Innovating CEO of Flint and Tinder is Fulfilling the American Dream
What kind of person does it take to decide, since there are no companies in America that produce premium underwear, that he would just have to do it himself? Does it take someone with an inspired imagination, someone that is always looking to the horizon for the next best thing? Or does it take someone that has impassioned motivation and perpetual drive? Or how about someone that is willing and excited to exercise their American freedom to make a name for themselves, stand out from the crowd, and do only the things that spell greatness? Maybe it takes someone that possesses all of the above, someone such as self-made man Jake Bronstein. Fifteen-time world record setter, inventor of the Buckyballs, and one of the original reality stars, years before reality TV ruled the airwaves, Jake Bronstein exudes confidence, certainty, and the courage to take a chance.
This story begins in 2011, when Jake was underwear shopping at Macy’s and realized that all of the premium underwear brands had seen more of the world than he had, as not one of them were made in America. This got him thinking. After checking the other retail stores in the area, he discovered that only one company produces underwear in the United States, and they aren’t exactly high quality. He decided that he would like to give American citizens an alternate choice, and introduce a well-made long-lasting pair of underwear that was completely made in the USA.
Jake began his search for a facility that would be able to take on his project, but he found that no American cut and sew factories were set up to produce underwear; most made t-shirts. After months of cold calls, he finally found a solar-powered t-shirt factory that would be willing to switch gears into underwear manufacturing to help bring Jake’s latest dream to fruition. This relationship would prove valuable to both parties, as the 100-year old factory had been hit with hard times during the recession of 2008, and had scaled back production at a loss of jobs. Jake’s vision allowed the factory to hire back more Americans immediately, and another new job has been created for every 1,000 pairs of underwear that have been ordered.
Next, Jake went to bank after bank, and they all turned him down for the $30,000 loan that he needed to get production rolling. One banker told him, “the only way to reignite American manufacturing is with a flint and tinder.” After realizing that the banks were not going to finance his idea, Jake decided to take his concept to his future customers, the American public.
In April of 2012, he started a campaign on Kickstarter, a website set up for fund-raising. In the video that Jake put up on Kickstarter, regarding the lack of underwear made in American, he appealed the American consumer by saying, “Don’t you think it’s time we did better? I think so, too.” Interest spread like wild fire. His fledgling company was christened Flint and Tinder in spite of the bankers’ discouraging off-the-cuff comment, and within days, an idea took root into something tangible with the pre-order of 10,000 pairs of American made underwear. When the 30-day campaign ended, Flint and Tinder had $297,000 start-up capital to produce the 30,000 underwear order, ten times more cash than Jake needed to get rolling. This round of funding was the largest that Kickstarter had ever seen as the previously most successful round of funding through the website had only reached $64,000.
Flint and Tinder’s American-made underwear were a success! Produced in Pennsylvania using soft, elastic bands woven in Florida, and high-quality Supima cotton grown in California, these undies were 100% American grown and manufactured. Even the tags, labels, and boxes are made in the USA. Jake wanted these high-quality undergarments to become his customers’ favorite underwear, that just so happened to also be made in America. Taking quality and comfort to the next level, customers were satisfied and put in repeat orders. Inspired by consumer confidence, Jake began to add more items to his clothing line, starting with undershirts.
By the time the first year of business concluded, Flint and Tinder had brought in 2 million dollars in revenue. To keep costs competitive, since it cost him five times more to produce underwear in America than it did for other companies producing overseas, Jake decided that Flint and Tinder would be an on-line store with no physical retail locations. Without rent, additional salespeople, and other overhead costs of managing a store, Flint and Tinder have been able to keep their prices in line with other premium underwear producers, such as Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren. Although there is no on-the-ground location, the virtual store employs eight people, so Flint and Tinder is still providing employment beyond the manufacturing jobs it has created, and providing a deeper connection with their customer base, as most other manufacturers hide behind their distributors.
In Flint and Tinder’s second year of business, they launched another Kickstarter campaign to raise money for “The Ten-Year Hoodie”, a hooded sweatshirt constructed to last a lifetime, and guaranteed to satisfy for a decade. The guarantee includes ten years of free mending, although the hoodie is so over-constructed that free mending may be a moot point. Again, Flint and Tinder’s campaign broke all Kickstarter records and the raised capital of $1,057,000 far exceeded the company’s goal of $50,000. 12,500 Ten-Year Hoodies were pre-ordered, and manufacturing began with American-grown cotton and American-woven yarn. The unisex hoodies are hand sewn in a facility in Toluco Lake, CA with double seams and a hidden inner pocket. By the end of 2014, with the introduction of new clothing lines and the 10-year hoodie, Flint and Tinder’s revenues were more than 2.5 million.
Now Flint and Tinder have a full men’s clothing line, from socks to shirts, and have begun to introduce women’s wear. They have introduced accessories to their on-line store that are fully made in American but by different companies, such as candles, hats, belts, and wallets. In 2014, they had a promotional sale on their undergarments to introduce their products to new customers as well as give back to America– their promotion included sending thousands of premium undergarments to American soldiers stationed overseas. Flint and Tinder also recently started The Bluelace project to promote and give American manufacturing their own yellow ribbon.
What is next for Flint and Tinder? CEO and company mastermind Jake Bronstein wants to take production in-house. He says, “We’re in the process of building our own factories, building our own supply chain from the ground up.” From reality star to model to magazine editor to world record holder, Jake Bronstein is strategically and seemingly effortlessly navigating his newest role, that of an American manufacturing mogul.