Creating an Eco-Friendly Board Short with Greenlines’ Jerry Delaney

September 23, 2013

JOHN SHEGERIAN: Welcome to another edition of Green is Good, and we’re so excited to have on the line today Jerry Delaney. He’s the founder of Greenlines Classic Board Shorts. Welcome to Green is Good, Jerry. JERRY DELANEY: Hello. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Great to have you on today, Jerry, and before we get into your story, I’m just going to tell our listeners I am on your website. It makes me want to go to the beach and get into the ocean. Your website is amazing. It’s beautiful. It’s Greenlines.com. Our listeners can follow along as we do our interview today. It is just a visually beautiful website and my hat’s off to you on whoever did the graphics here. Hey Jerry, before we get into some questions and answers about Greenlines in our interview, share a little bit about how you and your brother, Sam, started this company and your journey leading up to it please. JERRY DELANEY: Yeah, sure. Well, I think, let’s see, back in 2008, my brother and I were at the beach Memorial Day weekend. His birthday is actually May 27th, so it usually falls right around Memorial Day. His wife always gets him a pair of board shorts to start off the summer and we just weren’t thrilled with the options out there. Everything was just and loud prints and we are more of classic style guys and rather than going to the store and buying a pair of shorts and having them shortened or just being frustrated with the options out there, we just decided to see if we could design our own shorts so initially, we weren’t thinking about going green but we figured if we’re going to have a product that we’re proud of, we might as well be really proud of it and do what we can to help what’s important to us and our families and that’s going to the beach, making sure things are clean, and donating back to organizations that support that. JOHN SHEGERIAN: You started in about 2008 and now it’s 2013, so tell us a little bit about Greenlines. How has it been as entrepreneurs? How has it been as brothers and families involved and it’s a family business? How’s it going in the last five years? Tell us a little bit about Greenlines itself. JERRY DELANEY: Yeah. It’s going great. We put in our own money, essentially from lines of credit on our homes, and bought some fabric. We went to a cut and sew shop in New York City. They helped us put together the shorts samples and we literally just walked door to door to these local surf shops and we had a really good response. We’ve gone from I think 10 shops our first year so I think we’re over 100 stores now. We actually got some lifeguard contracts, I think about 15 or 20, and we’re selling online, so we’ve got some different revenue streams and things have just been doubling and tripling in sales every year. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That is awesome and I’m on your website. I shared that at the top of the show. It’s www.greenlines.com. It’s a beautiful website. Talk a little bit about what differentiates you. I love the name, by the way. This is Green is Good, so to have Greenlines on, this is the most natural board short company we could have on so we’re thankful for your time coming on today, Jerry, but what’s different? Like, is it more comfortable? Is it more flexible? I’m not a big surfer but I enjoy watching surfers? What makes your board shorts better than others? JERRY DELANEY: Our fabric is 100% recycled polyester made from bags and bottles. Essentially, about 24 bottles would go into one pair of shorts and it’s the softest, most comfortable material you could ever find. We were lucky to start working with company that sorts this material for us and no chafing. The water just like beads right off of it and it’s just a great short and you know, all these lifeguard programs that we’re supporting, when you have lifeguards out there wearing these shorts hard every day, it’s a real testament to the product because they beat them up but these thing hold up. They’re indestructible and just super comfortable. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Approximately 36 bottles; just on a rough math basis go into the making of each pair of board shorts? JERRY DELANEY: Actually, I think it’s 24, so it’s essentially 1 yard of fabric is spun from the plastics coming from that 24 plastic bottles and on average, our shorts are made form, give or take, 1 yard of fabric. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Got it, so it’s 24, so what a great story; so not only is your product called Greenlines. It’s Greenlines because these are made out of recycled material. JERRY DELANEY: That’s right and all our shirts are organic. Our hats are made from the meshing is recycled polyester as well and then the facing is organic cotton. