By Brent Leary
Back in the day — meaning a couple of years ago — starting your own designer label took a lot of time, effort and money before even selling your first shirt. But with tools like crowd-sourcing and Kickstarter on the scene, it can be done at a fraction of the cost in both time and money.
Parag Jhaveri, co-founder of premium shirt manufacturer Hucklebury.com, shares how he and his partner were able to start the company by using Kickstarter to raise $20,000 from backers/”pre-customers” before having to manufacture a single shirt.
Why start a clothing manufacturing business today?
I spent most of my childhood seeing my business-minded mother operate two garment factories of 75 people, to design, manufacture, and export scarves, chiffons, shorts, shirts, to brands like Calvin Klein, and a lot of other major brands around the world.
She did that entire business the traditional way, 15 years ago. I’m trying to take it to the online world, using technology and data.
How are you going about redefining that business?
Parag: The business model that we are using is quite innovative and unique in this sense; we are crowdsourcing fashion. For example, let’s say you are a brand that wants to launch a shoe company, and you’re a great designer, but you have no idea how many shoes to design of what color. Our platform essentially will help you to launch your shoe brand and take pre-orders.
Then after the pre-orders are taken – because customers are committing to pay beforehand — it will go into production and get manufactured; rather than making them and realizing you’ve made too many or too little.
How did Kickstarter help?
Parag: On Kickstarter we launched our own premium brand, Hucklebury. We’re trying to make better-fitting shirts with premium-quality fabrics used by brands like Armani and Versace, that typically cost $200 and upwards at one-third the price of these brands.
You set a goal to raise $20,000 and hit it in less than three weeks.
Parag: Kickstarter is a great platform to take it on to see whether your product or idea is in demand, or not. But in order to have a successful Kickstarter, you have to do a lot of marketing and PR, either by yourself, or if you have the money, you hire somebody.
If you were launching on Kickstarter, what one should do is essentially start marketing about two or three weeks before you are about to launch. If you’re launching a toy product, find all the writers which have written about toy products, and possibly make an Excel spreadsheet. Using LinkedIn is good for this.
Getting your story pitch right, before even you reach out, is really important. Having a clear message on what you’re trying to do, how you’re trying to solve it and why you’re solution is better.
Definitely there are bloggers who write about toy products, so reaching out to them. And then doing some YouTube videos also can help, if your product is applicable to that.
So, doing all this in a systematic manner definitely helps. And make sure to tell your friends and family before-hand what you’re up to, and ask for their help to initially feed it.
With Kickstarter it takes a few months of preparation before you can get anywhere. I would say at least three to six months of preparation, depending upon your product.
If you weren’t able to raise the $20,000, what would it have cost you to find out demand wasn’t there compared to traditional manufacturing?
Parag: Shooting the video can cost anywhere from $500 to $4,000, depending upon who you hire. Taking pictures, has its own costs, as well. The content and everything, we put on by ourselves. Then, obviously, getting samples made also can cost you a few hundred dollars.
All in all, it can be anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000 or $3,000. But this is a fraction of the cost, compared to traditional business, which definitely is quite labor-intensive, as well as resource-intensive.