Just over 4 years ago I launched my own brand & blog An Organised Life. My brand was born out of the desire to create luxurious yet functional products & content, bringing organisation & structure into busy lives. I have learnt a lot along the way and still have a lot more to learn. However it’s been the best & most challenging thing I have ever done.
Below are my simple steps to starting your own brand (from my personal experience):
1. GO WITH YOUR GUT
Starting your own brand is both terrifying and exciting! When you’re coming up with your idea make sure you go with your gut. You need to feel strongly inspired by your brand idea and see the longevity in it. Launching your own brand is no easy feat and self-motivation, passion & commitment come from feeling inspired by your idea.
2. PREP & PLAN
There is a lot and I mean A LOT of preparation & planning that goes into launching your own brand. It may seem tedious but trust me, it all pays off in the long run. Make sure you write a big list of everything you need to tick off in the prep & planning stages so that you don't miss anything. Organisation is key. For example, if you are launching a product, some categories to tick off include:
NAME YOUR BRAND: Key!
WRITE A BRAND STATEMENT:
One of the most important ways you can prep to launch your brand (product or blog) is to create a really strong brand statement. This is a short & informative sentence or two that reflects your brand’s purpose & core values.
WRITE A COMPETITORS REPORT:
A thorough analysis of all your competitors in the market. Where they sit, what they do, their price bracket etc. It’s important to be realistic of what is already out there.
FIND YOUR POINT OF DIFFERENCE:
Nowadays, with the internet and social media making customers / consumers much more reachable, it’s a lot easier to launch your own brand. However in saying that, it also means there is a lot more competition. Make sure you recognise your point of difference and play this to your advantage. For An Organised Life as a brand (both product & blog wise) our point of difference is the signature monochrome, minimalist aesthetic combined with the functional aspect of bringing organisation & structure into busy lives.
REGISTER YOUR COMPANY + LOOK INTO TRADEMARK/S:
Coming from a creative background, accounting was never my forte. I employed my brother as my CFO right from the start to help me with this section of my business. It’s important to know your strengths and weaknesses. From invoicing to GST there is a lot to set up and a lot to learn. Knowing your numbers in business is huge.
As a side note - 4 years on - Xero is now my best friend!
When you start your own business, it’s important to spend a lot of time researching and finalising all your costs. From your product and sampling costs to your website and marketing costs. Make sure you are very thorough - and over estimate rather than under estimate for everything. Then you can finalise your cost price, wholesale price, retail price with the correct margins.
One of the hardest things to suss when you start your own business is how to find the funds to actually make it happen. For me, I saved money from my full time salary each week and had a small loan from my family. I wanted to start slow and steady since the business world was very new to me. Other options are raising capital through family and friends, using your savings, going into partnership with someone, investors, scholarships, the bank or crowd funding. Look over all your options carefully and plan accordingly.
As a side note, I personally carried on working full time for the first wee while when I launching An Organised Life so that I could put some of my salary into the business. There are no rules - you do you!
If you are launching a product, you will need to allow plenty of time to get your product designed right. The key to starting a business is to make sure you absolutely nail your product. Don’t launch with a half finished product or something you aren’t proud of. Be patient and take the time to get it right. What problem are you trying to solve with your product? Or what gap in the market are you trying to fulfil?
Personally I design all the An Organised Life products and I wouldn't have it any other way, however if you don't have experience in this make sure you work with someone who is passionate about your vision.
PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT & SAMPLING:
Personally for me, I usually sample each product twice and then have a pre-production sample before going to bulk. Make sure you allow time for this. Also don’t be afraid to sample with a few different factories or contacts. You want to make sure you have the best quality product and also the best price. You might also need an extra sample set or two before bulk arrives for photo-shoots and press as well.
Once you’re happy with your product and approve your pre-production samples, book in bulk production. As a general rule the more quantities you order the lower your unit price. Quote a few options and commit to what is right for you.
If you are producing your goods overseas - you will need to make sure you contact a freight forwarder to assist you with the shipping, customs clearance and duties. If it’s your first time, get onto this early and shop around. Google is your best friend when looking up shipping terminologies too.
WEBSITE DOMAIN AND DESIGN:
Make sure you secure your domain name early. In terms of the website design - a successful website should be user-friendly, innovative, functional and inspiring. Take your time ironing out all areas of your website before you launch and make sure you put through a few sales to test i first. I would even suggest a soft launch (not advertising it for the 1st week) and asking your family and friends to jump on and give you feedback.
e.g Logo, Packaging. The visual aesthetic element of a brand is extremely valuable and important. For An Organised Life my signature monochrome, minimalistic style is dominant across all aspects of my brand. From my social media & website, to my products & packaging, I spend a lot of time making sure everything looks consistent and reflects my signature style. Fortunately one of my hidden strengths is that I have a background in graphic design, however if you are worried about this element of your brand, make sure you invest the time & money to work with a graphic designer / web developer to create brand guidelines, your logo & site etc. Your brand image can really elevate and add a huge amount of value to your product. Do not do half ass branding!
