Kitsbow, the manufacturer of cycling apparel and accessories based in Old Fort, NC, is closing after being unsuccessful in securing funding, CEO David Bilstrom said in a post on Kitsbow.com.
“Specifically, our recent Community Round of Financing (via WeFunder) raised about 50 percent of the $1m target,” said Bilstrom in the post. “While we used what we raised to launch new marketing programs and cover some operating expenses, we really needed the full $1m to survive and grow.”
He added, “We are deeply grateful for the immediate and intense support of our investors—nearly all customers. But, sadly, and inevitably, it wasn’t enough.”
Started in 2012 by mountain bikers, Kitsbow has manufactured clothing for cyclists and is known for its U.S. manufacturing process using one-piece flow. In December 2019, the company announced it would move its operations from California to Old Fort, NC.
In the blog entry, Bilstrom said the company had spoken with new investors and explored partnerships with other brands, including selling the Kitsbow brand, but could not overcome the challenges in the current economy.
Bilstrom said, “As we close this chapter, we know for certain that we are more efficient, more productive and with higher margins than ever before in our 11-year history, but we simply have to accept the current economic environment that smothers raising capital. We found that “impact investors” were drastically reducing their investments (as did all of the venture capital).
“And we did everything humanly possible to avoid this outcome, including talking with new investors, exploring partnerships with other brands and offering the possibility of purchase by other brands (and not being fussy about price). The economy has made all of those alternatives impossible. The brands that could truly appreciate the Kitsbow manufacturing expertise were also among those the most financially-constrained by their own challenges. In other words, apparel is tough.
“Some have asked if we could survive for another day as a smaller company—we considered this, but couldn’t survive without enough highly-skilled cutters and makers, customer service and marketing personnel. Our work takes a minimum of our current staffing. We’re at our minimum point (about 40 full-time employees).
“We are saddened to realize that the hum and thrum of 100+ sewing machines will soon cease in Old Fort.”