Location: Berlin, big hipster café.
Most other guests dressed as if they are either about to enter the Matrix or perhaps have just returned from Woodstock. Super good coffee and really nice staff though if your looking for a good spot to work for the day. Check it out here.
Travel plans: Testing out the ‘Berlin Techno’ thing tonight with a cool Californian guy I met. We found a really nice rooftop bar (after looking for it for hours) last night, check it out if you’re here.
The ongoing question: What am I selling?
It’s coming, it’s coming, I’ll let you know the specific products soon (currently doing a bit of testing with shipping times with suppliers etc), but for now, my approach is this:
Start with a brand concept, and then choose products that run with the same brand vision. It doesn’t have to be in this order, if you do have a really cool product in mind, sure, start with that and align the brand with it – but this time, I’m flipping it around. Here, you are ensuring you keep your offerings within your niche.
As I said last week, I want to sell goods that can align with me, and things which I would genuinely like to purchase myself. This way, it is much easier to enjoy the work you are doing – you are working for something you genuinely feel enthusiastic about selling. In addition to this, it is heaps, heaps easier to decide on your marketing strategies if you’re literally marketing to ‘yourself’.
So, at least for now, the general brand will be one which “Offers essential goods to enjoy with a life of travel, summer and music.” The ‘About’ page may feature something a little like:
“Our products all fit into a lifestyle revolving around travel, summer and music. Whether you’re embarking on a yearlong adventure, packing for a 3-day festival or simply heading down to the beach, we aim to one day offer something that you would always want with you for these good times in life.”
Obviously this is a rough sketch and a more polished version would be used on the actual site, however, for now, this is the concept I will follow when shortlisting products.
This does not mean I will be sourcing 10-20 separate products for the launch to fit within this brand concept. Not at all. I would never rush it like this.
I aim to start small and test the market with maybe 1-3 products, evaluate the results, and can then expand once I really know what my target market want and also what they are willing to pay.
This will save me money, time, and ultimately confusing my potential consumers. Ultimately, the aim of this project is to commence with as little investment as possible.
Although I completely agree that no business should be started with the specific intention of ‘keeping it small’, I do also believe that often the biggest businesses started with modest goals but open minds – they just followed the flow – Amazon set out to sell books, cough cough…
*Careful! Keep in mind, I am risking becoming a bit broad with my market definition through my branding.
It is always preferable to find a small niche rather than an ‘offer all’ store. Don’t go any broader than I have, or you will get lost in the shark feeding frenzy of competitors, search terms and will risk having your ‘brand’ become quite tacky in the process.
I may end up narrowing my market a little more as I go, ie, narrow it down to solely travel goods for a specific age/interest group.
This will all be a gradual learning process, where I’ll work out who my customers are and what they want as the initial sales start coming through.
This is actually pretty simple, and not that important in terms of an online store. Sure, it should be catchy and maybe relevant, but it is by no means a be-all-end-all factor in the business.
Don’t waste your time here
In these early stages, it is important to not dwell on ultimately insignificant things.
This is something that people get really caught up on in their first business, and in the end, it leads them to burning out because of the stress involved in every single decision. These are the simple things which clog up the brain when it should be used for more significant and innovative tasks.
Sure, business plans, checks and risk assessment are worthwhile, but the best way to move forward is to think about the opportunities rather than focusing on the restrictions. Make mistakes and apologise later. Keep lots of records of everything of course, but keep the momentum going forward – throw yourself in.
A name designed for flexibility
For this business, I want a name which is versatile.
At this point, I am thinking I will be selling goods relating to a life of travel, summer, and music. The advantage of picking a versatile (non-specific) name is that if my original concept doesn’t work, I could literally shut down the original brand, and then re-launch with the same name, same domain, same boring administrative crap, but in a completely seperate market – future headaches saved.
So, as stupid, and maybe even self-indulgent as it sounds for the small group of people that know me, and stemming from what was originally a joke, I’ve decided to call my store Charlie Spike.
*To clarify for those that have only known me through Facebook, Charlie Spike is not my actual name.
Reasons for the ‘stupid’ business name choice:
- It only sounds stupid to the small group of people that know me – to a stranger, which most the site visitors will be, a store called ‘Charlie Spike’ would be completely normal
- I actually already own this domain name (Charliespike.com) as I had bought it planning a prank on a mate a while ago, but never moved forward with it – thus, I save the money in purchasing it
- It is easy to say and spell. One thing I remember clearly when we named Namaste Collective was that we didn’t realise that lots of people were nervous to pronounce it. On phones people would spell it out letter by letter. There is nothing worse for a business spreading by word-of-mouth than having people hesitate to mention the name for fear of saying it wrong.
- I could envision a store called Charlie Spike selling anything from surf and travel goods to children’s products or pet toys. I can just imagine the different logos bending with the markets in my mind. Whatever it may be, it is a name I can easily play with in different markets should that need come if my original products fail.
*Exception: If you are completely sure of exactly what you want to sell, it can be a good idea to include the key word in your name – Eg, Rover Drink bottles. This way, once you purchase your domain and start site building, you’ve got a head start on the search engine rankings!
Lame name, no?
Don’t get me wrong, this name is one I did ponder on for too long myself because I thought that for those people that do know me, it may seem quite smug to name a store the same as your own (or at least your Facebook name).
To be clear, I will not be a ‘figurehead’ or poster boy on the front page of the store, quite the opposite, I will be hidden well behind the scenes – it is purely a name of a store/brand and that is that.
It is sometimes these kinds of random and silly ideas that you are most hesitant about which are the best ones. If you’re scared to do something for fear of being judged, then it is quite likely that it is the exact thing you should do.
Here are is a favourite quote of mine from a very worth watching graduation speech by Neil Gaiman to back this idea up:
“That moment that you feel that, just possibly, you’re walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself. That’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.”
You could apply this quote to all sides of the business formation, for example for me, I could apply it to the fact I am writing this blog, the cliché mission statement, the name, and the list goes on.
Don’t need to get naked, but you get the point.
So, I’ve got a brand concept, I’ve got a name (subject to all checks in next blog), and I’ve got some products in mind – the ball is rolling.
- Name checks – do NOT move forward with your ‘name’ and buying domains etc. until you are 110% sure the name is available for use in terms of intellectual property and everything else. Made a big mistake with this last time!
- Setting up your ‘business structure’ – heaps easier than it sounds, I’ll keep it simple.
- And finally – first steps to getting your website online (again, easier than it sounds).
For those following along creating a business along side me, keep sussing out what’s available on Aliexpress to source your products while your implementing the rest of these steps. Read reviews, look for shipping times, look for popularity of products – keep the ideas flowing.
Anyway, Berlin, too much coffee so I better stop writing now.
Please do let me know what you think of all of this, and please DO grill me on anything whatsoever.
Receiving criticism in the early stages is important to make sure you aren’t running down a dangerous rabbit hole. Of course some can be ignored, but lots of it is still very worthwhile listening to.