Up Close is Sourcing Journal’s regular check-in with industry executives to get their take on topics ranging from personal style to their company’s latest moves. In this Q&A, Steve Dilk, co-founder and chief operating officer of size-inclusive athleisure brand Balance Athletica, discusses his company’s expansion from drops to demand planning and managing a growing workforce during Covid.
Name: Steve Dilk
Title: Co-founder and chief operating officer
Company: Balance Athletica
Which other industry has the best handle on the supply chain? What can apparel learn?
Consumer product, specifically the essential goods industry, seems to have the best handle on the supply chain due to the nature of its business model. Being a company of just three years of age, our product portfolio is finally taking shape into a more mature form. Balance Athletica has primarily been a launch-based company with unique collections offering new product approximately every four to eight weeks since inception. Now that we have a proven list of staple products, we are able to use demand forecasting to create acquisition plans for product restocks to supplement our unique collection launches.
How would you describe yourself as a consumer?
A tactical buyer. I do a lot of research on the products and brands that I use prior to purchasing.
As a consumer, what does it take to win your loyalty?
I buy into a company’s vision and culture. If I feel that I align with a brand in these aspects and know that the brand is operating ethically, I am loyal.
What’s your typical work (or weekend) uniform?
I am wearing Balance Athletica men’s gear literally to every place that I go!
Which fashion era is your favorite?
Being in the athleisure industry, I am very excited with the current era of fashion. There is a lot of opportunity to get creative with fabric blends, patterns and colorways for everyday or anytime wear.
Who’s your style icon?
I do not necessarily have a specific style icon; however, I am a big fan of the pre-game outfits that professional athletes wear!
What’s the best decision your company has made in the last year?
Investing in our team. Balance Athletica has grown 239 percent over the past year. We are in a growing stage, and our corporate structure is starting to take a new shape with larger divisions and more manager positions being filled. It is an exciting time to be a part of the Balance Athletica team!
How would you describe your corporate culture?
We are a fast-growing team and we work hard to keep the company culture professional, fun and collaborative. In 2020 we had a 100 percent employee retention rate, which is something we’re incredibly proud of given the tough circumstances that affected so many companies. The Balance Athletica team has continued to grow significantly since our inception three years ago, so maintaining this welcoming and collaborative culture will continue to be extremely important for us.
What can companies learn from Covid-19?
Exceptional communication is mandatory. As a new and scaling company, we had to learn the best methods of communication with employees—mostly new—working remotely. This expedited our need for effective internal communication channels, which in turn has made our company’s general communication much stronger. This is especially true now that everyone has started to return to the office.
What should be the apparel industry’s top priority now?
Sustainability is extremely important. At Balance Athletica, we are continually improving our processes with sustainability at the forefront of our decision-making. From the factories that we work with to donating our unsold goods, we are always focusing on reducing our footprint.
What keeps you up at night?
We are in a great position for the continued growth of Balance Athletica, and we’re at a phase where we are capable of filling positions that we were not able to fill a year ago. And while scaling responsibly is something that doesn’t necessarily keep me up at night, it is definitely something that is always on my mind!
What makes you most optimistic?
We are optimistic moving forward as some of the business and socioeconomic pressures related to Covid-19 hopefully continue to diminish.
Tell us about your company’s latest introduction:
We are currently working on a completely new website design and interface with improved shoppability and performance. We are excited to roll this out, hopefully before the end of the summer.
We’ll also be making our debut at New York Fashion Week this September, which we’re incredibly excited about. It’s an honor to show amongst some of the best brands in the world, and we’re looking forward to bringing our brand to new audiences with this show.