I’ve been asked to help out a new startup (TIY) and wanted to share how to get off the ground in 2018, vs what we were doing back in the day.
So, Beardbrand has been growing well and I’ve gotten it to the place where I don’t need to be in the day-to-day. This has freed up some of my time and allowed me to help with alternative projects. The founders of TIY were referred to me by a mutual friend here in Austin. They have been working on this business for about 3 years with it going absolutely no where. At the time they reached out to me, they did not have vision or a plan on how to build a sustainable business.
After seeing the performance of the product, and getting to know the founders better I decided to lend a helping hand. Before me the plan was to go the VC route, raise a bunch of money, and try to have a big launch. I prefer a more sustainable business model and talked with them about bootstrapping, spending wisely, and being content with a smaller business of which you have more ownership. (In business there is no right or wrong; but this is how I prefer to build businesses)
Prior to me, they built a website on WooCommerce. Frankly, it was terrible. While WooCommerce can provide great customization, it can also end up terrible if you aren’t a designer or technologically savvy. In the process of moving websites I also noticed that the website had been compromised and had some malware installed on it. This is a serious issue and if you go the route of Woo, you need to always make sure you are running the latest version of WordPress.
First, the proof:
Prior to the switch, TIY was cranking out about $400 – $600 / month in sales on the WooCommerce website. With the switch to Shopify, we also implemented several changes:
- Priced the product based on market research and customer value, rather than gut feel
- Launched bundled kits with discounts of 5%, 10%, and 15% depending on the size of the kit
- Rolled out free shipping for orders over $30
- Took new product photographs and organized the collections
- Went with a mobile friendly Shopify theme from Pexel Union
- Launched the new Pro series of products that has innovative packaging of the product
- All sales were organic and primarily from efforts on Instagram as well as emailing previous customers
We are going to continue to build out organic growth through Instagram and email and then add new channels like YouTube and the blog. In addition to building our organic foundation, we are in the process of testing our paid advertising strategy with the hope to find profitability. Unfortunately, two weeks in and the paid is not yet profitable. We will continue to test and refine.
There are also opportunities to improve the design and information on the product pages. We will continue to evolve, and update as we get feedback from our audience. If you also have feedback, I always love to hear it.
A common thing that I see on reddit is people simply going to Alibaba, reselling some junk product and expecting to see insane traction. The reality is that consumers are intelligent and they can screen the junk from the quality. TIY has developed and invented a new kind of hair tie. It is not simply a hair tie that has been untied, but one with the ability to hold a 20 lbs barbell (others will snap), and stretch 120% further than other ties. With it’s system, it allows customers to build a personalized hair tie for any type of hair – thick or fine; straight or curly. The benefits continue and the product won’t cut off circulation on your wrist, it’s less likely to cause hair crimping, and you can combine multiple colors to create a truly unique experience.
In addition to that, the Pro roll is a patent pending design to allow quick and easy access to the product and easy cutting experience. It took years and tens of thousands of dollars to create the product.
When it comes to product development, there is always room on the top and that’s the strategy that TIY is going.
The Bottom Line
I know this community likes to know about all the details and profitability. Is this company profitable? Hell no. After all the investment, it has a long way to go to get there. Fortunately, the team running it has multiple streams of income and don’t need to pay ourselves while we build this up. Sadly, not every business can be profitable on the first day and it will take investment and time to get there. That is the risk of building a startup.
If you aren’t in the position to invest in the business, then I’d recommend keeping your primary job and working your startup as a side hustle. The other alternative is to keep on working and saving a significant amount of capital to do a proper launch that can sustain you.
Shameless self promotion
Here are the projects I talked about as well as a couple of others y’all might find interesting. I’m not selling you anything (nor do I expect you to buy anything), but if you’d like to look at what I talked about; here are the links (plus a bonus podcast).
As always, ask any questions you may have; or critique the hell outta the business. Thanks for reading and keep on growing!