Co-founded by two sisters during the pandemic, Pantee is on a mission to tackle fashion waste, turning fabric destined for landfill or the incinerator into underwear that doesn’t compromise on comfort or style.
Building momentum from a successful Kickstarter campaign in November 2020, they’re at an exciting stage of their growth, having just closed an SEIS funding round of £200,000 on SeedLegals.
To celebrate this achievement, we sat down with co-founder Katie McCourt for a debrief on the challenges of being a first-time founder, how to use your brand story and the importance of bringing customers and potential investors alike with you on your funding journey.
Katie and Amanda McCourt, co-founders of Pantee
What was your motivation for starting Pantee? Tell us about your journey so far
Inspired by the overwhelming amount of waste caused by overproduction in the fashion industry, we created Pantee, the world’s first underwear brand made from deadstock T-shirts. We’re proud to have created a brand that pushes the boundaries of what can be achieved through upcycling and reuse.
Our mission is simple – to challenge discomfort. For too long the underwear industry has focused on how people look; it’s time to prioritise how people feel. That’s why we make underwear that puts comfort first. To us, comfort is multifaceted, existing not just in the products we make but in our ethical practices and the way we make people feel.
Since launching in late 2020, we have upcycled 500+ T-shirts into underwear, begun using other deadstock fabrics, become 1% For The Planet members and planted 700+ trees with One Tree Planted.
Pantee is racking up 5* reviews for our much-loved underwear and has been featured by the likes of Vogue, Drapers, Stylist magazine and named a ‘Top Sustainable Underwear Brand’ by The Independent. We’ve also been featured on Shopify’s ECommerce Masters Podcast and awarded Klarna’s 2021 Small Business Support Package.
Did you or Amanda have a background in fashion or ecommerce?
We are both completely new to the industry. Amanda had been running her own digital marketing agency, offering organic social media services for startup businesses and so had a good understanding of the importance of growing an engaged community and the power of brand.
I was working on, I suppose, the other side of marketing, working in-house at a large appliances firm and then in a small tech company, while Amanda was agency-side.
It’s definitely a learning journey. No two days are the same, and we’re constantly pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zone. But that’s part of the excitement! We enjoy problem solving and getting our teeth stuck into new things.
What brought you to SeedLegals?
A fellow sustainable startup recommended SeedLegals to us. Having never raised investment in this way before, we felt it seemed like the safest way to approach it. When you raise a funding round, there’s a lot of paperwork and it requires meticulous attention to detail. We benefited greatly from being taken through the journey and having someone available to explain and advise on specific terms.
Our goal was to raise £200,000 on SEIS/EIS which we achieved. We closed the round before Christmas and have done a few Instant Investment top-ups since.
How did SeedLegals help you reach your fundraising goal?
The platform is extremely intuitive and easy to use, and helped us to navigate what would otherwise be a much more complicated process. We also must shout out to our account manager Alex, who helped us every step of the way. Because the investment process is new to us, having someone to guide us through the process and watch out for any errors along the way was invaluable and sped things up for us.
With SeedLegals, you don’t feel like you’re ringing someone and they’re starting their clock to time how long you’re talking for. This has been really helpful, especially as first-time founders. Because you’re not just doing the paperwork, you’re learning what paperwork you need, why you need it, what’s in it, what the clauses mean. There’s so much information to take in. SeedLegals definitely makes it more accessible.
The process was also super seamless for our investors. Those who were familiar with SeedLegals always seemed pleased we were using the platform and those who weren’t were onboarded without needing any hand-holding. It made a daunting, mammoth task that much easier.
Do you have any advice for founders who are about to start fundraising?
Keep your network of potential investors engaged throughout your journey. Have the confidence to keep them involved through all the ups and downs. If there’s a chance you’re going to raise further down the line, don’t be afraid to shout about it. Keep people in the loop, keep them engaged, because it becomes invaluable when you’re ready to pitch. I think investors really respect the journey and your network becomes stronger the more you engage.
What do you think attracted investors to your company?
When it comes to our investors, every single one comes to it with a different approach. We have some investors who were drawn by our mission and were looking to support a brand who could contribute to making the world a better place.
I think the early traction we’d managed to build also helped. Seeing Pantee popping up in major publications and gaining recognition from global tech companies, for example winning a Small Business Support package from Klarna, provided an extra layer of confidence for our investors.
Did you set out to build an engaged community of customers, as well as investors?
Definitely. We started an Instagram account, sharing our startup journey very early on. In fact we actually launched our Instagram not far off two years before our official launch date. At times we did think ‘oh my god, we’ve put this out here way too early… we don’t even know how we’re going to launch this!’, but I think that’s part of why people followed us – they were interested in our journey and intrigued to see how it would turn out.
By the end we didn’t just have followers, we had cheerleaders. And it was incredible to see those first few followers become our customers. Some are now on their fourth or fifth order.
We don’t have huge budgets, and for the best part of our journey so far we’ve bootstrapped our marketing. So working with huge influencers has never been an option. Instead we’ve focused on micro-influencers and our customers. It is important for us to also work with individuals who truly resonate with our brand, and love our products. We don’t just pay for reach; if an influencer wouldn’t buy from us themselves, then we’re not interested in them posting about us. We want reviews to be true.
I think our authenticity and transparency really shines through when you look at our Instagram, and as a result our engagement is very strong. We see our Instagram as a safe space, or comfort zone as we call it, our little corner of the internet reserved to make our community feel good. We believe if you build a strong community from the ground up, they become your advocates. Alone the impact you can have organically on social media is small, but together your ripples can create waves.
What’s next for Pantee?
We have huge ambitions for Pantee. It’s our mission to become the go-to brand for comfort clothing. We’re planning to use this investment to further amplify brand awareness, expand our product range and certify our sustainability credentials with accreditations.
This year is all about growth, and we have a number of exciting product launches and partnerships in the pipeline.
Thanks for talking to us, Katie! Lots of luck for 2022 – we’re proud to be part of your fundraising journey and look forward to following your progress.
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