Honour Over Glory is a T-shirt/ clothes company that I follow on my other blog, and a month ago they released this FAQ&A Artical on how to set up your own business to accompany your creative ideas. I thought i'd put this on my blog for future reference for next years projects, and for over the summer, because me and Mil are thinking of doing such a thing!
A few of you have asked me to do a bit of a Q&A on startup clothing companies - here are answers to the main questions you have raised. These are just my opinions on the questions, I can definitely be wrong and not everything always works out how it should! That said, I hope these can help a few of you out and good luck. Tom x
1. How to prioritise between each aspect of the business - designs, website, marketing.
First off, marketing shouldn’t cost you anything for at least the first few months. All that marketing should be down to hard work. Use facebook/tumblr, these are both free and allow you to see how many people are at least interested in your concept and products. The main thing is never promote without something to sell, its all well and good thinking you’re creating ‘hype’ but promoting with nothing to sell is losing potential sales.
Websites aren’t necessary at the moment, you need a basic bigcartel and a Facebook page. The bigcartel pages are easy to customise and to start with you wont need anything fancy, use the banner of your store to inform people of things like worldwide postage, or update it with news sections but ultimately its the one area of branding you can use easily - make sure everyone who visits knows who you are and what you do.
As far as designs are concerned thats a whole other issue. You can do designs yourself, thats always a good cheap way to start off but get your friends involved or local artists. If you sit down and tell people about what you want to do, they might empathise and you can start some good relationships.
Ultimately, spend as little as possible to start with as your money will need to go on stock. Unless of course you have unlimited funds, in that case commission some work from established designers, check out http://mintees.com to scout out work you like - then use some more funds to create a custom bigcartel to give off a really strong professional image from the start. One thing i have noticed recently is startup companies charging £10+ per shirt, no one can justify that at a startup level. Honour started at £8 per shirt and over 2 years prices have had to increase due to now paying taxes, vat, national insurance contributions and trademarks. Lower prices will increase your customer base and make you more available to a wider audience.
2. Legal issues - tax, vat, sole tradership etc.
Always keep records of income and expenditure, you will need to file your tax return. The best way to get all of these things sorted are via a business adviser - business gateway etc - I never utilised these services and just floated about til i learnt what i needed to do.
After a while once your profits and turnover pass certain levels you’ll need to pay taxes and vat. Right now the Honour prices have had to increase for the 2011 tax year due to passing these turnover levels for 2010.
3. Initial investment, how much?
Honour started with £120 of my own money plus £180 split between 3 friends. With this i bought 100 one colour print white tees and went from there. Each of the investors got their money back within a month and once that had been done i could focus on the sales. I didn’t take it too seriously until Ghostfest 2009 when we first hand got to see people wearing the tees.
Don’t start a company if you need this money, being able to live and eat is far more important. Save until you have funds for what you want to do, patience is key to everything no matter how hard it is !
4. How to get a buzz started / increase number of fans?
Get lucky, i didn’t do anything different to any other company and i’m fairly sure it took a long time to get any support for what we were doing, after all we never really set out to get to this point its all just happened.
The main thing i see new companies doing right now is ‘annoying’ people. Facebook business pages are great because they stop you from spamming peoples pages - being a promotional pest is never a good idea.
With the business pages you can update people through photos and statuses but thats the only way you can talk to your audience. Similarly you cant force them to ‘like’ your page, its all down to them choosing to click and therefore remain informed. If you post constantly, one post after another, over and over then you will fill peoples feeds and annoy them. I try to post at lunchtimes, in the evenings and then later on when more international customers are about too. Sometimes this might seem like too much so I leave it every now and again for important things instead.
At the end of the day you will get more fans and therefore increase your word of mouth promotion, by doing things for your customers and providing them with something affordable that they want and like. You wont get very far charging £25 for a one colour print tshirt from day one. It’ll take a lot of work and a lot of promotion to get any return and grow the business. This said, i’m sure some people have managed to pull it off.
5. Where to get shirts printed in the UK?
I use two printers at the moment so that turnaround/restock times are as minimal as possible - check out Monster Press and Somerset Print Co. I will also be working with Merch Asylum in the near future. For any startup I’d say one printer will be more than enough but don’t expect miracles, these guys are always busy as are all printers.
GUIDELINES FOR STARTING A CLOTHING COMPANY…
(WARNING: be prepared to spend money to make money - or dont bother! )
1. Designs / name / goals - a plan on paper is a great way to stay focussed on your task at hand.
2. Facebook business page - use it carefully and dont annoy your ‘fans’
3. Get your shirts printed. You need a screen printing company - try Monster Press / Somerset Print Co / Merch Asylum.
4. Build your Bigcartel page - it doesnt have to be fancy, just get a good informative banner.
5. Get your shirts / get a photoshoot sorted - dont go too big too early, keep things small and build each time you shoot. Get a photographer who you feel comfortable working with and work with them over time to understand what you both want from shoots.
6. Sell via Bigcartel and promote via Facebook - keep your prices low to begin with to build your customer base. Maybe try a giveaway or a competition to keep everyone happy.
7. Always plan ahead and know whats next, dont neglect your Facebook page or Tumblr, they are key to making sure your customers are involved and you stay in touch with what they want..