SILICON BEACH — The Black Tux Interview
Andrew Blackman and Patrick Coyne are Co-Founders of TheBlackTux.com, a new way to rent a tuxedo. Here’s a little about them.
Andrew Blackman: The business actually started in a very personal way. At my wedding two and half years ago, Patrick was a groomsman, and we had been through the tux rental process many times before. But when it came time for me to plan everything, I was very intent on everyone buying a suit. I sent out this $750 suit to everybody and immediately, my inbox was full of no’s. We ended up renting from one of the national chains and had a terrible experience for four main reasons: it was inconvenient, overpriced, badly branded and poor quality.
So we started playing around with the idea. At the time, Patrick was at NYU finishing up business school, and we used one of his classes to incubate this concept. We figured out that the economics were good with a decently sized market and thought we could start something that really answered all of these questions leveraging ecommerce. Our logic was that if there are pretty successful companies doing custom tailored suits online – and the threshold to buying something like that is much higher than renting – then it just makes sense.
Patrick: We’re really focused on high quality products and reliable service at a price that makes sense to people. Everything arrives a week before an event – they get it, they try it on, and the majority of the time it fits really well which makes customers very happy. If there are any problems at all, we have enough time in that week to ship them a replacement. After the events, customers use the prepaid label in the box and send it back to us.
Andrew: We are really focused on quality, convenience, and price – we are going to cost less than our competitors. We have high quality products – 100% wool, 100% cotton tuxedos and shirts. We use real leather shoes instead of plastic shoes.
Erik: So how do you feel your company is changing the world?
Andrew: When you think about a wedding, the bride has spent so much money and so much time. She looks perfect. However, the groom often looks like he is wearing his dad’s suit. I think we are making fashion and luxury more affordable for men because our suits would cost about $1500 each in stores. We are bringing quality to men that want to look good, have something tailored for weddings (or other events), and do so affordably.
Erik: Why did you decide to locate here in Santa Monica?
Andrew: We closely considered starting in New York. Many of our investors are in New York. Patrick was there. In the end, however, we figured being a suiting company in LA would be cool. If you are a suiting company in New York, you’re really just run-of-the-mill; everyone is out there. Secondly, we believed in the Santa Monica ecosystem. I’m from LA, Patrick has lived in LA, we both went to college in LA, and we had a lot of friends working at startups out here. We wanted to be involved in this developing community instead of one that has already been established.
Patrick: There are many great companies here that have gone through the life cycle as well as a legitimate number of great engineers, marketing people, and brand people we can tap into.
Andrew: And you’re by the beach.
Erik: What’s one piece of advice you have for aspiring or first-time entrepreneurs?
Andrew: Keep your head down and stay focused on your business. Here in Los Angeles especially, there is a reputation for being networking-heavy – which can add value to your business, but at the end of the day, staying laser focused is most important in my opinion.
Erik: What’s one thing that you would like to say to Santa Monica locals about your company?
Andrew: This summer, we are going to launch a showroom here in Santa Monica where we will allow the bride and groom to try on our suits and tuxes.
Patrick: We also support Chrysalis, a local Santa Monica charity. They are based here and also have an office in downtown Los Angeles where they provide job placement resources for people who may be out of work or have had recent legal trouble. Outside of donating money, we also provide suits for job interviews. No guy is going to a job interview in a tux.
Erik: That would be pretty funny.