By Catherine Ellis, Hill & Ellis
I love the quote from David Hieatt of Hiut Denim: “Do one thing well.”
It’s simple but it’s really great advice. There are many companies out there making virtually everything you can think of but if you can create your niche and do it really well, you will be the one place to come to for that product. So work out your unique angle and build from there.
Don’t make cheap, fast fashion.
Fashion, thankfully, has changed a lot over the last twenty years and there is no excuse for setting up a brand that doesn’t take its effect on the environment seriously. Customers now expect a fashion brand to have a sustainability policy and do everything in their power to reduce their effect on the environment. So join the revolution, start your brand the right way and make it part of your story.
Spend as much time as you possible testing your sample product, you need to put it through its paces before you press go with production. Be really rough with it, work out if there are any weak points or parts and check that it works exactly as you want it to – and how it fairs in the rain. I used to wait for a torrential downpour and then go out on my bike with the bag on the back for 45 minutes. Every time I got absolutely soaked – but I knew the bag stood up against the rain! You will be spending a small fortune on stock so you need to know it will work. So pull the first sample apart and order another sample for photography.
The Brand Name
It is important but don’t sweat over it too much as it shouldn’t be the blocker that stops you starting. The most important thing about the name is that another company doesn’t own it. Not only could they send you a cease and desist letter forcing you to change you name, but you could also be spending money on marketing that is all going to the other company. You could waste thousands only to help your competitor. In the last few years I know of three close friends whose companies have fallen foul of this. So check Companies House, check the web address, check social media tags and check the company directories in countries you want to sell to. If someone else is using the name find a different one. It isn’t worth the risk. Also try and find a name that won’t be misspelt and is easy to remember. If it can be misspelt and you really want it, buy the misspelt domain name so you can redirect it to you website.
Our Brand, Hill & Ellis often gets morphed into Hills & Ellis so we bought both domains so we can redirect the website to the correct one if it gets missed.
Finally ask friends for their opinion and check the name in foreign languages. Ford famously blundered when marketing the Pinto in Brazil because in Brazilian Portuguese it means “tiny male genitals.”
This should evoke the feeling of your company, or your product. Should it be fun, creative, clean, serious? Only you can make that decision. Also think about the end placement for your logo – will it be imprinted on products? If so the shape and size might affect the end design.
If you are not a designer yourself, I would definitely recommend hiring a designer to design a logo, they will transform it for you. Give your designer a clear brief on the feeling you want and if they are good they will interpret it for you. You might go through several incarnations before you land on the one you want but just as with dating – when you know, you know.
Get online. Today you can build a website on great platforms like Shopify or Squarespace without spending very much money. Some you can build yourself without any experience of coding but you might need to keep some money aside to be able to hire coders to tweak the site to how you want it. But don’t be scared of it, building a website is no longer as alien as it was 5 years ago. Selling direct means that you can build a brand and all direct sales mean better sales margins.
The packaging is an extension of the product and getting this right really moves the product from kitchen table to professional. It doesn’t have to be very expensive – it can be branded tissue paper, a branded sticker and a note with each order, but remember the excitement you have when you open up a well packaged product compared to when you open up one just in a plastic postal sack. It’s the difference between being talked about and not being talked about.
This is where the real work begins. Get on social, start targeting the press and it is worth paying for some ads on Instagram to start the ball rolling. If you are bootstrapping the whole thing, find other companies that complement your brand and do some mutual marketing campaigns. It’s a great way of getting your product out to their audience and vice versa.
Good luck – enjoy it. It’s a great journey!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Catherine Ellis is founder of Hill & Ellis, which produces a range of high quality, stylish cycle bags. Each bag, designed in the UK, is created to transition perfectly from home to bike to boardroom to bar. They are functional, fashionable and hard wearing. There’s plenty of space inside for a laptop and other essentials, and each bag comes with patented pannier clips that fit almost any bike, allowing you to clip the bag on and off quickly and easily. They have a climate positive workforce and plant a tree for every single bag sold online.