final reflection

Over the course of the semester, I learned a lot of lessons that have given me a more complete understanding of the risks and opportunities that come with being an entrepreneur. It may sound cliche, but my biggest takeaway from the course and the associated business project is that being an entrepreneur requires a great deal of courage and patience. Resolving problems often required spending more time and energy on the business in moments that success seemed far off anyway, and doing so took some courage. As I worked on my company, Oinc, I encountered a lot of difficulties that made it seem like the company may not succeed or that it would go on in a diminished way that did not reflect the vision I had for it. For example, when I was designing the products, I had designs for t-shirts, hoodies, hats, and pants, but I quickly realized that they were simply unrealistic. While I envisioned releasing a big product line from the start, I realized that I had to be patient and start with a few basic pieces. 

My biggest success was keeping my focus on growing the business and seeing friends and family wearing it. The whole process of thinking of designs, making mockups on the computer and building the Shopify site took a while. After all of this work, it felt great to actually sell a product. That first sale made all of my handwork and effort seem worthwhile and showed me that commitment to a project can yield success. The first sale also inspired me to keep working on the company because I felt like there was some potential for growth. 

My biggest failure was not making connections with the necessary suppliers and printers early on in the development process. Throughout the semester, I procrastinated on a lot of decisions when it came to the business development, which put me at a disadvantage when I went to turn my ideas into products. This was especially true with not being able to use local blank tees and having to rely on drop shipping which hurts profit margins. Many of the suppliers work on a friendly basis and give long time clients of theirs better deals and rates. Because I waited so long, I did not have enough time to use blanks. 

As I look towards the future, I am confident in the knowledge I already have, but I also recognize that I still have blindspots. The main thing I feel like I still need to learn about is how to stay organized on the backside of the business. Marketing and designing seems to come naturally to me, but I have found it difficult to keep track of all the sales, accounting, inventory, and other things of that nature. The back-end of the business is probably even more important than the front-end, so it is really important that I get a good grip on how to manage this important part of business.

Post #5 WE HAVE SALES!

Now that Oinc is up and running as an online clothing retailer, we have to look towards the future to decide strategies for growth. There is a learning curve for all businesses because those in charge of the businesses learn better practices and approaches on the job, and this knowledge accumulates to increase efficiency. Because Oinc has just started to sell products online, we are at the beginning of this learning curve, but we already see many things that we need to improve upon and have come up with some solutions to these problems. We want to reduce our expenses, organize ourselves better, and build stronger relationships with customers.

As we have started selling our products online, we have encountered several problems with receiving payments, shipping items, and other logistical issues. With respect to receiving payments, it has been somewhat difficult to keep track of how much revenue we have brought in because we lacked an accounting software. We plan on using QuickBooks to solve this problem, a digital accounting software that allows users to easily keep track off all sales, expenses, taxes, etc. Keeping good records is important because we need to know which products are popular, how we can increase our bottom line, where we can cut expenses, and a host of other reasons. Additionally, we need to keep good records for tax purposes. 

The last major problem that we have right now is trying to develop long term relationships with our customers. We don’t want people to buy one item and then forget about our company, so we have been debating how to introduce loyalty programs and continued marketing.

At this stage of development, we can only rely on our own intuition in picking which solutions to implement, so we have to choose carefully and consider all potential consequences. Before we choose to pursue any option, we do a cost-benefit analysis. For example, getting the better shipping rate would require us to pay an annual fee, so we have to weigh this annual fee (plus the reduced shipping costs) against what we are already paying. In this example, the annual fee and reduced shipping costs are much lower than the high standard rates that we are currently paying, so it makes sense to pursue this option. All of our decisions will not be so black and white, however. We will certainly make mistakes and experience failures, as all businesses do. While we would like to avoid failure as much as possible, we also understand that failure is inevitable on the journey towards more efficiency, and we will appreciate these failures as learning experiences.

Post #4: The Website

After months of hard work and dedication, it has finally come time to sell our products. The behind the scenes work has required a lot of money and time, but the process has resulted in a product line to be proud of. With the designing, producing, and all the other backend work done, Oinc t-shirts and sweatshirts are finally available on the brand’s website, http://oincclothing.com.

