The market economy is full of untapped potential, undeveloped ideas, and unexplored niches. One niche in particular is literally, “Big”. While the desire for a more complete picture of feminine beauty has grown increasingly in the past decade or so, the question, “Where are the plus-sized male models?” and corresponding call for body-positive male images has only just begun. Bruce Sturgell, Founding Editor & CEO of Chubstr, is answering that call and forcing designers and retailers to both listen and respond.
Early on Sturgell began his career in radio, but went off-air and online to explore the world of affiliate marketing and later blogging; it was a decision he grew to love. He spent considerable time understanding the nuances and benefits of affiliate marketing and as a result of his knowledge, quickly matured into a management role. That position would prepare him for the next steps in his career.
Bruce’s online experience, coupled with a poor shopping experience would lead to a major discovery. Following that trip to the mall, Bruce went to work venting, as many do, the disappointment and frustration he experienced. His voice almost immediately struck a resonating chord within the community. And, from the heat of Bruce’s personal angst, Chubstr was born.
I went to the mall to find some new clothing and all the shops I went to didn’t have anything my size. I came home, and complained (like everyone does). I went online and started talking about resources; talking about where bigger guys could find clothes they wanted to wear; giving tips on how to wear things. People started really getting into it and sharing their own photos and asking questions about what to wear to different events. I realized there was really a brand there.
As Bruce connected with, nurtured, and engaged the audience, he began using the WordPress blogging platform to address the very real needs being voiced:
What we’re really doing with Chubstr is photoshoots, reader photo submissions, we’re sharing tips and information and all these resources to help these guys find the things they want to wear in the sizes they need.
There are, obviously, are a number of challenges when initializing a trailblazing venture. Many of those challenges cannot be foreseen/prevented, yet others can be avoided. Out of the gate, growth was steady and engagement within the community was high. Plus-sized men were sharing their thoughts, experiences and resources and ideas. Traffic to the site reached a few thousand unique visitors a week, a great number for a start up and an even better positive indicator for market penetration. The reason behind those numbers and the growth was clear:
There are not very many resources for bigger guys and there’s not really anybody to look up to. The mainstream isn’t featuring any bigger guys on the runway and in advertisements. Even when you look at Big & Tall shops, their catalogues and websites are showing the “Tall” side of “Big & Tall” and that’s what they stick with - not the “Big” side.
Real people exposed a real problem and Bruce finally offered a real solution. But the story nearly ended right there. One of the challenges Bruce encountered with Chubstr was an unexpected technical affront on his WordPress site that nearly brought the XL vision to its knees. It was a PHP injection.
A few years ago, as the site was getting bigger and we were getting more traffic, we were hit with a PHP injection attack. It totally took down the site. We couldn’t get into anything. We thought all the content was gone. Myself and Mack, our IT guy, were trying desperately to figure out what we could do to fix it. And, we ended up not being able to fix it on our own. I just thought everything was gone. I thought we were done.
We were Googling and trying to find something that could help with what we’d diagnosed as some kind of PHP injection attack. I believe we found [Sucuri] referenced on another site... and it was perfect. I reached out, talked with someone and [Sucuri] took it from there and totally fixed it.
Why was a compromise on a new site such a concern? Many people would be quick to assert that a website hack is always disastrous, whether it be to the branding, revenue, or just convenience. However, there are some site owners who would argue that there is no need for much concern early on. Bruce assessed his experienced and shared the following:
The website is where all our traffic is going. We’re strong with social media, we do well with that. But, really, everybody comes back to the website for the tips and the information. They are buying things through our affiliate links. When the site is down, we’re totally losing money; ad revenues are gone, and the affiliate sales, and any of the content. We had just gotten press about 2 days before this happened. We were still on a high from the press and then the site was gone. Because we were getting press and as a result of the downtime we lost around 20% of the revenue we would have made that week. We’d seen a boost and good things coming from that. So, when the attack hit we lost a decent portion of that and it was a wake-up call to secure things, lock it down and make sure it doesn’t happen again.
After considering the value of this new community, and more importantly the needs of his audience, Bruce made a quick decision to take advantage of Sucuri’s Security services. The seasoned marketer found the results promising and decided to take advantage of the firewall product, CloudProxy, for future protection as well.
The turn around time was insane. I would say 1 or 2 days, it was quick. [Sucuri] was able to take care of it and keep any other attacks away.
Even with the hack resolved and the site protected, there were still lasting effects, as there often are. Unfortunately, recovery time for the growing site lasted longer than desired.
As far as recovering from the incident, It took a few weeks for us to get back to where we’d needed to be. Before the attack, the site had been intermittently not working. These things kept happening until it was all fully resolved [by Sucuri].
Security is now at the top of the list when Chubstr considers anything regarding the site. Having learned from previous challenges, Chubstr moves forward with the motivation to prevent rather than recover; it is an easier option. Yet, taking full advantage of Sucuri’s services allows Bruce and his team to fully focus on their passion for the fashion among men in the plus-size community.