In 2013, the medical apparel industry was due for a shakeup. The space had gone unchanged for decades. Scrubs looked the same as they had years ago, and so did the stores that sold them.
It was the perfect time for Heather Hasson and Trina Spear, co-founders and co-CEOs of FIGS, to enter the scene--and to turn it on its head. By using innovative technology and listening closely to their customers, they reimagined how scrubs look, feel, and perform, as well as how they are sold.
Like many good ideas, this one was hatched to solve a problem. Hasson recalls trying to help her friend, a nurse practitioner, shop for more functional and flattering scrubs in Los Angeles, where FIGS is headquartered.
Hasson had been pre-med in college but ended up pursuing fashion. She couldn't get over how her friend was wearing the same ill-fitting, cotton uniform she had worn almost 10 years earlier. "I thought, 'How come there are so many apparel brands focus on athletes, but no one is focused on health care professionals?'"
Hasson was determined to find her friend a better option, but her search was futile--and unpleasant. "The store was dusty and there were boxes everywhere. It was a terrible shopping experience for anyone, let alone people who save lives for a living," she says.
Hasson decided if anyone was going to make a difference in this industry, it would be she, so she resorted to tailoring the scrubs herself. She knew she was on to something when her friend's colleague asked if Hasson would alter her uniform, too.
Soon after, she partnered with Spear, and together they developed a proprietary fabric blend that repels liquids, bacteria, and odor. And, while they were at it, they reimagined scrubs to reflect the needs and wants of modern health care professionals, designing skinnier pants and including pockets for lifesaving tools, iPhones, and iPads.
To improve the shopping experience, they built the first-ever direct-to-consumer e-commerce platform for scrubs. To grow and engage an audience, they used social media and offered 24/7 customer support. Word about FIGS spread quickly, confirming that Hasson and Spear's hunch had been right: Scrubs were ripe for disruption.
Weaving Technology Into Every Aspect of the Business
From 2015 to 2017, FIGS grew by 9,948 percent, and ranked No. 21 on the Inc. 5000 list. The founders estimate the company will generate over $100 million in revenue in 2018. Spear credits the revenue surge, in part, to FIGS's continual efforts to connect with its audience in meaningful ways, online and off.
For example, FIGS hosts events for medical professionals where they can connect and unwind, such as a recent retreat for over 40 of them hosted in partnership with Lululemon. The team uses these events, as well as their online customer interactions, to better understand the needs of their customers so they can design clothing that truly elevates performance, says Spear.
FIGS's nearly five-digit growth rate is the fruit of its widespread technology adoption. Technology isn't just the underpinning of the business's production and distribution model--it is a tool for improving every facet of the organization and facilitating its next stages of growth. For example, FIGS leverages predictive data analytics and machine learning to understand customer preferences and buying behavior, including when they will need to upgrade their uniform.
The company also uses cutting-edge quality-control tools to monitor processes in its manufacturing facilities overseas. "We can log into our dashboard at 3 a.m. and see exactly how many units have been checked, and what has passed and what has failed inspection, allowing us to quickly identify areas that may need improvement," explains Hasson.
In 2019, FIGS will expand internationally. The team is currently building out its e-commerce platform and local social media networks to support these new markets. "Technology will help us take our brand message and ethos and carry it across the world," says Spear.
Both entrepreneurs emphasize that FIGS is about more than growth figures, or even scrubs. Its mission is to be a true difference maker, helping people who help others. Giving back is one of the company's core tenets, and it has donated over a half-million sets of scrubs in 35 counties through its Threads for Threads initiative.
Because, at the end of the day, FIGS is a brand, not just a business. And, ultimately, it has cultivated a community, not just customers.