How To Become A Shoe Designer Part 5: Creating Your Brand/Business Model
It’s been awhile since I have kept up with my “How to become a shoe designer” series. This is mainly due to the fact that as I was writing it previously I had come to the point in which I could not go anymore as I had not lived/accomplished the next stages of the process. But alas, 2 years later, I have and am back to write a few most posts on the subject.
Part 5: Creating Your Brand
As I learned at university, branding is very important concept in terms of driving a successful business. Think about it. The most common word in the entire world is a brand: Coca-Cola. How powerful is that? Very! If your business name is not catchy/noteworthy it can be hard to catch on and easy to forget. Easy to forget is not very good as we all don’t always have our business cards accessible to hand out. Therefore, creating a strong brand name that is easy to remember and sticks in your mind is quite crucial.
When I was at the point in which I needed to name my shoe line, there was the dilemma of calling it either The Shoe Snob or using my name. Of course, when I first created my goal of having my own shoe line, nothing was more exciting then the idea of people wearing shoes with MY name in them and therefore I was skewed towards that idea. Now logical “branding” theory would tell me that The Shoe Snob was an already existing and catchy brand name that would be far better as an overall brand then J.FitzPatrick would. So why did I not call it The Shoe Snob then? Many might think that ego had to do with it and while of course on some subconscious level it did, I will tell a good part of it came from the way in which I needed to start my business. Allow me to explain….
The first reason had to do with the fact that smart shoes need to be somewhat serious. My competition is comprised of brands that have been around for 50-100 years (if not more). They have historical significance and to convince one of their clients to go off of the beaten path and try my shoes means that I need to present something that look as equally smart of a purchase (i.e attractive, good value etc). A gimmicky name, such as The Shoe Snob, can put off a serious client that is looking for the idea of quality, even if the very essence of The Shoe Snob is 100% about quality. First impressions are powerful and a wrong association with a name can hurt your company. It’s easy for the accessories to be branded The Shoe Snob because the most expensive product is £36, not £325.
I therefore felt that putting a real name behind the shoes showed substance. It makes people relate to it better. There is a person that is there creating the company, not just a faceless brand. And the fact that nearly all of my direct competitors all have brands that are a person’s name, means that it must be something that you simply ‘do’ in this part of the industry. Don’t try and fix something that is not broken, right?! So, that is one reason I decided to use my partial name and the other one will be laid out below.
Part 5.1: Creating Your Business Model
There are really on two ways to build a shoe business: straight to customer selling (i.e. online/shopfront etc) or wholeselling. Wholeselling is by far the more practical and realistic approach for most small business, mainly because it does not involve a lot of upfront investment. And what wholeselling means is that you buy your shoes at price A, sell them for a small mark up to shop for price B and they take the big margin and then sell them at retail price C. When doing this you automatically have to create a retail price that allows for the transition from cost price to the retail price and being able to have that B margin in there. It’s the margin that allows you to make any sort of money for selling your shoes to another shop. But this route can also make your product more expensive than it could really be if you did a direct to consumer approach.
The direct to consumer approach involves high start up costs and in many cases might take some investment. If you want to just come out with a shop, then you need to be able to afford not only the shop rent, but the stock, employees and of the other things that a shop comes with. It’s not cheap. And then you have to have a great marketing campaign to drive traffic to your shop or online or whatever route you chose. This is by far the harder and more riskier option of starting a line. But it does allow you to manipulate your price and thus create your own acceptable margin depending on your business model. If you manage to keep your costs as low as possible you can thus also lower your retail price to make your product look more attractive.
I kind of did a mixture of both, whereby I was able to get my shoes into someone else’s shop and sell directly to the public but had to give a nice hefty chunk of each sale to the hosting company. That means that I had to factor in a wholesale markup to make it worth my while as I was taking all of the risk, owning the shoes and thus purchasing £40K worth of stock to launch. Also, it was my intention to wholesale to other shops around the world in order to build my brand’s international recognition. The fact that I launched at a serious place with over 200 years history, also meant that I needed to have a serious name attached to my shoes, one that could somewhat correlate to the ethos of the shop that I was selling in. Had I went the direct-to-customer approach by launching my own shop with investment, naming it ‘The Shoe Snob’ is what I would have done, as it would have been far more intriguing to those who walked by the shop window, then simply seeing “J.FitzPatrick.”
So you see, creating a brand/image is not so ‘black and white.’ There were many factors that lead to my decision. Was I right in the end? Who knows. I guess that time will tell. But either way, my three sites are all intertwined, so naturally, J.FitzPatrick will always be associated with The Shoe Snob anyway, so I am lucky in that regard. But for those of you out there that might not have a blog to help drive your business, make sure you think long and hard about your branding as the name will be stuck with you forever and can really make or break your company’s success…..
On a few other notes, I have some other announcements:
1. A young, loyal blog reader, aspiring to become a bespoke shoemaker is attempting to take a course with Stefano Bemer (whom I just happened to train with). However the course is €6000 (which is a lot of money) and I don’t believe that he can afford it. He has created a sort of Kickstarter page in attempts to raise the funds to follow his dreams. As I am a big believer in philanthropy and helping others chase there dreams, I thought that I would leave the link below for any of you whom might be interested in helping a young man achieve his dreams: http://www.rockethub.com/40300
2. Passaggio Cravatte is having their first trunk show in London from tomorrow and Wednesday (May 20th/21st) at the Duke’s Hotel at 35 St. James Place. It will take place from 5-9pm on Tuesday and 11am-3pm on Wednesday. If you are interested in attending and wish to know more, please email firstname.lastname@example.org