Made in America: Finding Inspiration in Underwear
Jake Bronstein, an entrepreneur from New York City, was looking for a new project when inspiration struck in the underwear section of Macy's.
"I was trying to figure out what I wanted to buy, what would look good and feel comfortable," Bronstein told ABC News. "That's when I noticed that not one of the tags said 'Made in America.'"
Unable to find premium underwear made in the U.S. at other department stores, Bronstein decided if no one was making it, he would. He started Flint and Tinder and soon discovered designing the product was easy - compared to finding a place to manufacture it.
"I expected to just be able to call up a factory and place an order, but that was not the case," Bronstein said. "Nobody is set up to manufacture premium underwear anymore because it doesn't happen here."
Bronstein eventually convinced FesslerUSA, a manufacturer in Orwigsburg, Pa., to take on the job. The company said he sold them on it with his exuberance, strategy and vision.
"He didn't just come to us with a product and a desire to make money. This guy wants to be a business partner of ours and wants to make this company better," Brian Meck, vice president of sales and marketing for FesslerUSA, said. "That has really resonated with everybody and creates a passion, a belief and a desire with everyone at the company to make it succeed. It's unprecedented for any start-up we've ever worked with in the fashion industry."
With manufacturing secured, Bronstein turned to Kickstarter, a website where people are able to support a variety of projects, to raise funding and create demand. Within days the response exceeded his expectations.
Bronstein's initial goal was to raise $30,000; to date he has raised more than $190,000 and in the process has became the most highly-funded fashion project in Kickstarter's history.
"If this builds up and grows the way that it should, we will hire ten to 40 employees over a 12 to 18 month period," Meck told ABC News. FesslerUSA currently employs 110 people.
"People are ready to work, and they're excited to work on things they are passionate about, and they're willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen and to make it work," Bronstein said. "I think anybody who says otherwise is either lying or hasn't looked it in the face."
Flint and Tinder says when its underwear becomes readily available online and in stores it will not retail for more than underwear sold at J.Crew or Ralph Lauren. For now the company is focused on filling the orders it has received from Kickstarter.
As the company attempts to scale up, Bronstein said he believes the key to attracting customers is quality.
"I'd like to say Made in America is better, but it will only be better if we make it better," Bronstein said. "I think I've convinced a lot of people to buy an American brand of underwear, but we're really fighting to send them something else instead, which is their favorite pair of underwear that happens to have been made in America."