Cathie Anderson

Cathie Anderson: BareBones Workwear will launch franchising to fuel expansion

Published: Friday, Sep. 13, 2013 - 9:09 pm
Last Modified: Saturday, Sep. 14, 2013 - 2:57 pm

Sacramento’s BareBones WorkWear will be ready to sell franchises within a month’s time, a strategy the company is using in hopes of being able to expand to 200 stores in the next 10 years. It now has five stores around the region.

In order to expand in the past, BareBones leveraged its profits, but that was growth at a snail’s pace.

“Basically if you can set a pace of one store a year, that sounds good, but if you have aspirations of 200 stores, that’s a long time,” said Mason Moore, the retailer’s chief operating officer. “I’m not going to live that long. … With the franchising, we’re not having to worry about operating it. We’re not putting up the money for it.”

Franchisees would pay $250,000 to $500,000 to get started, depending on their size and location. If BareBones eschews expansion costs, Chief Executive Stu Nelson said, it can pour its profits into further developing products under its own brands. At some point, he and Moore want to see the BareBones brand on 50 percent of the products in stores. Their belts and work boots now make up 3 percent of inventory.

When Moore joined the company in 2006, he helped to improve the company’s e-commerce platform. That business division has doubled or tripled every year since then, and it now employs more people than BareBones stores do. Nelson foresees hiring 40 additional staffers in the next few months in the warehouse, stores and e-commerce. And, Nelson said it’s come to the point where they will have to buy an office building to accommodate a company headquarters.

Designed by owner

Step in the door of Milton Carlson’s home at 3505 T St. and blissful silence replaces the noise of passing traffic on Highway 50.

When Carlson built his three-bedroom, two-bath home in the shadow of the highway in 2006, former Bee reporter Edie Lau wrote about the “infill” project as a model of energy efficiency.

The home features 22 pairs of double-paned windows – four panes of laminated glass in every window space – to muffle the din of traffic. The couple haven’t paid an electricity bill since moving in because of the 5-kilowatt solar array on the roof. In fact, SMUD sends them a small check once a year.

But how can it be so quiet when you can peek through the curtains and see passing motorists’ faces from the second-story window?

“There is a sprayed-in cellulose fiber in all these 6-inch walls,” said Carlson, who designed the home himself. “All the exterior is 6-inch walls. They spray it in. It sticks up in there, filling up the entire space between the studs, and then they come along with something like a lawn mower, and they mow it down to the edge of the studs and then the wallboard goes up.”

Sadly, the stairs up to the home’s bedrooms have become too much for Carlson’s wife, Priscilla Golley, to tackle, so the couple and their calico cats Ping and Pong will be looking for a new abode if they can sell their home of seven years. The asking price, $739,900, also gets you a one-car garage, a carport sealed by an automated, sliding gate, a workshop for tool storage and a back yard with a gazebo and 250 different kinds of plants. A water fountain masks the sound of traffic in back.

Kickin’ it out of the park

If you have ever watched a movie on your laptop and strained to hear the tinny voices of the actors over the ambient noise in a hotel, home or plane, then you will understand why Sacramento-based Light Harmonic was able to rake in $303,000 to finish producing a device that can solve the problem.

Frustrated people from around the world ponied up contributions between $1 and $5,000 in a campaign that gave Larry Ho, the chief executive of Light Harmonic, enough money to produce metal enclosures for circuit boards that both amplify and enhance the sound that comes from laptops.

“The product is actually two things,” said Gavin Fish, the company’s vice president of sales and marketing. “The first is it’s a DAC, and DAC stands for ‘digital-to-analog converter.’ … When I talk to people who love to listen to music, specifically, they think digital is better than analog. In reality, we can’t hear digital. It has to be converted to analog before we can hear it. … Our DAC is very high-quality and sounds less digital. It sounds more like old-timey analog tapes and records.”

Many of the Kickstarter contributors will receive one of Ho’s “Geek” DAC headphone amps at a significant discount off the $299 it’s expected to sell for when it gets into stores. The minimum investment Ho needed for the tools and dyes was $28,000, and he got that within 11 hours.

As retailers saw the action in Ho’s Kickstarter campaign, they began calling the company from far-flung places such as Taiwan and South Korea to discuss committing for purchase orders. Early adopters can still get Geek at a discount by ordering it at for January delivery.

Call The Bee’s Cathie Anderson, (916) 321-1193. Follow her on Twitter @CathieA_SacBee.

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