How Basic Outfitters Survived the “Shark Tank Effect”

ecommerce, credit card, laptop

Entrepreneurs don’t always come away with an investment after getting a chance to pitch their business to a panel of tycoons on the popular Shark Tank business-themed TV reality show. Even so, the visibility often spurs a huge spike in web sales and inquiries. That “Shark Tank Effect” could easily crash the servers of an unprepared contestant, which would be a disastrous outcome to a great marketing opportunity.

When Basic Outfitters co-founders and husband and wife team Michael and Laura Dweck got the opportunity to appear on the show, sales jumped 1,000 percent between December 2016 and January 2017, when their segment aired. Since then, Basic Outfitters has continued to see 25 percent month-over-month sales growth.

The business was an idea born out of necessity. When Michael and Laura moved into a cozy Manhattan apartment, they had limited closet space. As they tell it, Laura quickly commandeered five of the six dresser drawers, leaving Michael with only one for his socks, tees and underwear. That spurred the idea to provide affordable, high-quality men’s basics for the middle market and create the company’s Create-a-Drawer™ service, which lets shoppers choose up to ten pairs of socks, three pairs of underwear, three undershirts and a pair of sweatpants for only $60.

Since its launch in November 2015, the ecommerce venture has claimed a sizeable stake in an already saturated market and become a media darling. In addition to the Shark Tank episode, the couple was named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list and has been featured by several high-profile media outlets.

Building for success

In the retail arena, small business comes with a price — fulfilling expectations and demand requires an ability to scale up, or risk disappointing customers. 

The vision behind Basic Outfitters was to make the shopping experience fun, easy and convenient, explains founder and president Michael Dweck. “The data out there shows that men keep their basics on average for seven years,” he said, because they dread the hassle of going to a department store.

Michael and Laura saw an opportunity, and the couple interviewed several web design agencies to find one that could deliver the functionality they needed on a start-up budget. They eventually teamed with New York-based Synapse Consulting Group to identify the right ecommerce platform and to build an inviting, scalable retail site for the fledgling brand.

“We determined Magento would be the best option for the short and long-term,” said Jordan Braha, an ecommerce architect at Synapse. He also recommended a Rackspace cloud hosting solution with Redis hosted instances to achieve both reliability and scalability in anticipation of future growth.

Riding the Wave

When Michael got word that Basic Outfitters would be featured on Shark Tank, he and Braha discussed a strategy to handle the expected traffic spike. Rackspace gathered input from the technicians, engineers and database teams to ensure the needed tools were in place and the servers could take the hit.

“Load testing was not an option, based on the timeline available and what it would have taken to get the right information, so we had to play it ultra safe,” Braha said. The event went off without a hitch and accommodated the sales surge. Since then, Basic Outfitters has continued to employ a broad spectrum of Rackspace resources for hosting and data technology.

Michael advises other would-be entrepreneurs to do extensive research before launching an online venture and to surround themselves with people they trust.  For more on surviving a Shark Tank Event, click here.

Casey Casseb leads the Customer Reference Program at Rackspace where she's worked since 2004. She began her Rackspace career in front-line support and has worked closely with Rackspace customers since her first day on the job. In her current role, Casey highlights the ways businesses are finding success when they partner with Rackspace to tackle their toughest IT challenges.

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