The first challenge in bringing the goods to market was how to do so logistically. In today’s world, there are two main ways that retailers sell products: in-person stores and online retail shops. Obviously, getting a product carried in Target or Macy’s would require a tremendous amount of connections, inventory, and scale—in other words, this option was out of the question for a start up company like Oinc. The much more natural choice was to create a website for the company that describes its mission and allows visitors to buy products. The e-commerce website empowers small brands, like Oinc, to take matters into their own hands. On the site, we can determine our own inventory, promote a specific brand image, set prices, and connect with potential costumers. The downside of the website is that it requires some technological knowhow, but Shopify, a company that offers website infrastructure to small brands for a low cost, helped us avoid having too many problems in the web development phase. 

Having created a sleek website with the help of Shopify, the next big question was which products should be stocked on the e-store. Although we had many designs and products to choose from, we decided to keep things small and simple at first by only offering our “classic” t-shirt in both short and long sleeves as well as a sweater version. Only offering the classic designs at first allowed us to keep overhead and production costs low while creating a strong brand image, which is very important in today’s social media driven market. The short sleeve t-shirt is offered in navy, black, and white; the long sleeve is offered in black and white; and the sweater is offered in pink and grey. We felt that these colors gave consumers enough options to be satisfied without forcing us to overextend ourselves with tons of versions and color ways. Of course, the obvious disadvantage of keeping the selection this small is that some costumers may have bought a black sweater, but ended up not buying anything because we do not carry that combination.

The final thing we had to figure out was how to promote the website in a way that would allow it to stand out from the countless other sites. We did this by simultaneously launching an Instagram page that promoted our products and included links directly to the website. By following our friends and family on the page, we have been working to expand our follower reach and attract more consumers to the website. All in all, the process of bringing the designs from the drawing board to people’s closets has been rewarding and we are excited to see where Oinc goes from here.

Post #3 Graphic Design

Whether or not a clothing company becomes successful depends on the quality of its designs. No amount of promotion, celebrity endorsements, or competitive pricing can make up for having bad designs that consumers are not interested in buying. Considering this, I have put a lot of emphasis on making the designs for OINC the best that I am able to make them. To do this, I got the assistance of a graphic designer who could help me turn the ideas in my head into prints on shirts and sweatshirts. This graphic designer helped me create about 20 designs that I thought had the potential to appeal to a lot of consumers because of their aesthetic quality and uniqueness.

            In today’s clothing market, consumers want designs that are easily recognizable with either brand names printed obviously or other design elements that are unique to certain companies. Consumers are increasingly wearing clothes to associate themselves with a specific lifestyle or values than they are wearing them simply to look fashionable. For example, the streetwear brand Off-White, with its trademark diagonal line motif, has taken the fashion industry by storm because wearers want to associate themselves with the luxurious brand worn by nearly every hip hop artist. For OINC, I tried to make designs that would feed into this market fever, but thinking of some icon or motif that would make the brand recognizable proved to be more challenging than I had initially anticipated. My graphic designer and I traded ideas back and forth for several days until we finally agreed on a logo that we felt we could integrate into all of our designs: a pig drawn in an abstract, Picasso-like manner. This logo had an obvious connection to the brand name and was aesthetically pleasing, but it also tied OINC back into a larger artistic movement. In other words, the design added that extra element of prestige and creativity that modern clothing consumers crave.

            With respect to the design process, I have struggled to reconcile making enough designs that a lot of people will like with my limited means of producing these designs. On the one hand, the more designs I produce, the more likely I am to attract more consumers because I could tap into different tastes and preferences. The downside to this approach is that producing more designs requires more money because I have to pay the graphic designer to make the designs and spend money printing them. The cost is especially high when you consider that the printing companies give discounts to bulk orders and there is a high upfront cost to printing new designs. Because I have a relatively small budget to work with right now, I have decided to print 5 of my best designs on both t-shirts and sweatshirts, so that I am offering a bit of a selection without costing myself tons of money. As sales bring in more revenue, I hope to increase the amount of designs I print and sell, but for now it is important to work within my means. 

Post #2: Marketing OINC

Now that Oinc is up and running, the biggest problem I have faced is how to market my company to reach a wider audience. From what I have learned in the past few weeks, marketing today is both easier and more difficult than in the past. Unlike in the past, today entrepreneurs can promote their brands on social media platforms and on other digital platforms. The benefits of digital marketing are that it is cheap, can target large masses of people, and is highly customizable. On the flip side, digital consumers are overwhelmed with information and advertisements, so they often become overwhelmed and ignore advertisements. Additionally, the advent of digital marketing has empowered countless people to create their own companies, which has fragmented markets and increased competition.

