The Journey of the Do – Stage 4 – The Brand

This week it’s all about the brand. A brand is what your customers think, feel and say about you. Having said that, you can craft your message(s) to make people think, feel and say certain things about you.

In our research phase – my wife, and I checked out the numerous e-commerce fashion sites, and dissected the look of the logo, the style of their website, tested their customer service, ordered products from them, returned products to them, etc… From that we saw what we liked, and didn’t like. In doing this – we’re able to figure out a few differentiating factors for us.

#1 – we’re only going to ship in Canada (sorry, US)
#2 – we’re going to support as many Canadian wholesalers as we can
#3 – we’re going to have a different twist on shipping
#4 – the price is the price is the price (don’t have to worry about paying duty, etc…)
#5 – return policy will be nothing like our Canadian competitors

You also have to factor in what you’re going to do about customer service, and how you respond over the phone, online, social media, etc… It should all be consistent. If you use certain words over the phone, you should also use them online, and vice versa.

bow tie, man

You will rarely see me without a bow tie. Go personal brand!

The above points help out in the feel, and say portion of our brand. For the look – there are numerous sites to go to for logos:

Withoomph
Hipster Logo Generator
GraphicSprings Logo Creator
Logoshi
Logaster

And many more. A simple Google search can also help. If you want someone else to do it for you – I wouldn’t spend more than $500 on a logo design. Yes, a logo is important, but it’s not worth a HUGE investment. Plus, a good one, by a talented designer at most should cost you $500.

The logo is only a portion of the look, as we’ll be ensuring our colour schemes, and looks go across the entire e-commerce site, packaging, etc…

For the logo – we’ve hired a designer who’s done a few other things for us, but you can use any of the sites above. My biggest thing – is you have to be different from your competitors. Just because you like blue – doesn’t mean that’s going to be a core colour of your brand. Five of your competitors could be using blue as a colour.

In our case – we’ve found a couple colours that aren’t being used and we’re going with that as our colour scheme. We’re also using a handwritten script as a font, which is somewhat similar to a few other logos in our space, but our colours are what’s going to set us apart.

From there – we can start building our website. Again, none of this would have happened without the first few steps I wrote about in previous weeks. Some people go out and make logos, print business cards, and all this shit without doing their research, and testing to see whether or not their product / service will sell. My wife, and I have already done this, so now we can spend the extra expense for the ‘professional’ look and feel.

The brand is your baby. Take care of it, but also allow it to evolve with time. As people change, and markets change, and customers change, your brand changes. Never stop testing, and experimenting with new things.

Next week – the website.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

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The Journey of the Do – Stage 3 – Banking and the Product

You can choose to follow this stage by stage, or you can find your own way. Either way – just do what you’ve set out to do. You’re one of the 5% who is taking an idea and putting it into action.

If you need a refresher on Stage 1 (idea to action) and Stage 2 (testing and research) click the corresponding link.

This week we’re really getting into it. This is is the part where you’re going to be spending a bulk of the money, but you have to spend money to make money. By this point, my wife and I have spent under $1000 on the business. This is a venture wholly funded by ourselves, and we’ve set a distinct budget, and timeline for sales. We’re not spending more than $5000 on product (your number may vary), and if we don’t see a steady growth in sales over the first month, we’re going to cut bait.

Your sales cycle may take a bit longer, but either way you should have a date set for an out. I’ve seen SOOOO many start ups keep thinking they’re going to make it, and they burn through money with no real exit plan. Set a date, a realistic expectation of sales, and if you don’t hit it. GET OUT! Or pivot to something else.

Banking

You should probably have a relationship with a bank for your business. For whatever reason banks don’t take too kind to small businesses. Banks like to see a track record of growth before they start handing out loans, etc… However, there are some options out there for the little guys. If you’re only going to be conducting business in one province you may want to check out your local credit unions. They offer some great products, and services you won’t find at a major bank. However, they are somewhat behind when it comes to technology. Do your due diligence, and set up meetings with numerous banks, and credit unions to see what they can do for you when it comes to a business bank account.

