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Aimee Millwood
Director of Content at Yotpo
December 8th, 2015

How One Brand Survived in the Crowded Activewear Industry

The idea for Bhujang Style came to Andrew in yoga class.

“I was sitting on the mat, talking to a friend about how it’s impossible to find any good clothing for men and how awesome it would be for guys to have something you can wear to yoga and wear around town,” Andrew says.

In America, men are a minority in the yoga world (a 2012 survey found only 17.8% of practitioners are male).

Andrew realized a way to get more men feeling comfortable to launch into a downward dog was to equip them with the right clothes.

The athleisure industry is booming in America – with nearly $35 billion in sales last year – but men don’t have many viable options.

Andrew thought one of the barriers to getting more men on the mat was the lack of yoga wear designed specifically for men.

“You want something snug-fitting for yoga, something you can feel against your skin. It helps you know where are you in space, and it helps your instructor see your alignment,” Andrew explains. “The problem is that most tights out there are pretty revealing.”

He realized that if he wanted great men’s yoga pants, he was going to have to make them himself.

He thought that there were probably plenty of other guys out there with the same problem – so he set out to solve it.

To get started, Andrew launched a store on Shopify.

“It is so easy, to me it was a no-brainer,” he says. “Shopify stood out as something for people who really don’t want to spend a whole lot of time creating a store from scratch.”

Andrew was a serial entrepreneur, and his wife had a clothing company, so he had a basic understanding of how to turn his idea into reality, but he realized he needed help to make the best product possible.

“There’s nothing like hiring an expert,” he says.

When it comes to the details, he says, “There’s always somebody who knows more than you. The guys who helped me develop the fabric has been doing it for 30 years, the guy who knits the fabric has been doing it for 40 years, and the guy who runs our cut-and-sew has been doing it for 30-plus years.”

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Because Andrew had such a niche idea, he needed to target existing communities of male yoga lovers. He turned to Facebook as a way to find and connect with the male yoga community.

“In the beginning, Facebook was the hub. This was a few years ago, and the landscape of Facebook was totally different,” Andrew says.

Back then, one of every three people who came to his site from his Facebook page ended up buying a product.

“People who liked the page were people who were really interested, and back then it was a lot easier to reach specific people. You couldn’t do it like that now.”

Social media may be different now, but the same principle remains: selling a niche product means getting deeply involved in the community.

As he developed the product, he came across his fair share of difficulties.  One problem came when developing the fabric for the pants.

“Before we developed our own, we paid a company overseas to find us a fabric,” Andrew says. “But when it came time to order, I hesitated. I just knew it wasn’t the right thing.”

Andrew listened to his gut instinct, which told him to use eco-friendly fabric made in the U.S. This obstacle resulted in what turned out to be one of Andrew’s biggest passions about the clothes: the eco-friendliness and responsible production.

“Some people will source clothing from Alibaba and just put their label on it, but if you don’t know the details of how those clothes and especially the fabric are made, you’re likely doing damage to the world,” he says.

Look at what you’re doing and make sure it’s helping more than it’s harming. It’s so easy when there are so many opportunities to import cheap products – look at how people who are working in your factory are really living. Be honest about what your values are.”

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Andrew worked hard to ensure his product was as high quality as possible. The fibers in Bhujang Style clothing are made in only one place in Germany, out of sustainable beech trees. These fibers are then spun into yarn, finished, and sewn in the US.

This third generation, family-run dye house Andrew uses was one of the only places in the world that could dye and finish the fabric correctly, but as luck would have it, right when they were ready to produce the first full run of fabric, the dye house burnt down.

Overcoming obstacles like these took grit.

“It was just tenacity. The idea took ahold of me and it wouldn’t let go, like a pit bull. it was almost beyond choice,” Andrew says. “I just wasn’t going to let this go. And it wasn’t going to let me go.”

“We went through a lot of challenges and there were a lot of times when it would have seemed rational and reasonable to give up,” Andrew says.

“But one time I forgot a prototype of my yoga pants at the studio where I practiced, and afterwards one of the guy instructors told me he had come to teach class and realized he had forgotten his, so he went into the lost and found and used mine.”

The next day, the instructor told Andrew he had wore his pants in class and absolutely loved them.

That little bit of inspiration from that one guy really helped me get through the early challenges,” Andrew says.

As they grow, community continues to be vital for Andrew for developing his product and meeting his customers’ needs.

Bhujang Style has now teamed up with YogaForMen.com, and they’ve got almost 150,000 people in their active Facebook brand community. “The reviews we get and the personal emails we get from people really keep us going. We get constant feedback from our buyers and we get so friendly with them. It’s a really great community, and that’s what keeps me going.”

When it comes to advice Andrew would recommend for new eCommerce storeowners, his is simple, “I wish someone would have told me this the first minute that I got the idea: Hire a professional bookkeeper from day one. Let someone with more expertise keep track of the details. You need to focus on your vision and your passion.”

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