In this series, we talk to student and alumni entrepreneurs about how they are making an impact with their startups.
Venture: Sir Cadian is a direct-to-consumer men’s premium sleepwear brand with an emphasis on style and comfort. With sustainability as its core pillar, Sir Cadian makes modern, tailored silhouettes that can work as sleepwear, loungewear, or daywear.
Team: Karys Rodriguez ’16, founder and CEO, and Alejandro Batsakis ’16, founder and COO. The two met at Yale SOM and married in 2019.
What was the moment when you had the idea for this startup?
Time during the COVID-19 pandemic provided us with new insights into what we wanted to do with our lives. I loved my job and team at Carnival Corporation (my last project was planning for Carnival’s private island!), but the pandemic hit the cruise industry pretty hard. As the family breadwinner, I saw the writing on the wall. After one of our mini night arguments about Ale’s choice of sleepwear, he had the idea for Sir Cadian—a brand that would combine style and comfort in men’s sleepwear. As I looked into it, I liked the idea more and more. We noticed there was a gap in the market.
Eventually, we both decided to fundraise and dedicate full time to this. We wanted to work on our own, and with people spending more time at home, celebrating their life with their loved ones, it was the right time to launch a sleepwear line.
What’s the problem you’re trying to solve or the gap that you’re trying to fill?
We felt there was a gap in the men’s sleepwear category that we personally identified with. Ale used to go to bed with the most horrible shorts and tees, and it became a constant issue for us, especially during quarantine, when we spent much more time together. Nighttime is usually a prelude to intimacy, and instead we were arguing about his worn-out shorts and stained tees—not only at nighttime but also while lounging around the home.
So we started researching the sleepwear category and noticed that men’s products were either comfortable or stylish, but you rarely had both components at an affordable price.
We also felt that most of the marketing was very functional. More than half of men’s sleepwear purchases are made by women partner/significant others. As gift-givers, women require a bit more storytelling and emphasis on aesthetics, whereas the man/user usually cares much more about comfort.
What was the most important resource Yale SOM contributed to your startup?
Yale SOM gave me the confidence to know that even though I might not have a solution at the exact moment, I will be able to solve a problem. It gave me a vast network of colleagues, friends, and professors that I can rely on—including my husband! More specifically, Professor Kyle Jensen was instrumental in helping us prepare our pitch deck and get our initial round of F&F funding. I also took a lot away from webinars with Yale entrepreneurs who shared their stories and lessons learned. My favorite was a webinar with Nell Diamond ’15 from Hill House Home. I’m a huge fan of her brand!
In gratitude for our Yale SOM experiences, we’re offering a permanent 20% discount to all customers with yale.edu or aya.yale.edu emails (discount code is BULLDOGS!).
What’s the biggest milestone your startup has hit since graduation?
It’s hard to name just one, but the first big one was attaining our fundraising goal. It was great to feel supported by family and friends, including some of our Yale SOM friends, and to know that our idea had real potential. Pitching was always something that scared me, but it was a great experience in learning to tell our story, listening to feedback, and presenting our “ask” as an opportunity rather than a favor.
Our next big milestone was our website launch on May 27, 2021. From production delays to learning how to code to losing power the day before our launch, we overcame a lot of hurdles. We’re proud of the website and how the brand is showcased. Now we’re focusing on marketing—the who and the how!