The Process - Chapter 3 - Know What You Don't Know
Our first phase of work began with us deciding that we should ‘know what we don’t know’. We were crawling into a space that we had no experience in, a whole new world. And that meant a whole lot of research.
Here are a few ways we tried to educate ourselves:
- We found many young successful apparel brands creating content on YouTube regarding their process of brand building. They talk about most of the important aspects involved - marketing, logistics, designing and more.
- Googling is as useful as ever. For anything, especially market research.
- A conversation with a Chartered Accountant about the legal side of things. Tip: Prepare so you know what questions to ask and understand the answers he provides.
- A chat with a friend who was already running a business.
- We also tried to study the competition and we continue to do so. Many questions were answered by just observing those who were already in the game.
The whole process was pretty bumpy - we weren’t exactly the brightest bunch and we needed to spend a good amount of time reading, texting and talking about relatively boring stuff. We were beginning to taste the unglamorous side of entrepreneurship.
All the information that we were gathering helped us create a business plan - a clearer idea of what would be involved in terms of money, time, manpower and energy if we wanted to go through with this.
There were times when it felt like we were reading too much and not executing. Another dangerous place to be in - there are rabbit holes that need to be avoided. One way we tackled that was to continuously set relevant tasks throughout the research process. Knocking those down gave us the motivation and satisfaction we needed to keep doing.
Retrospectively thinking about it, it’s quite funny how we barely spent a minute thinking about the name of the brand. One of us suggested it, the other liked it and we were on to the next task - quite unlike our natural selves. We didn’t even talk about the logo up until later which was also weird because those were the two things we would usually spend most of our time on and burn out.
This time round, it was as if we were almost scared of even thinking about them because we had finally become self-aware about how we wasted our time and energy on those things previously.
While a slick brand name and logo are important, they should come after you have an outline of what you want to do and how you want to do it. In fact we found that getting those basic questions cleared up can solidify the identity of the brand which could then inspire the artwork.
We couldn’t tell you the number of times we hit dead ends, times when we felt like things were too complicated. One such moment was when we were hunting for suppliers.
Our business model was built on keeping no stock (we could not afford to keep stock legally) - which meant we had to make-to-order for groups.
We soon realized upon contacting several suppliers that their minimum order quantities were in the hundreds. How were we consistently going to find groups that big? It seemed like there was no way.
One day my Dad suggested I get in touch with a distant family friend we ran into recently. Apparently he was in the industry and was connected with a number of suppliers.
So one day I just gave it a shot. He got back with the number of the “best man for hoodies”. I sat there staring at my phone. That easy? No. I dialed the number and had a conversation with the supplier.
Another big part of our brand building experience was having conversations like these - communicating and networking. Having conversations with the right people turned out to be one of the highest ROI activities we have done. We understood the importance of communicating and understanding problems, solutions and compromises - things that can’t be learned without experience. We’ll talk more about that later.
Right after I got off the call, I knew this was the guy. I called my partner and told him that we needed to create a pitch to show this supplier that even though we were going to be getting much smaller orders than his required minimum, our potential was substantial and that he would be the only one. Quite romantic to be honest (not really).
A week later he said he was down. WE WERE GOOD TO GO.