Here are my key takeaways for those who are trying to do the same.
In the summer of 2020, I was 23, had recently graduated from business school and I was living with my parents and working as a nanny. Thanks to the Covid-19 hiring freezes, I was having little luck finding a job, but I did have an idea for a small side hustle selling sweatshirts. I knew I needed a great partner, so I asked my best friend of almost 20 years if she was interested. When she agreed, we got to work finding a manufacturer, making designs, and marketing it as much as we could through free marketing channels. Within a few months, we had gained national and then international attention.
In the beginning, we each invested a little over $3,400 (nearly all of my savings at the time) to buy 200 hoodies.
Our goal was to sell those 200 hoodies by the end of the year, which was about a 5 months span.
To our surprise, our first drop sold out of all 200 hoodies within an hour.
Two weeks after that, we sold out of 400 hoodies within 10 minutes.
The company was growing faster than we could have ever hoped. At one point, we sold out 2,100 hoodies in under 7 minutes.
The process of starting a growing business at such a young age has been grueling but amazing, and I love that I have the chance to constantly learn new things and challenge myself every day.
Here are some of the most significant takeaways and lessons that I’ve learned since starting the company.
1. Tell Your Story
This sounds simple and obvious, but people are more likely to shop at a brand if they resonate with its message or feel like they connect with the people behind the scenes. From the beginning, we were up front about the fact that the company was started on the basis of unemployment. At the time, so many other young professionals who couldn’t get a job related to this and it made them connect with the brand.
Think about some of your favorite brands. At the time I started my company, my favorite brands were partially based in the products. But they were also based on the brand’s story or who founded it. I considered this as I constructed my own brand, and found that people were more likely to give their money to a company that wasn’t ‘faceless.’
2. Show the ‘behind the scenes’
People are interested in seeing the way that products are made and how the concepts originated. When we posted clips of us packing up the orders in my parents basement, it made the whole company seem much more real. I love sharing videos of the hoodies being screenprinted or time lapses of me making new designs because it shows people all of the work and time that goes into creating their products. It also tends to make them more forgiving if any mistakes happen to be made.
Brands that don’t offer customers a look behind the scenes don’t come across nearly as authentic. People want to have that inside access to see what happens behind the scenes. Similar to telling your story, it’s a way to establish credibility while also being more relatable to the consumer. It pulls back the curtain that many larger companies still have up, and a brand seem more trustworthy.
3. Carefully curate a brand identity. And stick to it.
The internet has made it so easy for people to start an online boutique or begin dropshipping. And these things are great if you want to make some extra money on the side, and sometimes they generate enough to become a full-time job. However, these types of sites often lack a brand identity.
When people think about your brand, what do they think about? What do you want them to think about? How do you want to frame your company in the public’s eye? What can you do to establish that reputation?
The very first thing we did after starting the company was write up a 25 page business plan, working through even the tiniest of details before we announced the company to the public. One of the most helpful things that we did was create a buyer persona. We made up a random, “Abby” who represented the type of buyer that we wanted to cater to. Abby was a 21 year old sorority girl who lived in Ohio and loved tequila and pilates equally. We went through all the details, from her favorite brands to her favorite music, and this was a really key way for us to get a general look at our main target audience and the way that their brains worked.