Karl van de Paer ’11 came to the United States from Belgium to further his education at Columbia Business School and pursue the “American Dream.” But like many that settle in this country, certain products are missed from back home. For van de Paer, it was the fit of underwear. “I miss the European fit that American underwear seem to lack and wanted to do something about it,” he explained. He saw the modern American man fully embracing substantial wardrobe enhancements in terms of tailored and monogrammed shirts, bespoke suits and colorful pants etc., however, the basic foundational pieces had received little attention.
To solve this problem, Van de Paer launched Charles van der Paer, a local luxurious men's underwear line constructed for fit, comfort, and style for today’s fashion-forward man.
Tell us about Charles van der Paer.
Men currently have the choice between boring plain white or flashy underwear with brands all over it. Additionally, many men prefer the looks of boxer shorts but the fit of boxer-briefs. We are solving this problem with our classy looking, slim-fit boxer short that can be worn under skinnier pants without bunching up.
Charles van der Paer introduces luxury men’s underwear with the looks of a boxer and the fit of a boxer-brief. Our tailored boxers are made out of cotton shirting fabric and have a unique inner support for superior comfort. They are colorful, preppy and fun. They are THE underwear for the modern gentleman (see below for a special offer).
We are also going against the trend of offshoring manufacturing. Charles van der Pear boxers are proudly made in the USA. More specifically, most of our production is done right here in Manhattan.
What has been your biggest “A-Ha!” moment to date? How did it change your business?
I believe entrepreneurship should bring joy and happiness to the founder. My biggest “A-ha!” moment was the day I realized that my belief that having my own business would “set me free” was flawed. What started off as a hobby and a dream quickly became overwhelming, especially given the stringent goals I had set myself (and since I was combining it with full-time employment). I was being too demanding with myself and wanted things too quickly. As a result, I was not having fun anymore and the entire project was becoming a drag.
As an entrepreneur, you need to invest so much time and effort that, in case it doesn’t bring you joy anymore, you won’t last very long. The day I realized I wasn’t having fun anymore, I said to myself “Stop the way you are doing this. Rome wasn’t built in one day. Take your time and have fun while doing it, even if it takes a little longer.”
Since that day, I again love what I am doing!
How have the CBS classes you took shaped your business/management approach?
Three words come to mind: anchoring, win-win situation and BATNA. They all stem from one of the best classes I took at Columbia Business School; Managerial Negotiations taught by Professor Daniel Ames. For a start-up, everything is a negotiation since you are by no means a market maker, you are a market taker.
The Columbia Alumni Connection: How have you used it?
Many of my advisors are either Columbia Business School alumni or people I was introduced to by Columbia alumni. Being a foreigner in New York, I would not have been able to achieve what I achieved today without both the network and brand name of Columbia Business School behind me.
What advice would you give to a Columbia student with entrepreneurial aspirations?
Start while you are in school! It is the perfect time to work on your ideas, test it with an enthusiastic audience and get it ready for go-live. In the end, it is all about time and resources. You are surrounded by the best help and advice to start a business as a Columbia Business School student. And you have all the time in the world. So for those that are contemplating starting something, stop thinking, and start doing it!
Sarah Ribner '16
"The best feeling is when strangers tell me something I created with my best friend made such a difference for them.”