SALES PLAN + STRATEGY:
From wholesale to online, work out your sales plan and strategy for your launch. Are you selling purely online or to wholesale too? Do you need a sales agent? Do you feel confident to sell your product on your own? Do you need to start reaching out to some contacts early? Are you selling locally, internationally or both? What is your budget and target you want to reach each month or for a season?
E COMERCE STORE SET UP:
Set up your e commerce store ready for your launch. Personally I use Shopify and I highly recommend it for a start up business. Another good platform for new online stores is SquareSpace. Both platforms have visually inspiring themes and user-friendly set up pages. Make the most of their video tutorials as well.
From your online product imagery to your campaign imagery - make sure you really think out how you want your product shown. I’m a big believer in having strong online and campaign imagery, especially when you’re a new brand. Put some budget aside to do this right. And make sure you showcase each product as much as possible.
SHIPPING PLAN + RATES:
There are a lot of different shipping companies out there. Request rates from as many companies as you can and weigh up the pro’s and con’s. For example I use Australia Post for my online orders (Pulled through StarShipIt from Shopify) and I use InterParcel, DHL + Fedex for my wholesale orders.
PACKAGING FOR ORDERS:
From custom packaging and tissue paper, to postage stickers and bubble wrap mailers - research and purchase everything you need in advance.
Who is going to dispatch your online and wholesale orders? Where will they do this? Make sure you nut this out. What else do they need storage wise to make this process easier? Drawers? Containers etc.
MARKETING & PR PLAN + STRATEGY:
Marketing and PR is such a HUGE part of businesses these days, especially with the addition of social media. Once you have your product perfected begin looking at new, innovative ways to market your product. From google ad words, and EDM’s to gifting, ambassador programmes and a launch event - there are endless options and you really need to nut out what strategy is right for you. Try to pencil in a rough guide for the next 6 months so that you stay ahead of the game and don’t have to be to reactive. With a new business you will learn and adjust as you go but it’s important to have some sort of strategy and plan in place. Make sure you also suss how you are going to measure your strategy success? Are you focusing on sales? Growing your database? Brand exposure etc.
SOCIAL MEDIA HANDLE:
Lock this in early!
SOCIAL MEDIA PLAN:
Once you have your Marketing & PR Strategy in place and your photo-shoots complete you can start planning out your social media. How do you want it to look? What message do you want to say? What is your tone of voice?
3. CREATE A CALENDAR + SCHEDULE
If you’re feeling overwhelmed right about now, just take a big deep breathe. When I started An Organised Life I only had experience in a handful of these areas. Knowing your strengths and weakness is a huge part of business and it’s important to recognise these early on. If you have budget to bring in some extra helping hands or outsource some areas then now is the time to do that. The first things I outsourced on a small budget was my PR + Sales and bring on my brother as CFO.
Next - Create a calendar. Divide and conquer the above list so that it’s more achievable. Break it down in sections and work through it one task at a time.
4. ASK QUESTIONS
Don’t be afraid to ask people questions. I have learnt so much from asking friends about platforms they use, apps they use or their advice on dispatch solutions etc.
5. LISTEN TO PODCASTS:
6. WRITE A SCHEDULE
When you feel like you are ready to go, start writing a rough weekly schedule of things you need to get done to keep the business pushing forward e.g designing new products, shooting new product, social media, gifting, pick and packing online orders daily, wholesale, invoicing, etc, etc. This will be a work in progress but it’s important to think about this early.
7. CREATE GOALS
Patience is key when you launch your own brand, as achieving goals can take time. My motto has always been slow and steady wins the race as I learn & grow all aspects of An Organised Life. From designing new products & working with new printers, to bringing on local & international wholesalers, and having to deal with customs, freight & accounts - there is a lot to learn as your grow step by step. One way that I keep my self-motivation & inspiration high is by creating goals - short term & long terms. Your goals can be as big or as small as you desire, as long as they help you grow your brand & business.
8. LAUNCH, LEARN & EVOLVE
Launching your brand is one of the most exciting ventures you will ever experience. It marks the beginning of lots of hard work, but I promise you, you will also experience a lot of happiness as well. Make sure you always challenge yourself, work hard, learn from your mistakes & grow. Make sure you stay open minded and don’t be afraid to adapt - there is a high chance your brand or vision may change from your original concept as you reflect & evolve. Also…remember to celebrate your successes along the way!
And remember, success isn't built over night. Good Luck! x