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That is so great and then talk a little bit about there’s a lot of eco-entrepreneurs that also donate a portion of their profits. Is that part of your mission statement and how you and Sam operate the company? When you sell your shorts and your T-shirts and I’m online now and your product is very visually beautiful, I gotta tell you, and I hope our listeners are also on your website because it is really a beautiful product. Do you also donate a portion of the proceeds back to nonprofits or organizations you believe in? JERRY DELANEY: That’s right. We do. There’s a number of organizations and what we try to do is donate back to organizations keeping beaches clean that are local to the customers who buy our shorts. For instance, Surfrider Organization is a huge global organization that we work with and they have local chapters so if you’re in Nag’s Head, North Carolina, and buy a pair of shorts from a shop there, we’ll try to donate back to the local Surfrider Organization or any other organization that’s effective in keeping beaches clean in and around Nag’s Head. For instance, here in New Jersey, we have Surfrider chapters. We also have what’s called Clean Ocean Action, Surfers’ Environmental Alliance, and these organizations that we donate a little bit back to, which makes us feel good and it’s just sort of a responsible thing that’s important to us but honestly, as an entrepreneur, it’s worked well for us because these organizations have so many members and they help promote us a little bit to their members as we’re donating to them. JOHN SHEGERIAN: So, there’s a lot of wins here, so when people buy your board shorts, they’re getting not only a flexible and comfortable board short in terms of how it feels on their body, but it’s made out of recycled material, a portion of the profits are going back to support great nonprofits that are then preserving our waterways and our oceans and our beaches all around the world so there’s wins all over the place there. JERRY DELANEY: Right, right, yeah. JOHN SHEGERIAN: And, you’re saying it actually comes back to benefit you because then, more people get to hear about your company and then more people are aware of it and it actually drives business as, like you said, there’s large membership organizations that are part of the nonprofit and then they drive more business back towards you. JERRY DELANEY: That’s right. It’s kind of like a cyclical benefit there. It does well for us. It does well for the organization. It does well for the beaches and so, yeah. You’re right. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That is great, so who’s your real competition and is this the wave of the future, no pun intended? Do you believe other board short companies will start following suit in terms of using recycled material? Was this very difficult to do over the classic way of making board shorts and do you think this is the new paradigm that you’ve created? JERRY DELANEY: You know, a lot of companies are out there and they have an offering that is recycled but our company is strictly we’re only using organic and recycled materials so that somewhat differentiates us. As far as competition, it’s kind of funny actually. We thought maybe Patagonia is the company that we’ve always really looked up to and they’re doing great things for raising awareness and donating and all of that as well and we initially sort of saw them as somewhat competition but coincidentally, this year we’re being carried in Patagonia stores so what was our competition is now one of our partners. JOHN SHEGERIAN: So, they’ve embraced you and they’re actually highlighting your product and actually helping to market it? JERRY DELANEY: That’s right. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That is awesome. Again, I’m on your website. For our listeners out there, we’re on the phone here with Jerry Delaney, the owner and co-founder of Greenlines, the board short company that makes board shorts out of recycled plastic bottles and then donates a portion of the proceeds back to great waterway and beach organizations, nonprofits. Jerry, your website, what portion of your business is driven through those sales? Do you get 5% of your business online, 2%, 30%, how big is that part of your business model? JERRY DELANEY: Well, it’s interesting. You know, when we first launched the website when we started the company back in 2008, it might have been 5% or even less. It’s just growing more and more as people become aware of the website and aware of the brand. Obviously, our profit margin is better selling direct to customers as opposed to wholesale through accounts but it’s been growing every year with the help of social media. The first maybe three or four years, we essentially didn’t spend a penny on marketing, which is why working with these organizations was a big help. We’re starting to get a little bit more PR and marketing now so we’ve seen sales online more than double each year for the past three years. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Wow, and is it mostly from the U.S. or do the sales come from around the world actually? JERRY DELANEY: We just sold a pair of shorts in Norway yesterday, so orders are coming from all over the place. Australia, New Zealand, London, yeah. