“I’m a little bit of a shy, reserved person,” says MeUndies’ Jonathan Shokrian, and we must admit: it’s not something we’d assumed we’d hear from the founder and CEO of an underwear company boasting such outlandish prints. But Jonathan is recalling the moment he stumbled upon the idea for MeUndies, during a shopping trip to a big-name department store when he was a student at SMU. “The whole experience of asking where the underwear was was kind of intimidating,” he remembers. “Then finally, when I was shown where, it was overwhelming. Even within the range of the brand I wore, there were so many styles that I actually ended up buying the wrong product.”
The a-ha moment came when Jonathan opened the box: not only had he bought the wrong product, but he’d paid $30 for just one pair, and still didn’t have enough underwear for his trip — the one that had prompted his nervous foray into the department store in the first place. “I wanted to fix that experience,” he says, “and the more I spoke to other people — especially other men — I realized they were having the same problem. Brands were highly sexualized, stale, uncomfortable and inconvenient. The average guy was holding onto his underwear for seven years. We wanted to take a commoditized product like underwear and bring a breath of fresh air to the industry. We wanted to have people talking about their underwear in a different way, and to build a community from the ground up.”
That community began to grow when Jonathan began a year’s worth of development in creating the first boxer brief. “We really spent a lot of time working on the fabric and hand-feel to develop a product that no-one had ever felt before,” Jonathan explains, and recalls the launch of their customer satisfaction guarantee: “if you weren’t impressed with the product, we let you keep it and gave you a full refund. We wanted to back up our statement of making the most comfortable underwear in the world.”
MeUndies’ first-time entrepreneur faced initial skepticism from investors who wouldn’t take them seriously, but after that first year of grassroots, organic, word-of-mouth growth, the investment community gained more confidence in this being a business that was scaling, and the brand was able to do its first couple rounds of funding, allowing them to scale further. “How do we maintain that same service and attention-to-detail as when we were two now that we’re 100?” Jonathan asks. “These are challenges we’re excited to work through.” Perhaps a large part of that answer comes from the fact that MeUndies does everything in-house, from product development to fulfilment and marketing. “Every aspect of our business is handled internally so that we can control every interaction our customer has with us,” Jonathan says.
And customers love it. The community Jonathan and his team have built around the company’s products is huge. MeUndies recently launched a new membership program that rewards customers with exclusive prints and brand collaborations — which they then love to share online. Importantly, Jonathan and co. listen to their customers’ feedback to help design prints, and to help inspire future collabs. “Our customers tell us that we do stand up to the hype,” he says, proudly.
MeUndies’ popularity has also allowed the company to make sizeable contributions to charities. “Two years ago, while we were thinking about holiday promotions, we wanted to give back,” Jonathan recalls, “and we came across Make-A-Wish. We donated $50,000 for our first Cyber Monday sale and, through that, I ended up building a relationship with them and was asked to join the board.” The company regularly gives back, supporting organizations such as the Los Angeles LGBT Youth Center, The True Colors Foundation, The Downtown Women’s Shelter, and Shelter Partnership. Proof indeed that buying comfy underwear can make you feel warm and snuggly in more ways than one.
In just seven brief years, MeUndies has sold nine million pairs of underwear, has amassed one million customers, and was named on the Inc. 5000 list as the seventh Fastest Growing Retail Company in the U.S. (in 2016). And now, most importantly, they’re in Neighborhood Goods.