Whether we're cycling to the office or meeting some friends for brunch, we like to take our bikes over our cars because it's a more intentional way to move. And when we're pedaling down the road, listening to the sounds of the city and feeling the wind on our face, the last thing we want to worry about is if we're wearing the right clothes for the ride.
Enter: Olivers apparel. Olivers is an LA-based brand that makes durable, stylish athletic clothes that fit seamlessly into your life, so you can wear them no matter where you're riding – from home to a coffee shop, from a meeting to the gym, from work to the bar.
We sat down with David Wolfe, founder and CEO of Olivers, to learn more about his entrepreneurial journey, Olivers, and why healthy living means so much to him.
THOUSAND: Tell us about your entrepreneurial journey – how did your experiences lead you to Olivers?
DAVID: I'd say there’s a combination of factors that led to the launch. My father is an entrepreneur, and my mother has a wide variety of artistic inclinations (architecture, painting, cooking, gardening), so I think it’s safe to say their interests rubbed off on me growing up. I’ve looked back at elementary school assignments and my childhood dream constantly went back and forth between wanting to play professional baseball and wanting to take over my dad’s business (still holding out hope that I’ll get a call from the Dodgers). I studied finance in college at USC and worked in that capacity for my first 5 or so years after college, and then moved into the digital marketing world for a few years before starting Olivers. During that time that the realization that I had this burning desire to build something became evident. So it was partially just the right time for me to build something so to speak, I just had that strong desire. Olivers happened to be a really good fit in that it coincided with many of my personal values (quality, health in particular) and it happened to be a space where as a consumer I felt there was something missing.
T: Why do you love cycling? What’s your favorite thing about riding?
D: Cycling is a great workout. It’s strenuous, enjoyable, can cover beautiful landscapes, takes you outdoors, and isn’t too hard on the body, at least for me. Just much less wear and tear on the joints than something like running. Furthermore, there’s a great social aspect of riding that I didn’t fully grasp until I got into the sport – the cafe culture, the community, the opportunity to ride with friends and even plan trips around.
T: Why do you feel Olivers mission is important? What role does it play in running the business every day?
D: We think of our mission as being dedicated to equipping our customers with the highest quality athletic apparel and dependable information they can use to strengthen the body, mind, and spirit. Our belief is that producing high quality products is a sign of respect for the customer, and also it cultivates a sense of pride (the good kind of pride) in the creator. It feels good to put something into the world that you feel is high quality and can be used for a long time and to pursue what we’d call health-giving amusements. So bringing products we are proud of into the world that our customers can use to hopefully live healthy and ultimately richer lives, is a mission we feel very good about.
T: What advice do you have for entrepreneurs just starting out?
D: My first bit of advice would be to get one thing right. Which in our case was the All Over Short. We launched with that product and that product only, and didn’t release our 2nd product for another 18 months. If you can’t get 1 thing right, nothing else matters to a certain extent. I think that applies not just to apparel but most other ventures. Less, but better, said Dieter Rams. Next piece of advice would be to figure out how to sell and/or market. One of my early mentors in the business used to say ‘sales cures all’, and I think he was spot on.
T: Do you have a favorite piece of Olivers apparel? Why?
D: I love our Passage Pants, for the same reason I enjoy most of our products: high quality material and well constructed, comfortable, versatile, and liberating to wear. Great pant for riding around town in!
T: What were some of the successes and challenges you faced as Olivers started to grow? What are some of your favorite moments in Olivers history?
D: So many challenges getting Olivers off the ground, especially given my lack of experience in the industry. The first 2 years we had all sorts of issues – legal challenges with some folks trying to extort us, late product deliveries, and a small/inexperienced team generally stretched thin trying to figure things out. For the first 2.5 years or so I’d say everything felt like a challenge. That said, the gratification and reward of the process has certainly made it worth it. The Kickstarter successes (we had 2 campaigns), moving to Los Angeles from San Francisco, running our first pop-ups are some moments that stand out, but more than anything I’m proud of the small incremental improvements we’ve made that have led to what I’d say is a pretty cool thing we’ve got going (and it still feels like we’re in the 1st inning of the ball game so to speak).
T: What’s next for Olivers?
D: 2019 will be all about getting better – improving some existing products, cutting those that aren’t working, some new fabrications, and generally trying to elevate the product (and brand) in each and every way. 2020 might be the year that a permanent store comes to fruition, but that’s far from figured out.
1. Little Sister → okra curry, shaky shaky beef, and lemongrass chicken are my faves
2. Los Angeles Athletic Club → my gym and one of my favorite spaces in all of LA
3. The Exchange at The Freehand Hotel → the lobby of the hotel is a great place to take a meeting and grab a cocktail or a coffee
4. Il Cafe → neighborhood spot for coffee
5. WoodSpoon → my go to local lunch spot
6. Dune Downtown → mediterranean (my mom’s from Israel so got a soft spot for shawarma!)
7. Grand Central Market → good lunch options and fun mix of old and new
8. The Last Bookstore → for book nerds (like me)
9. Sonoratown → great tacos and chivichanga’s