Can you tell me the history of the company?
Coming from finance, advising on acquisitions and divestitures as a partner in a Norwegian M&A boutique, entering the Fashion business as a start-up was kind of sudden, but at the same time the concept of a unique boxer had matured in my head for a period of three-four years.
The product idea came to me when playing indoor soccer with mates. The “hang-loose” experience you get with regular boxers is not ideal, so we started talking about what could be improved in order to increase comfort by keeping things tighter. I started making prototypes with different patterns and elastics and with the help of my wife and a sewing machine we started getting somewhere in 2009/2010. Late 2010 some of my sporting mates tested the prototypes, and were ecstatic. At that moment, I realized that this is something uniquely different that guys would like to use.
I did a lot of valuations and business plans for other people’s businesses in my old job, and started working on a business plan for Comfyballs in parallel with developing the product further. In a crowded market, the uniquely different properties of Comfyballs are a prerequisite for succeeding. Most other boxers are very much same-same, with most high street brands using the same fabrics, the same patterns and being made in the same factories in the Far East.
How long did it take to develop Comfyballs?
Having an 80 per cent working prototype, and a fairly robust business plan, I left my job in late 2011 and by early 2012 we had a good prototype that we finalised at the first factory we used to produce in volume, in China. We did minor tweaks during the spring of 2012 after professional athletes had tested and provided feedback. So we spent approximately three-and-ahalf years from product idea to ready to produce.
What challenges did you face in bringing the product to the marketplace?
From a product perspective, there is clearly much more to design and technicalities than meets the eye. We struggled a lot with securing consistent fabric qualities, flat-lock seam design, PackageFront-elastic seam production, waistband elastic yarn qualities, care label print quality etc.
From a market perspective, the key to getting people to know Comfyballs is to get them to try them on. At the start, when few people had heard about Comfyballs in Norway, the athletes that had contributed to the testing were the main people talking about Comfyballs, and it kind of grew from there.
What are Comfyballs’USP?
Our biggest USP is definitely comfort. Without the Comfy-ball product being uniquely different, with the PackageFront elastic, I do not think that Comfyballs would have existed.
We use combed cotton mixed with eight per cent Lycra in our Cotton series because it gives a softer and better fit, even though five per cent Lycra fabric would be 99 per cent of the comfort and much easier to source.
We use Invista’s All Season Pro fabric in our Performance series because it works best in terms of wicking and breathing properties, even though it is one of the most expensive artificial yarns you can use for a boxer.
When we introduced our super soft Wood series (Modal mixed with Cotton) we chose to use Lenzig Modal, even though most consumers probably would not be able to spot the quality difference to less expensive Modal yarns.
We use micro polyester in all our waistbands to keep them as soft as possible without compromising durability or vertical stability. The quality aspect to this is evident to the consumer only after 20-30 wash cycles, when the waistband still performs as new.
So I would say another USP is product quality.
The Comfyballs concept started out as a sports-focused product, but as the fan base grew, we learned that most people also like to wear Comfyballs in all aspects of life. Our three main ranges now cover most of the market, from Everyday (Cotton), to Fashion (Wood) to Sports (Performance).
The Comfyballs brand name itself is also kind of an USP, because people in general get interested in what this is. Luckily, most people don’t find the name to be too direct!
Is being environmentally friendly a large part of the ethos of the company?
Yes, CSR as a whole I would say, but not in a very direct way. We’ve always focused on doing it the right way - using Oeko-tex certified fabrics, securing product traceability and ensuring and documenting good working conditions at the factories etc. We produce everything now in Turkey, which makes it easy for us to follow all productions and production steps more closely than when we were producing in China.
What next for COmfyballs?
We’re making some women’s underwear and some tees, but that is more for fun. We’re developing some new fabrics both in the performance area and in the fashion area. We’re good focusing on men’s boxers, and we think there are quite a few opportunities to develop the Comfyballs lines further.