Jim Lastinger: Tell me about Manpacks and what you do.
Ken Johnson: Manpacks is a concierge for men’s essentials. We deliver basics like underwear, socks, shirts, and toiletries on a schedule. Customers can customize packs however they like, and also control the frequency of shipments with a handy “Snooze” button. Our goal is to make it easy to resupply things every guy needs on a regular basis — we test out a lot of products, and carry only the best we find, so our selection is limited but with high quality at all price points.
JL: How did the idea for Manpacks come about?
KJ: Two busy guys brainstorming after finishing Tim Ferriss’ “Four Hour Work Week”, thinking about things we hated to do that could be put on auto-pilot. One of us said “I always need socks, but I never make time to go buy them. Why don’t they just show up at my doorstep?” Five minutes later we found the Manpacks.com domain available, and a few months later we sat down and built a fun little website, just to test the waters. The reaction was pretty intense — the idea of underwear on a subscription stirred up a lot of conversations online — and a few months later we went full-time with it.
JL: Did you take any outside funding to get started?
KJ: As a startup, we’re still “getting started” so I suppose the answer is yes. However, we worked for six months and acquired our first 300 members before taking any outside funding — a small seed investment from a startup accelerator called Betaspring. We later raised a proper seed round that enables us to accelerate growth further.
JL: What marketing advice do you have for startups with limited budgets?
KJ: If people aren’t talking about you already, rework your brand and/or messaging until you find something that works better. Paid channels are probably too expensive unless you’re doing something remarkable that makes people tell friends “this is awesome because…”
Further, if you’re very early stage, I’d recommend investing all your marketing muscle into social media and live chat on your website. Engage people and chat them up. Be real, be a tiny little company trying to succeed against all odds, and learn more about the customer pain your are trying to alleviate.
JL: What are some unexpected and awesome things that you do for your customers? I’m a customer and I’ve noticed the stickers that you include in each shipment.
KJ: We often include something interesting and unexpected in the packs we ship.
On the service end, I think most people are surprised by how we solve problems. This only comes up when there is a problem, but people definitely think it’s awesome when we don’t waste their time. It’s about reading between the lines and resolving issues proactively, rather than citing policy and denying responsibility in order to deflect the situation. We’re not afraid of customers returning things — we’re afraid of customers being dissatisfied and not letting us know.
We try to always be awesome, and some of the time it works out. When something is clearly not awesome, we change it!