitingly scary, I suppose.
The most exciting part, on the other hand, is that I've known for a long time that I wanted to build my own thing. Consulting other businesses was very much a stepping-stone for me to start my own, fully-fledged company. So, finally arriving at that moment now, where that is what I'm doing — that this what we're putting out there — it’s just a realization of what I've been working on for a long time. It's just that feeling when you know that you've worked out exactly what you want to do with your life. And I searched long and hard for that answer. Then suddenly this all sort of came together. I couldn’t be more excited.