My wife, and I have settled on RBC and their e-account. As the majority of our transactions are going to be online this was the best fit for us. Plus, we’re going to be conducting business across Canada (at least selling nationwide), so a credit union didn’t make sense. The credit unions even told us a national bank would be better for what we’re trying to do. Again, we wouldn’t have known this unless we set up meetings, and asked questions. SET UP YOUR MEETINGS!

Product

Kids sweater, sweater

I’ve always been fashionable.

You need products or a product to sell (whether it’s a service or an actual good). This is where the bulk of your money will go. We’ve contacted numerous wholesalers in the US, and Canada regarding their goods. If you have to go through wholesalers, just Google “Clothing Wholesalers” or whatever you’re interested in selling. If you’re developing your own product, then my suggestion would be to find 3 potential clients, whether their friends, family, etc… and test your product or service on them. Do your homework to see if your idea is going to fly. Really focus on Stage 2. In my case – my wife and I know there’s a market for our products. We still did our testing, and research (and continue to do so), but we didn’t have to do as much.

If you’re importing goods you’ll need an import/export number from Revenue Canada (remember US fans – I’m Canadian). Go to the CRA site or search “Import/export number.” Another thing to keep in mind – the dollar. With the Canadian dollar where it’s at my wife and I are trying to go through as many Canadian wholesalers as we can. If you’re importing goods from the US, you may qualify under the NAFTA agreement where you don’t have to pay a duty. Talk to your wholesaler(s) about this. On clothing – you’re probably going to pay a duty which is 18%. Plus you have to factor in GST (and HST if outside of Alberta), and shipping. My wife and I have figured we’d have to add about 40% to the wholesale cost if we import from the US (based on taxes, and duty fees).

My wife has really taken the reigns on the product side of things. Here’s the kicker – we actually have a plan when it comes to the product (get ready marketing people).

My wife, and I have a woman in our minds every time we look at product. She’s a late 20’s professional working in an office building downtown. She’s a 9-5er, and she likes to go out every now, and then. She wants something she can wear to the office, that doesn’t make her look like a skank while still having personality, and she can wear the dress, shirt, jacket, etc… out for drinks after work without looking and feeling like a stone cold business person. Every time we come across an article of clothing we always ask, “Does this fit into her closet? Does it have the personality of this woman? Would she really wear this?” If the answer is Yes, we get it. If it’s No, we don’t. That’s how focused we are on the product side of things. This focus is also what’s going to aid in building our brand (and your brand if you follow this strategy).

Next up – The Brand!!!!

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

Ps. So far we’ve spent about $1000 on product. That brings the overall total close to $2000 in biz expenses.

The Journey of the Do – Stage 2 – Testing and Research

BUILD IT THEY WILL COME!

Not any more fine sir. The market place is packed with competitors, similar ideas, huge corporations fighting over 1% of market share, and there you are…the little guy. How in the hell do you know an idea is going to work? Well, this week I’ll show you a couple steps that can lead you on your way to building a successful business (keep in mind my wife, and I are doing an online biz) without spending a ton of money on marketing, etc…

Your idea at work

You have this idea, and you’ve played over the scenario in your head a million times on how it can work, and some of the road blocks. The good thing is – YOU ACTUALLY DECIDED TO ACT ON THE IDEA. That’s the biggest step. Now, we get into the fun stuff to test your hypothesis. In my case – an online fashion store for Canadians, and Canadians only.

First – we did a bit of research through family and friends. You can sign up for a free trial with Survey Monkey. Or choose another online survey program. We just happened to land on Survey Monkey as we used it in the past for a couple other ventures.

My wife compiled a few different surveys where we took the product we planned on selling and asked questions like: On a scale of 1-10 how much do you like this shirt, how much would you be willing to spend on said dress, etc… This is a great way to test your hypothesis while getting some interesting insights.

