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Technology Meets Clothing
Scott Jordan of Ketchum, Idaho never envisioned running a hot-selling high-technology clothing line when he graduated from law school, but that’s what he’s doing and he’s never been happier. An aspiring entrepreneur, Jordan started a student-featured calendar business while attending Ohio State University. The Buckeye Men calendar was very successful, selling in four states and through a major department store conglomerate. Just as he was graduating in 1987 with his degree in Entrepreneurship, Jordan’s dad told him he was needed in the family cemetery business. There seemed to be no way around it, so Jordan worked with his dad for two years before the business was sold.
Jordan determined that law school was his next move and he graduated at the top of his class in 1992 from Case Western Reserve University. He took a job with a large and prestigious Chicago law firm and was completely miserable. By 1999, Jordan got interested in electronic gadgets, and he frequently asked his wife if she would carry them for him. Finally, she told him he should invent a vest or something and carry them himself. An idea for a high-tech and cool-looking photographers’ type vest came to mind and Jordan decided to make one.
Initially the vest was designed to be worn under a winter coat and carry different devices including a digital camera, a PDA, a cell phone and other small items. The vest obviated the need to carry a bulky briefcase or bag and gave easy access to items that are required immediately. The key to Jordan’s patents for the SCOTTEVEST and Technology Enabled Clothing -TEC® were the addition of interior accessible conduits or sleeves designed for headphone and other wiring needs. In late 2000, SCOTTEVEST was born. Jordan mortgaged his house to make the initial order of 3000 vests and started working on his own web site to sell the vests direct. A deal with Hammacher Schlemmer fell through, but the day Jordan’s web site went live, a blogger touted the product and he received hundreds of orders.
It seemed clear that Jordan had a hot commodity on his hands. Off he went to a New York fashion show with two samples on his back and pounded the pavement, but none of the editors at major magazines, TV networks or even MTV seemed to understand the product’s appeal. Ready to go home and regroup, his hand was on the taxi door when Time Magazine called and asked to put the product in their next issue. Thinking this could overwhelm his web site, Jordan scurried to line up 800 numbers for orders, but the magazine neglected to mention how to contact the company. Jordan didn’t get one sale from the exposure in Time, but at least the product gained credibility in the market and coverage in other magazines followed.
In August of 2001 the first shipment of vests arrived, but within a month, so did the events of 9/11/2001. Business dropped to next to nothing and the future looked bleak. Still Jordan tried to make the best of it, refocusing his marketing efforts on reporters and other travelers who now had to contend with much greater restrictions on carry-on luggage. Reporters and travel writers who tried the product became great evangelists for the product and the business slowly grew. Jordan added jackets with removable sleeves to the line and is now working on a line designed specifically for women. Coverage in Parade Magazine was the exposure that put SCOTTEVEST on the map selling his entire inventory. The product was also named top tech gift by USA Today.
The Small Business Professors' Words of Wisdom
The success of SCOTTEVEST is a perfect example of the power of public relations. Scott Jordan built his entire company on the written words of others. He had no large advertising budget and no entrée into well-known clothing manufacturers. His marketing efforts are focused on getting others to publicize his product for him, keeping his costs low. So many business owners neglect the public relations side of marketing because it requires effort and commitment rather than just writing a check. If you have a great product or service, tell someone with access to potential buyers. It’s worth every minute of effort.
- Case History: www.scottevest.com
- Entrepreneur’s Strategy: Use media coverage as a product’s major marketing tool.
- Could This Work For Me? For low budgets, media coverage is invaluable. All it requires is perseverance and a positive attitude.
The key to Jordan’s patents ... were the addition of interior accessible conduits or sleeves designed for headphone and other wiring needs.