My wife, Sadie, and I were looking to start a business after being inspired by reading Tim Ferriss' book Four Hour Work Week. Following his guidelines we spent many weeks looking into our personal and professional lives for areas where we felt there was a need or gap in the market and an answer to a problem we could fulfill on. One day after a long coffee shop meeting Sadie was telling me how she has always loved mens versions of the button-up shirt over most women's offerings. She loved the fabrics, the timelessness, and the quality of men's version but could not find a proper fit for her body. She always wandered to the men's section and thought "Why don't they make this for me?" From there our company was born.
Soon after the lightbulb moment we began researching and visiting local San Francisco sewing contracting companies. We began ordering fabrics and trims, getting patterns made, and produced our first samples. We design and source our own fabrics, trims, and have our products made in San Francisco, California and other factories in the USA.
How did you earn your first sales? Which channels are now generating the most traffic and sales for you?
Our first sales we made via our website on the day we went live. From the first day we have grown steadily and each season we sell out fast of our customers favorite button-up shirts.
Our biggest sales, promotions, and channels, have come from our email list and collaborations and features by bloggers and online publications.
Tell us about the back-end of your business. What tools and apps do you use to run your store? How do you handle shipping and fulfillment?
We use a variety of apps that help us in many different aspects of our business. We use Mailchimp for our email list and connect our customers to the list via the Chimpified app. For other marketing we use the Google Shopping app and Retail Tower to create product feeds for online ads, Respondify for post-purchase auto responders series of emails, and Gleam Competitions for highly successful and engaged giveaways and promotions. To track different metrics we utilize SumAll, and for full control of SEO we use SEO Meta Manager. Other apps include Shopify Facebook Store, Shopify Order Printer, and Back In Stock.
Currently all fulfillment is done in-house but we are looking to make a transition to a fulfillment center in the coming months.
What are your top recommendations for new ecommerce entrepreneurs?
We've learned a lot being new entrepreneurs and clothing manufacturers. My top recommendations would be:
1) Very early on make sure you declare what your Unique Selling Proposition is. To find your Unique Selling Proposition answer the question "What problem do we solve, and what is the unique way in which we solve it?". Answer this early on and continue to refine it as your products grow and your company evolves. Very early on we answered this exact question with 'We make the best button-up shirts for women who wander to the men's section of the clothing store and ask 'Why don't they make this for me?'Guaranteed."
2) If you are manufacturing your own products you will need to learn how to make cash flow properly in your business so you are able to continually afford future production runs. Sometimes production will take an excess of 3 months because of various reasons and you will need to have large amounts of money available and set aside to get more products made. You will be able to shorten this time as your systems and processes become more developed and refined. Learn to budget properly the money you make in sales while subtracting the cost of goods, team members salaries, day to day business expenses, and most important, your personal runway.
3) Be nice, be authentic, and care about your customers. They take their hard earned money and trust you enough to exchange it for the products you sell. Value their trust. Respond to every email, write them back as fast as you can, let them know you appreciate their business. Send every customer you have a Christmas card. Be personal, tell them your story. Ask them for feedback and utilize it. A relationship between you and your customers based on the highest quality products and trust will be invaluable to your company.
4) Shopify will make your life easier and your business better. After lots of shopping around we decided to go with Shopify and we are happy we did. The customer service is second to none and you will feel like your business matters - because it does.