            When deciding how to market Oinc, I reflected on my own experience with digital media marketing campaigns. I thought about what campaigns made a lasting impression with me and what differentiated them from those that I just scrolled by or exited off of. My first realization was that the advertisements that made the most lasting impact on me were funny and did not overtly market a product. For example, many of Instagram’s biggest meme pages promote products in meme format, meaning that there is a joke that also serves as an advertisement. I found that these advertisements were most memorable because they engaged my sense of humor and were not obnoxiously pushing a product. I then thought about which design elements of digital advertisements were most favorable. Personally, I most like ads that feature the product being advertised front and center without being aggressive about price or exclusivity. Lastly, I considered what the most effective advertising technique was in the digital age, and I concluded that it is celebrity. Traditional celebrities, social media stars, and “influencers” all have the power to sell out a product in an instant if they promote it on the social media pages, so this was naturally a route worthy of exploration. 

            Having considered the dynamics of marketing in today’s digital world, I thought about how I could incorporate the best marketing techniques into my own marketing campaign for Oinc. Considering it is a clothing company, I thought the design of Oinc’s advertisements would be an essential part of its appeal to consumers. I also thought about how I could get celebrities to endorse my product on their social media pages. To design aesthetically pleasing advertisements, I worked with a friend who is skilled on Photoshop to create graphics that were engaging and included some humor. With respect to the ambitious celebrity endorsement part of my advertising campaign, I happened to be lucky to know some people who are not “celebrities” but have a lot of Instagram followers, so I reached out to them and asked if they would post pictures of them wearing my products. A few of them were happy to help and gave me a shoutout. I, of course, recognize that most entrepreneurs do not have access to the resources I did—a friend who knows how to Photoshop and people with many followers—but that shows how luck is often as important as strategy when developing a business.

Blog Post #1: OINC

It seems that every millennial guy is starting a clothing brand these days, but few succeed because they lack a strict focus and an obvious identity. Like countless entrepreneurs in my generation, I too am starting a clothing brand, and it will be called “Oinc.” In the short time I have worked on the brand, I have already learned several key things that will guide me to success: having a strong brand identity, being efficient, targeting a specific consumer segment, and recognizing my own limitations.

            Having a clearly recognizable brand identity is essential to success in the fashion world. The name “Oinc” will set my brand apart from the crowd because the pig, the animal that makes this sound, is often regarded as unbecoming and messy. The irony of having an fashionable clothing brand with a name with this connotation presents the brand as irreverent and rule breaking, qualities which will be reflected in the designs. Along with the onomatopoeia, the name stands for “one income no children,” which defines the brand as socially conscious and sensitive to the economic pressures affecting its consumers. Considering that Oinc is set to be a low cost streetwear company, this identity reflects the goals and purpose of the brand. A widely recognizable logo and repeated design elements will further establish a solid brand identity.

            Like any business, Oinc will benefit from the maximization of efficiency. Because Oinc is to have a relatively low price point, it is important to balance quality against cost. To strike this balance, Oinc will source already-made blank t-shirts, jackets, and pants from established suppliers to cut down on production costs. Manufacturing our own blanks before we have established a wide consumer base would be inefficient, highly expensive, and unwise. It is, however, pretty cheap to design graphics on the computer and print them onto the blanks, so doing this will save money and time that can then be reallocated to other parts of the business development.

            As alluded to previously, Oinc will be a low cost brand that targets consumers who like the styles of streetwear but cannot afford the more expensive alternatives. By honing in on this specific segment of the market, Oinc can provide designs that these consumers will like and be able to afford. Having this explicitly defined target audience also makes it easier to pinpoint a price range and determine how many quantities of each product will be demanded. 

            The final, and perhaps most important, way to grow a successful streetwear brand is to recognize the brand’s limitations. If a brand is profitable and well-known, it may be wise for its leadership to expand its operations. On the other hand, nascent brands should focus on their target consumer segment until they have won over as much of it as they can. Of course, Oinc falls into this second category, so I will focus on growing Oinc’s name recognition, improving the designs, and increasing efficiency of production before I begin to consider expanding into other consumer segments or geographic areas. As the old adage goes, you must crawl before you walk.