You have to take everything with a grain of salt, and don’t let the survey results sway your direction too much. It’s one thing for people to tell you how much they THINK they would pay, and it’s a whole other matter when it comes to actually opening their wallets.

The biggest thing you can take from these results is copy. The people we surveyed opened our eyes a bit on what makes people tick. We dove into the psychology of what makes people buy, and what doesn’t. Therefore, when we launch we will use the exact words we received from potential customers in our survey. For example – we had a few responses that said, “I would wear this dress for this (event)” BAM! That’s going to be in our copy when describing the dress online. If one person feels it, someone else probably does too.

You can get too much inside your own head when it comes to launching a biz, so get some outside perspective, and doing surveys will help.

John Deere, tractor

Testing out the latest John Deere because I’m a man, and that’s what men do…

Checking out your competitors

There are a couple trains of thought when it comes to this. My wife is a heavy user of a couple of our soon to be competitors. Therefore, she knows what she likes, and doesn’t like about these services, and that’s how we found our niche. We analysed the competition from their aesthetic, their customer service (we’ve called them on many occasions), and even the colours they use in the logo. As you can tell – we’re big on researching our competitors.

On the flip side – I’ve seen successful business owners who don’t care what their competitors are doing. They just go about their business, and it seems to work for them.

Me – I suggest doing a bit of research on what your potential customers are doing. On top of that – you can also do a bit of research on a company or two that you admire. They may or may not be your competition, but you could pull some valuable insight from them. Example – we like the shipping model of a certain company that has nothing to do with our line of work, so we’re going to try and replicate it to see if it works in our field.

Never stop testing 

The BIGGEST thing to keep in mind when it comes to starting up your own biz – online or not – is to NEVER STOP TESTING. Consumer habits change, the economy changes, the weather changes, prices change, and everything happens at different times. Everything is changing, so that’s why it’s sooo important to keep on studying your customer, and getting their feedback. By doing this, you may be able to sense a change in the market before it actually happens. When I was doing some Real Estate consulting, I was able to key in on a trend from the latest generation of home buyers (I just happened to be one of them) that helped one of the agents I was working with.

We saw a dramatic shift (in a certain market) from personality driven agents to knowledgeable agents. In this market – the newest generation of home buyers didn’t care that much about connecting with their agent. They wanted someone who knew a ton about the market they were in. In this case, we flipped from personality driven marketing to a giving away free market information online through a blog. This was close to 10 years ago before blogging really exploded. Now, pretty much every Realtor has a blog speaking to their market knowledge. My client, and I were on this before it was cool because we constantly tested, and researched the market. The best part – we pretty much did this testing for free, and you have the same capability with the tech available to you.

Next week – banking and the product. Until then…

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

Ps. So far we’ve spent under $1000 from the Articles of Incorporation, to securing the domain name, to our physical e-commerce store / website.

The Journey of the Do – Stage 1

Last week I touched on what 5% of the population does. It’s the act of ‘doing.’ You think about something, you feel something about what you’re going to do and you do it. 95% of the world never gets to the ‘do’ stage, and prefers to binge watch Netflix on evenings and weekends instead of acting on their thoughts. I get it, I used to be that guy. And I still enjoy watching TV every now and then. In fact, my wife, and I usually sit down and watch an hour or so a night. However, it’s in those other few hours where we really get to work.

A quick note to my American friends – this is based on what to do in Canada. It’s a bit different in the U.S., and elsewhere, but the framework is the same. You have to DO it. That’s the one thing that will always stay the same.

The Journey of the Do – Stage 1

You have an idea, your gut tells you it’s something you really want to do, but you don’t do it. Your mind puts up these road blocks. The negativity starts to creep in, and you paralyse yourself, so you take the easy course. You grab some leftover pizza and turn on the TV. EASY!

I’m here to remove some of those road blocks. Today it’s about taking that idea, and starting to take action. THE DO as I call it. Not Mountain Dew…the other DO.

