I have no real retail experience, no fashion contacts, no street cred. I don't know any famous skateboarders or graffiti artists. My second cousin isn't boys with Drake. But I do have great taste in t-shirts - having coveted them most of my life - and a hunger to turn an unlikely, crazy dream into reality.
My brand, COLORCAMP, began sometime in 2012 when a side consulting gig with a Sri Lankan import/export company brought me in contact with really cheap, really high quality t-shirts. The catch - I'd have to buy a whole lot of them, ship them by boat in an enormous container and get them to New York City. While I didn't end up sourcing my shirts from halfway around the world (it turns out, after all that transportation the shirts weren’t so cheap after all), the contact did plant a seed in my mind that has since grown into a hearty and healthy sapling.
My take on the graphic tee scene is not unique by any means – but I have approached it from a different angle than most. All of my designs are produced by working artists and photographers – people who show at fine arts galleries and may someday hit the big time. I spent hundreds of hours scouring galleries in Brooklyn and Manhattan and arts sites far and wide on the internet for just the right artists. My inaugural line, just launched for Spring/Summer 2014 is a deep mix of edgy fun that resonates with serious art lovers and stylish kids alike.
As cliché as it sounds, my biggest success and happiest moment to date was my first organic sale. Getting that e-mail from Shopify notifying me of the sale was pure ecstasy – it made the countless hours, the frustrations, the doubts and the big monetary investment in my business feel worth it. All that from one sale? Yes, really.
I’m six months post-launch and the work never ends. But neither does the optimism. Or the enjoyment I get from building a business from the ground up, brick by brick. Success is not guaranteed, but what I do know is that failure only occurs when you stop trying. And that is one thing I’ll never do.
Thank you Shopify for making my dream a wonderful reality. I don’t know that I would have done it without you.
How did you earn your first sales? Which channels are now generating the most traffic and sales for you?
Public Relations - getting coverage in arts, streetwear and fashion magazines and blogs - is the name of the game for a site like mine. A good social media presence helps too.
Tell us about the back-end of your business. What tools and apps do you use to run your store? How do you handle shipping and fulfillment?
Until my volume increases to the point that a drop shipper makes sense, I do all packing and shipping by hand. Its a little extra work, but I know that each shirt is going to someone who sought my brand out and can't wait to get their package in the mail. It makes the extra hours totally worth it.
What are your top recommendations for new ecommerce entrepreneurs?
Most growing pains associated with a business are necessary to the learning process. There are things I would have done differently - and I'm sure I'll look back a year from now and feel the same way with some of my current decisions.
The key is to take your time, do diligent research, read, get multiple bids and really think things through before you get going. Don't let this deter you from ever getting started - but it pays to go into any new business as prepared as possible. But have fun with it. If you can't have fun, really, what's the point.