October 11, 2011

Brand Profile: Otter Bay Company

I recently came across a company originally found in my home state of Georgia! The Otter Bay Company was founded on the basis of trying to create the perfect polo.
 Their main polo is the Keystone is a cotton, micropique, & spandex blend similar to the athletic feel of a Lacoste, but with more breathing capabilities and more structure to provide a perfect mix of athleticism and formality. Perfect for tailgating and work! The best part is... it's so REASONABLE! $60!
They have an AWESOME v-neck for the ladies that has some wonderful colors for all season.. I personally love the orange! $35

The brand is based around their symbol, the Otter.
The Otter Bay Company believe the sea otter symbolizes a lifestyle of relaxation and enjoyment, but at the same time symbolizes an efficient hard worker. With over one million hairs per square inch the sea otter has the finest fur of all the mammals in the animal kingdom. The otter is presented in a relaxing pose, laying on his back, floating on the water. The otter is not smiling but instead gives off an experienced, more serious look. He is a formidable member of society; one to be respected, and admired. His presence has a certain charisma that brightens and adds class to every situation.

I recently was greatly honored to interview the CEO and Founder of The Otter Bay Company to learn a little more of what he felt going through the development of the company, his brand, and where he sees it going in the future.
When did you first decide to start your company and what is your inspiration?
Most people think the reason I started The Otter Bay Company was simply because of an epiphany I had one day about the polo shirt while sitting in my college dorm (Room 763, 7D Hall in Creswell at the University of Georgia). My realization was that the polo shirt was incomplete, and lacked in several aspects ranging from the fit to the feel, and shortly thereafter I set out to make it better. While this is all true, there is more to my story than meets the eye.

I come from a working class family. My parents are both very hard workers and as such they are able to instill the value of a good work ethic in me. Their senses of hard work and dedication would set the stage for all my future successes.

I carried my work ethic through grade school. For most of my friends, school kept them plenty busy, but not me. My first business came along by chance. I've always had a love for computers and technology. During middle school I decided that it would be cool if I could create my own websites, and so I taught myself HTML. By the time high school came around I had become fairly good at designing web sites and so when I overheard a few parents discussing their need for a site I volunteered. After that word of my web skills spread quickly and soon I had myself a business, KEPAT Design LLC (kepatdesign.com).

My great passion in school was running and as I dedicated more and more time to the sport I became very good, winning over twenty-two cross country and track championships. There was one season in which I was favored to win the state championship, but late in the year I fell victim to the perfect storm of impact running injuries, nine of them compounded in one leg. I tried to run but the pain was too great, and I was forced to stop. I was very disappointed, but instead of sitting around and waiting for next season I joined the swim team mid-season. Since my injuries were all impact related I could swim with minimal pain and it kept me in shape. That season I set a swimming record and because of the fitness I gained in the pool I won three state championships the next track season, setting school records in all of my events.

When I got to The University of Georgia I came in with a different attitude than most. My attitude was something along the lines of "If I graduate I have failed." Not to say that graduating from a tremendous University wouldn't be a great achievement, because it is, and one that I respect. I just felt that if I left school without having a business concept or a business in motion then I wasted my time and my parents hard-earned money.

So, when the day came that I realized the knit shirt that I grew up loving had flaws, and many of them, I was fully prepared to devote my time to the notion of innovating the industry, and that's just what I did. The next nine months, while maintaining a 3.4 GPA at UGA, I devoted my 8 to 5 researching and working with overseas manufacturers. And we're not talking the good 8 to 5, we're talking 8PM to 5AM because that's when they were awake.

Where did you first develop your style?
While many people in the fashion industry consider themselves stylists and designers, I am not one of them. I consider myself more of an architect and an innovator. My 'style' is versatile and I developed it early on. Growing up I was the kid who could be taking class pictures one moment and playing tackle football with friends the next. I destroyed clothes on a weekly basis through my active and adventurous nature. As a young boy I had a few "go-to" shirts that I loved and that usually were worn for several days at a time without a wash. I remember the exact moments that most of those shirts met their untimely ends and it was always a very sad day. It is because of those moments that, above all, I make sure the clothes we construct are versatile and can be used for all different occasions, whether it's backyard football with the family or having a business lunch.

What do you hope your products will convey about yourself and your style?
Innovation. You will never see us release clothing for the sake of putting our label on it to make a buck. We look at every aspect, every inch of our products and construct them based on our four cornerstones: versatility, craftsmanship, elegance, and comfort. The reason we're in business is because there are better ways to build clothes and we find them. Our Keystone Polo, for example, features our trademarked 'Soft-Stretch Micropique' fabric which is the perfect blend of micropique cotton and spandex. The inside of the shirt is brushed to make it even softer and to eliminate the need for an undershirt. We added a safety stitch to the tail to prevent tearing, an extra button in the wash tag, and a rigid collar among other things.

What has been the hardest thing about starting your own business?
Rejection. After I finally had a finished product, The Keystone Polo, I took it to countless stores throughout the Southeast where I was rejected time after time. It was tough. I had devoted the better part of over nine months to this product so to hear people tell me it wasn't anything special was really hard, and weighed on me. I'll never forget the felling the day I walked into The Sir Shop in Statesboro, Ga, after being rejected over thirty times and finally had someone, Keith Boyett, see my shirt the way I did, and take a chance on my unknown company, Otter Bay.

Rejection can really weigh on you and make you second guess everything. Some people succumb to it. In fact, many strong individuals, stronger than I, succumb to it's weight. It's easy to give up. The ones who have success are the individuals who can continue to push themselves forward against all the "no's" and against all odds. They win in the end. You never know how much pushing it's going to take and you can't account for that, but what you can do is keep pushing, and eventually you'll break through.

What other products do you hope to add to your portfolio?
The Otter Bay Company is releasing our fall Collection this month featuring our redesigned Keystone Polo II, re-mastered gameday shirts, and new women's v-necks. While we are not officially releasing our Spring 2012 plans, be on the lookout for some new tees and rumor has it a button-up shirt is on the horizon.

Other products we've explored are shorts, swimwear, dresses, v-neck tees, scoop neck shirts, hybrid polos, and more. We're always getting new samples in, and constantly perfecting our products. We've ordered hundreds of samples of all kinds of designs that we think might be cool. However, we will not release a product until we absolutely love it. There is always a lot in the works here and we are excited to release some very cool and very innovative designs over the next couple of seasons.

Is there anything else you'd like mentioned?
We listen.
We are releasing our brand new Keystone Polo II this month based on improvements that our patrons suggested. Our ears are always open and we thrive off customer feedback. If we make a mistake and you let us know then we give you free stuff.

We interact.
We love getting to know our market and interacting with them. We connect to our customers through social media, through trunk shows, fashion shows, speaking engagements, product giveaways, scholarships and more. I try to be as hands on as possible and frequently respond to customer comments and concerns myself. At the end of this month we are releasing a brand new revolutionary website with all kinds of new features that is based around interactivity.

We give.
We have given dozens of polos to charity organizations. We sponsor volleyball tournaments, charity events, fashion shows, road races and more. I personally created a scholarship program to reward aspiring, young entrepreneurs, The Joan R. Pattiz Award. Our company offers a unique internship program that allows college students from all over the country to work with many of our top executives and learn through shared experience.

A big THANK YOU to Will for his time and insight into his company. I can't wait to see what they come out with next!

As always, if you know of thing you'd like to see, a brand you'd like interviewed, a trend you'd like confirmed, let me know!

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