Recession buster: $90 custom shirts

Discount luxury is a hot market for one startup business.

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Seph Skerritt's shirts are aimed at buyers looking for cut-rate custom fits.
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Startups defying the downturn
Think you have what it takes to start a business during a recession? These 8 entrepreneurs are giving it a shot, with mixed results.

(Fortune Small Business) -- How can you avoid losing your shirt in this market? By paying less for it.

Last fall Seph Skerritt, 28, began selling custom-tailored men's dress shirts online for $90 apiece through his startup, Proper Cloth. "I didn't expect the economy to tank in September," he says from his Manhattan studio. "But everybody still needs great business attire. You can get that here without declaring bankruptcy."

Skerritt started off small, selling about 300 of his bespoke shirts from October to March, mostly through word of mouth. But thanks to a recent infusion of cash - $300,000 in venture capital - he plans to scale up his advertising fast. He aims to sell 15,000 shirts this year, which would bring in more than $1.3 million in revenues.

Ryan Tseng, CEO of WiPower in Gainesville, Fla., was tickled with his first Proper Cloth purchase: a blue-striped shirt with pink collar accents.

"It looks sweet," he says. "The fit is better than any other shirt I've owned, and I've been to several custom tailors."

So what could cramp Skerritt's style? Dressing-room loyalists.

"This is a hard sell," says Rob Hitt, 31, founder of I Surrender Records in Brooklyn. "Every fabric is different; you can't know how it feels until you put it on. If you don't feel good in it, it doesn't matter if the shirt fits."  To top of page

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QMy dream is to launch my own business someday. Now that it's time to choose a major, I'm debating if I should major in entrepreneurial studies or major in engineering to acquire a set of skills first. Is majoring in entrepreneurship a good choice? More
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- Spate, Orange, Calif.

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