DES MOINES, Iowa -- "One day I realized that it wasn`t just guys in Des Moines that hated shopping, and so I started sending clothes to guys all over the country," said Derian Baugh, Founder and CEO of Men's Style Lab. Baugh launched his fashion business in 2014 and moved into a location at 515 East Locust Street in the East Village about a year ago.
"We`ve done reasonably well. We have customers in every major city across the country," said Baugh. Here's how the business works: "Basically guys sign up on our website. They give us some information about themselves and then we have stylists that hand select items based on a guy`s style preferences," explained Baugh. The customer gets a try on period for a few days and gets to decide what he wants. "He sends back what he doesn`t and then he pays afterwards for what he keeps," said Baugh.
Baugh says there were never any issues with that business model, until a few months ago. "All of a sudden we were $200,000 short and we were expecting that money to come in to cover the expenses and the payroll and just the cost of doing business and suddenly we were upside down and in a really bad situation."
Why? "We were $200,000 short because as we dug into that further, we realized that customers had signed up with pre-paid cards and when we went to go charge them for the items that weren`t sent back, there was nothing there to be charged," explained Baugh who says he takes some of the blame. "It was an oversight on our part given some of the dynamics of what is required when somebody provides their information and so my background`s in fashion and I wish it were in technology and IT and security, because this might have been something that I could have prevented, honestly, but as it were we weren’t associating those credit cards with a zip code or some of the other things tied to a billing address at the time, and so people were able to sign up in that moment with a pre-paid card unbeknownst to us, and so by the time we went to go actually charge it for the merchandise they kept, there was simply no money there to be able to charge," said Baugh.
Chris Coleman, President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau Serving Greater Iowa, Quad Cities and Siouxland Region, says the art of scamming goes both ways. "We have a lot of companies that are scam artists and we try and have an eye out for them, but companies all the time complain to us about consumers that are scamming them and businesses need to pay close attention to their practices and all that they're doing to make sure that consumers aren't taking advantage of them either," said Coleman.
But right now Baugh says his business is at a place where it's about two weeks from closing down if they're not able to come up with a creative way to save it. To do that they need an injection of about $100,000. To help make that possible, Men's Style Lab is usually open by appointment only, but now they're keeping their doors open during the next two weeks for people to come by without having an appointment. Baugh is also hoping to attract founding members of a new venture called Men's Style Club. "We're looking for 1,000 founding members from Des Moines to get us back on our feet," said Baugh. The cost of becoming a founding member is $99.