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Workwear Brand Brunt Raises $8 Million

Just a year old, Boston-based Brunt Workwear today announced that it has closed its $8.4 million Series A funding round aimed at meeting customer demand and accelerating growth. The round was led by real estate development firm TF Cornerstone, with participation from fashion pioneer Andrew Rosen and ecommerce guru Ben Fischman. It’s a bet on Brunt’s strategy of combining product quality driven by a focus on end-user needs with lower costs from its direct-to-consumer sales model.

Results in the first year have shown room for growth. Brunt’s first delivery of 5,000 pairs of work boots sold out almost immediately, and they’ve since sold out of every line they’ve introduced. The company has averaged 63% month-over-month growth, and a 44% repeat purchase rate from its customers. Brunt expects 150% growth in 2022.

“Early on I knew this was a massive opportunity,” said Brunt’s founder and CEO Eric Girouard. “This category for the U.S. alone is a $12 billion yearly business. But it’s not high fashion, it’s not sexy, so it’s easily overlooked by investors and innovators alike. The customers are generally ignored across the board, but together they’re one of the most powerful groups in the country. Some of the least-sexy business categories offer the biggest opportunities to build a brand if you’re passionate.”

Girouard brings past experience in ecommerce, garments and footwear from his time at Rue La La and M.Gemi. But his roots are decidedly working-class. “It’s been a natural evolution,” he said. “I grew up in a blue-collar household. My dad worked at Pratt & Whitney building aircraft engines. In his spare time, he did roofing work, and I helped him with that. In high school I had my own landscaping business, and hired my friends to work with me.”

His post-high-school experience is a sign of the times. “My buddies went into the trades, but my mom and dad really pushed college for me. I went to Babson College to study business and fell in love with that. But I wound up with lots of debt, while my friends were buying houses and trucks and starting families. I worked at three or four different businesses in fashion. But after a few years I was at a bachelor party with my friends, and they told me, ‘Start a business for us!’ I knew once I learned how to capitalize one and launch it, I’d do it. I’m not from the wholesale world or the brick-and-mortar world, but I’ve spent almost my entire career building digital brands. I saw this massive opportunity for a modern approach to workwear, with better products, technology and customer service.”

Brunt’s foray into workwear was its work boots, which Girouard saw as a primary avenue for building the company’s reputation with tradespeople. “My customers stand in their boots ten to twelve hours a day, five to seven days a week. They’re a hard design to get into, because they require you to get ASTM certified. But I knew if I could make it in that category, I’d have instant credibility. Then we could go toe to head from there, putting together the whole workwear uniform.”

The biggest challenge along the way has been keeping products in stock. “We’ve had our ebbs and flows,” said Girouard. “We’ve sold out five different times. On the one hand, that means no write-offs, so that’s good. But we’re constantly chasing inventory. But the reception from our customers has been fantastic–they really love our quality and our engagement with the community.”

Part of that engagement has been Girouard’s podcast, Bucket Talk. “I actually started that a year before Brunt,” Girouard explained. “The name comes from my time in roofing, where at the end of the day we’d sit on a bucket and chat. In the Bucket Talk modern day version, I interview top performers in the trades, who share what it’s like–the trials and tribulations and the opportunities in areas like welding, framing and trucking. There’s not a lot of HR or career coaches for the trades, so this is a powerful and educational tool, allowing younger people to learn what the different trades are all about.”

The fresh infusion of capital will help fund Brunt’s growth. “The capital funding will help us keep up with demand and avoid stock-outs,” Girouard said. “Our customers can’t sit around waiting for our products. We’ll continue to expand our offerings, building out that complete workwear uniform. And we’ll build out our team, for all aspects of the business.”

Looking to the future, Girouard sees other opportunities ahead. But he also approaches that kind of growth with caution. “There are a lot of different directions we could take: international, retail, or different categories. But right now, I’m trying to be super-focused and disciplined on the current business. Despite our success, much of the U.S. has no idea we’re even here. So how do we reach people, and build trust? It’s all about great products, great prices, and great customer service.”

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