I first spoke with Braxton Manley for this podcast in early 2021. He had launched Braxley Bands, a maker of Apple Watch bands, four years earlier while a college student in Texas. The business quickly scaled.
He and I recently caught up. We discussed the evolution of his company, successes and challenges in 2022, and plans for expanding the product line.
The entire audio of our conversation is embedded below. The transcript is edited for clarity and length.
Eric Bandholz: Give us a background on Braxley Bands.
Braxton Manley: About six years ago, in college, I created an Apple Watch band from a sock for a class project. I realized it was a solid product and pursued it into my junior year. By the time I graduated, it was a full-fledged business. I’ve been building it ever since.
We make stretchy Apple Watch bands in various prints and patterns. Early-era Apple colors and designs inspire the style. We wanted our bands to be funky and inspired by the iconic 1980s Apple look.
Bandholz: How was 2022?
Manley: It was good and bad, the most challenging year yet. Our revenue was at a level I wouldn’t have thought possible three years ago. That’s the good part. We sold about 60,000 watch bands.
But the bad part was our overhead. It was excessive. We significantly pulled back on expenses, including our marketing, which we brought back in-house. We were working with multiple agencies and freelancers. We needed to cool off and run things like a cottage farm.
Email marketing was huge for us, accounting for about 45% of our revenue. SMS was around 15%, and the balance came from our own organic channels.
Our email list hasn’t grown much in the last year. We’ve stayed at roughly 100,000 engaged subscribers during 2022. We’re trying to expand the list, but it’s tricky without spending thousands to acquire traffic. Then we have to convert those subscribers to customers. We do that with email, text, and flows.
Bandholz: How do you get the visitors to subscribe?
Manley: We’re using Justuno for cool pop-ups. We worked with an agency to build them, and we’ve since done A/B testing. I’m excited to launch the Fondue app, which offers cash and rebates to new subscribers instead of discounts. We’re going to step away from a discount-heavy model, which we’ve always been pretty generous with.
I’ve heard a lot of chatter about Fondue and how well it works. It’s nice from a branding perspective because we’re not constantly offering discounts.
Bandholz: What are some goals for Braxley?
Manley: We want to increase sales channels. Monthly revenue of $200,000 would solve all of our problems — on paper. Apple sells around 40 million watches yearly. We need to sell 6,000 bands a month.
We have customers that collect our bands. So we’re focusing on getting them to come back sooner. We now ship internationally and hope to set up a warehouse in the U.K. We have an Amazon store and have started getting into brick-and-mortar retailers. And we’re releasing new products for the broader market.
One of our marketing challenges is finding the right audience. Apple sells many watches, but it’s still a small percentage of total consumers. Most people don’t have one. Advertising on a podcast, a billboard, or even through influencers will reach only a few prospects.
So we’re expanding our product line. We’re releasing a fanny pack made from our signature recycled elastic used for the watch bands. It’s a super comfy, stretchy belt with a magnetic sliding buckle.
I see myself having a company — a family of brands — focused on improving the world. I see Braxley becoming a lifestyle accessories brand, working and innovating with sustainable textiles. There’s a lot of greenwashing in the sustainable industry, especially with apparel, which is especially harsh on the environment. A lot gets wasted.
Our bands use 100% recycled PET polyester, which is basically clear water bottle plastic. It’s easily repurposed.
I’m interested in working with other materials that are stretchy and recyclable. I see us making bungee chairs, shorts, and boxers. We’re considering a yoga mat strap and dog collars and leashes.
Bandholz: How can listeners reach out and buy your stuff?