Now here’s an intriguing question to test the market savviness of the enterprising ecommerce analyst: what does men’s business attire share in common with NASA spacesuits? Most people would be hard-pressed to come up with an answer. However, Boston-based startup Ministry of Supply is aiming to ensure that its moniker comes to the lips of every ecommerce analyst or consumer who gets asked that question.
The NASA-inspired business shirt
Founded in 2010 by two engineering graduates from MIT, Ministry of Supply aims to build a new type of menswear that has the comfort and functionality of workout gear, but looks perfectly at home in the boardroom. To that end, it’s adapted technology used in the design of NASA’s spacesuits to ensure its dress shirts not only don’t wrinkle, but control odor and perspiration, too, while retaining a sartorially dapper appearance.
Most ecommerce analysts will be aware that fledglings in this sector often face a struggle to find investors. Originally rebuffed by venture capitalists who wanted more proof of concept, the intrepid co-founders of Ministry of Supply approached Kickstarter, and that’s when things started to take off. They bagged $400,000 more than they were intending to raise — and that was just for the line of shirts.
Ecommerce + bricks-and-mortar = real viability
Subsequently, Ministry of Supply launched a hi-tech range of robotically-knit, coffee bean-infused socks (to ensure fit and kill odor) so it returned to Kickstarter, this time walking away with an additional $200,000. Armed not only with proof of concept but proof of demand as well, the startup finally persuaded those hard-nosed venture capitalists it was worth the investment. This week, they raised seed funding of $1.1 million in a round led by Vegas tech Fund, with SK Ventures and angel investors Kevin Henrikson and Craig Breslow (the Boston sox pitcher) participating.
Ministry of Supply will be using the new money to build up a viable ecommerce and fashion brand. To that end, they’ve brought in the talents of ecommerce and UX design expert Brian Kalma, who is already taking steps to define the brand as one with a bricks-and-mortar and ecommerce presence. As well as a few East Coast pop-up shop appearances, the firm has a showroom in Boston and is extending its distribution span by developing partnerships with other ecommerce brands.