Having launched Winky Boo over a year ago, I’ve had time to really dig my feet in and make some mistakes and learn from them. When I decided to start my own clothing company, though I had worked in the fashion industry for several years, I didn’t personally know anyone who owned or ran their own indie clothing line. I had met and worked with many big name designers in NYC, but wasn’t around this end of the industry or this particular style of clothing. I wasn’t working on the business end of the fashion, I was involved in the styling and thus as much as you pick up being immersed in that environment, there’s still a lot you don’t know until you do it yourself.
Which leads me to today’s blog and how this idea came about. When I started, as much research as I did, a lot of how I went about starting my business was trial and error. Even though I spent months researching printing companies and getting quotes before actually choosing one, I probably would have spent more time reaching out and asking others in the industry who they use, the best prices, how many shirts they’d suggest ordering to start and a lot of other little details that are majorly important!
A lot of my initial start-up costs went towards the first printing company I used. Like I said, I researched tons of different printing companies and even met with a local printer for advice and suggestions even though he did not have the correct printer for the type of work I was seeking. But in the end I ended up choosing a printing company with high minimums and high printing costs. At the time I thought this was a low minimum and a low cost compared to all the companies I had researched. Having experience now and looking back I would have a lot more now to produce new merchandise had I reached out to those with more experience than myself. I’ve since switched printing companies and now work with ones with low minimums and very low costs compared to what I originally went with!
Luckily my experience in the fashion industry did benefit me in this venture in many other ways, one being that I knew the best quality shirts and styles to use from the start thanks to my career in styling beforehand! Reflecting on how I began and where I am now, lead me to this idea for the blog (and the idea for our new “A Life In Progress” tees). I personally reached out to my friends in this industry for all of you reading; those looking to get into this business, start a clothing line, be a designer, etc. for their stories. What would they do differently in starting their clothing company knowing now what they didn’t know then! I asked a lot of different brands and friends of mine in the business the same question to hear about the minor or major mistakes they made when originally launching their brand and what they learned now having been in business a while about those mistakes and why they’d do them differently, so here are their stories..
Kelly Murphy is the owner & designer of Saucewear. Some of you might also know her for her blogging at The Tee Gazette. Kelly has a lot of knowledge on both ends of the spectrum in this industry being a blogger & an owner of her own clothing company. Here is what she had to say:
“When starting out, a lot of my costs went to figuring out which blanks to use. I printed a lot of designs (and thus wasted alot of start up money) on different brand/color t-shirts to see how the design would look on them. Once I finally settled on a blank, I still had plenty of these “test subjects” laying around, which I ended up donating to another t-shirt brand who recycles old t-shirts to print THEIR t-shirts on. Poor planning and a waste of money. I also had an issue with my local printer, and have since moved on to another online vendor who does a better job. Again, a lot of wasted money.”
Seems to be somewhat of a trend with money going down the drain in what at the time you feel is the best decision for your company. Kelly obviously has since built a very successful brand despite her minor gliche in the process. Kelly’s clothing company can be found at www.saucewear.com and she can also be found on Twitter: @saucewear , Facebook: www.facebook.com/sauceweartees
Liam Donley from Never Sink Clothing joined our debate with his story:
“I think the biggest mistake I made was to be too focused on one style of promotion. I thought that if I just set up a Facebook page and got a few hundred likes on it then sales would just come flooding in. Now however I know I need to do promotion outside of social networking. So I have now appeared on many blogs, bought magazine spaces, endorsed bands and skaters, used mintees website, enter design competitions and collaborated with other artists. I think if I had known I needed this multiple pronged attack earlier I could have made a much better business plan and I would have made a lot more sales earlier and not had so many sleepless nights.”Obviously Liam’s approach now is working in his favor.
GJ, owner & designer of Lil’ LoveDriven (www.lillovedriven.com) based out of New Jersey had this to share with our acquiring minds:
“One of my biggest mistakes is spending a BIG portion of my budget on a good amount of printed tees that I thought would sell super fast. What I learned was, you could have a great tee design or designs but if no one knows about it, it’s practically invisible. Especially with all the new and up & coming Independent Brands out there. Also, know who you are and what your brand is; your theme. Stay consistent and not just all over the place. Ask for advice from people that have done it already. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Order only a small amount of tees per design just to get a feel on what your customers like or who your customers are. I believe any great business out there starts off with making GOOD relationships with other businesses in the same field. As some say, success can’t be done overnight and can’t be done alone. So start asking around and making some friends. Just don’t stalk anybody lol :0)” GJ has become a great friend of ours and has a wealth of knowledge to share.
Another good friend of ours and someone who is really a step ahead in this industry is Nick Hammond from Nick Hammond Design: www.NickHammondDesign.com . Here’s what Nick had to share with us,
“I’d have to say that, all in all, I wouldn’t change a single thing about how I launched my company. That being said, I did have a lot of things take place that I am grateful for which happened before I went into business. I am currently 20 years old and have been designing since I was probably 15 years old. My stuff started out absolutely HORRIBLE looking back but we all started at some point, right? In a short period of time I was helping to do some flyer designs and even dabble in tshirt designs for a company out of Seattle, WA that my paintball friends got me hooked up with. Ever since then I have had some amazing opportunities to learn more about design, printing, advertising, marketing, economics and business through college classes and even a lot outside of my classes with my company, and others that I have done work for. I tried, and am still trying, to learn the very most I can about not only what makes a good design but about how to brand my identity and how to keep the business flourishing. I didn’t make any crazy mistakes myself (although some were small) because I was surrounded by people who were making them for me before I had developed Nick Hammond Design. I could watch and learn.”
