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Everyone loves a good theme party. Chris White included. So he turned his enthusiasm for events like the Kentucky Derby, music festival Burning Man and just all-around tacky '90s gear into an actual moneymaking business with its own very unique voice.
"Anything that's really loud — really in your face that had a retro vibe or feel — we brought that to one place online," White said.
That place is Shinesty, a Boulder-based e-commerce company co-founded by White and friends Jens Nicolaysen and Michelle Frey-Tarbox. White got the idea during his last year of school at Colorado University, where he received an MBA and a law degree. He had always loved the idea of themed get-togethers as an undergrad and realized they aren't something people necessarily outgrow. Adults, he said, actually have money to spend on costumes but don't always have the time to shop.
Shinesty started out in 2014 as a platform that sold strictly vintage items, with a snarky social media presence.
"We realized we were onto something when we launched the company with 50 or 100 products and sold out immediately," White said. "We built a following by just being ourselves — authentic, crazy, unique."
That voice is part of the company's culture today. For example, a current ad on Instagram reads "We had to pay Zuckerberg for you to see this, so please, for the love of God, follow us." They have nearly 25,000 followers.
They decided to expand beyond, upping their offerings beyond vintage and into things that run the gamut from American-flag ski suits to jackets and slacks printed with dollar bills or even marijuana plants.
There are also a wide array of hilarious items from the '80s and 90s, as well as ugly sweaters for the holidays in the company's Boulder warehouse, where items ship out. The idea is to "get you noticed" no matter what type of event you're attending, he said.
Shinesty's products range from $15 to $250, but White said most orders come in at $50 to $100. They ship within 48 hours, and in the fourth quarter of last year, they sold more than 20,000 units.
In under two years they've done nearly $5 million in sales and have raised just over $2 million in funding from investors, including Winklevoss Capital and MergeLane Fund. Since launching, they've grown 1,400 percent year over year.
"We are taking a chance, stepping out and being really unique and crazy," he said. Their strategy is working. The company is grabbing attention; MTV is currently working on a show pilot about Shinesty and its wild team of dedicated millennials.
Despite their success and growth today, White said it was tough to raise capital in a sea of tech start-ups.
"You should have seen the look on people's faces when we first pitched this idea in Boulder. People were like, 'Where's the SaaS play here?' So we had a ton of just convincing people, but eventually our sales kept doubling every month, and that was hard for people to ignore."
Kind of like the clothing they sell.