Formal wear is just so stuffy and uncomfortable. We’ve all had this thought while donning a scratchy blazer or stiff dress pants. But these three Danish childhood friends from Denmark, Christian Aachmann, Kasper Ulrich, and Christoffer Bak, decided to do something about it. The trio thought wouldn’t it be great to make classic menswear that felt as good as sportswear? With no fashion or business experiences Christian, Kasper, and Christoffer faced serious pushback from their family and friends. However, the trio persisted and launched Shaping New Tomorrow in 2015.Since then Shaping New Tomorrow has opened multiple physical stores, expanded its team to over 100 employees, and was named “the best brand in Denmark” for 2021. In this episode of Shopify Masters, we chat with Christian and Kasper on how they turned an idea into an 8-figure business.
Finding a partner with expertise and willingness to invest in new ideas
Shuang: So you had this great concept of making classic menswear more comfortable and more versatile. How did you even begin to find textile makers or find the right partners to bring your ideas to life?
Kasper: In the beginning, we started our search on the internet, testing suppliers. We reached the conclusion that Portugal has amazing suppliers that have been innovating fabrics for a long period of time. So we made a shortlist of manufacturers in Portugal, called as many as possible, and set up a lot of meetings down there.
The first place we visited, the owner of the factory laughed at us. You can imagine these 21-year-old guys coming and telling them we are going to revolutionize the menswear industry. Then at some point they also talked about how much are you willing to produce?
Christian: We're talking about maybe 100 pairs of pants in the beginning. We were like, "We want you to do things completely different. We want you to develop a lot of new stuff, and we don't want that much of it."
Kasper: Even though there were a lot of bumps on the road. We managed to find a supplier who had just taken over his dad's company, and they had been manufacturing pants for almost 40 years. He wanted to step out of his dad's footsteps and really believed in our vision. Through their expertise, we were able to start the journey of innovating the way that we wanted.
Nailing the Kickstarter messaging that would come to define their marketing efforts
Shuang: Once you had your products and sold to as many family and friends as possible, what did you do to reach a bigger audience?
Christian: We did a Kickstarter campaign to really get it to the mass market, and to test out the product. We had a successful campaign of reaching our goal of $30,000. What crowdfunding taught us was to focus more on the problem-solving aspect of our menswear rather than what the typical fashion campaign would focus on, where it's just models walking around and looking good. For our campaign, we had a karate expert and made him do crazy tricks in the pants and some parkour to really showcase how stretchy the pants were.
Kasper: Instead of just showing the products we told the story of what our products can do for you as a customer. After the Kickstarter, we then used this approach with everything we did—within our social media ads and our own website. This was how we went from zero orders a day to having orders every single day.
Leveraging a Shark Tank appearance to get more than just a deal
Shuang: What was a major milestone that helped Shaping New Tomorrow to scale dramatically?
Christian: We went to a TV program here in Denmark called Løvens Hule, which is the Danish Shark Tank. At that point our revenue was about $150,000 to $200,000 a month. But what would happen after we went on was that all of a sudden we made $200,000 a day for five days straight, and then we were just completely sold out. We were still only three guys and a student helper in the store.
Kasper: We didn’t go on Løvens Hule because we needed funding. We did it because word-of-mouth marketing was the reason why we grew at the beginning. When people came into our physical shop, they thought it was a pretty high promise to say we make the perfect pants. But when they try the pants or shirts on, they immediately get this wow feeling. Then several weeks later, they will come back with their friends and family. We thought to ourselves, why not participate in one of the biggest national broadcast television shows and showcase our concept because there’s a chance that people will find the concept interesting and try it on. That was actually what happened. We had planned for it to go very well, but we had not scaled our processes.
So it challenged us to build a foundation that was able to scale even further. During that year, if we look at the year beforehand, we grew more than 1000% because of this peak in sales.
Adapting your mindset as you scale
Shuang: How were you adjusting your mindset to make sure that the relationship with your friends and your co-founders remained intact as you scaled rapidly?
Kasper: It takes a lot of reflecting and personal development. There are a ton of different answers to this, but we have actually hired an external coach to help us develop with the company. I spend a lot of time hiring and working with a lot of experienced people, telling them what I'm good at and what I'm not good at. Making them challenge me in terms of doing things better and how can we become better together.
Christian: It's really important you understand that you can't keep having so many responsibilities and so many jobs as you did in the beginning. It's not because you're not good at them, but if we want to scale, we need to start specializing. That's what we've been doing the last couple of years. We gave away responsibilities that we had before to other people.
Kasper: We have been doing a quite good job at keeping the culture as entrepreneurial as when we started. This is what I hear from new colleagues starting every month. It's crazy to see the ambition and the friendliness and the helpfulness throughout the organization. I would say that the DNA is still centralized on innovation and development and the Danish culture where we believe that a great idea can come from everyone within the company. We really strive to push that forward.
When we hire people in the bigger positions, we always find people who are much smarter in this exact area than we are. Hiring people who are really smart at what they do has really made it easy for us to give away this power and control because if they do it, it'll become much better.
Shaping tomorrow’s fashion by staying true to core values
After historic years where Shaping New Tomorrow has launched online stores in multiple European markets, the team has built their first physical store abroad in Germany. As they continue to scale beyond 8-figure annual sales, Christian, Kasper, and Christoffer are focused on staying true to their core values. From using recycled materials within their products since day one to personally calling over 2000 customers who had to wait for their products, the trio is still placing their friendship and the goal of a better tomorrow at the heart of all that they do.