Chances are you know at least a few tall guys. Think for a moment about the men you know who are tall…is each of them also big? Probably not, and it’s that observation that led to the founding of TallSlim Tees in 2014.
Founder Dan Deceuster is 6’6” and 195 lbs. That’s certainly tall, but definitely not big. Yet it seems that nearly every specialty retailer serving the tall community is doing “big and tall” rather than “slim and tall” or even “just tall.”
Frustrated by a lack of options for something as simple as a t-shirt, Deceuster set off to put his background in web design, ecommerce and digital marketing to good use. After several months, lots of samples, and plenty of learning experiences, he launched the TallSlim Tees brand.
Initially, they offered two styles (crew neck and v-neck), five colors and just two sizes. Today they provide tall, slim men with over a dozen styles to choose from, including tees, polos, button ups and more. Their original 50/50 shirts now come in 16 colors and four sizes, covering guys from six to seven feet tall.
We caught up with Dan recently to ask him about the brand and his plans for the future.
Swagger: Tell us a little bit about the start up process and the challenges associated with growing a new brand.
TallSlim Tees: Well I definitely never envisioned the brand being anything but a fun side gig to be honest. It took a little while to start selling through our first shirts, but once we did I was amazed at the feedback I was receiving from customers. They were literally pleading for more styles and options. So soon after launching with some short sleeve tees we added long sleeve tees. Then we developed polos, added a bunch more colors, produced new sizes and soon enough I was looking for a warehouse because my garage just wasn’t cutting it.
I would say the start up process of getting the brand launched was a lot harder than growing the brand in my case. Our customers demanded we grow the brand, so that was simple enough. But securing a manufacturer who was willing to work with us in our custom sizes and low quantities was very challenging. The sampling process took several months and was quite frustrating at times. Fortunately it wasn’t my full-time job so I had the luxury of letting it come along at its own pace, but I can imagine that any entrepreneur who jumps right in to a new venture as their full-time job could be in for a lot of headaches.
Swagger: Speaking of full-time jobs, is TallSlim Tees your only job now at this point?
TallSlim Tees: Actually it is! Starting in 2017 I took the plunge and left my job as Director of E-Commerce at Squatty Potty so that I could focus solely on TallSlim Tees. It’s been quite the ride but I haven’t regretted it for a second.
Swagger: With 2018 just concluding, was there a high point for you during the year?
TallSlim Tees: For me it was definitely going to the AVP beach volleyball tournament in Manhattan Beach. TallSlim Tees is the official apparel sponsor of five beach volleyball pros, including the world’s tallest beach volleyball player Ryan Doherty who is 7’1”. It was awesome to film a promotional video with all of them and to be in the media area for the tournament. All the guys we worked with are really fantastic and incredibly gracious. Seeing them in their element was just a lot of fun.
Swagger: Can we expect more beach volleyball sponsorships from TallSlim Tees in 2019?
TallSlim Tees: You better believe it! We’re bringing back all five athletes in 2019 plus a few more. I’m really excited to keep adding more incredible ambassadors to the team. You can imagine that nearly every guy who plays beach volleyball is tall and slim, so the sport is a really good fit for us.
Swagger: And what are the long term plans for the rest of this year and beyond?
TallSlim Tees: The top priority is maintaining inventory throughout the year. I suppose struggling to keep stock on the shelves is a good problem to have, but it’s a problem nonetheless and fixing it is my biggest priority. Other than that, adding more styles, more colors, more influencers and more fun videos will be what you see from the brand moving forward. Sales have grown rapidly each year since launch so I’m hoping to keep that trend going in 2019.
Swagger: Any advice for current or aspiring entrepreneurs?
TallSlim Tees: I’d say avoid taking on partners or investors unless it’s absolutely necessary. Because I’ve always maintained control of the brand, I’ve been able to interject my personality into it and have fun with it. Had I been trying to please investors or partners, I’m not sure I would have been able to make all the same creative and marketing decisions. If you can do it on your own, then do it on your own. Start small and do it as a side gig. If you try to force a livelihood from a startup you might be disappointed. I’d also recommend talking to your customers once you start getting some. I found them abundantly willing to share their feedback, a lot of which I used in growing the brand. It can be really helpful to hear from people who aren’t your friends and family sometimes. Last of all, you should only launch a startup because you’re passionate about it. If you don’t love it, you won’t stick with it. And the only successful entrepreneurs I know are the ones who stuck with it.