What it’s like to start and sell a men’s clothing company, while still being a college student. This blog encompasses some of the key lessons that I learned through the process and therefore some of the key tips that you can apply to starting a successful fashion brand.
Last week I finalized the sale of my company Sir Wylde. As we sent out a formal announcement to the Sir Wylde email list yesterday morning, I thought I would share this brief blog post about a few of my experiences as well.
Sir Wylde is a higher-end, handmade men's accessory brand that primarily sells neckwear, pocket squares and suspenders. In 2015, I started the brand while literally sewing neckties in my college apartment. Now, in 2017, all of the manufacturing is done at some leading factories in New York City. Sir Wylde is primarily an ecommerce business, meaning that the products are sold online.
Starting Sir Wylde has undoubtably been the best decision I have made in my young professional career. Although it’s difficult for me to pinpoint exactly what the most valuable lessons were from taking a company from inception to sale, here are a few things that come to mind:
(1) Do your homework.
I've noticed that many entrepreneurs focus exclusively on the passion of entrepreneurship and forget about the intelligence and strategy that sustains the passion. What I mean by this, is if you were to ask an unexperienced entrepreneur how to start a company, is is likely they would say something along the lines of the following: "Just go for it!" or "Don't just sit there planning, do something!". While, I would say that passion and enthusiasm are essential components to starting a successful company, I would also say that the "Just go for it!" approach is going to cause much more pain than necessary.
When I started Sir Wylde, I ran like a horse out of a starting gate, full steam ahead, not thinking much about how exactly I was going to create a successful company. If I were to start a company tomorrow I would first fully and thoroughly analyze the business idea. I would ask myself, "What problem is this idea solving?", "How big is the demand for the solution?", "Who are my competitors?" and "Who are my customers?". I would do an extensive amount of secondary and primary research. I would get to know my target market. What pains them? What do they desire? I would get on the phone and speak to them, I would email them, I would go to lunch with them, I would know everything I could about them and then I would track all of my findings.
After I had determined that my business idea was a great idea that had the potential to "put a dent in the universe" as Steve Jobs would say, I would create a succinct and simple plan on how I was going to make my idea a home run. I wouldn't make a long 20-page plan like I was taught in college, but I would summarize all of my finding into a one-page report that I could hang in my bedroom. In my plan I would denote what problem my idea is solving, who my customer is and how I am going to turn my idea into a business. Of course my plan would likely pivot over time, but writing it down initially would give me the reassurance that my idea has the potential to be great.
(2) Learn to allocate your resources.
Although Sir Wylde became a profitable business very early on, there were times when we stunted and slowed our growth because we unwisely allocated our resources.
When you own a business, it is important to only put money where it most matters. This I believe is generally in one of the two categories: (1) the product or service and (2) advertising that product or service. Do whatever you can to test the specific products, services or advertising campaigns before putting tons of money into one in particular. Do your best to only spend money on the winners.
One of the best examples of a company that properly allocates its resources is a company called Taft that is located here in Provo, Utah. The other day I had the opportunity of interviewing the owner, Kory Stevens, and was very impressed with how he runs his business. Kory only recently opened the first Taft office even though the company was doing nearly $10,000 in sales daily at the time. Kory said that he's done everything in his power to put his resources where it really matters.
(3) Spend your time and energy on the important things.
As an entrepreneur, you have a lot of things to do and a limited amount of time and resources to do them. There were days when I was far too scrambled, trying to do everything in the world, rather than focusing on what was most important. Instead of trying to do everything, find out what works and focus on that. After some time with Sir Wylde, I learned this principle and it made a huge difference towards the businesses success and my personal happiness.
(4) Always be learning.
This is perhaps the most important lesson as all other lessons are related to it.
There's a reason why Warren Buffett said that he read about 600 pages a day when he began his investing career or that Bill Gates said he reads about one book a week. Knowledge is truly what will make you successful.
Why make a mistake when you can learn from someone else and avoid it? Because of books and technology, you can be mentored by some of the greatest minds in history for only the price of a paperback book or a library card.
Lately I've committed myself to reading at least one book a month and listening to two podcasts a week, which has really made a difference. Learn in every way possible and always be writing things down. I also learn a ton of things from the people that I spend time with.
I feel very blessed to be able to sell Sir Wylde and am hopeful that the new owners will continue to see success. They are very talented and experienced, which made selling the brand that much easier.
As far as myself, I'm going to focus on the present day, work on some creative projects this summer and enjoy life as much as I can. Also, I hope to write more often on this blog.
Sir Wylde taught me many things. If you have any questions about a project you're currently working on or a question that I may be able to assist with, please reach out and I'll see if I can help (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Thanks for reading,
Note: This blog was updated January 2019 and will continue to be updated in order to be as relevant as possible.