Many people have the common problem of being out and about and having their electronics running low on juice. This wearable tech startup is striving to change that and has created a solar-charging backpack. We spoke with SOLZ founder and CEO, Brad Carrick, to get the details.
SOLZ is a collection of shoes and accessories. We call it “Functional Fashion for Active Lifestyles.” One thing that sets SOLZ apart is that we don’t just claim to represent active, healthy lifestyles, we aim to make products that actually enhance the enjoyment of them. For this approach, we were awarded Designer of the Year in the 2012 San Francisco Fashion Awards and followed up in 2013 for Eco-Design of the Year. We hope our products help users shine.
What inspired you to start SOLZ?
SOLZ started as a “mock business plan” school project when I was getting my MBA at IE in Madrid, Spain. I was trying to balance school and jetting off for quick weekend trips so I imagined a shoe that could fold-up small in a backpack and be used for everything. I wanted a shoe you could use anywhere from walking around, exercising, doing beach and water sports and even dressing up for the club at night. No more filling and checking suitcases with so many shoes. People loved the idea and when I graduated, I decided to start the company. The name SOLZ came from sol (the Spanish word for sun), the fold-able soles of the shoes, and that I wanted it to be a company with a soul that supports good causes.
Tell us about your SOLZbags.
SOLZ bags were invented while I was in Asia working on manufacturing our shoes. I was at a trade show and met one company that was making portable solar charging panels and another that was making backpacks. I felt like peanut butter had just met chocolate and a light went off. Within one day of working together with these companies, we were working on a prototype of our first solar-charging backpack and SOLZ’s second product. And hey, the name SOLZ seemed to work well for a solar product. It went on to become our most popular and well-known line. We are excited to be launching two brand new, redesigned models this year, both featuring detachable solar panels that can charge phones, tablets, cameras or anything by USB. Devices can be charged directly or the bag can be used with a power bank to store the charge for future use. The smaller bag also features a water bladder so you can stay charged and hydrated at all times. Fashion, meet function!
What sets SOLZ apart from other startups in the space?
Other than our efforts to make products that actively help consumers enjoy their lifestyle, SOLZ main difference may be how it was started and funded. SOLZ launched all three of its product lines using crowdfunding campaigns. The campaigns averaged over 200% of their funding goals and allowed SOLZ to bring products to market without the typical need for investors or long development periods.
What has been one of the most challenging parts of getting started? How did you overcome this and what did you learn?
When first getting started, it was challenging finding help and funding. I was fortunate enough to be able to work with incredibly talented friends in order to bring a vision into reality. We couldn’t make ten products, sell them and make enough to produce 20 and grow that way, our manufacturing realities required us to produce products by the hundreds or thousands. Crowdfunding allowed us to do this, while also helping us learn a lot about our market and being able to deliver products that customers had shown they wanted. I have personally learned much about how to start a company in this space and now am passionate about helping other creative entrepreneurs start their own companies.
Where can we buy your products and what is the cost?
Our new SOLZbags are available on our website in limited quantities starting the first week of November and both retail for $149. We also have our new SOLZbank battery and fun mirror-watches. Our shoes are almost sold out but customers can grab them while they can.
What can we expect next from SOLZ?
As I mentioned, I really enjoy helping people start their businesses in the fashion industry. SOLZ is looking for designers with great ideas to partner with so we can provide a platform, brand and help with crowdfunding in launching products or lines. I am also an attorney specializing in helping creative entrepreneurs start their own companies on the legal side. I love what I do, and have a passion for seeing ideas become realities. I’m excited for what will come next.
Check out SOLZ website to learn more about their products and use the discount code THIRDWAVE for 15% off their entire store until Christmas.
Third Wave Fashion has been your fashion tech think tank since 2011. We publish the first ever printed fashion tech magazine, Third Wave. Follow us on Twitter or subscribe to our newsletter to stay on top of the latest in fashion tech + wearables.