Keith and Eugenio teamed up together and co-founded Ten Thousand with the goal of filling a gap in the activewear market. Specifically, the vision for the brand is all about taking a basic approach to fitness gear; one that focuses on simplicity and functionality as opposed to over-the-top designs that tend to oversaturate the fitness landscape.
Serendipitously, Keith Nowak and Eugenio Labadie were introduced through mutual friends after they had conversations with friends about their dissatisfaction with what was available in the active wear market. The answer became clear; they would create their ideal active wear brand and do it together.
The Jump to Athletic Gear
Before launching Ten Thousand, Keith experimented with entrepreneurship in the tech industry early on in his career and then worked for a family office, managing venture capital investments in startups for about 3 ½ years. Keith always knew that when it came to business, his heart was in building something of his own, and he found himself once again craving the excitement of being an entrepreneur.
As Keith began considering how to transition back to entrepreneurship, one of his biggest focuses was on learning from the mistakes that he had made in the past. “I had done previous companies for the wrong motivations,” says Keith. “I would consider what I thought would make money, what I thought would be cool, what I thought would get me covered in TechCrunch, stuff like that. So I really didn’t want to follow that path again. I wanted to focus instead on building something that really came from me, as a person.”
“My background outside of business has always been very involved in athletics,” says Keith. “I played soccer growing up, I played professionally in Italy after high school. I’ve since moved on to endurance-based training like Ironman marathons, so fitness and fitness culture have always been a big part of who I am. It just clicked and I knew this was the next step for me. I realized that this was not just a company that I wanted to build, but really, it was the company.”
Building Ten Thousand
“First off, we were really doing this from an aesthetic standpoint,” says Eugenio about the motivations behind Ten Thousand’s minimalistic approach to active wear. “We didn’t like the loud patterns, the camo, and the neon color pops that we were seeing in a lot of products on the market. It just didn’t really appeal to us as consumers. We kind of preferred that classic, understated look.”
He goes on to add that this simple aesthetic also possesses the value of remaining timeless, as opposed to products that adhere to trends and often become obsolete with the rise of new fashions.
Beyond the aesthetics, though, Eugenio goes on to add that there was certainly a more business-oriented facet to their approach. Namely, it was this idea that some of the best companies become so because they focus on doing a few things well as opposed to putting the focus on quantity over quality.
For Ten Thousand, which had its full launch about two months ago, the focus on quality above all else is unmistakable. While the brand currently only has a t-shirt and a pair of shorts available, the idea of configuration and customization – each of the two products is available with different options like a standard and a long fit, for example – easily makes these seem like the only two items an athlete could ever need. (At least until Ten Thousand’s next pieces are available, anyway.)
Going the Extra Mile
Aside from creating gear that they thought was missing from the activewear market, Keith and Eugenio wanted to create gear that both they and their consumers could take pride in. An obvious way of achieving this for the duo was to give consumers access to Ten Thousand’s process of product development. From initial sketches, to prototypes, to fabrics, each step of the process is made entirely transparent from start to finish, which is intended to encourage honest feedback from consumers in an effort to offer up the best possible products.
“We want to be in a direct and ongoing conversation with our customers at every stage of the development process,” says Keith about this unique strategy. “Big activewear companies do customer research, of course, but as a direct-to-consumer brand we can create an ongoing conversation so that not only do we know exactly what our customers want, but so that they can also know exactly what goes into our products. That adds to the credibility of our gear.”
Beyond this level of accessibility, Keith and Eugenio have also raised the activewear bar by teaming up the 2Rewear, a sub-brand of Trans-America, one of the largest textile recyclers in the world. Through this partnership, Ten Thousand created its OneIn/One Out initiative, which allows consumers to recycle their used or unwanted fitness gear and get 10 percent back on their Ten Thousand purchases in return.
Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle
Keith and Eugenio, while on the same page when it comes to their business philosophies and activewear aesthetic, tend to differ when it comes to personal fitness. While Keith’s background tends to push him towards endurance-based training, Eugenio is more driven by strength training.
“I didn’t really play sports in high school or college,” says Eugenio about his own background in athletics. “I was one of those people who really got into training as a professional here in New York, as a way to de-stress and to live a more balanced life. So I really came to it late. My training these days is mostly focused on weight training, specifically power lifting, compound lifting moves.”
Though they may not go about achieving their fitness objectives the same way, the two seem to be in agreement about what the ultimate goals for anybody should be when it comes to fitness.
“It’s not about being the fastest on the team or being the best performer,” says Keith. “It’s about being a well-rounded, fit human so that you can take on whatever the world throws at you.”