How losing a wallet in the ocean inspired us to start our own company selling functional and stylish wallets

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Mckenzie & Colby Bauer (co-founders)
Founded: 2015
No of employees: 22
Location: USA

After spotting a gap in the market for minimalist wallets that are both functional and stylish, husband-and-wife team McKenzie and Colby founded Thread Wallets. After a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised $35k, they launched in 2015 and have since grown to carry eight high-quality products, 

After a few years of success, they now have a clear vision to safeguard the business and plan to expand the range to other carry items, including small bags, phone cases, and AirPods. The business venture has given McKenzie and Colby an irreplaceable sense of freedom, so we chat to McKenzie to find out how they got there.

Who are you and what brand did you start?

In 2015 my husband, Colby, and I founded Thread Wallets. Through our venture, we have found an irreplaceable sense of freedom and happiness as we see our vision unfold. I love coming up with creative ways to market a product or idea and I enjoy brainstorming ways to build long-lasting brands.

I believe in the power of surrounding yourself with smart and talented people who are dedicated to creating and building. I love helping others achieve success for themselves and I feel passionate about helping them find the same freedom I have found in my entrepreneurial and creative pursuits.

When I'm not at work, I love eating good food, cooking, working out, traveling, and of course, spending time with my two beautiful daughters.

My husband and I started Thread Wallets in 2015 to fill a hole in the marketplace. We saw a need for minimalist wallets that were functional and full of style and personality.

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BRAND IDEA - how did you come up with the idea for Thread Wallets?

My husband lost his wallet to the ocean when body surfing. When he went to replace it, all he could find online was a sea of boring and bulky bifold wallets. He opted for a rubber band. After falling in love with that functionality, he decided we should try to find a way to make a better rubber band.


BRAND LAUNCH - take us through how you launched Thread Wallets.

We launched the brand after a successful Kickstarter campaign which we ran in 2015. In order to make it successful we hired an agency to help us run ads and we spent countless hours reaching out personally to family, friends and young "influencers" to help us spread the word. We raised around $35K.

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ONLINE STORE SETUP - what are your top 2 tips for successful Ecommerce store setup.

  1. Don’t seek for perfection. Get a minimal viable product out there and listen to the feedback.
  2. Ask for feedback and be willing to listen.

CUSTOMER RETENTION - what has worked best to attract and retain customers?

For us, email marketing and SMS marketing are critical. Alot of young entrepreneurs focus on vanity metrics (aka Instagram followers) but it's very important to focus on metrics that directly contribute to revenue and can be easily tracked. When you focus on building your email or sms list, you have a lot more control of who you reach and when you reach them.


SOCIAL - what are your top 2 tips for successful use of social media to engage with customers.

  1. Be social
  2. Be authentic


BUSINESS GROWTH INSIGHTS - how has Thread Wallets changed and evolved?

We now carry over eight products and our vision is larger and more detailed. Our sole focus at the beginning was wallets but we knew we wanted to eventually branch out into different “carry products” - by that we mean functional products that "carry" your goods. For example ; wallets, phone cases, airpods, small bags, duffles, backpacks, etc.

Wallets have been great and we want to continue making our name there but eventually we need to add products that will help increase our Average Order Value (AOV). The more competitive Facebook becomes, the more expensive the ad landscape is. With a higher AOV we'll be able to have a bit more of a buffer.

We also don't want to only be wallets in case wallet type accessories become obsolete at some point. It will take a while for that to happen though.

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MANAGING CHANGE - what are the top 2 tips you’d suggest others adopt to safeguard their business.

  1. Be willing to adapt
  2. Always keep profitability a focus


FUTURE BUSINESS PLANS - how is Thread Wallets doing today and what does the future look like?

Things are going great. We are focused on optimizing and expanding our retail presence this year.

By expanding our retail presence I mean adding to our wholesale accounts. Currently we are sold in around 600 stores nationwide. We'd like to see that number doubled or tripled within the coming year or two.

When we started in 2015, I had no idea Thread would become what it is today. We had a vision for it but because it was just my husband and I, we were so focused on the day-to-day. We just took things one day at a time and watched it unfold.


ENTREPRENEUR INSIGHTS - what has been your biggest learning experience since starting Thread Wallets?

Don’t swing for the fences. Just focus on getting on base and move from there.


ONLINE BUSINESS TOOLS - what are the business software tools you couldn't live without?

Avalara, Nosto, Klaviyo, Attentive

See what tools other founders use here.


SELF DEVELOPMENT - what are the educational resources you’d recommend?

Podcast - How I Built This

Books - Creativity INC, The Ride of a Lifetime, Delivering Happiness.


INFLUENTIAL PEOPLE ‘shout-out’ - who have been the most influential people for you during your brand journey?

My parents. They have supported and helped us in countless ways.


FINAL WORDS OF INSPO - for other aspiring entrepreneurs.

Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle or end.


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