Clothing has been around forever. And belts, chief among the fashionable yet functional wearables take up a non-insignificant portion of the display footprint at top museums like The Met in New York and the musée du Louvre in Paris. (Who knew?)
Grit Daily caught up with the founders behind Anson Belt & Buckle CEO David Ferree, whose company makes micro-adjustable, hole-less belts. Here’s his take on belt innovation and what everyone else might be doing wrong.
Grit Daily: How did you innovate after centuries of existing fashion tech?
David Ferree: We actually were not the ones to innovate, but we know a good thing when we see it and my father fell in love when he first discovered this type of belt in Asia. Apparently, it has been widely used in Asia for 50+ years but was relatively unheard of in the U.S in 2009, when my father and I created Anson Belt & Buckle.
GD: What intellectual property is in play here?
DF: The concept is a “free market design”. Meaning that there isn’t intellectual property tied to the specific design that we use.
GD: Few fashion brands grow quickly. What sets you apart?
DF: I think that what really sets us apart is that we solve a problem that a lot of people struggle with. Every man on this earth is a potential customer, and most struggle with their belts either not fitting correctly or getting worn out and unsightly too fast. We solve both of those problems. Because of that, we have been very well received by people that learn of us and our belts.
GD: What is the future of belts?
DF: Micro-adjustability. You will see it in a ton of different forms, but they will all have two things in common, they won’t have holes, and they’ll be adjusted in super small increments, or what we like to call, “micro adjustments”. The belt hole will eventually join the dinosaurs, and become extinct.
GD: What’s behind the Anson brand name?
DF: Service and quality. We out customer service at an absolute priority. For over 9 years my father and I handled all the customer service ourselves. We still do our fair share but have added help this past year. We always try to go above and beyond for our customers to create an experience that they tell stories about. Quality is also something we will not compromise. We have a lifetime guarantee on the functionality of our product and will always make sure our customers are in a working Anson Belt.
As far as the story behind the actual name of the brand, Anson Belt….my father grew up in Anson County, North Carolina and wanted to pay homage to his home county.
GD: Your co founders started with different backgrounds. What is the actual backstory?
DF: My father and I both come from very different backgrounds. He has always been a businessman/entrepreneur and has owned a handful of small retail businesses throughout his life. He knows how to run a business but historically didn’t know much about the internet. That’s where I come in. When we started working on creating Anson Belt back in 2008, I was still working full time in marketing with a real estate company. That was right before the market crashed and I was unfortunately laid off in anticipation of it. Anson hadn’t quite taken off yet, so I continued to work full time. Fast forward a few years later and I was laid off yet again in 2013. You would think that I was worthless, wouldn’t you?! At that time I was the International Marketing Coordinator with a wholesale sporting goods company. When I saw my boss and HR in the same room, I couldn’t have been happier. I told them in my exit interview that I had been wanting to quit for months, but my wife wouldn’t let me quit, or get fired…so this was perfect! It gave me the opportunity to dive head first into Anson Belt and I haven’t looked back since.
GD: From where did you get funding?
DF: In the very beginning, we started with an initial investment of around 50k from a group of my father’s friends. Since then, that has been paid back and we don’t have any outside investors. We have essentially boot-strapped the business from the ground up and are constantly putting back into it. We may seek capital in the future, but right now we are happy with where we’re at.
GD: Do you now have mentors or advisors?
DF: I don’t have any “mentors” to speak of, but I do have a lot of people that I admire and watch closely in the world of e-commerce. I am fortunate to have the contacts of e-commerce experts and co-founders/owners of brands that I admire. I don’t reach out as often as I probably should (I know how busy they are), but it’s reassuring to know that I could ask for advice if needed. E-commerce moves so fast, there is always something new to learn. I just try to absorb as much as I can from people that know more than me.
Jordan French is the Executive Editor of Grit Daily. An award-winning journalist, he is on the editorial staff at TheStreet.com and a Fast 50 and Inc. 500-ranked entrepreneur.
He is the founder of Notability Partners and the co-founder of BNB Shield, Lisbon Hill Farms, Status Labs, BeeHex, BlockTelegraph, and Grit Daily. A biomedical engineer and intellectual-property attorney, French is the author of upcoming book, The Gritty Entrepreneur.