You have these ideas swirling around in your head. I know you do. I get them everyday, so I know you do too. Whether it’s starting up your own consulting network, a restaurant, a sports blog, a breakfast blog, and e-commerce store…whatever. However, you haven’t acted on those thoughts yet because it seems daunting. The mountain is so huge, but you’re not willing to take the first step. Well, it’s time to do it.

From A to B (while thinking about Z)

Two weeks ago my wife said she wanted to start a dress shop for young woman. The idea came to her because she was getting discouraged while shopping online and instore. She loves to wear dresses, but for someone in her late 20’s the majority of dresses out there cater toward bar-hopping teens or grandma’s. There wasn’t an easily accessible outlet for young professional woman who had a bit of personality to purchase dresses. Dresses they could wear to the office without coming off as a skank. Hmmm a potential hole in the market.

banana costume, banana

This is not the type of fashion we’re talking about here. 

She came to me with this idea, and I said, “Let’s do it.” That’s Step 1. You have an idea, you feel something about it, and then you act on it. If you don’t think you have an idea check out Ramit Sethi. The guys a beast on showing you how to pull an idea from nowhere. Everyone has a saleable asset. EVERYONE!

So, now where do we go. We have this idea – should we go out and pull in a bunch of product, spend a bunch of money on an untested market? Lease a store front? Is our business even viable? We could become millionaires. Where are going to keep all this stuff? These were / still are things running around in our heads. We’re thinking about “Z” but we have to put the blinders on and think about the next step aka “B”.

The next step

We have this idea, now let’s narrow it down. We checked out some brick & mortar stores, and they have huge overhead. We’re not ready to go into massive amounts of debt. So we checked out some online fashion stores, and did some research. My wife happens to shop online A LOT, so we have that base. She knows what she likes, and doesn’t like when it comes to the online shopping experience. Okay, so we settled on doing an online store instead of having a physical store front. Less overhead, and less things to worry about.

Next we discovered we’ll need a license for this, so we got the biz license, signed up with Revenue Canada for a GST/HST number, and an import / export number (through our research we found we’ll need to import clothing from outside Canada). If you have an idea, you don’t necessarily need to incorporate or any of that. Check out this article to see whether or not you need to incorporate or stick it out as a sole proprietor http://wesbos.com/sole-proprietorship-ontario/. You can also check this out http://www.shopify.ca/blog/7116328-the-ultimate-guide-on-business-incorporation-in-canada

At first everything seemed to be coming at us non-stop, but we did things one piece at a time. It’s much easier to manage things when you’re doing them opposed to thinking about them. There are soooo many things to think about, and the only way to go about it is to do it one step at a time.

Do a bit of research up front on whether or not someone else is doing what you’re doing. It’s a quick Google search away. From there – figure out whether you need to incorporate or if you can stay a sole proprietor. Again, it’s a quick Google search away. Here’s one thing to keep in mind. If someone else is doing what you’re doing, that’s a good thing. That means there’s a market for it. If someone isn’t, well that’s okay too, just do a bit more research up front. All you need is ONE customer at first. From there – you can scale.

Coming up next week – we’ll get into research, and testing the hypothesis of whether or not the idea my wife, and I have is actually viable.

Until then…

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

P.S Up to this point, my wife, and I have spent close to $400 to incorporate as a separate entity. I did the leg work on this one by searching through the Revenue Canada site, and Googling “How to incorporate in Alberta.” You can also get the aid of a lawyer to do this (depending on how complex you think your biz will be). I also HIGHLY HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend speaking with an accountant. My wife, and I spent 10 minutes on the phone with an accountant, and he taught us SOOO much in those 10 minutes. We simply told him our idea, and he told us the best direction to go in. He also passed along a sheet of things to keep track of (expenses, taxes, etc…).

P.P.S My wife, and I are doing this with 9-5 jobs, on top of doing freelance on evenings, and weekends. And we still have time to watch Netflix.