Every Bro has had this experience: You’re at a tailgate. You’re ready to make moves, but you don’t have a backpack, so you try to grab as many beers as you can carry. But you have nowhere to put them besides in your back pocket, which means you’re stuck juggling a six-pack worth of beer in two hands. It sucks.
Enter The Tailgater from Blankenship Dry Goods. Made of a premium 55% berber, 45% recycled polyester blend, it’s perhaps the best pullover ever designed for drinking outside. There are multiple hidden canvas pockets built into each shirt, optimized to stuff as many beers as possible into.
The genius behind The Tailgater is Tory Lenzo, a certified Bro who started Blankenship Dry Goods while in college at NYU. I hit him up recently to talk about his entrepreneurial vision for the garment brand, which includes a push to get as many Tailgaters as possible in the hands of veterans and active duty service members.
How did you start Blankenship Dry Goods? What was your vision? Tell us a little bit about how it got started.
The concept for Blankenship Dry Goods originated my senior year at Andover. At NYU, I had the opportunity to utilize the resources of New York City to develop the brand.
I disliked how retailers outsourced production when scaling. The concept of creating a brand committed to producing stateside appealed to me.
The NYC garment industry is hyper-competitive — How were you able to get Blakenship Dry Goods to stand out?
Our aesthetic is different than most brands. Styles are derived from a fusion of New England and New York City wears. The construction of and materials used in our garments further define our city-prep look.
How did you manage to design your most popular item, The Tailgater? Where did the idea for the beer sleeves come from?
The design process is interesting. You do not truly know when you will come up with an idea. During a sophomore accounting class, I zoned out for a bit and started to draw the garment on a piece of paper. The day after, I went uptown to the fashion district to my local pattern maker to create the first blueprint and sample of the Tailgater.
We have gone through many iterations to bring the product to where it is today.The original concept used actual koozies. I realized those were ultimately too bulky to utilize.
As the Tailgater grew in popularity, we found it to have many practical applications such as securely holding a wallet, phones, and keys. We are continuing the R&D process on the item to continue to further innovate the Tailgater.
How are your items manufactured?
The buy side of the company requires creativity. I conceptualize the supply chain as investments at different stages. There are endless raw materials in the world. Filtering these is step one in the buying process. Mixing the materials within the confines of a design is step two. Then, there is labor, warehousing, and shipping.
We manufacture our garments in New York City. Being able to walk into our facility on a daily basis is a critical component to our developing items and maintaining quality control.
Your program, #operationresupply, is doing something fantastic for our service members. Can you explain it?
Operation Resupply is part of our long-term brand mission to acknowledge our troops. Resupplying in a military context is the act of delivering supplies to a soldier in the field. For every ten sales, Blankenship Dry Goods has been donating a garment to an active service member or veteran.
The primary objective of is to focus the attention of the Blankenship following on our service members. As of late, we have been doing a great deal of custom orders for teams, fraternities, dorms, corporations, and other organizations. We connect the organization which ordered our items with the individual who received the donation. It has been very rewarding for us and our consumers to introduce themselves to, thank, and maintain relationships with service members.
What is your drive to add this important charitable component into Blankenship Dry Goods?
I felt the millennial generation had largely disregarded the military. As I entered college, there were individuals the same age as me risking life and limb to so others could freely pursue endeavors like going to college or running a business. Having the ability to connect with and learn from soldiers has been the most rewarding part of running Blankenship Dry Goods.
What is it like running small business and still being a socially active college student?
Running a business effectively requires a social component. I would argue that it is nearly impossible to be a CEO without being capable of socializing.
There are a lot of small, college male-focused clothing start-ups in the space. Who are some of your favorite players in the game?
I have found that learning from brands much older than my own has been the most effective way to grow my own model. A brand which I admire for longevity in the industry, consistent branding, and US production is J. McLaughlin. Under Armour has also run many noteworthy initiatives for our veterans.
Blankenship recently got into oxfords and slacks — What’s the next step in the evolution of the brand? How does Blakenship fit into your post-grad plans?
We are currently developing a tactical line which can better serve our troops in the field using unique fiber technologies. Soldiers are heavily involved in the research and development process of this product line to ensure durability and utility.
I now run Blankenship Dry Goods full time with a few other full time team members. We are steadily growing and work day and night to keep ourselves moving in the right direction.
Now that you’re in the game, what’s the best advice you’d give to an aspiring entrepreneur?
You cannot be afraid to fail because you are going to inevitably. I have found the key to success is by failing often in small, controlled ways.