Innovation comes in all shapes and sizes. On the very small, very round scale, one IVY member is re-thinking one accessory most of us use every single day: the button.
Anibal Marin started his company Auxiliare International because he thinks buttons have the potential to change the way each of us thinks about our everyday shirts and blazers. With an interchangeable design, the Auxiliare allows users to change out buttons on all their shirts, sweaters, and jackets whenever they want, increasing the diversity of their wardrobe.
But launching a new product is not always a buttoned-up affair. In his recent interview with IVY Magazine, Anibal shares some of the challenges and breakthroughs he’s faced in making Auxiliare a reality.
Anibal is an IVY member (NYC). Connect and collaborate with him here.
IVY: Tell us about your product.
When people ask me about the project, mostly I respond, very simply: Buttons. People have no concept of (1) how worldwide buttons are and (2) how no one’s ever really updated them. Buttons are what I consider a “sleeping dinosaur” right under our noses. No one’s ever really re-invented buttons.
IVY: All startups are looking for a gap in the market. What gap did you spot, and how are you filling it?
The project began as a gap I saw in my own life. When I would go out to events—fashion events, IVY events, other events—I realized I only had a set number of blazers. I was showing up in a lot of photographs with the same look, and I realized if I had a way to interchange the buttons, it would at least seem as if I had some variety. The same idea occurred to me with woven shirts, and that’s when I realized I needed to research the market to see if interchangeable buttons existed.
After some research, I found that nothing remotely similar existed in retail, as far as interchangeability. Currently, there are three levels of the button market. First, there’s the inexpensive level, geared to the home-sewing market and people who know how to sew. These buttons are relatively inexpensive-looking and don’t offer a lot of detail or features. The second level is slightly bejeweled buttons, which really exist only in women’s buttons at the larger craft retailers. On the high end, there are designer buttons, available per piece at an expensive price, which bring significant labor with them. So, there’s really no middle-market, where people have control over buttons without having to sew. Auxiliare is the first time someone is reintroducing the button with total control to people with fashion interchangeability.
After I looked at the retail market, I then looked into patents and inventions to see if anything already existed. And really to my surprise, from my research, nothing similar to the Auxilry Interchangable Button System already exists.
IVY: Can you talk about the advantages to crowdfunding as opposed to finding investors?
The most important aspect of the majority of crowdfunding platforms is that all equity is yours. It’s also a great way to immediately test the market or even to see if there’s a need in the market for your product. It gives you instant feedback and gives you a community where you can make the product better or add enhancements or additions to it.
With previous investment models, if you had a product that was direct-to-consumer, you’d have to build inventory to sell. You could begin this process on your own without anyone taking equity, but at some point, you’ll need to fulfill orders, and to do so, you’ll need to pay to have those orders produced up front. That’s usually when you find an investor or someone to come in and take over equity. Then, the company is less yours.
With crowdfunding, you’re growing on your own initial merits of being able to sell to consumers while maintaining lean inventory. The margins are also better with direct-to-consumer crowdfunding vs. retail. You don’t need relationships with buyers, and you don’t have to be pigeon-holed to comply with certain margins.
Of course, you can imagine crowdfunding also has its risks. Auxiliare is a patent-pending idea, and it’s going to be shown all over the world. Protection of your product is also key when crowdfunding your product.
IVY: What’s one major piece of advice you give to people looking to produce a new product?
Try to do everything you can, the most that you can, on your own. Doing things on your own allows you to learn about all aspects of your product and become stronger in all areas (whether it’s financial or production or something else). In the early stages, your company and product are still relatively small, and you want have to hands in each and every aspect so that when the company grows, you as founder understand the different aspects of what it takes to make your product.
For instance, even though I hired a PR firm, I am still working as if I didn’t hire a PR firm and doing a lot of PR work myself. Of course, all of this depends on the product you’re creating. If you’re starting an app, for instance, it may be hard to know how to do everything.
In the beginning, the product really is your vision, and you want to be able to translate that vision as much as you can. No one’s going to have a handle on that vision like you will.
IVY: What other fashion trends are you excited about right now?
There is one company out there using embedded technology in jewelry, which allows users to socially express themselves in conjunction with apps. These products are really geared toward the young teen market or the young adult market. These companies are looking at jewelry as a social mechanism to connect people.
I’ve also been looking a lot into 3D printing and all of its uses. It’s actually where I feel I might start heading for use in button development offering consumer customization. For the free-thinking world of designers this is super interesting. The future of 3D printing is very promising. People may not have to buy buttons or fabrics, they’ll just have to download the 3D file and then print from their desktop.
IVY: How can the IVY Community help you?
I think IVY members will love these buttons. Every young professional can relate to having the same type of woven shirt and wanting to change the look. I love IVY: I love the events and the quality of professionals from all industries. I want to share my problem-solving product with the IVY community and show the range of looks one outfit can have with just a change of the buttons. Find my Kickstarter page or the press release and be sure to stay connected if you’re interested in learning more about the product.
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