It’s a scenario everyone’s experienced. You’re the new guy at a company happy hour, and executive leadership comes over to introduce themselves. You offer your Coors Light condensation-covered hand as a first impression… Your cold, sloppy handshake comes of weak, and a little unsanitary. And that’s why Zach Crain made it his mission to stop beverage sweat and moist handshakes by the year 2038.
This ingenious product, a universal cover for all beverages known to mankind, was started right here in Wilmington. We sat down with Freaker, Goeffrey Peterson to get the inside scoop on a company that is known for its unique artistic style, outlandish, over the top social media, and their ability to crowdfund successfully. Because who needs sharks anyway?
Zach started with a simple business plan, glass bottles get hot and sweaty fast in North Carolina. So, he created a one size fits all bottle insulator solution that will keep your hands dry and your drinks cool. But let’s back up. Ten years ago, Zach began selling homemade Freakers from old sweaters from the “take as much as you can for 50 cents” box at thrift shops and selling them at local bars, interacting with people along the way. These ultra-stretchy beverage insulators had an audience following and in 2011 they proved it. The fully funded kickstarter began which raised $62,770 with the help of 2,416 backers for the bottle covers. The crowdfunding site even hailed Zach’s video as “the holy grail of Kickstarter videos”. Freaker USA returned to Kickstarter in 2015 to launch a colorful line of 100% American-made socks. Freaker Feet raised $255,264 with the help of 4,948 backers! The Freaker Feet collection is just as quirky and cozy as the bottle covers.
In 2016, Zach appeared on Shark Tank, but the overall gist was a great innovative product, “but he is asking for too much and giving up too little of his business”, according to Barbara Corcoran. Zach said it best after his experience on the show, “It's a big ol' world. Plenty of space for everyone.” Was he right or was he right?
He let the people speak for him. Two successful crowdfunding campaigns and a focus on keeping the product made right here in America. Geoffrey told us, “Showing people that this was actually a thing that would improve their lives and getting business people to believe there was a market for it were two challenges that were tough to overcome.” But they did just that. He and his team injected their own personalities into the products and people responded. Maybe it’s also the fact they have office dogs that give inspiration with their sweet puppy eyes and wagging tails. A relaxed office vibe can definitely help creativity thrive. However, it still remains a mystery how the name Freaker became to be. The story goes it randomly came up in conversation - bada bing. So, no one really knows, not even Zac remembers the exact moment.
Geoffrey gave us some insight into what makes each Freaker USA design so unique, “There’s no one place or person it comes from. The ideas come from everybody. Sometimes we come up with the names first and the design after. It’s really a collective brainstorm. Sometimes people will send us ideas through social media. We have a custom platform too where people can design their own! They submit their artwork and our designers go to work making Freaker magic! We also do custom freakers for Boulevard Brewing Co for some of their beers.” The designs are extremely difficult but that doesn't stop their graphic design team, Audrey and Carlos from making your wildest dreams come true. Want Darth Vader in a cowboy hat to keep your beverage of choice cool and your hand dry? No worries, Darth Brooks is what you can add to your cart. Geoffrey told us, “these two really are the backbone of the designs you see come out of the Freaker shop. They are amazing.” He also added “One thing we are doing online is to get local artists to partner with us to create limited runs of styles using a crowdfunding. Small batches, the only time you’ll be able to get them. The fact that we can do this is something else that makes our product so unique.”
So other than offering pun-tastic products like Burt Day Suit and Winstone Cowboy we asked Freaker USA what makes their business unique among the competitors. “Number one, I think the fact that the Freakers and socks are made in the USA is amazingly advantageous to us. The fact that we can go to the mill and work so closely with it makes it easier on us. If there is ever an issue or something we need to communicate with them on, we can just drive over. This makes things much more simple. Also, there is a lot of life in our products, it’s clear that someone took the time to create them. There really is an art to it.”
So who is their target audience? We think Geoffrey said it best “Our customers are anybody with hands and feet and like to have fun. North Carolina is a big customer base. It is our home and Wilmington especially is our people!” The Wilmington area loves Freakers so much the Cape Fear Museum has a display of all Freakers from the beginning.
Freakers are in stores all over the country - there is a store locator on their website - they distribute mostly through boutique stores. Thousands of stores across the country including TopGolf, Ron Jon Surf Shops, and Buc-ee’s. And they seem to be adding new partners every day.
Freaker USA is an out of the box, pun intended, social marketing genius that creates what people want; a limited time only - access to a unique product.
Want more Freaker? The Freaker team also starred in a feature length, critically appraised documentary about the crowdfunding revolution called Capital C! According to their bio, If you’re in the mood for a Netflix & Chill, give it a peek!