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That is great, and what’s the future hold in terms of your expansion thoughts and your divisions and the dreams of you and your brother and your wives? Because I know it’s a family business and everyone gets to have an opinion on these things and that is sort of the beauty of entrepreneurship. What’s your vision? When you and your brother dream about this, where do you want to take this? JERRY DELANEY: Well, I think we want to hold on to being a board shorts company, but as you can see from the site, we’ve got hats, we’ve got some T-shirts, we’ve got some other sort of casual collared shirts coming out. Last year, we started offering women’s shorts and shirts. This year, we’ve got kids so we’re coming out with new designs and I kind of see us getting close to a coastal lifestyle apparel brand, but our core will always be board shorts. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Got it, got it, and how’s it being partners with family business? It’s not only that you’re an ecopreneur, which is great, which is really we need more of those to help continue to move the sustainability revolution in the United States and around the world, but how is it also being an ecopreneur with your brother as an entrepreneur? Is it really as much fun as you guys thought it would be back in 2008? More fun? How’s that going? JERRY DELANEY: Gosh, it’s great. My brother and I have a terrific relationship. We have a lot of the same likes and hobbies but we’re different also so we balance each other out. He’s great with the sales. I’m more of the numbers guy as well as doing the design but we both value each other’s opinion and you know, it’s sort of like a family business, not just the way it runs but in the offering we have. There’s something for everybody in the whole family available from Greenlines and I think that comes from my brother and I each have three kids. They’ve always been asking, ‘When can I wear Greenlines?’ so as we’re making our families happy, we’re also making our customers happy. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That is awesome and we have a lot of listeners out there that are budding entrepreneurs that want to become the next Jerry and Sam Delaney and go out there and do something good, do something fun, but also change the world every day, make money and do good but also do well by giving back. What’s your advice? What’s the credo that you and your brother live by when young people come up to you and say, ‘Hey, how do we do what you’re doing?’ JERRY DELANEY: Well you know what, for us, it was just really important to be proud of everything that we put out. If I’m not excited about the design that we came up with, I’m not going to go to market with it. We started small just to test it out and luckily for us, it was received really well and we’ve been able to expand on that but again, every year, it’s almost like our first year. We’re coming up with stuff that we really love and we’re excited about. If I wasn’t excited about it, we wouldn’t make it available. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Who designs the products? JERRY DELANEY: We do it together. My brother and I do it. It’s kind of funny. When we first started, we met at my house, we each brought like five or six of our favorite pair of shorts and we took elements from each one and put together what we thought would be the perfect pair of shorts and that’s what we went with and it’s been going great. JOHN SHEGERIAN: How about East Coast versus West Coast? When people think of surfing, they think of Baywatch and they think of West Coast and they think of all the beautiful beaches either in Hawaii or on the western part of the United States. Do you have good market penetration there or is it continuing to grow and how does that work when you’re trying to spread your brand awareness in the surfing communities that exist on the West Coast and in Hawaii and other parts of the world? JERRY DELANEY: Right. Now, as we sort of grew organically, most of our shops right now are still in New Jersey, New York, Long Island, Cape Cod, Nantucket, but we have penetrated the California and southern market a little bit and that’s growing for us every year. It’s funny. We were watching on the Weather Channel, there’s a show called Lifeguard with some people in San Diego and I happened to notice one of the lifeguards on that show wearing Greenlines the other day. JOHN SHEGERIAN: So, you’re making your way in? JERRY DELANEY: That’s right. We have a few shops but not quite as many as we have here on the East Coast yet, but we’re working on that. JOHN SHEGERIAN: And, how about in terms of women’s apparel? Is that also going to become part of the offering here? JERRY DELANEY: Yep, some on now and we’re delivering the shorts to stores this summer for kids, both boys and girls, and women. JOHN SHEGERIAN: So, this is not only board shorts for guys? Also, you have products for children and also for women also? JERRY DELANEY: That’s right. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Awesome. Well, that’s great and you know, I think this has just been wonderful and we’re so thankful for you guys coming on and what we want to do is we want to follow your story and Jerry, you’re always going to be welcome back. For our listeners out there who want to support a good, great company that’s doing great things with regards to the environment but also giving back, Greenlines.com, www.greenlines.com. Jerry Delaney, you are a visionary ecopreneur and truly living proof that green is good. JERRY DELANEY: Thanks so much for having me on.