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I’ve decided it’s time to fess up to my ultimate shopping nightmare: buying jeans. Who wants to go into a store, grab a pile of clothes, and then awkwardly try them on in what is effectively a bathroom stall, attempting not to knock your elbows into the wall as you struggle into a pair of Levis? Not today or any other, says this guy. Worst of all, buying online is often an even more painful alternative. With every brand adhering to their own sizing rules (and sometimes not even then), I don’t have the time or patience to send back three pairs before I get the one that fits right.

Enter ZipFit, a service sent from the merciful denim gods to mollify the masses of shopping-averse males like myself. With ZipFit you can find a pair of jeans based on the pair that you already love, which is likely full of holes at this point, or simply enter a few basic measurements along with your fit preference to find the perfect pair in less than a minute.

I sat down to chat with ZipFit chief marketing officer Alex Batdorf, who helped me get to the bottom of my irrational shopping fears using free association, a comfort teddy bear, and one really cool website.

 

 

What was the inspiration behind ZipFit?

Our co-founder and CEO Liz Kammel was carpooling back and forth to Booth from her job. During a carpool with a few of her male classmates, they were having discussions about shopping and issues when it comes to the fit of jeans. She has a math background and she started creating an algorithm that could help solve this issue with fit.

She built it in excel, found our CTO, and partnered together to create the application you now see online and in the stores. You can use one of two surveys on our site. The first is quick match, which is based off of a pair of jeans you already love. In our database you can choose that brand and the fit and it will match you with something similar that we carry.

If you you’re not sure what you want, you can use our Fit Finder, which matches you based on body type and fit preferences. It doesn’t require a lot of precise measurements; you simply need your waist size and inseam.

 

 

What has been the response to ZipFit so far?

We’ve had a really good response. It started as an affiliate website where guys could go online to use our fit technology and it would refer them to other websites. Liz decided that she wanted to open a store to have more of an interactive experience, which we did back in October of last year.

Our first three months we were profitable. We closed out last year 36 percent above what we projected in sales. We’re currently constructing our new store, which is going to be in Schaumburg at Woodfield Mall. That’s set to open in a couple of weeks, and we’ll be rolling out another store in July.

Do you plan to expand to other clothing garments or services for men?

In due time. I think our biggest thing is to really focus on this category and do it really well. Our whole idea is that we’re fit experts; we are a reliable source for guys to come in and get the perfect fitting pair of jeans. We want to conquer that space first and gain that trust amongst our customers and then later on tackle those other categories.

We started testing out casual pants in the store, like twills and khaki. Those have been actually doing really well. They’ve been in the store for maybe two weeks now, but we haven’t decided if that’s going to be a seasonal or ongoing thing. We’re just testing it now.

What has been your biggest challenge?

The biggest thing that’s kept us up at night, starting off and even now, is keeping up with demand. We order inventory based on customer demand so we don’t keep a ton of inventory in our store. We keep a few pieces in our back room in the Michigan Avenue store, but mostly the popular sizes and fits.

I think that’s been the biggest challenge: conquering that and making sure we’re keeping up with what our customers need.

What are some fun things you do as a team in or outside of the office?

We’ve all been really busy opening the new store so we’re trying to now figure out what outing what fun thing we should do with the team for April/May. We take our entire team and we all vote on a place we’re going to go in the city. Our most recent one was at Frontier in Wicker Park because we all love food.

It’s just a good opportunity to get away from the store, sit down, talk about things outside of ZipFit, and really start to bond with one another. If people have ideas it’s an opportunity for us to sit there and discuss it and get excited for what’s in store. Keeping our team excited is an ongoing initiative for us.

What advice would you give to any beginning entrepreneurs out there?

When Liz initially had this idea people were really excited, but there were some who doubted the concept. Her first year she didn’t have a lot of people that believed in the concept but, as she moved forward, she had faith in what she was doing and it started really coming to fruition.

From where she started in June of 2011 to where she is today, it says a lot about how far passion can get you. If you really believe in something, go for it. You’re going to have doubters for anything you try to pursue in this life, but if you’re passionate about it and believe in it, don’t let them stop you.

 

 

What’s next for ZipFit?

We have our new stores, the third opening in July and a fourth sometime in the future. We’re really motivating people to go online as well -- our online store is very important for our business model. We really want to get customers accustomed to going online and purchasing. We want to get them comfortable with doing that and get them the right fit each time.

We’re looking to expand our team. With our new stores there’s a lot of stuff that needs to happen, especially on the sales end. The majority of our team doesn’t have a retail or sales background. We’re always looking for new people and we love bringing people on from a variety of different backgrounds.

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