The Pack Report

Leader of The Pack: Suiting the Next Generation. Discussing Business Developments, Advice, and Endeavors with Founder and Owner of Pursuit. Nate DeMars.

On this week’s episode of Leader of the Pack, a podcast by Duluth Pack, Tom Sega has a Zoom conversation with Nate DeMars, the Founder, and Owner of Pursuit, a suit company designed around changing the experience of purchasing a suit. In this podcast episode, Nate walks us through how he went from creating a class project and turning this project into a thriving business in his journey to becoming an entrepreneur. 

Nate DeMars Background

Nate DeMars was born in Madison, WI, while his father was in school at the University of Madison. Nate’s extended family is from Superior, WI, and Nate moved back there when he was very young. In middle school, Nate moved to Ashland, WI, where he stayed until graduating high school. Tom and Nate connect over the beauty of the Northland surrounding Lake Superior and the draw that the Great Lake can have. Nate agrees with Tom, commenting on how lucky he was to grow up around Lake Superior and stay near the lake and his family through college. Nate went to the University of Minnesota Duluth and received a degree in marketing from the Labovitz School of Business and Economics. He tells Tom that although he didn’t pursue entrepreneurship in college, he feels that this was where he formed his entrepreneur mindset that he would utilize later in life. 

Early Career

Tom talks with Nate asking how he started his professional career discoverd that Nate had John Kratz, a talented professor who has also been featured on the Leader of The Pack. Professor Kratz assisted Nate in finding his first job by connecting Nate with an interview at Whirlpool, the largest manufacturer of household appliances in the world. Nate was hired by Whirlpool into their sales management leadership development program. Tom comments to Nate on how large corporations have such great training programs, especially for young people. This move was perfect for Nate, as he felt an urge to move away from the Northland, and Whirlpool’s program placed them in a random location. This program was how Nate ended up in Columbus, Ohio, where he lives today. 

Nate was with Whirlpool for four years and was in three roles during that time. Nate tells Tom about his first role in sales, working with corporate accounts in a training role. Within nine months, Nate was promoted to a sales training role himself and did a lot of public speaking. Tom, who is also an avid public speaker, connects with Nate on this aspect of the role. They talk about how many people are fearful of public speaking, but it is really about understanding your audience and connecting with a room of individuals. The third role Nate held with Whirlpool was a regional sales manager job. This position was terminated companywide in 2008 when the stock market crashed. Nate discovered that his role had been terminated and was offered another role with Whirlpool in Michigan. Nate was given less than a day to decide if he was interested. He tells Tom that it was surreal because he had just been promoted multiple times and felt so confident in himself. He went from that feeling to having his role terminated and needing to decide if he would be uprooting his life in less than a day’s notice. Nate spoke with his family and a close friend and instantly knew he was not moving. Leaving Whirlpool, Nate realized he needed another plan and took his next step in life by going to Grad School for an MBA with an emphasis in real estate development. 

MBA with an emphasis in real estate development

Tom asks Nate about returning to school for his MBA and how he chose to pursue an emphasis in real estate development. Nate explains his background as an undergrad, where he became involved in a grassroots movement to save the Armory in Duluth, MN. Throughout his undergrad years at UMD, Nate was very involved with efforts to save the Armory from being torn down and to restore it. After school, Nate continued to dedicate time to the movement from afar. He tells Tom how exciting it is that now, 20 years later, the Armory is being restored! Nate goes on to tell Tom, “I felt I never got as much satisfaction out of my corporate job, as great as I thought it was, as I got out of that experience of volunteering on this project in Duluth.” This passion led him to go back for his MBA in real estate development to pursue projects like the Armory. Nate jokes with Tom that he doesn’t do anything related to his master’s degree in his current business as an entrepreneur but going back to school was a major part of starting his company. It was in grad school where Nate began the foundation for his business, Pursuit, a company that is now suiting the next generation. 

“So, now we have Pursuit. Tell us how you started that,” Tom says to Nate. He explains that Pursuit began originally from an entrepreneur class Nate took during his MBA at Ohio State. The thought he had was one many people have of starting something in the future and that thought was enough to entice him into taking an entrepreneurship class. A part of the course was to pitch an entrepreneurship idea to the class. Nate explained that he had just bought a suit for graduation, but the entire experience was lacking, the customer service was poor, and it was expensive. This experience led him to pitch a suit company designed for students. His entrepreneurship class continued with the idea and as it grew Nate fell in love with the potential business. By the time the class was over Nate tells Tom that he shifted from wanting to be a real estate developer to wanting to be an entrepreneur. “So that was the inception of it. What was the reality of starting that business?” says Tom. Nate explains to Tom that during school, he learned a lot of high-minded strategies, but to begin the business, he realized he needed a lot of initial hustle and willingness to take risks. When Nate began to do this, that was the true start to Pursuit. 

The Beginning of Pursuit.

