Tyler McCombs is an Entrepreneur, Fashion Designer and the Founder of Devon + Lang, an innovative undergarment clothing company.
After 10 years of working with Apple, Tyler launched Devon + Lang in 2019 to address the demand for comfortable and durable undergarments.
Hello Tyler. Thank you for participating in this Q&A session. You worked for 10 years at Apple as a Manager before launching your underwear clothing startup called Devon + Lang. What is the origin story behind Devon + Lang and why did you decide to become an Entrepreneur?
Tyler: Upon first look, it is quite a shift to move from Apple to Underwear, but when your core values are the same, the shift felt quite seamless. I absolutely loved my time working at Apple, and I really believe that many of the core values that Devon + Lang now has were formed from my time working with that business. The focus on attention to detail, desire to create products that look and feel great, and made in ways that positively impact sustainability, are all priorities that I took from my time at Apple.
I always had a dream of starting my own business, and I knew that I wanted to start a brand that creates physical goods. I love the creativity that comes with making a product that looks and feels great, and trying to solve the problems that come up through the process. When my wife and I were on vacation in Hawaii a few years back I ended up tearing some premium boxers that I brought with me on the trip. I was frustrated that I could not find underwear that was both comfortable to wear and durable, and I wanted to change that. I did some research on seeing if there were other brands that were meeting all of the needs that I was looking for, and I couldn't find any. Once I saw that there was a need in the market that I believed I could fill, I decided to take the next step and start building the brand.
What are the key challenges you have faced in your career as an entrepreneur, and how have you manage them?
Tyler: Cashflow is easily one of the biggest challenges that we have had to deal with when producing physical goods. We have to pay for our goods in advance and then hope that we ordered the right mixture of sizes, and that the colours that we choose will connect with consumers in the moment. Not to mention, if you want to get your products made at a price point that allows for profitability you will need to hit higher minimum order quantities than you may feel comfortable with at the beginning. While we have not needed to find outside investors yet, that is something that we will be considering in the future. Working closely with our Bank and the BDC has allowed us to get the capital we need to manufacture our products.
Has your entrepreneurial journey been influenced by any past or present business leaders?
Tyler: Sara Blakely of Spanx has been the biggest influence, at least from a world leader level. Learning about her journey, and how she was able to hustle to grow her brand is really something inspiring to hear. I have personally found that local entrepreneurs have provided me with more motivation and inspiration. Connor Curran and Dustin Paisley of Local Laundry, Mitch Jacobsen of Rviita Energy Tea, and Rick Jacobsen of Cornerstone Engineering have easily eclipsed any of the learning that I have had through reading business books.
There are a lot of underwear clothing lines in the market. What makes Devon + Lang’s value proposition unique when compared to similar brands?
Tyler: Our mission is to build basics apparel that is built to last, environmentally conscious, and extremely comfortable to wear. Our men's boxers have our own patent pending pouch for superior separation and support, a moisture wicking, and near frictionless inner thigh panel to ensure no tearing or chaffing while being worn through out the day. On all of our underwear, me make our products out of sustainable fabrics like modal, which use 20x less water than cotton to make the same amount of fabric. We are in the process of replacing our polyester fabrics with recycled polyester, and are looking to reduce our environmental footprint with more sustainable packaging too. I believe that our brand's goals are better aligned with our customer values. This, along with our products that look and feel great to wear, makes a difference in setting us apart from the competition.
Where does Devon + Lang get their raw materials from and is it ethically sourced?
Tyler: Currently we are ethically sourcing our fabrics and manufacturing them in China. None of our fabrics come from the Xinjiang region.
How did you initially fund Devon + Lang as a startup?
Tyler: When we started Devon + Lang we used some of our own savings, as well as getting a small business loan of $15,000 through the Futureprenure program. I would highly recommend any small business look into Futureprenure, as not only do you get funding, but you also get paired up with a mentor, which has been invaluable to me in growing our brand. Huge shout out to my current mentor Cayley Muir.
What advice do you have for new and aspiring entrepreneurs trying to launch/grow their business?
Tyler: My first piece of advice would be to reach out to other local entrepreneurs and share your ideas with them. I promise, they are too busy with their own thing to steal your ideas, and you will be able to gain insights from someone who is already on the path. They may have ideas, or will bring up issues that you may never have considered, and that insight is invaluable.
The other piece of advice I will give is that if you have had your conversations and you think that the idea is worth perusing, then you should push ahead even when you encounter road blocks.
It is grit and determination that gets an idea off the ground.
I don't think that any business owner I have talked to has told me that the whole process was smooth sailing. We all have had to fight to build up our brands. It's worth it.
Before concluding the interview, is there anything else you would like to add?
I am always interested in connecting with other business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs. I truly believe that collaboration and sharing ideas is the best way for everyone to succeed and grow, so please reach out to me on LinkedIn if you ever want to chat.
Thank you Tyler for participating in this Q&A session, we wish you all the best.
Tyler: It was a real pleasure. Thank you.
This article was originally published in Issue 11 of The Business Anecdote Magazine