This month we spoke to Broadway resident Nick Ropp, co-founder of the unique hooded jumpsuit company, Comfort Zone Apparel LLC.
Comfort Zone Apparel was recently named Grand Prize Winner in the American Express #Passion Project Contest and called the "Best Onesie Ever" in a product review by Tester Magazine.
Q: Describe your business in five words or less.
A: Slightly Ridiculous, Extremely Comfortable.
Q: How and why did you start Comfort Zone?
A: My wife and I were living in Europe where I was serving as Marketing Director with a public company. While traveling, we discovered adult onesies made of sweatshirt material. It was basically a jump suit with a hood (no feet), made out of the exact same thing one of your favorite sweatshirts would be made from. Like 90% of Americans, one of the first things we do at the end of the day is change into something more comfortable, and a hooded jump suit made of sweatshirt material seemed like the perfect thing! There were, however, some obvious issues with the functionality of those garments, which we found out once we got them home. I spoke with a couple of the companies that were making the garments to gauge interest in opening up the US market. I had some ideas for the product both from a marketing and functionality perspective, and in the end decided this product could probably be made exactly like I wanted it, Made in the USA, and I probably wouldn't even go above the retail prices of the European companies ($159-$289). I spent about 2.5 years trying to figure out how to make the product 100% in the USA, from the cotton seed to the final stitch, and also add the missing functionality my wife and I thought was desperately needed (the back flap!).
In Spring 2013, we launched the CoZone Hooded Jump Suit at a fashion trade show in Las Vegas. While sales weren't great, we did get a lot of interest, and it was at that point I decided we either needed to go for it, or wonder what if. I quit my day job in June 2013 and we're off!
Q: What is on the horizon for 2014?
A: We're expanding our line for Fall 2014 to include prints and more colors and have officially licensed a JMU edition in both purple and gray. We can add custom logos to our apparel and also going to debut our "Cozy Feet" logo on garments which we hope will increase interest and aid in brand building for possible expansion into other lines.
Q: Do you face any unique challenges as a local business?
A: With the internet and cell phones, where you are doesn't seem to matter a whole lot. I have consulted with people all over the globe as I try to ensure the success of the business. I can't deny it might be a little easier to run clothing company if you were located in a fashion district in a large city, but then I'd have to be in a fashion district in a large city...
Q: What is your favorite thing about the Shenandoah Valley?
A: The people and the pace. Other than that three minutes every day when school lets out, there are no traffic issues to speak of, and if you want to hike, ski, or visit the nation's capital, it's not difficult. We have it pretty good here, don't tell anyone!
For more information about CoZone, and to purchase your own extremely comfortable jumpsuit, visit their website at www.cozone.us.