I recently had a chance to interview Manuel Rappard, a former employee of Google, who left to start a selvedge denim company that offers customers to option of trying on 3 pairs at home, and sending back the ones that they don’t love.  Here he gives some insight on building the company.

Hey Manuel, thanks for agreeing to chat with me today.  So let’s dive into it.  You started out working in the tech industry in Silicon Valley and decided to leave to pursue a completely different path.  What led you to start RPMWest? Why jeans?

Sure thing.  Well, denim has been a passion of mine since the age of 12. I convinced my mom to buy me a pair a Diesel jeans in middle school. Particularly raw denim and the process of breaking them in was particularly intriguing. When I then found out that most raw denim companies sell their jeans for more than $200 I thought there has to be a better way. Hence I decided to figure out how to make that happen.

Why the name RPMWest?

It stands for Raw Progressive Menswear from the West.


mr_rpmwestAh, got it.  So to touch on your business model, I have heard a few people refer to RPM West as the Warby Parker for jeans – Warby Parker is going after Luxottica – who is RPM West going after?

We aren’t really going after any particular brand or conglomerate. We develop our own story of making better menswear. Modern classics that are sophisticated and simple to wear.

Any plans to expand the collection? What are you looking to put out next?

Yes we recently launched a collection of chinos. The Quarter Century Pant is guaranteed to last 25 years. We also launched The Perfect T-shirt and are currently testing a new kind of hoodie. More on that to come soon!

I actually discovered your company from a Kickstarter campaign.  Since then I’ve seen a majority of your launches opening through the Kickstarter platform.  It seems like Kickstarter has been great for your company.  Do you advise any new entrepreneur to go this route?

Yes, absolutely. It's a great way to test the market and if an idea is viable. With that said success on Kickstarter comes with it's unique challenges. My advice to any Kickstarter creator is to prepare for huge success and question where bottlenecks and fulfillment issues can be.

Let’s flip the coin and take a look at obstacles to your success in building this. What has been the most challenging part about starting this company?

Cash flow and supply chain. The key in running a successful company is not only to have a great marketing strategy and lots of customers but to also supply them with the right product at the right time.

Cool.  So, if you could back in time, what’s the most important piece of advice you would give yourself before starting this company?

Focus on real growth from the onset and never lift your foot from the paddle. Take calculated risks! It will make up for your shortcomings as a startup.