When Rich Johannes decided to make the decision to start a business selling men’s luxury underwear, he found it was all about finding the right fit, both for his product and with his supplier.
Wanting to keep his business entirely based in Canada, Rich found a supplier in Ontario to start out his business. However, after a few months without satisfaction, Rich decided to cut ties and found a local supplier instead. He says things are running much smoother now, and the proximity to the factory means that he can see first-hand how his product is doing without having to fly to Ontario.
“I was really fed up with the communication I was having with my manufacturer out there, and because I was so fed up it made me dig that much harder to actually find one here in Winnipeg. I was introduced to a lady with a manufacturing factory, and she’s been super-awesome. She helped get me in touch with my fabric suppliers and my waistband supplier, which has really helped everything towards making the actual product come out. She’s also helped me find a pattern designer to help me modify my pattern so that I can make it my very own and potentially patent it here in North America.”
The Man behind VanJohan
Rich Johannes is a graduate of kinesiology, and is currently pursuing a business degree at the University of Winnipeg. He has been applying his kinesiology knowledge as a personal trainer at the Downtown YMCA only a few blocks away from campus.
The idea for the business came up in Rich’s first business class at the University of Winnipeg, when a professor asked students why they were in the class. Many of the ideas being heard were small scale “cookie cutter” businesses. Rich saw that the men’s clothing industry was not well catered to, and that a hole in the market where there to be filled.
“There’s a lot of brands out there for women, and not a lot of brands specifically targeted towards men,” said Rich. “So I thought ‘you know what? I’m going to start my own underwear company’. I noticed there was a big gap here in the North American market in terms of different types of luxury underwear.”
While the initial idea occurred two years ago, Rich has been approaching the idea in earnest over the last eight months, with the attainable goal of launching in early November. Rich has been busy making the final adjustments to his product and brand as launch day approaches, and has a vision for VanJohan going forward.
“I want VanJohan for Men to be a reputable brand across Canada and North America, and potentially Europe and around the world. It’s a lofty goal, but I think it’s attainable. I think that I have a bit of an advantage, as the visual boosting element of my product sets me apart from the other brands.”
What separates VanJohan for Men from other luxury underwear products in North America is its design, using a pocket to lift the male ‘package’ and bring it forward.
“I had seen a design similar to this with a brand in Australia,” said Rich. “I liked it, and decided to do something similar, but changed some angles for the pocket, as well as removed one of the seams to make it more comfortable.”
“Part of what makes VanJohan what it is is the design, with that visual boosting that can only increase your confidence.”
Rich also notes that the emphasis is on design, saying it doesn’t matter how good it looks if it isn’t comfortable to wear and it falls apart easy. The type and quality of fabric is very important to him, and is how he was lead to choose two different types of materials for fabric: a cotton-bamboo blend, and modal. Both of which are very soft while still being durable. Rich has also invested substantial time looking into the waistband, noting it wouldn’t make sense to have the waistband lower in quality than the fabric itself.
While quality is very important to Rich, so is affordability not only for him, but for potential clients as well. Scrolling through the internet for ‘men’s luxury underwear’, you can find some pairs going for over 50 dollars. Rich thinks that’s exorbitant, and is aiming in the range of half that price at 25 dollars.
VanJohan for men will be available in three different types: brief, trunk and boxer brief, with the brief being the shortest and the boxer brief being the longest.
“Those are the three types I’m going to be starting off with. I’m not going to be touching simple, loose boxers. I’m staying away from that completely. I think it’s a dying trend, and I’m not into it.”
Are You a VanJohan Man?
While Rich believes that the target demographic for VanJohan for Men will be men aged 18 to 30, he doesn’t want to limit himself to just that age range. Anybody can be a ‘VanJohan Man’, and you will never know it unless they choose to let you know.
“I have a couple of mottos I intend to use, including ‘how confident are you’ and let the confidence run through you’.”
Rich notes that even without anybody else seeing them, the VanJohan for Men underwear will give the wearer and added sense of sexiness and confidence as they go about their day.
“Imagine you’re at a meeting with a client, or making a presentation, or even just riding on the bus. Having that added confidence can make all the difference between success and failure, and it can be as simple as the underwear you’re wearing.”
Rich stresses that anybody deserves the right to feel bold and sexy, including men, and they don’t have to do anything too risqué to accomplish that feat.
Rich plans to begin sales of the brand by using e-commerce through his soon to launch website, VanJohan.ca. Rich insists it is a matter of when, not if, he will make the transition to a brick and mortar store. It likely wouldn’t be on his own to start, but just having the option of people stopping by and physically seeing his product should help in Rich’s eyes.
“I just believe that from marketing and advertising perspectives, if people can have something tangible to hold onto in their hands, I think that can really help the volume of sales.”
“I can be really creative with this business, and I think that it’s going to be some that I can very much enjoy doing. I think that’s what work should be. I didn’t want to be stuck in a job where I absolutely hated it and I worked for somebody and that’s it. With this, either I make it or I don’t but at the same time it’s in my own hands.”
VanJohan.ca is set to launch in November, and you can follow everything on the company’s Facebook account at facebook.com/VanJohanforMen as well as their Twitter handle @TheVanJohanMan. Questions can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.