When I started TranslucenSea I had a vision in mind of a place people could go to buy amazing sustainable clothing at a great price, more specifically focusing on women as I found that all the fashion-focused clothing I had and was buying was made out of crap, cheap, synthetic materials.
I had a goal, and a dream for what I wanted to do but with very little understanding of the manufacturing business, and little experience in fashion I had no idea how to do make it a reality. So I did what lots of startups do, and I jumped in the deep end with a subpar product which I, too this day, am still trying to shift.
The thing that I jumped in the deep end with, was about unisex baggy printed t-shirts with my logo and phrases that meant nothing to anyone but me, and as it turns out… the majority of girls aged 18-28 who I was targeting aren’t really interested in filling their wardrobe with unisex baggy sustainable t-shirts.
I was CONVINCED, that these would sell and kept telling myself that they would buy them as a chilled clothing item, or to throw over a bikini or put on to sleep in, but I was wrong and learn a big lesson that, in general, baggy t-shirts from an unknown brand don’t sell that well to the demographic that I wanted to be a hit with. I didn’t do my research and it shot me in the foot.
Really, there wasn’t much research for me to do here to work that I was going the wrong direction with this. I was 21, female, into sustainability and the oceans, I was my ideal customer. So I need only have looked in my own wardrobe or paid attention to the last few items I’d brought online to know that I had got the demographics wrong.
You know who does love baggy unisex tshirts from unknown companies trying to do good things for the oceans? Mums, mums bloody love them. They have seen the BBC docs and are changing their habits around plastic in the house, and they really want to support a brand that is doing the same.
They want to buy these tops for their kids, and cousins and nieces and nephews, but it’s unlikely they’re gonna buy one for their 22 daughter that wants the latest misguided swimwear she saw on love island this weekend.
Not taking the time to stop and think about what products I was making and who they were for, cost me tens of thousands of pounds in the end, and though I maintain that this business still cost less that uni and taught me more life lessons, I could have done without losing all that cash.
So all in all the lesson from this is as follows:
Don’t invent your demographic, check there is a real one there, and work to that instead.
Stop and take a step back to look at your business before you go all in. Check, double check and triple check that the customer you think you have exists. Ask your friends (your honest ones not your “yes man” friends), ask a stranger, do some focus groups and make sure you can do whatever you can to be sure in your idea and who your customer is, BEFORE, you jump in the deep end.