A week after launching the first-ever Kickstarter campaign for El Dorado Hills-based SlideBelts, owners Brig and Michelle Taylor blew past their intial goal of $60,000 and were on a pace that could generate upward of $450,000 in capital.
To understand why the Kickstarter crowd is so revved up about the Taylors’ belts, you will have to forget everything you know about the straps worn by most Americans. The couple’s belt design owes its origins to belts worn by Moldovan soldiers. In 2004, while doing missionary work in the Eastern European, Brig Taylor received one of those belts as a gift.
The belt had no D-rings, no prongs, no holes. Where the holes should have been were a thin line of teethlike ridges sewn into the back of the strap. The wearer ratcheted those ridges into a latch mechanism to tighten the belt. Brig Taylor admired the belt’s utility and ease of use but thought it lacked panache. He worked on refining the design and updating the latch gear. Eventually, he was able to patent his concept.
Michelle Taylor, the conservative one in the couple, agreed they should take a risk and order 400 belts, Brig Taylor said, although both of them were students still amassing debt to pay for their education at Brigham Young University. Now CEO of Slidebelts, at www.slidebelts.com, Michelle Taylor undertook the tough slogging with online sales and customer service in 2008.
“Michelle was really smart and really savvy as far as like consistency,” Brig Taylor said. “I thought there was this one big swoop of success you have in your life, one big gig. I didn’t realize that it’s all about...a thousand small things done right as opposed to one big thing. That was hard lesson I had to learn.”
It took Michelle Taylor almost two years to sell those 400 belts, but after she did, the couple used the profit and income from a job Brig Taylor had with Nugget Markets to buy 600 more. That was 2010. They were college graduates - and living with Brig Taylor’s parents here in Northern California until they got on their feet. Last August, as SlideBelts barreled toward annual sales of roughly 40,000, they moved out and relocated their business to offices of its own as well.
SlideBelts now employs 14 people, the Taylors told me, and they already have sold as many belts year to date as they did in all of 2013. The company soon will move to larger digs not far from El Dorado Town Center to accommodate the growth.
Always looking for ways to innovate, Brig Taylor began mulling the trend toward wearable technology, and this is what prompted the Kickstarter drive. A video with SlideBelts’ Kickstarter campaign demonstrates Taylor’s take on wearable tech. In it, a camper uses a protype of SlideBelts’ Survivor buckle to open a bottle and light a fire. He also uses the whole belt to tote firewood and heave his boat to shore. The initial $60,000 will go toward bringing this prototype to market. If the company raises $350,000, it will invest additional funds to put a multi-use tool in the buckle. If it raises $750,000, it will add a GPS device with a long battery life.
“A lot of companies are jumping on the bandwagon for wearable tech,” Brig Taylor told me, “but they’re forgetting the most important part, simplicity and usefulness. Is it going to last a long time?”