Recently, people have been asking me for what I would advise young entrepreneurs in starting their own business. I would give some quick answers but they are pretty much scattered all over the place. Common answers like “persistence” and “timing” are often on top of my head, but it goes deeper than that. Those words are oversimplifications of what I went through when establishing the brand. Yes, what I will say would have been said and heard many times already but here me taking a shot at explaining it and hopefully, inspire another to find their own path as well.
Passion is Purpose
There many reasons for starting a business, usually for monetary rewards, and brand building is always vital to establishing an identity to differentiate you from the market. You guys would not believe how many inquiries we get as to whether we can make RTW shoes for rebranding and how many offers there are for use to put up retail spaces around Metro Manila. If my primary purpose is to make money, that would have easy decision. But as many of those who usually sit through my ramblings would come to realize, my primary purpose is not profit. Profit is required to run the business, as food is nourishment for the body, but any business/brand needs heart for it to connect to people. Given a choice, people would support a brand with a heart and one without. Passion is one one of my main purposes – I want to learn more, push the craft forward, help more, and influence others positively.
Inject Your Personality
Microbrands are truly unique, we have the opportunity to create something with more heart. Since microbrands are usually run by an individual or a group of individuals who share a common passion, it is easy to inject you passions into your products and services so that it creates a distinction which sets it apart from other brands of the same product/service range. Remember how small startup restaurants run by the owner is always a hit? Then once they start to expand, the original flavor is lost and the brand just becomes like any other restaurant brand. Old patrons would leave saying that it’s not the same as before anymore. This is because while the process and recipes of the original are retained, the heart that goes into the service normally isn’t the same anymore. Microbrands are very similar to persons, people fall in love with what makes us different. Expanding the brand mostly means some compromises, the trick is to know how much you can compromise before your quality and image is affected.
In knowing yourself, you can keep your passion microbrand truly unique. It’s easy to get swayed by the bandwagon as your fears play on you. Usually seeing others looking more “successful” plays a trick on us that we would want to catch up to them, that others are getting ahead. A perfect example of this is seeing the competitors ad campaigns. A widespread campaign of others can play on your insecurity. You can become afraid that your current and potential clients would be siphoned off by the competition. But in knowing yourself and your service, you would eventually know your market. There is also the difference between knowing yourself and just being stubborn. If your concept doesn’t gain traction then it may be time to go back to the drawing board. If adoption is slow then you may not be reaching your intended audience. Remember, a passion based microbrand is very personal; all people are not equal, some are more likable than others, but there will always be people who are willing to support you. If you do not know yourself then you are like a dead leaf then you’d be swaying where the winds take you, and not where you want to go. When you know yourself, you can ride the winds and still get to where you need to go while keeping your identity. Most startups that fail are usually due to not having their own identity and just riding the trends.
Customer is NOT King
This idea goes against what is taught to us by our mentors and textbooks. But the phrase “the customer is king” applies to mass consumer products and services while being an empty promise being used as a marketing tool. The customer is king until things go wrong, then they become liabilities which the business needs to address. Instead of promising that the customer is king, it is better to treat them as partners, as friends; we as business operators will be working with them after all. Mutual respect is key to achieving lasting relationships with clients, and groveling for a sale then not offering proper after sales service is a sure fire way of creating one-transaction deals. I’m sure all of us has experienced this one way or another be it from a credit card company, a preneed agent selling you insurance (not all but usually the less serious ones), or even big utility companies…
Instead of promising the customers that they are king then failing to make them feel like it after the transaction has been done, why not treat them as partners who will help develop and grow the business. Microbrands usually attract a niche market and it helps to have a sustainable customer relations strategy which aims to grow the business alongside the relationships that are going to be built with each transaction that the brand does.
Fail, Learn and Persist
Failure is inevitable. Failure is essential. I know it sounds cliche but what matters is not whether you fail or not, but how you get back up. Failure is one of the best teachers since it forces us to rethink our plans and strategies. The present business model of Black Wing is actually a product of multiple failures during the infancy of the brand. I was forced to look for solutions because most clients who order online do not know their actual shoe size. It doesn’t help that there is a lack of proper sizing standards available locally. Too many erroneous orders forced me to meet the clients to take measurements in order to minimize sizing errors. This eventually became the business model which is still being developed and upgraded until now.
Taking failure to heart is a bit hard but it helps in forcing us to learn from it. Ignoring the failure and not caring about it only results in its repetition in the future. It is an easy error to make to just move on from a failure. While it is true that we should move on from it, we should carry with us the lessons from it which is how to avoid it and how to address it if it should happen again.
Failure can sometimes cripple our will to move forward. Failure can easily humble us and show us our imperfections. Persistence is key to this as long as the goal is proper. Being a microbrand, mistakes can make or break us but we can recover easier also. Small organizations are more flexible. Imagine a product line which costed millions to develop suddenly failing upon a few months of launch; this would cause startups to close and shares of big corporations to tank. Microbrands can weather such mistakes since deployment would usually be smaller and while it can hurt the brand, microbrands can regroup and recoup. This is why persistence is important for a microbrand. The evolution of the brand is usually through a cycle of failures and successes. Taking lessons from genius inventors, who had tons of failure before hitting that one defining success which had an impact.
I hope that these can help others get a jump start on starting their own microband. Each has their own path and own way to reach a goal. There is no step-by-step guide to success because if the textbook theory worked, all who followed it would be successful. Remember that most game changers are usually outsiders and became successful because they saw an opportunity that those from within missed.
Passion and persistence are important to any microbrand. Financial rewards will follow as long as proper accounting is taken into consideration during the planning stages. As much as possible, stay away from trends since it is not sustainable for microbrands to rely on riding the trends. As I mentioned earlier, microbrands are more effective in targeting niche markets.
Pray hard and give thanks for all successes and failures. Stay passionate and true to your craft/product. Do not lose hope in times of hardships and persevere. Your work ethics are a reflection of your person and so as long as your heart is true and good, you will be rewarded.