Interview with Howie Busch (he/him/his)
Founder at DudeRobe
Have you ever tried to search for your ideal robe, to no avail? If you have, Sezzle has the perfect small business for you to end your hunt. Howie Busch, the founder of DudeRobe, had the idea to redesign and reengineer the bathrobe into something that both guys and girls would actually want to wear. DudeRobe has had great success and even made an appearance on Shark Tank. Sezzle got the chance to interview Howie and got to learn more about DudeRobe from the ground up.
Pictured: DudeRobe founder Howie Busch
1.) How did the idea of DudeRobe come about?
In the shower, of course! I was a total non-Robe guy, but seeing my wife all comfy in her robe getting ready every day got me thinking… what would I wear? After thinking about it for a couple of weeks, I came up with it… I’d wear it if it was more like a hoodie. So, in all honesty, I really solved a problem for myself and felt like it was a solution a lot of guys might appreciate.
2.) Do you have any tips or pieces of advice for individuals who want to start their own business?
Whenever I’m asked this, I usually say, “don’t let perfect get in the way.” What I mean is that you have to get started, get it out in the world, and give it some energy/momentum. As entrepreneurs, we tend to obsess over every little detail to get things to be perfect. While we do need to obsess over the details, at a certain point, when it’s really good, you have to act on it. There’s a saying that I love “at some point, you just have to ship.” From talking to a lot of inventors, product developers, and would-be entrepreneurs, this is what holds them back.
3.) What can you tell me about the opportunity to ‘invest’ on the DudeRobe site?
This is something I’m really excited about. I wanted to give regular people the chance to invest in us and become part-owners of the company; People like customers, friends, family, and really just your average person who doesn’t have access to early-stage companies typically. For as little as $250, they can join us on our journey by becoming part-owners.
4.) Is investment and entrepreneurship something that is important to you?
I’ve been an entrepreneur for so many years now that it’s just part of who I am. But in terms of investing, I’ll share a quick story. When I was a sports agent back in the day, I negotiated a deal for a very small company (much smaller than DudeRobe now). It was a licensing deal with the NFL for this company to supply shirts to NFL Europe. They had almost no sales at the time. I was offered an opportunity to take the money I was due (around $2,000) or put it into the company for stock. I took the $2,000 instead of investing in them and that company turned out to be Under Armour. I’m not saying we’ll grow to be anywhere near the size of Under Armour, but it does have me really excited to offer people that same early-stage investment opportunity.
5.) How has the pandemic affected DudeRobe’s operations?
We’ve grown quite a bit during the pandemic. In fact, in 2020, we were in the top 1% of the growth of all Shopify stores. And then in 2021, we experienced nearly 100% growth. I think this was in part because people were looking for comfy apparel because they were home so much and in part because I brought in some new folks that helped us get our marketing and website in better alignment.
6.) Are there plans for a future expansion of the DudeRobe collection?
Absolutely. First of all, we just secured a license with NBALAB to create NBA Robes, which is really exciting, especially as a long-life basketball player and fan. We’re talking to other leagues and hope to have a new announcement in a couple of weeks. We’re also working on new products, colorways, and collaborations. More specifically, we’re getting ready to bring back the hoodie. We’re working on a lighter-weight version and some very interesting technical fabrics that have unique benefits to them. I think I’m most excited to work on DudeRobe for women. We have a lot of women who buy for themselves already, but we hear from so many that they love the cuffed sleeves (floppy sleeves aren’t overly user-friendly), absorbent material, permanently attached belt (so you can’t lose it), and hoodie-like style. We’ve heard it referred to as the boyfriend robe, so, I guess, keep an eye out for the boyfriend robe!
7.) What has been one of your favorite experiences during DudeRobe’s journey?
I’d have to say it’s a tie. First, when Shark Tank reached out to me just one week after we launched the company and how quickly that all happened was really cool. Being on Shark Tank and airing was so awesome; I was excited to get that one checked off the bucket list. Second, I’d have to say is the NBA deal and having my favorite team, the New York Knicks, order for all of their players and coaches. I am not sure if that was actually on my bucket list, but it could have been. As they say, the joy is definitely in the journey and I’m loving every minute of it!