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Outland Denim charts growth plans following $1.3m crowdfunding

James Bartle
James Bartle
James Bartle, founder and chief executive of Outland Denim

Outland Denim has always labeled itself ‘the people’s brand’, though the title has taken on extra weight given that it now has a specific number of people onboard for the ride.

During the business’ recent crowdfunding campaign Outland Denim attracted just over 1000 equity investors and brought in $1.3 million in investment to be put toward the efforts of growing and marketing the brand.

And the best part, founder James Bartle told Inside Retail, was that these investors will now directly contribute to and benefit from that growth. 

“I love the idea through and through – that those people who have backed us, supported us, and taken a risk on our brand will now be able to get dividends in the future and have a direct impact on our mission,” Bartle said.

“They are holding up the values of the company and speaking on the issues and sharing our posts, so there’s lots of really cool things that you can look at and think, ‘Wow, it really does add another dimension to a brand by adding 1000 investors into the mix’.”

Much of Bartle’s growth plans revolve around executing a sales and marketing strategy for the business, something Outland Denim has largely eschewed in the first eight years of its existence, instead focusing on the brand proposition and ensuring the product was what it had to be.

Most businesses are built on a traditional, revenue-led model, and as such tends to attract revenue-led investors, Bartle said.

“We just built [Outland Denim] upside down. We focused on the foundations and becoming the most unique brand in the fashion space… that’s not always easy to share with a traditional investor, because they don’t know how to place value on things that they haven’t placed value on before – social return on investment, environmental return on investment, and economic return on investment,” Bartle said. 

“We want to focus on [all three] rather than just on the economic. And by doing it this way we’ve been able to engage people that are more open-minded and will think about it differently than the traditional way, so to speak.”

And while Bartle counts the campaign as a huge success, the reach of the COVID-19 crisis extends even into the investment world, with Outland Denim initially averaging expressions of interest around four times higher than what ended up being expressed.

“I think it was definitely impacted by it, but what I also think is that this just says that there are people out there that want to be a part of the solution. COVID-19 has only added to informing people about social issues, environmental issues, and more recently, the Black Lives Matter movement,” Bartle said. 

“What it does for a brand like ours is that when we say we’re addressing some of these issues, not everybody will align with us on everything we stand for, which is okay.

“But I think more people than not see it as a solution that they can be a part of easily, so they engage, and I think that’s why we’re seeing success.”

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