After graduating with his MBA, Nate had to quickly learn how to operate a retail store, how to fit someone for a suit, how suits are made, and more. He also realized that after spending so much on graduate school he would need to learn these things quickly and hit the ground running. Nate explains to Tom that he launched the business as a pop-up store on a three-month lease and spent $30,000 on credit cards to buy 37 suits for the store. The space was dirt cheap to rent and Nate felt confident that if it didn’t succeed, he would be able to find a new career with his MBA degree. Nate tells Tom he felt fortunate to have been in a position without a family and kids where he could take that entrepreneur leap. Nate talks with Tom about viewing the business as an ongoing experiment of constantly improving and still feels that way after ten years. 

This thought of constantly improving was what led Nate to open a mobile suit store early on to do more pop-ups. Nate created the Suit Mobile, a traveling suit van that would visit college campuses and serve those communities. The Suit Mobile was a great success for marketing exposure and press, gaining national attention. As far as sales went though, it only sold 100 suits before it broke down. This topic leads Nate and Tom to talk about the need to be flexible and understand when it is time to shift a business focus. Nate still says that one day he will bring the Suit Mobile back, as he isn’t ready to give up on that idea yet! Another pivot that Nate had to make with Pursuit was his entire target demographic. He realized that although Pursuit began as a company targeting college-age students, that focus was too small. Pursuit’s true market was not in college and didn’t want to go to a pop-up shop that was right next to a university. This led to Nate’s next step in Pursuit which was moving locations. 

Nate signed a long-term lease and committed to being a brick-and-mortar shop focused on suits at a mainstream price and excellent customer service. These changes allowed his business to quadruple in a year. Tom comments on this exponential growth because while that is amazing, there have to be drawbacks to that quick expansion that most people don’t see. Nate explained that there were a number of drawbacks. He explains that the store went from doing well to needing to do well because he hired so many staff for the growth in business. This additional staffing meant the store needed to be profitable to support additional payroll. Nate tells Tom that it got to the point that to stay profitable, the store had to grow by 20% – 30% annually. Nate explains that during that time, he made the mistake of growing too quickly as he opened a second location in Cincinnati, Ohio in 2018. In 2019 while growing the new location, Nate realized he had over-hired and needed to reduce his staffing. Tom and Nate connect over how difficult it is to have to lay off staff and the pain of doing that to people who are counting on you. After laying off several staff and working to grow two locations, Nate experienced what all businesses did in 2020, COVID. 

Coming out of COVID as a small business.

After laying off staff and working on growing this new location, Nate along with virtually all other businesses, was hit by the pandemic in March of 2020. He tells Tom, “I kind of joke that customers deemed us non-essential, imagine a suit store when suddenly the world stops leaving the house.” Pursuit shut down in March and missed their wedding season that year which begins in April. Thankfully, Nate explained that through PPE loans and other government resources they were able to make it through this difficult time. While in the thick of COVID, they spent this slow time remodeling the Columbus store and creating better processes to come out of COVID in a better place. 

Pursuit partnerships.

Through the years, Pursuit has been involved in several interesting partnerships and Nate tells Tom that is a part of their brand. Nate has worked to make Pursuit an approachable brand for people who don’t consider themselves “suit” people. Pursuit’s marketing has always been to come up with creative ways to put suits on people and in places that are unexpected. Nate tells Tom, “I always joke that our partnerships are an excuse to bring my personal interests into the business and call it work.” These partnerships include hosting concerts in their shop featuring brands like Low, Boney Bear, and Trampled By Turtles a band that began in Duluth, MN. Pursuit has also outfitted athletes including the Major league soccer team in Ohio: The Columbus Crew, who wore suits to the stadium, something that wasn’t common in soccer at that time. The recent major athlete they suited was John Schuster in 2018 after he had just qualified for his 4th Olympics in curling. This was a huge partnership for Pursuit as Schuster’s team went on to win gold for the USA and Pursuit had dressed him. 

Along with starting a successful business with unique partnerships over ten years ago, Nate also gives his time back to his community. Nate is a guest speaker for students in university and teaches an intro entrepreneurship class at Ohio State. As a student who started a business from a class project, he explains to Tom that he feels he has a lot to give back. Nate views entrepreneurship as a hobby and loves talking about potential businesses and analyzing them! Tom asks what pieces of advice Nate would have for students looking to do what he did. Nate says that the first piece would be to just try it. He explains that it will never be perfect, so don’t spend forever planning it and never get past that stage. Nate follows that advice up by saying you should be confident enough to work through problems but also be self-critical in the moment to know when you need to pivot. Tom comments on what great advice that is for all potential entrepreneurs.

Tom and Nate talk a lot about the exciting moments in entrepreneurship but also the growing pains that occur while building a business. To learn more about Pursuit’s story and support this brand you can follow them on social media at @pursuityourself or online at It was a pleasure having Nate Demars, the Founder of Pursuit on this week’s episode of Leader Of the Pack. Thank you, Nate, for sharing your journey with us and your ongoing experiment of running a successful business. 

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