Freestyle
Freestyle makes hyper absorbent bamboo diapers for modern parents. High absorbency & supreme softness, plus eco-friendly materials & awesome designs.
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Shopify is a commerce platform that allows anyone to set up an online store and sell their products. It's the go-to eCommerce platform for young direct-to-consumer brands. It's ease of use and setup is what's most attractive to merchants, but also the incredibly vast Shopify app store.
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Under The Hood: Mike from Freestyle

Tactical insights from Mike, the founder of Freestyle: The diaper brand that can't miss 🎯

Welcome Mike! How did Freestyle come about? 

My co-founder (Russ) and I got introduced to one-another via a mutual friend. We were both dads, and riffing on ideas in the parenting space. We saw an opportunity to do something differently - building a baby care brand around parents. We raised a little bit of money to test various ideas. We kept testing, with no expectation that we MUST start a business. 

In terms of my background, I've always been involved in content / video / creators. I also grew up skating, so I was always very influenced by that skate culture & lifestyle brands in general. My dream was to one day run an apparel brand. I just never had the right wedge. 

But then, I started thinking about diapers… 

My son was 2 months old, and I was changing his diapers that had Mickey Mouse all over them. I was like “my son has no fucking idea who Mickey Mouse is, right? I’m the customer here!” 

So that’s when things started to click for Russ and I. 

He was working on the founding team and ran the supply chain for another diaper company, so he had a lot of relationships built from that experience & that’s how we were able to develop the first tree-free diaper for the US market. 

Love the design, tone and positioning: Can you tell me more about it?

There's this mainstream perception that as soon as you become a parent, life is over for you. Who you were before becoming a parent is gone. It’s never coming back. And thankfully, that's not true. 

That idea is furthered by the world of baby care brands. They reinforce this post WWII stereotype that all families are nuclear families and after kids, we all move to the suburbs, surround ourselves with picket fences and live the American dream. But that's just not the reality for most families. 

So we want to redefine that mainstream perception of what becoming a parent is. Just take this fact: The average age of a new mom in the United States is 27 years old. Super young! But you would think that they're like 40 based on how moms are portrayed in the baby care aisle.

So that’s why we built this brand to highlight youthfulness and creativity. And the big picture for Freestyle is to build this a family lifestyle brand that is focused on mom and dad, instead of being kid-first. 

Let’s talk about fundraising: Did you raise or bootstrap this business? 

We raised $1.8 million at a pre-seed stage. It was a very difficult fundraise since we were raising off a deck. We had no product, we just sold ourselves as a team & built a strong narrative around a market opportunity. 

Russ obviously had great experience to bring to the table and I had built and sold a company before - so I had lots of entrepreneurial experience & a good network. 
But we didn’t deploy the capital guns blazing. Our production runs cost over half a million dollars, so we had to know whether our proposition would convert, and that’s why we ran those smoke tests I previously mentioned. 

So - you raise in 2019 and run a bunch of tests + organise runs with your manufacturer. But eventually you launch, right? When did that happen & what’s been the growth like since then? 

Yeah. We launched in May of 2022. And things have gone really well on both the direct-to-consumer as well as the retail side. 

I can’t disclose our retention rates, but from what we know of other players in the space - they’re 2-3x higher, and that’s the most powerful signal that what we're doing is working. 

What’s the secret sauce? 

It’s a combination of everything. The unit economics, the price, the product, the branding, the marketing: All of it is impacting our growth. 

From an LTV perspective - we expect roughly $1,200. We’re too early to tell what the numbers actually pan out like, but we know what the industry sees and can back those into our marketing spend and from a paid ads perspective, the economics make sense for us. I don't know if it necessarily works for everybody anymore, but for us it still works. 

And then our designs stand out! And that prompts real organic / word-of-mouth growth. 

Yes I love the patterns! So unique. Who designed them? 

The designs are done in collaboration with different artists. Every new batch is a new artist collaboration. Our first release is called “Welcome to the Other Side” and it comes in 2 patterns very rooted in psychedelic art. One of them is a trippy, smiley face and the other is a wavy pattern. 

The objective is for moms to ask other moms: “Omg! Where are those diapers from?! I’ve never seen anything like it!”


Let’s quickly touch on subscription: What’s the split between one time purchase and subscription?  

50:50.

We offer a one time purchase: $92 for a month’s supply. And that’s artificially inflated because we want people to subscribe. The economics of the subscriber makes so much more sense, so we must offer the one-time experience at a premium. 
We almost launched subscription-only. But eventually we went with this split, to get the product in as many people’s hands as possible. 
A fun learning is that when we launched the subscription, the discount was only 10% vs. one-time. And our conversion rate was really low. Customers had choice paralysis. But as soon as we increased the price difference to 15%, our conversion skyrocketed. I was looking at our metrics and thinking: How is this possible? The choice paralysis was gone. 

Freestyle PD

Let’s touch on acquisition: How are you driving that? 

Beyond the standard paid social efforts, we get a lot of traffic and exposure via partnerships with mommy influencers and product collabs (and sometimes both at once). 

For example, our best-selling day so far was when we released a matching mommy and baby bucket hat with a brand called Milk Teeth & an influencer called Samantha Duenas who’s a DJ with a late 90’s aesthetic. It worked wonders, but not exclusively because of the merch, but mostly because people discovered Freestyle through that partnership & ended up buying lots of diapers. 

We also invest in content and having fun with it. We don’t want to create another “5 things you should know about breastfeeding” type of article - so we’re applying our tone of voice while educating at the same time with articles like parent interviews or broaching topics like “What to Really Expect When You're Expecting” & constipation. 

Let's touch on the tech stack. What's powering the business?

Shopify for backend. And we have a headless front with Sanity as the CMS.

Then, we use Klaviyo for email. Gorgias for customer support. We use Smartrr for subscriptions. Triple Whale for analytics and Junip for reviews.

We also use Wonderment for post purchase tracking - we have a neat Slack integration there that pings us when an order gets delayed in shipment. That helps us be proactive on the customer support front. 

And we are also ramping up with Wizard for text messaging. It's really cool. They have live agents that are trained by us to answer questions customers may have via SMS. I'm pretty excited about that. 

Nice. What's been the one key success so far for you?

I wouldn't say we're successful yet, but what’s helped is thinking really big, but acting really small. 

I have very big goals and ambitions for Freestyle, but I know that I'm not gonna get to those tomorrow. It’s gonna take years to get to that destination.  

So my mindset is to constantly go to bat vs. hitting home-runs. 

One last question: Is fundraising at odds with that idea? 

Not really. If you find the right investors, they understand how much work goes into building a successful business. So if you can set expectations very clearly about which incremental milestones you want to hit before the next round - that helps reduce unnecessary pressure immensely.  

Mike! What a treat. Thank you for sharing all your insights. Go you and go Freestyle!!