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Weyhill & Wharf aims to be latest crowdfunding success story

At a time when more workplaces are going business casual, one retail newcomer is trying to encourage men to button up — or rather down.

Weyhill & Wharf is updating a male clothing staple with its Preparatory Oxford shirt — the prevailing style of button-down collars found on men's shirts. In the process, the retail start-up is targeting the same market occupied by preppy menswear powerhouses like Brooks Brothers, Ralph Lauren and Vineyard Vines.

However, unlike some of its competitors, all Weyhill & Wharf clothing is made in the United States.

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"Weyhill & Wharf is an American brand producing shirts on American soil," Weyhill's CEO, Alexander Popowich, told CNBC in an interview. "We are proud to do our part to support American jobs, and at the same time, bring high quality American made products to the market."

It all started in June, when Popowich initiated a Kickstarter campaign with a $10,000 goal. A month after launching the crowdfunding campaign, Weyhill & Wharf surpassed its initial benchmark, with more than $15,500 raised and 94 backers.

Weyhill's take on the classic shirt combines silk necktie designs with cotton shirts, and sells for $140 per item. The price is steeper than those found at high-end Brooks Brothers, but that hasn't been a barrier for sales: Weyhill's entire shirt inventory is now sold out until new products land later this month.

"I wanted the brand to have a decidedly authentic feel and look of actually having a necktie inside your oxford," Popowich said. "The shirts only get better with every wear and wash."

Weyhill joins the growing number of start-up entrepreneurs who have tapped Kickstarter to raise more than $2 billion for nearly 100,000 different projects. Overall, crowdfunding has become a reliable staple for budding moguls, having raised more than $16 billion worldwide last year, according to research by Massolution.

Crowdfunding is valuable because "there's someone to buy the product on the other end, making it a great tool to see if a start-up can be successful," entrepreneur and former investment banker Carol Roth told CNBC recently.

On the flip side, an unsuccessful campaign can bring a start-up's potential success into question, Roth added, and hinder the company's future development.

In fact, crowdfunding can easily make or break a company. While more than half of Kickstarter campaigns fail, the platform has produced notable success stories like Oculus Rift — which raised $2.4 million before being purchased by Facebook for a eye-popping $2 billion — and Pebble Watch, which pulled in more than $30 million.


For now at least, Weyhill & Wharf is setting its sights a bit lower. Popowich told CNBC his company is focused on digital marketing via Instagram and Twitter, which accounts for a majority of its sales. Popowich expects that word of mouth will spread as long as the company can churn out quality products.

"The fundamental business strategy behind Weyhill & Wharf is simple and focuses on people, process and product," he said.

The company's formula includes creating "a repeatable and streamlined process, particularly when it comes to delivering on customer service, [and] don't cut corners, make the best product you can — because after all, that's what the consumer business is all about," he added.

According to Roth, when people are enthused about the product, they will market the product for you. A good relationship between the company and consumer makes it much easier to retain clientele.

"Weyhill & Wharf is developing a passionate following and becoming well-known for our unique, American-made products and superb quality," Popowich said.