New Startup Aims to Spice up Gift-Giving With Sexy Lingerie

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When guys think of getting gifts for their girlfriends or wives, we generally think about the usual stuff like jewelry and flowers. What woman wouldn’t love that right? (ok, overgeneralization, sorry!).

New Silicon Valley startup Enclosed aims to add some creativity in gift-giving while spicing up relationships. How it works is that every month, the site lists different sets of lingerie from designers all over the world. You can style every set with your desired preference and provide a personalized note to the recipient (or RECIPIENTS if that’s how you roll).  Prices start at $50 per pair and it gets cheaper if you choose a multiple-month delivery schedule. As founder Antonia Townsend notes:

“…it’s more like the wine club or a beer club because you get a different micro-brew or you get a different vineyard every month and that’s what’s kind of fun about this. One month you’re going to get this amazing pair of panties from a new upstart Australian designer called Kiss Kills and then the next month you’re going to get a design from a classic French brand called Meet Me Holiday and then the next month you’ll get something from a new American designer. So you get really like this range of interesting design and also they’re like the newest and best of what’s going on in lingerie.”

We recently had the chance to catch up with Enclosed founder Antonia Townsend over the phone. Here, we discuss how she developed her startup and why men should start giving lingerie as gifts.

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Tell me a little about your background and business experience.

“I’ve been doing startups for several, several years now, that are never my own and that background has sort of been balanced by the fact that, and I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit this, but I also have an MBA. So I have been thinking about business itself for a while and I definitely get the impression that sometimes MBA’s aren’t always loved here in Silicon Valley. But, I’ve been leading marketing for several startups now over the last ten or fifteen years and I really wanted to take some of my skills and do it myself.”

Why do you think MBA’s are not loved in Silicon Valley?

“I spent years in New York and so I’m both formed by New York and by my MBA. Which is to say that in New York, and this is a broad overgeneralization, but I think there’s more than a grain of truth that the business people are sort of the drivers of the startups. Whereas here, it’s the engineers that are the drivers of the startups and so those standards are flipped here in Silicon Valley. People here who had an MBA background are often seen as “oh yeah you’re going to apply some straight, known rules as opposed to really being innovative.” And that’s really what I mean by that, is that there’s an assumption that if you have an MBA you’re not going to be sort of innovative or frankly interesting (laughs).”

Can you give me a brief idea of how you came up with Enclosed. Tell us the first thing you did once you solidified the business idea.

“Sure! Really I came up with it because, to be totally frank I love underwear and I always have (laughs)… so many women sort of, they’re having a bad day and they go buy a pair of shoes. I’ve always sort of have that feeling about underwear. A lot of women would go out having a bad day and they’ll drop $200.00 on a pair of shoes and that will make them feel better. Frankly, I think the great thing about underwear is that you can do the same thing without spending $200.00 and you get something sort of fun, beautiful and flattering. It’s sort of your own little secret because no one sees it. I have never really thought about turning that into a business until I really started thinking about what is it I really wanted to do. What sort of business do I want to create? And realized that there was a genuine sort of fun in this.

I will say that when I sort of “solidified” the idea, that is not the idea which it is today. My first idea was really around selling underwears to women like me. In a sort of, off the month subscription idea but the first thing I did was heaps of market research. I root everything I do in really listening to customers and trying to understand what it is they, both explicitly and implicitly want. So the first thing I did was heaps and heaps of quantitative and qualitative research. That enabled me to make my first key change in the business, which is rather than focusing on women buying, it was going to be on men buying for women. That was a pretty critical discovery that I couldn’t have done without really immersing myself in the market research.”

Speaking on focusing more towards men buying the underwear, do you feel like your business eliminates the embarrassment of a guy walking into a lingerie shop by himself?

“Absolutely, I mean you nailed it. I think it does two things. Number one is if a guy is already sort of thinking about lingerie, you know he doesn’t have to go into a tacky Victoria Secret. He doesn’t have to go… get diamonds but yet he still gets control of the gift. He gets to still define it into ways that make him feel comfortable. He still gets to make it his own if he will. But I think the flip side of it that I discovered is that Enclosed really inspires men to give lingerie when they wouldn’t have thought about it. To me, what we’re really competing with is flower stores and jewellers. It sort of when a man wants to give her a “just because gift”, he wants a little something just to show her he’s thinking of her.  Something that is romantic and intimate…usually the goto gift on that is flowers or jewelry. I think what’s fun here is that it’s actually enabling men who normally would never give underwear, do it in some sort of tasteful, fun, intimate and sort of tantalizing way. It’s both to people who don’t want to go into lingerie stores, but it’s also opening up lingerie to people who wouldn’t never normally do it. I think that’s half the fun of it.”

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How much percentage  would you say your customers are female and male?

“Right now we are probably 75% men. But I think that is because we are on a gift giving season. We do see women buying for themselves. We also see women buying for other women. One of my favorite things that I have seen and I really didn’t anticipate, and I love this, is women giving to other women over a breakup. So for instance, your best friend just got dumped by her boyfriend, she’s miserable. What better way to pick her up and then say it like, “there’s plenty more fish in the sea and wait til the next one sees these” or a friend getting a divorce and like “you’re still pretty, you’re still sexy.” Like the sort of women getting to other women to celebrate not just a birthday, which we also see but also some sort of the less fun times in life that are pretty. I love that trend as well. I think that’s sort of a great way to do it.”

The startup world is still relatively male dominated. Have you seen any challenges because of your gender?

“I would say probably with this startup it’s less than I would have expected with my gender more than I have ran into challenges with the fact that people perceived [Enclosed] as a very girly startup which is funny because while maybe originally it would have been, frankly my customers are men! (laughs) So I do think that at first glance people don’t take it seriously and sort of write it off as sort of a lark. But again, it’s not uber high-tech and it’s not the newest app, and people sort of write it off as something frivolous. While it is certainly a luxury good, there’s nothing frivolous about our credit rate right now (laughs).”

Do you have any other exciting things to come for us that you haven’t announced yet?

“Yeah, I mean we only formally launched less than three months ago so a lot of people ask, “Are you going to go into bras?” Well you know, certainly I’m not going into bras anytime soon, bras are so hard to fit. Part of the whole beauty of this business is that panties run extra small to extra-large, there are only five sizes and in a lot of lines there are only three sizes. It’s really simple and part of what I want to keep and stick with is the simplicity of this. You don’t want a gift that has to get returned and the beautiful thing is we have an incredibly low return rate because panties are really easy to fit. So our real focus is really just growing what we have, we’ve obviously hit a chord. We tapped into something bigger than what we even thought it’s going to be. So it’s really around doing it incredibly well and expanding that base. Obviously we’ve got the holidays right now which we’ve pretty much steeped in but we’ve also got Valentine’s Day right around the corner and considering that we are already getting Valentines orders I think there is no doubt that we are going to be really huge around Valentine’s Day. And like I said after Valentine’s Day where I really want to expand is this whole idea of Enclosed as a “just because” gift. Enclosed is an anniversary gift just because I love you, it’s because my best friend is getting divorced. Sort of really expanding the reasons and the times when people would even think about giving panties in sort of tasteful, fun, sexy way.”

Follow Enclosed:

Website: The Enclosed

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheEnclosed

Twitter: @theenclosed

Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures

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