By Ben Wiese | Jun 06, 2022
In 2014, when Klik Belts first launched, the company mission statement was steeped in ambition: It was time to re-imagine the belt.
The little company with big dreams handcrafted their way to becoming a success. By 2016, Klik Belts was sold via Kickstarter, and subsequently got its website, e-commerce, and marketing ducks in a line. Within two years, it was acquired once more -- this time by current owner Dona Seitsinger, who was on the lookout for an opportunity to join the world of e-commerce.
"I knew that I didn't want to start from scratch, I didn't want to sell food, and I didn't want a retail space," says Seitsinger. "I had never done e-commerce, but I wanted e-commerce -- so Klik Belts really checked a lot of boxes for me. I thought about going back to the corporate tech sales world, but I decided I needed to be more available for my kids. So I decided to buy an e-commerce business."
Today, Klik Belts offers a premium tactical belt line for military, law enforcement, and EMS teams that it touts as the strongest belts in the world. All Klik Belts are sewn by hand, with a 7075 aluminum alloy COBRA buckle from Austria, solid brass release clips, and military-spec nylon webbing.
Klik Belts' manufacturing setup is unusual: four seamstresses -- one focuses on custom orders that require same-day shipping while the other three (one of whom is Seitsinger's retired mother) make stock belts -- hand-sew each belt from their home workspaces in Austin. Each seamstress has a commercial Juki sewing machine, and each seamstress works at their own pace.
Klik Belts does not have a primary manufacturing space, and Seitsinger currently has no plans to build one, either: Why fix what isn't broken?
"Even without retail space, you can make it as an e-commerce with marketing and targeted ads," says Seitsinger. "You hire professionals, and you can streamline that pretty well and have a good business."
But because Klik Belts relies entirely on e-commerce, its growth is directly tethered to the state of the world wide web. This means that every search engine formula tweak, every knock-off competitor, and every shift in privacy policies can make for a difficult navigation -- a process that is constant.
"At any time, Apple and Google and Facebook can say, 'Nope we're not going to do targeted ads anymore,' and it's something we've relied on. So: easy come, easy go."
Challenges: On the Kilk Belts website is a video of a crane using one of the belts to lift a car. The product quality is undeniable. The strength of the belt is tangible. To those looking for a durable tactical belt, it's an easy sell.
Yet one of the company's greatest selling points comes with a catch: Each belt comes with a lifetime warranty. Naturally, repeat customers are hard to come by. "The problem is I sell belts with a lifetime warranty: you can only shake so many acorns from that tree," says Seitsinger. "Customers might buy another color, they might buy a gift -- but they probably aren't buying them repeatedly."
Opportunities: As of the time of publication, Seitsinger says she is ready to sell to someone else willing and capable of investing the necessary resources into the brand in order to elevate it to new heights.
"I've grown all the channels, I've grown the brand; it's really ready for someone to put a capital investment in it to take it bigger," she says. "I'm a single mother with two kids in out-of-state college. Now, I have too much fear to do it. I don't think I'm the right person to do it.
"It's primed to be an amazing company -- all the work I've put in is still there. I can't reach people through targeted ads anymore, but that doesn't mean the new buyer can't make the necessary changes and make a go of it."
Needs: Besides a buyer, Klik Belts needs stability in online advertising. In April 2021, Apple changed its privacy data controls: iPhone users were given the choice to opt out of data sharing. Suddenly, digital advertisers were limited in tracking capabilities -- and thus, effectively giving the snow globe of the online sales landscape a good shake. "It started to cost me eight times the marketing budget to reach one customer than it did before that," says Seitsinger. "It wiped out a lot of e-commerce. That's the scary part about owning a small business: anything can happen -- including things you aren't expecting. Things you just can't even plan for."