Building a super-focused brand to $4m per year with Dan Demsky from Unbound Merino (episode 284)

Dan Demsky is the founder of Unbound Merino. They started in 2016 by raising $380k via crowdfunding, and now have annual sales in excess of $4m. They sell on Shopify and launched with crowdfunding, and Facebook Ads – lots of great insight into growth mindsets and focus.

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About Dan

Dan never followed the corporate career path and has always been an entrepreneur. For the bulk of his self made career, he ran a successful video production agency.

After 9 years, Dan says he began hating the job and felt trapped by his clients and circumstances. Along with some partners, he made a promise to start a business in which he would have customers—not clients.

They spent years trying to figure out what the right product would be and knew that Unbound Merino was an incredible opportunity as soon as they saw it.

Dan says he’ll never forget the happiness that he felt making money while he slept and left the Shopify sales notification on full volume for months. 

About the Company

  • Located in Toronto Canada
  • Sells worldwide—now in over 100 countries
  • Shopify Platform
  • Started out with over 2000 pre-sales on crowdfunding platform
  • 10 person team, largely remote
  • Focus on brand messaging over widgets

About Unbound Merino

Unbound Merino is a Merino wool apparel company whose core product is their infinitely popular mens black crew neck T-shirt.

Merino wool is naturally anti-bacterial and doesn’t smell so users don’t have to wash regularly or worry about wearing something a couple days in a row. The company is located in Toronto and fulfills from that location and from Rochester NY for clients in the USA.

The team now has 10 people, with Dan and his two partners focused on product development. They also have 3 people in the warehouse, a web developer and several product developers.

With no experience in retail apparel manufacturing, Dan says they went through some painful product development lessons in the early days and have since made sure to focus on and invest heavily in product development.

The outcome is a dream closet for customers who value minimalism, classic design, performance and the environment. Unbound Merino isn’t just T shirts either—since their launch, they’ve expanded the product line to include button downs and shorts among other products. 

The Miracle of Merino

Merino wool is a versatile material that can have several different outcomes depending on how it is processed, woven and handled.

Often, it’s hard for people to even tell that their product is wool because it can render as lightweight, soft and comfortable. Dan says they have been focused on bringing the miracle of merino wool to people outside of the athletic/outdoors world.

The Unbound product line appeals to people who travel a lot and those who want to reduce their decision load by minimizing their wardrobe down to basics. Merino wool is very much the showcase of the brand and they rarely mix in synthetics with the products.

Dan says he is constantly amazed by it’s versatility and regularly pushes it to the limit. As part of a test, Dan has worn an Unbound shirt to a hot yoga class and after letting it dry out gone to dinner, with no adverse effects to report.

Crowdfunding Success

Dan says he loves the crowdfunding platform for the obvious reason that pre-orders bring capital, but more importantly, Dan says it’s an opportunity to validate your product.

Getting time and an audience to position your brand is an incredible chance to make sure you have the product figured out.  The crowdfunding campaign gave Unbound their first two thousand customers and a unique data set.

The team later used that data to laser focus on Facebook Ads, and in the short term, they didn’t put much effort into any other marketing channel. Armed with their most ideal customer, they were able to really focus and tweak Facebook Ads for an entire year and grow the company.

eCommerce Book Top Tip

eCommerce Traffic Top Tip

  • Facebook Ads was the most powerful thing the company ever did and Dan says if FB Ads aren’t working for you it’s likely that you haven’t quite figured it out yet

Tool Top Tip

  • Zoom—as a remote company, the team uses Zoom regularly.

Growth Top Tip

  • Don’t underestimate the power of how easy it is to reach out to people now. Use Facebook, build an email list and connect with people!

Interview Links

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  • Launching eCommerce in a brand new fashion category with Aman Advani of Ministry of Supply

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