We briefly covered the ginormous Comfy sweatshirt in our November/December issue. There’s a lot more to the story.
A couple of single dads from the Arizona desert come up with an idea for a supersized sweatshirt. Brothers Brian and Michael Speciale have a prototype for a big blanket-hoodie made and present it on ABC’s Shark Tank. Investor Barbara Corcoran is sold on their idea. And they’re in business with “the Comfy.”
It was almost as simple as that. C&I talked with the Comfy Brothers to get the full scoop on turning their big idea into big business.
Cowboys & Indians: How did you come up with this idea?
Comfy Brothers: Michael was going through a divorce in February 2017 and staying with Brian. One morning, Michael walked into the living room and saw Brian’s 7-year-old son, Saxon, curled up on the couch in one of Brian’s old hoodies, which of course was many sizes too big for him. Noting how comfortable Saxon looked in an oversize sweatshirt, Michael looked at Brian and said, “Bro? You think they make those for adults?” The brothers then noticed a throw blanket on the couch behind Saxon, and the lightbulb went off. We kicked it around for a bit and then found a prototype maker in Mesa, Arizona, to make our dream a reality. [Less than two years] later, we’ve been on Shark Tank, partnered with Barbara Corcoran, and have sold into 70 countries around the world. And we’re just getting started!
C&I: What roles do you play in the business?
Comfy Brothers: We did everything by ourselves in the beginning, and I mean everything. We had to figure out manufacturing, marketing, the supply chain; it was a crash course in business, and we wouldn’t have had it any other way. Now, thank goodness, we’ve grown so fast that we’ve turned most of our operations over to some very experienced and capable people who Barbara connected us with. We always know what’s going on, of course, but we now focus primarily on developing new products and being the faces of the brand. QVC has become our biggest retail partner, which means we’re spending a lot of time at their Philadelphia studio these days. We were also just in Brooklyn filming an update for Shark Tank. There’s just so much going on, which we’re so grateful for. It’s been an amazing ride.
C&I: Your background doesn’t really scream “cold-weather-apparel entrepreneurs.” The company is based in Phoenix, which you don’t associate with sweatshirt weather, but it gets cold at night, right?
Comfy Brothers: We grew up in Scottsdale, having moved here when Brian was 5 and Michael was 3. We both attended Horizon High School and graduated from Arizona State. And, heck yes! It gets cold at night here. Most of us in the desert can relate to those fall nights at our kids’ games and practices when the temperature falls below 60. That’s North Pole weather for us Phoenicians, and the Comfy is the perfect solution. No more bundling up in blankets that will inevitably fall off or that you’ll have to take off if you want to move around. The Comfy is a blanket that goes with you, no matter where you are or what you are doing!
C&I: Any particular inspirations for the styling and one-size-fits-all idea?
Comfy Brothers: Well, we knew it wouldn’t be a fashion statement necessarily; but who cares what they look like when they’re cold? We also knew we couldn’t make it too big — the bigger, the better. What’s amazed us is the reaction from kids. They just love them! There are so many stories of Mom buying one for herself and her kids instantly stealing them. The Comfy makes everyone happy and keeps everyone comfy and warm. It’s pretty darn close to the perfect product.
C&I: What was the best thing about the Shark Tank experience?
Comfy Brothers: Getting a deal, of course! It was surreal. After we hugged Barbara and walked back down that iconic hallway, everything was a blur. It was like, “Wow … we did it. Everything we hoped for is now a reality. Wow.” It was amazing. That Shark Tank set is the most sacred ground in all of entrepreneurship, and to go from faithful viewer to an actual Shark Tank success story is just surreal. It’s also proof that anyone can do it. We’re just a couple of single dads from the desert who had an idea and acted on it. It’s really that simple.
C&I: But there have been some challenging aspects. …
Comfy Brothers: We went into the Tank with no sales — I think we were the first true startup in like four seasons to do so — and we knew we were in for a grilling. So we just decided to have fun with it. After all, we went from having the idea to standing before the Sharks in just over six months — so what did we have to lose? We only had a few prototypes that had come in the day before we filmed, and we didn’t even have a website yet. The odds were against us, and we just embraced the challenge. I think we came across as genuine and enthusiastic, and Barbara bought into us as much as the Comfy itself. Just wait — it will turn into one of her best investments in 10 seasons on the show!
C&I: Any funny stories along the way of getting this from idea to market?
Comfy Brothers: It wasn’t funny at the time, but when we showed up to film Shark Tank, we weren’t the Comfy: We were the Cozy. After our practice pitch to the producers two days before the show, the legal department told us that they saw a potential conflict with another company for the name “Cozy,” so they basically said we either had to change our name or wait until next season. Obviously, this was the chance of a lifetime, and we were going to do whatever we had to. So we brainstormed that night and came up with the name “Comfy.” But that was just the beginning. The shirts we had made for the show, our logo, and even our song lyrics (yes, we sang on national TV — very badly!) had to be changed in 24 hours. Somehow, we pulled it off. The singing was terrifying because we were so concerned with [accidentally] calling it the Cozy, which is what we had practiced for months. Somehow, we pulled it off. It was stressful, but now we can look back and laugh.
C&I: Favorite way to get comfy in your Comfy?
Comfy Brothers: I’m telling you, I might live in Phoenix, but I look forward to putting it on every single morning (at least in the winter!). So it’s just perfect for lounging around the house. You always have this super-soft and squishy blanket on; even for a not-so-warm-and-fuzzy guy like me, it’s just amazing. We hear from people who take it camping or to the beach. A lot of folks won’t go into a movie theater without one. [They take it to sporting events- — the list goes on and on. We envision people leaving the house and asking each other “Did you remember your Comfy?” It’s that special of a product, and we can’t wait to get one on every man, woman, and child in the world. It’s a true game-changer, and we think it’s one of those things that people will wonder how they ever lived without.
C&I: Best thing about being in business together?
Comfy Brothers: Working with your brother is amazing. We’ve always been close, but this makes us that much closer. Sure, we still argue and have our moments, but at the end of the day we’re family and nothing will ever change that. Wouldn’t want to be on this ride with anyone else. We’re just a couple of dudes from the desert who somehow came up with this big blanket-sweatshirt thingy that puts a giant smile on the face of anyone who puts one on. We’ve created something that makes people happy, and we’re on this amazing journey together. What could be better?
Photography: Courtesy The Comfy. For more information on the Comfy Brothers and the Comfy, visit the company’s website.