Welcome to On Small Business’s series spotlighting interesting crowdfunding campaigns. Every week, we’ll feature a new company or individual attempting to raise money through these new online portals.
Who: Michael Chen, 27, a portfolio manager at a small private wealth fund.
What: Element Pure, a line of thermal underwear that promises to be odor-proof, antibacterial and highly absorbent.
Where: Tysons Corner.
Raised: $40,689 (as of Nov. 19) of a $15,000 goal. The campaign began Nov. 7 and goes through Dec. 12.
What’s the pitch?
Tired of washing your clothes? Chen promises a soft, wrinkle-resistant layer of thermal underwear that he claims is odor proof.
Just how odor proof?
Well… “Let’s say you’re a lazy college student,” he says. “You can buy a couple of these shirts, wear them for the whole semester and never have to laundry.”
Chen stumbled upon the material, called Tencel, two years ago while working for a company that invested in medical companies and private clinics in China.
It was used primarily as an antibacterial wipe to clean wounds after surgery. One day, Chen got a cut and used it to wipe away blood.
“It was really soft and I was remember thinking, ‘This is amazing,’ ” Chen said. He tracked the material to Lenzing AG, a company in Austria. Last year, he and three co-founders approached Lenzing about developing a line of clothing.
Long-sleeve tops and bottoms will cost $39, while short-sleeve shirts will sell for $28.
Neither Chen nor his co-founders have backgrounds in apparel or marketing, so they weren’t quite sure how to get tell people about their idea. That’s where crowdfunding came in.
“People on Kickstarter tend to be more accepting of new ideas and products,” said Chen, who frequently invests in projects on the site.
They set a target of $15,000 — enough to manufacture one batch of shirts. They met that goal within 42 hours.
Two weeks into the project, Element Pure has raised more than three times its initial target from more than 500 backers.
“We were pretty surprised,” Chen said. “We didn’t realize so many people would be excited by this.”
More colors, says Chen. Each hue costs about $20,000 for the company to develop, so he is sticking to plain black for now.
Eventually, he plans to offer items in gray (which 56 percent of customers favor, according to an informal survey) and blue (which received 12 percent of votes).
Customers have also been writing in with suggestions, including Tercel-made pajamas, bed sheets and dress shirts.
“That way you can ride your bike to work and go straight to your desk without changing,” Chen said. “There are so many possibilities.”
Editors note: Our coverage in this series does not constitute an endorsement. For more information about crowdfunding, please check out this SEC Fact Sheet.