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From zero to $250 million: How three friends turned $3,000 into a T-shirt empire since 2019



Last Updated on August 11, 2023 by Robert C. Hoopes

True Classic, a men’s apparel brand, has overcome near failure to emerge as a strong competitor in the fashion industry. Launched in 2019 with a modest investment of $3,000, the brand aimed to create affordable shirts that flattered the average man. Within the first month of operations, True Classic achieved impressive success, generating over $26,000 in revenue and receiving positive feedback from consumers.

However, the company’s journey was not without challenges. When the time came to order new inventory for 2021, True Classic made a critical mistake. Overestimating its sales potential, the company requested more clothing than it could afford. This error nearly drove True Classic to the brink of collapse, and it took the founders over two years to rectify the problem.

To overcome this financial setback, the founders had to make difficult decisions. They reduced profit margins, paid vendors additional interest, and sought financing in exchange for a percentage of future revenue. Despite these challenges, True Classic remained determined to compete with well-established rivals such as Everlane and Vuori, as well as industry giants like Nike and Ralph Lauren.

With its strategic adjustments in place, True Classic now projects an impressive revenue of $250 million in 2023 alone, equivalent to its lifetime sales up until that point. Ryan Bartlett, one of the founders, attributes the company’s revival to the valuable lessons learned from its near-collapse. Initially, Bartlett invested in targeted Facebook ads and reinvested revenue from early sales back into promoting the brand.

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The founders’ confidence led them to project high sales for 2021, but this turned out to be a miscalculation. True Classic ended up purchasing $40 million worth of excess inventory, causing financial strain and an inability to pay vendors on time. To overcome this challenge, True Classic forged a partnership with Wayflyer, an inventory financier, obtaining a loan to gradually repay vendors and maintain cash flow. Bartlett successfully convinced vendors to agree to long-term payment plans, ensuring that they would be compensated with interest while emphasizing the brand’s potential for future profitability.

True Classic now operates with a more methodical approach, implementing careful planning and projection to avoid similar mistakes in the future. Through their resilience and determination, the brand’s founders have turned a near failure into a valuable learning experience, positioning True Classic as a formidable competitor in the world of fashion.

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Stephen is an experienced writer and journalist with a focus on MBA news and MBA jobs news. With a keen eye for detail and a passion for business and education, he has established himself as a leading voice in the MBA community. Stephen's writing on MBA news and MBA jobs news can be found in a variety of publications, including online news sources and job boards. His work covers a wide range of topics, from industry trends and emerging technologies to job market statistics and career development strategies. He is known for his insightful commentary and his ability to distill complex information into clear and concise language.

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