Burmeister's big takeaway? Money's just like any other piece of information in this information-soaked age. You can have too much of it. First off, he sees absolutely no need for formal, traditional business planning investors require. "They always ask what your five-year business plan is," Burmeister told me as he described various meetings with bankers, VCs or potential business partners. "My plan is both longer and shorter than that. We want to have a great relationship with our customers." To do that, Burmeister has been a very careful to not expose his growing firm to the strains of getting money from others. "We make something physical and we sell it," he said, and simply saves the difference between what he sells his products for and what they cost to make, then spends some of that on his next designs -- happily avoiding traditional financing options such as inventory factoring, commercial lines of credit or even simple loans. "It makes me really happy that I don't have to deal with these sorts of things," he said. Burmeister is also a fanatic about not tapping into sexy-sounding, digital age sources of funds. "When I talk to my friends and they say they have raised this or that amount of venture capital, I am not jealous," he said. "It's nice to raise that number of millions, but I see the loss of control as being far too important." Why? That's easy. The expectations of these new-age investors is simply out of line with the realities of doing business, he says. "They are more interested in a numbers game than in growing a healthy business for the long haul," he said. Burmeister points out there are no shortage of designer heavies, such as Jil Sander, Helmut Lang and Isaac Mizrahi, who grabbed the outside cash and went on to lose control of not only their brands -- but of their names.
So how does Burmeister avoid the no-win venture capital tango of death? I'll give you a hint: It starts with "In" and ends with "ternet." Burmeister has built himself a remarkably simple -- yet devilishly effective -- direct Web sales channel. He uses no high-tech tricks or custom laser interactive measuring. He does not rely on social media. There are no Groupon ( GRPN) discounts. No behavorial sales techniques a la Amazon ( AMZN). In fact, he does not discount at all. Ever. "We had a mistake on one item, so we tried to discount them as a reward. And I realized what a mistake that was immediately," he said. Customers were not happy with just 5% off, he said. They would wait for 10%. "Those items took forever to actually sell." Keep in mind, his clothes are not cheap. Shirts start at $98. Many clothes are north of $200. A newly released jacket -- which I am not embarrassed to admit is on my buy-list once my ethical obligations with this story expire -- runs more than $600. He simply sends out an email to about 5,000 customers and waits for them to come to his website, choose their size and plunk down their credit card. Just smart partners
Now comes the stone cold investor dis: What would Burmeister be willing to give up a piece of his lucrative action for? That's easy. The practical knowledge of what it takes to run a private company over the long haul. In other words, partners who actually do something, not just hand out cash and expect to get paid. "The Eileen Fishers of the world interest me," he said. "They retain a level of expertise in keeping control of their business. If I could create a single product with a partner like that, I would absolutely split the take." It does not need to be a fashion company. A food company that was passionate about what they did could be an excellent partner, he said. "I am not sure if you're a fan of the TV show The Wire," he said at the end of our last call. "But basically, my philosophy is like Prop Joe's: 'Buy for a dollar, sell for two.' "If you keep it that simple, things work out."