In the midst of our exciting new launch of our range of neckties, I thought it a great opportunity to give you a little behind the scenes insight into the process behind putting the range together and some of the lessons I’ve learned from the experience.
I’ve made no secret of this from the start: I’ve never run a business or worked in fashion before. I love to sew and dressmake and I can make a darn fine dress (forgive the pun!), but I’ve never even worked in retail, so this was entirely new to me.
- Identifying a problem
Earlier this year, I applied for a business accelerator program. One of the questions they asked me in the application was what problem I was solving with my start up. At the time, the question really stumped me because a pocket square didn’t really solve a problem (no matter how lovely and handcrafted and exquisitely packaged it was). That said, I remained optimistic that my business would continue to grow. When I was doing some photos, one of the resounding themes to come out of conversations with my models was that they weren’t at all confident pairing accessories for a night out. That’s when I got thinking about a new direction for PocketMan and I asked myself the question, how can I solve this problem?
- Finding a product model
Once I identified the problem, I did a bit of research to work out what was in the space. There are plenty of subscription boxes out there. They were cheap and cheerful and seemed to offer a lot of different products for a very low cost. Despite the variety, most of the reviews for these services were that the quality was poor, and you got what you paid for. For me, these definitely were not words I wanted PocketMan to be associated with when I strive to be a authentic, high quality and sophisticated label. The other, less prevalent model out there was the one-off accessory box. A bit more expensive but the items seemed to be of a better quality. This model seemed to be a better fit for PocketMan to solve the problem but stay in line with my core messages and objectives for the brand.
- Market research
Once I had this idea, I put out feelers to my friends and family. It was a simple, short Facebook message asking about prices, what items somebody would like to see in a box and the strength of their loyalty to local manufacturing. This gave me a really good indication of what my target market thought of the idea and how it would look more tangibly. From this process, I picked up some really good feedback and began to learn a lot more about what was important to my target market. It also helped me to understand how my target market perceived my brand.
- Designing the product
Now with my idea in tow, I had to make some serious decisions about how I wanted my product to look and feel. I had to decide whether I would go with a higher quality fabric like silk which would drive up the price or a lower quality and cheaper fabric like polyester. I had to make a similar consideration when it came to decide whether to manufacture offshore or in Melbourne. In the end, I went with the higher quality fabric and (after many, many hours of searching Alibaba) found a manufacturer who was willing to do very small quantities of silk for me. While there were times where communication with my silk manufacturer was difficult because of a language barrier, I was ultimately quite satisfied at their openness and timely production of my order. While I would have liked to have manufactured the fabric here in Australia, our fabric manufacturing trade seems to have dwindled drastically. This said, I manufacture the ties in Melbourne. I made this decision as it was truer of my brand story and despite the extra cost, the quality and craftsmanship of the sewing was much higher than I could have expected overseas.
I now find myself in the product marketing stages of this process (which is honestly my Achilles heel!) I have launched two smaller Facebook/Instagram ad campaigns and an exclusive discount for my email subscriber list. I’ve also been lucky enough to be invited to a Spring Racing ladies’ luncheon in September which will provide me a physical presence to show off my products. If you have any other suggestions, let me know! I’m always looking for new ideas.
While it feels like I’m in the hardest stage of this process, I’ve enjoyed every minute of it and I’m excited to see where this next journey takes me. In the coming weeks, I’ll be pairing the squares and ties in pre-paired combinations, so you can just buy the whole outfit in one go. In the meantime, if you want to have a look at our squares, head over to the store and check them out! Likewise, if you have any questions at all about matching or pairing, send me a message and I’ll be happy to help out.