Founded by Vicky and Charisse Pasche, Dapper Boi is an apparel line that caters to individuals of all genders and body types. The concept for the company came about during Vicky and Charisse's honeymoon, where Vicky's challenges as a woman with curves searching for clothes that fit her body and authentic expression became apparent. Determined to create a brand that would make people feel comfortable and confident in their own skin, the couple launched Dapper Boi through a crowdfunding campaign in 2015.
Eight years later, what started as a passion project has now become a seven-figure company. The San Diego-based brand has generated $4M in sales with a customer base of over 30,000 individuals from all genders, sizes, and body types. They have also achieved an impressive repeat customer rate of 71%.
Dapper Boi's success is remarkable, given the challenges faced by women and openly LGBTQ+ founders in accessing venture capital funds. Less than 2% of VC money goes to women, with even less going to openly LGBTQ+ founders. Furthermore, less than 2% of women-owned businesses generate over $1M in annual revenue.
The latest stop on their journey was on ABC's Shark Tank, where they competed for investment in front of an audience of millions. Describing the experience, Vicky and Charisse said, "It was surreal to be there. You've seen it on TV for so many years, but to actually feel what it's like to walk through that long hallway is unlike any other experience."
While none of the Sharks bit, the duo walked away from the experience with something even better: a $250,000 investment deal from angel investor Kelly Ann Winget.
And the impact of their appearance went beyond the monetary. "We have heard countless amazing stories in the short time since airing about how Dapper Boi has brought estranged families together," Vicky and Charisse shared. "For example, a woman reached out about how her family never accepted her sexuality or how she expressed her gender, but they all loved Shark Tank and watched that together over the years. And despite unhealed wounds, they forwarded our company after watching the show and encouraged their adult child to check out Dapper Boi. It was the first time they had ever shown her true acceptance. "
Below, Vicky and Charisse share more about what they learned from their Shark Tank experience, their top 3 tips on pitching investors, and what's next for the brand.
What are your top 3 tips on pitching investors?
- Seek Alignment of Values Over Investment Value
- Clarify your Company’s Mission and your Vision of the Future
- Have Confidence addressing past Mistakes and your Solutions
The alignment with the investor and yourself is key. Make sure that you're not just pitching to any investor to get a check. With your mission, you really need to be aligned with whichever investor is going to be on board. Like Mark said with his concerns, maybe the reason he didn't invest was because we have to be on the same page with the mission of what we're trying to do here. Make sure that you have an investor that's aligned with your mission, and make sure you are crystal clear on what you are trying to accomplish with your company.
We did the exact same pitch with an angel investor, named Kelly Ann Winget, who is an alternative investments expert. Due to our comprehensive marketing, she was already familiar with us and a fan! On the day of our filming with Shark Tank we actually found out that she was investing in us, with a better deal than we even hoped to get with one of the Sharks! She was happy to invest the $250,000, and has invested even more over time.
Find an investor who not only wants to champion your company and your products, but who fundamentally is aligned with your values, mission, vision, and next steps. It is crucial for your success! Kelly was truly aligned, not only in our shared identities as queer women, but in terms of the kinds of investments that she does, where it's not only about monetary reward, although that's a huge part of why she’s investing. But it's also about the mission, it's about the impact, and it's about the founders and believing in what they're doing.
When we were asked about what had put us in such a dire situation monetarily, we were honest about the supply chain and product delivery issues from the pandemic. But (as a marketing expert) Vicky went directly to the marketing investment that had been made. They critiqued that, but our marketing on social media has been essential to our success thus far! If you have a customer base that is both highly networked online and found throughout society, a strong social media marketing plan is crucial. There’s a reason that so many queer women know about Dapper Boi. And there’s also a reason so many people who aren’t in that demographic, but they also are in search of body-size or gender-inclusion in their clothes, know and love our products too. Marketing is a worthwhile investment to reach diverse and dispersed customer segments.
But what we didn’t have the confidence to speak to at the time was how we had fallen victim to predatory loans. Much like predatory and exploitative pay-day loans, with variable rates on home owners’ loans, and with the unrealistic rates of higher education private loans, business loans are disproportionately marketed to women-owned and minority-owned small businesses like ours. They are a short-term solution, but they are a BAD DEAL in the long run!
We followed all of the usual financial business advice from the experts, which is marketed to the majority with a cisgender, heterosexual, male, and white entrepreneur bias. We talked to so many banks, but none of them (mostly straight white cisgender men) really believed in us. So for women, LGBTQ+, and racial minority-owned businesses, we strongly encourage you to invest in relationships, networks, and collectives with like-minded entrepreneurs, investors, and business connectors.
What did you learn from your "Shark Tank" experience?
Throughout our Shark Tank process and business we learned how resilient we are personally and as a business. To bring some context to some of the things that we were going through, we shared a little bit with the Sharks about how we were selling our house. To dive further into that, we were in the middle of selling our house, we were in the middle of looking for a rental, preparing for Shark Tank, pitching to other potential investors, and taking care of our kids and our team through all of the turbulence. Being confident enough to stand up there on the main stage in front of the Sharks and the entire country, when we only had $100 in our business account — with barely any gas money to get to the studio — and be able to pitch ourselves in a brand that we believed in is a success itself. That resilience is what has gotten us through these very tough times.
There is so much importance in realizing what you can and cannot control. You can control what you say in the room. You can control what you do after things air, but you cannot not control the edit of the show that audiences see. And you cannot control how the Sharks will respond to your pitch and how the audience will respond to the edit in the episode… which most people just accept as the “real” thing.
This just means that our story is still being written. Shark Tank wasn’t the end or beginning of Dapper Boi’s story, it’s just ushering us into the next chapter.
What's Next for Dapper Boi?
We're featured in an upcoming documentary movie called “Show Her the Money,” which is about the lack of women investors and entrepreneurs, and how there needs to be more of us — across all intersections of diversity — to achieve true equality. Additionally, Vicky is going to be featured in Amazon’s “OUTRageous” LGBTQ documentary series, and we will be talking about effective LGBTQ business and marketing at Unleashed LGBTQ — the first of its kind business conference and entertainment festival happening in Dallas September 22-24th, 2023 — for LGBTQ+ and allied professionals, brands, entertainers, influencers, and products to connect and inspire.
We have also just released an app to improve the shopping experience, and we are getting ready to unleash an augmented reality shopping experience where shoppers can upload their picture and choose their body type avatar to better find clothes that fit their body and their authentic style.
Learn more about Dapper Boi on their website.