Late Night: More FANAFI – Find a Need and Fill It
Everyone has their favorite event or story from the recent Winter Olympics. Mine is the tale of the Norwegian Curling Team’s very colorful pants. Now, how they came to find the pants is not the topic here. The pants, however, attracted a huge amount of attention worldwide, not only for the Norwegian team (which finally lost in the end to the Canadians), but also for the sport itself. A fan from Rochester, New York started a Facebook page, The Norwegian Curling Team Pants which has 600,000 fans (including 200,000 from Norway itself).
CNBC was running curling coverage after the close of business on Wall Street, so there the traders were, ogling the Norwegians’ red, white and blue diamond pants, while the teams were playing what has been heretofore considered a sport about as exciting as watching corn grow.
But I digress. As many of Aunt Toby’s readers recall, I have a keen interest in small business, in entrepreneurship, in plain old ‘following your passion’. Although long after the 2010 Winter Olympics has faded from the collective memory, in the chronicles of international curling, I am sure that the growth of interest in the sport is going to be tagged to the pants worn by the Norwegian team this year. But my interest in this story actually is in the company which designed and makes these pants, which are technically golf clothing, Loudmouth Golf.
Scott Woodworth, “a graphic designer who lives in Sonoma, California, with his wife, Cathy, and sons, Robert, 13, and Bailey, 14, turned his passion for audacious attire and brightly colored geometric designs into a men’s clothing business targeting a particular subspecies of golfer. “Loud mouth guys may be a little obnoxious,” he says, “but deep down they are good guys. You put those pants on, you are going out to tell jokes and have fun.”
“..After he moved to California, he noticed that golfers there dressed in muted tones. That would have to change. So in 2000 he went to the fabric store, bought a bolt of powder-blue stuff that depicted Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck riding in golf carts, and had a local seamstress make him a pair of pants to wear at a charity golf tourney. “They were horrible looking pants,” he says, “and I loved them. Guys kept asking me all day where I got them.”
He found a clothing manufacturer and ordered seventy-two pairs for his newly formed company, Loudmouth Golf. Six weeks after placing a classified ad in Golf Digest, he’d sold half his inventory. He doubled the next order, and before long he’d drafted his children into helping him pack merchandise from his garage. It was good-bye graphic design and hello clothing business.”
The international interest in the pants crashed Woodward’s server and he is scrambling to restock this particular model, with delivery scheduled for April.
For people who dream of having their own business and who feel that all the ‘needs’ that need to be filled are gone, I’d like to mention that crazy pants for golfers are not necessarily something that screams ‘a need needing to be filled’. What Woodward did, by wearing crazy pants to the tournament and getting comments was actually an unconscious form of focus group testing – on the fly, certainly, but testing nonetheless. Woodward’s advantage was that he also realized that there was a market there (the need) that no one else was doing anything about and that he could fulfill (filling it).
A lot of people would like to start a business, but many times they allow their fears of risk or lack of knowledge to stop them. Woodward was a graphic designer – it is not as if he grew up in the garment business (as Isaac Mizrahi did – Mizrahi’s father owned a dress design and manufacturing business). The difference is that Woodward got on the phone, called around, asked questions, found more people who could answer more questions, found more people who could help him, direct him, show him resources for fabric, sewing, manufacturing and so on. And that’s how he started and has grown his business.
Now, you can be sure that there are people already out there, already in the sports clothing business, who are riffing changes on the Norwegian Curling Team’s pants. Maybe they called up some curlers and asked them if they liked the pants or perhaps what they wanted in pants to curl in? Maybe they are producing them in water repellant fabrics for skiers or snow boarders. Maybe they are producing them with bibs. Or matching jackets. Or matching shirts. Or with zippers down the legs. Or glow in the dark? Maybe someone has decided that the whole curling pants thing is a fluke – in Canada, the big deal in curling clothing from what I have heard is colorful sweaters. Maybe someone is going to try to reproduce the diamond motif in a heavyweight sweater. A heavyweight sweater with a zip in the front.
Gad. The opportunities are endless.