A talk with an eCommerce warrior: how ingenuity and ideas make remarkable products.
Ingenious Ideas, Authentic Voices
This interview series highlights industry leaders challenging current landscapes though ingenious solutions that push businesses forward. We had a chance to meet up with Scott Jordan, the creator and mind behind SCOTTeVEST. Scott and his wife Laura have created a series of amazing apparel around our ever evolving need for more pockets in clothing. It all started from one simple idea and turned into a whole science, what Scott likes to refer to as “Pocket Science”.
Ingenuity & Inspiration
Marc Rust: Scott, I want to talk about the ingenuity that pushed your business forward from the beginning – what inspired you, what was your key inspiration?
Scott Jordan: That question is multi-fold. The inspiration to do it is different than the ingenuity. Let’s take inspiration first. Number one, I hated my job! I was practicing law and commuting. I was desperate to find an idea, any idea. I was traveling so much, back and forth from Chicago to Princeton, New Jersey. I was tired of carrying all my stuff around. The solution I came up with was to problem that I personally had. How do I carry the things, the gadgets and the knickknacks, the devices, the mints, etc. without looking like a total dork? I needed more pockets. The sport jackets and casual clothing of the day didn’t even have pockets to accommodate a cell phone.
Two things came to mind: One when I was playing botchy ball with my buddies in Chicago I noticed everyone took out their keys, phones, and pagers before playing. It occurred to me that there wasn’t an easy way of carrying those things. The second thing that comes to mind was when I was walking down the tarmac to catch a plane. I was listening to my headphones when one of the wires got hooked on a door knob and practically pulled my ear off. Those ideas made me think that there was a more efficient way to have pockets and so I created SCOTTeVEST.
“Little did I know at that moment, I would become the very first direct to consumer digitally native clothing company to start on the internet”
The Dawn of Ecommerce
MR: That’s excellent. Why did you start an ecommerce business rather than a brick and mortar?
SJ: At first I had no intention of going into ecommerce. It was in the year 2000. In fact, there were articles saying that ecommerce would never work for clothing, because people would always need to touch and try on clothing. I was
working with a designer who was helping me do my brochure website so that I could present it to companies. He said for $900, I can ecommerce enable your website. I thought that I didn’t have $900 to spare, but okay, I did it. Little did I know at that moment, I would become the very first direct to consumer digitally native clothing company to start on the internet—now, REI and LL bean and others that were previously primarily catalog companies probably had a limited web presence, but that was not their primary distribution channel. I did pre-orders, in effect making the first kind of Kickstarter, platform as well as making the products.
MR: In the year 2000 people, weren’t as digitally connected as they are now. What was your strategy to get your message out? How did SCOTTeVEST take off?
SJ: PR, it was all PR. I spent 40% of my time contacting magazines and newspapers. And there were blogs, one in particular, PC passion.com by this guy who was really into his pocket PC…do you remember those? His site was very, highly trafficked at the time. I reached out to anyone in the pocket PC segment and the Treo world, I mean, there was a lot of interest in those things.
MR: The PR part was just cold calling magazines and just saying, “Hey, I want you to know about my product”?
SJ: That and email, finding the email addresses and straight up just emailing magazines. That was fantastic. Then, I hired a PR firm in Chicago. Their biggest concern was whether I’d have enough product to deal with the demand. All I said was “that’s not your business. Let me handle that.” I literally went to New York in the summer of 2001, before 9/11, and wore my SCOTTeVEST. I pounded the pavement and walked into Time magazine and tried to get them to meet with me.
Ingenuity: the quality of being clever, original, and inventive
MR: Just hard work, just going door to door. I can’t believe it. One final question Scott: What does ingenuity mean to you?
SJ: Well, I mean, that’s a really good question because ingenuity has evolved as it relates to my product. Nowadays, there’s not a tremendous amount of ingenuity going on for my product. I really feel like I’ve evolved the pocketing system to where it needs to be. For many years it meant looking at various disciplines—if that’s the right word. It’s looking at electronics and clothing and bags and merging them, and coming up with a novel way of addressing those three, otherwise unrelated, disciplines and markets. That’s what the SCOTTeVEST does, it looks at what you use, what you need, and how that evolves into apparel with technology enabled pockets.
I’m always fascinated by simple engineering. Ingenuity is looking at people’s lives, how they live them and what they do, and taking those various parts and trying to make them work better together. The simplest things are often the best. I think that where most entrepreneurs get lost is when they try to do something new, that no one has ever done, that is protectable or patentable. When I started out I was too focused on the patent, and making sure that no one could knock off my product.
I think that if you focus your attention as an inventor, you’re an innovator (in some cases it is patentable which is fine, patent it) but you should build your brand using the skill sets that convey that ingenuity, what makes your product different, better. Use branding rather than patents and protection. You’ll love it. I feel strongly that if I had invested half the mind-share money upfront on branding, consistency of branding, and simplicity of branding versus focusing on patents, I’d be farther ahead. Let the ingenuity of thought and what you create lead you… All the rest will follow.