Meet The Man Who Created Pants That Won't Wrinkle
Stefan Loble, the founder of Bluff Works, has always had a passion for entrepreneurship and adventure. Energetic and full of creative ideas, he met with AOL Jobs to talk about the process of starting his own company.Loble lived abroad for two years, in Vietnam, often wearing travel clothes that were ideal for the weather and being on the go. When he returned to New York, he got a job working at a software company, which required elevating his wardrobe to professional Manhattan office wear. He had also recently become a father. With all these life changes, it bothered him how much effort he put into ironing and washing his work clothes, when there were so many other things demanding his time.
Loble also felt unfulfilled at his day job, so he realized it was now or never to focus on one of his entrepreneurial ideas. He wanted to merge the technical materials used in his old travel clothes with designs that would be appropriate for professional business wear or a dinner date. Since he didn't have a background in apparel, he did his research by taking classes and hiring a consultant. The early days of his company were not without sacrifices and risks. For three months, he even moved his family (his wife and 2-year-old son) into his parents' apartment while he took classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology.
After doing his research, Loble created the Bluff Works pants. Made of lightweight and wrinkle-resistant material, the pants can be rolled, folded, stuffed in a bag, and worn multiple times without ironing or washing in between.
Loble was ready to do a regular launch for Bluff Works, when he noticed one of his favorite software authors did a successful Kickstarter. At the time, Kickstarter had a smaller presence than it does today, but he figured that if an author could be successful, why not a product? In June 2012, he launched the Bluff Works Kickstarter, with a $13,500 goal, even getting the prominent Realtor Barbara Corcoran to press the launch button. He ended up raising $128,722.
Two years later, Loble is taking his pants beyond simply being a successful Kickstarter project and working to build Bluff Works as a company. He has plenty of advice on how to launch a Kickstarter and how to turn a Kickstarter project into a business with longevity.
"A lot of people ask me, 'What's the No. 1 tip in running a successful Kickstarter?'. To that I say: research," said Loble, who has, to date, backed 161 Kickstarter projects. "You have to be looking at other campaigns, other products, specifically what you're trying to do. Are you starting a movie? Are you doing a piece of apparel? Are you doing a book? Look at those on Kickstarter, see the techniques they used. How many backers did they get? How much social media coverage did they get? That was one of the things I did and I really learned from watching people's successes -- and mistakes."
Loble values taking care of his original Kickstarter backers and Bluff Works customers. He's done this all while continuing to work his day job in client services at a software company and spending time with his family. Urgent issues can arise in both his day job and his own business, and he feels awful short-changing either one.
"I can do it, I can do two jobs in parallel, but it absolutely takes a cost on you. It's easy to underestimate the toll it's going to take on you," he said.
As he bikes from his office, to the Bluff Works' factory in the garment district, to family activities with his son, Loble is the living reason to own his own product. He does not have time to worry about whether his clothing is wrinkled or limit his activities based on his clothes. Neither do his customers, whether they are people traveling internationally or people balancing home life with 60+ hour work weeks.
"I like to say that they're pants for whatever is busy in your life. That might be family and kids, that might just be staying up all night gaming. Whatever it is, it supports that," said Loble.
It takes time, work, and research to transition something from being a side project to a fully sustainable source of income. With Bluff Works, Stefan Loble has created a product that aims to minimize the amount of time we spend washing and ironing, therefore giving us more time to pursue our dreams and passions.
Almost three years since the launch of his original Kickstarter project, he will finally have the opportunity to freely pursue his own dreams himself. At the end of the year, he'll be quitting his day job to focus on Bluff Works full-time.