Ash & Erie makes big bet on making clothing for shorter men

Note: This article has been modified to reflect a change in the name of the business. 

Steven Mazur and Eric Huang’s big idea was to make everyday clothing for shorter men. The Venture For America fellows capitalized on it by launching Ash & Erie last spring. This week they are set to ship the first articles of clothing to their first customers.

The downtown Detroit-based startup specializes in making clothing for men 5 feet 8 inches or shorter. Its target customers are young people in their 20s and 30s. The idea is to capitalize on a market segment that is largely overlooked by mainstream clothiers, leaving millions of men with clothing that doesn't fit comfortably. Ash & Erie is starting out by selling casual button-down shirts.

"For the spring and summer we are looking at some knits, t-shirts, and polos," says Mazur, co-founder & CEO of Ash & Erie. "For the fall we’re looking at doing jeans and chinos."

Mazur and Haung are members of the second-annual class of fellows from Venture For America, a program that pairs promising college graduates with startups in economically challenged cities like Detroit. It drew its inspiration from Teach For America, which pairs college graduates with teaching positions in big city school districts. Venture For America tries to provide a fast-track to entrepreneurship for recent college grads who want to work with startups.

Mazur and Haung completed their two-year fellowship with Venture For America earlier this year. They launched Ash & Erie shortly thereafter and participated in the Venture For America accelerator program in Philadelphia last summer. They returned to Detroit this fall planning to roll out their clothing line in 2016.

"A lot of the focus and time was spent on the back end of the business," Mazur says.

They started with a crowdfunding campaign that raised $26,461. That let them place Ash & Erie's first order for 1,000 casual button-down shirts, which arrived earlier this month. The first 250 recipients of the shirts will go to the crowdfunding backers. Another 100 people have placed pre-orders, and those total 350 orders will be shipped on Thursday.

Mazur and Haung plan to sell the rest of those shirts by the end of this year through online orders. Ash & Erie offers free shipping, returns, and exchanges as part of its effort to focus on customer service in its first months of operations. It's a modest-yet-important goal in what they consider a big opportunity.

Source: Steven Mazur, co-founder & CEO of Ash & Erie
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.
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