“My best advice would be to take everything as a learning experience and better yourself based on your choices. In today’s day and age with everyone wanting a shot at the “big time” you have to be a multifaceted business man/woman in order to survive and grow both as a company and as a person. Safe is risky. Be Remarkable. “
Jon & Justin Kalnas of Jersey Trash Clothing: www.JerseyTrashClothing.com had quite an interesting story to tell when we asked them this question…
“Oh man, where do we begin? We have had many mistakes when starting our t-shirt company. Looking back, the biggest mistake was time management. Sitting on programs like Paint or Paint.net trying to make a design for hours, which we no longer even use! We now outsource our images. Why spend time on a design when we can build other aspects of our business. We also took on screen printing… why pay someone else to do it when we can do it ourselves? This was a good and bad decision. Of course there are more, like wasting money on this and that, which is most likely evident within all our experiences. One thing that may be a mistake was our name, Jersey Trash Clothing. From our experience in the past few years, Jersey Trash has gotten 50/50 feedback. To us Jersey Trash is a name that stands for what our family had to do to make ends meet, but now make a killing doing. You guessed it… trash picking. However, a lot of people see Jersey Trash as a negative phrase, when to us it’s positive. Can we change their minds? Would we have done all this work, spent all this money to develop something that gets shot down in the public eye? Should we change our business name? To allow these questions to linger in my mind would be the biggest mistake of them all. Everyone needs people who hate what they do… That is why I will not allow our belief and the fire that got us started to be questioned. “
With some crazy designs on hand and an established following now 5 years in, Jason Ramirez from Oswald Clothing reflects on how he began:
“One thing I definately would have done differently was I would have done my research. When I started Oswald, 5 years ago, I thought “I’ll start a clothing line, it’ll be cool! I’ll make some extra money and be huge in a year”. Boy was I wrong. I’ve been in the game for 5 years now, and things are just finally beginning to take off. The market was far less saturated when I started and I should have taken better advantage of that, but I didn’t know any better because I didn’t do my homework. There are countless blogs, websites, books and resources devoted to helping you get things started. Read up. Utilize facebook, twitter and any other social networking tools you can. These are essential. I don’t know what the magic formula is, cause I have far from reached huge success, but do as much homework as you can before jumping in.”
Check out Oswald Clothing on the web: www.oswaldclothing.com and find them on Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/Oswald-Clothing/106097626168 and Twitter: @OswaldClothing
Fairly new to the game but coming out pretty strong is PuR Enterprises: www.pur-enterprises.ca from Ontario. We spoke with a member of the PuR Enterprises team, Trevor Smith, or as he’s referred to on their website, “Smithers” and this is what he had to say:
“It’s not so much something I would change but I would have dug a little deeper:
1. I would find out the average number shirts/styles most company’s launched with and probably geared our numbers more to that…
2. Although we are creating a good web presence I would have taken some more time to ensure I had more of a marketing campaign in place, before, during and after our initial launch (i.e. trade shows, festivals etc.)
3. Although we worked on defined roles I would place us all on deadlines and outcomes of missing them; albeit feasible or not, to ensure that we are not lagging and we could properly track and measure how we are proceeding in our business/marketing timeline. Just making all parties involved accountable to each other. Because we would complete more tasks as a whole than any individual can on their own. We all have busy lives but splitting up our work makes it a lot easier, especially when everyone is on the same page.
Other than that there is not much more I would say I would change, because each decision, task, idea is part of the whole learning process and some of the things we have or especially have not changed brings us closer to our goals!”
Keep up with the PuR Enterprises team on Facebook: www.facebook.com/purenterprises and Twitter: @purenterprises for more of their insight into the t-shirt world!
Last, but most certainly not least we reached out to our dear friend & blogger Jamie Evans of Future Label to collaborate on this blog and get his expertise on the subject. Wit & humor aside, Jamie has a wealth of knowledge to share with us all on this subject:
“One of the things I think that is often overlooked is a good theme, I mean everyone seems to be claiming they are a brand for everyone right now. It doesn’t work, trust me I would know. My first ever line of t shirts were probably among the highest quality and cut on the entire UK t shirt scene. Maybe even the world.
How? Easy, I spent 2 months working on the cut for men’s and ladies’ t shirts. Everything was made from scratch, I obsessively made sure EVERYTHING and I mean everything, was how I wanted it. But that didn’t really mean much in the end, I put far too much effort into that area than I did making sure I had a solid and consistent theme. Now as a t shirt blogger I’ve gained a crazy amount of insight into the business side of things, if I had to do it all again my biggest piece of advice would be:
Make sure you have a solid theme and that you are VERY passionate about it, nothing sucks more than doing something you don’t love. Besides, from an SEO standpoint having a solid theme makes driving traffic to your website MUCH easier.”
No wonder Jamie’s blog is so popular; the man knows his stuff! Want more from Jamie on this subject or more?