After more than six months of research and vetting suppliers my co-founder, Sanchit Baweja, and I launched Buttons ‘n’ Threads in September of 2013. Buttons ‘n’ Threads is a men’s fashion start-up focused on offering high quality custom clothing at affordable prices.
Sizing up the competition…
The idea itself wasn’t new. There were numerous competitors in the custom clothing industry, some with over five years of operations under their belt. We started off by placing orders with all our competitors to judge the quality of their product and the level of customer service that they offered.
This is when we knew that there was a gap in the industry, to offer a better quality product at the same industry average price.
It was an idea that we had to pursue. We started off with a basic collection of suits to build our company on the foundations of one strong product line.
All signs ‘go’
We had a great response in the beginning, with our friends and families placing orders from us. The feedback was great and the reviews extremely positive. We had no returns or remakes, and very few alterations.
Our customer base slowly grew with friends of friends and, people we weren’t acquainted with, ordering from us. We started getting orders from the United States, Russia, Switzerland and other countries too.
While all this seemed great, we expected more. We expected a higher growth of customers in our reach for critical mass.
We were an unknown fashion label, with low brand equity and barely any awareness in the media. Our average ticket value on our website was $499. There was no way for a customer to judge the quality of our suits, construction and fit. We had one really good review from a popular blog which was great.
But, we expected customers to prepay approximately $500 without knowing whether the suit would fit them or, how good the quality would be. Of course we offered the standard alteration credit; we had a remake and returns policy in place too. There was no risk in ordering from our website.
From a consumers’ perspective, we needed to offer a product that was priced lower and inherited much less risk. It was then that we started to think about expanding our product line to offer shirts along with our current collection of suits.
We started looking into shirts in detail, with inspiration form the finest shirt makers such as Charvet and Fray. It was extremely hard to find a factory that produced at such high quality standards. We could have easily chosen a factory in China, priced our shirts low and sold average quality shirts.
But we wanted to do something different.
We wanted to offer the best product available, a clear differentiator from our competitors. We came across a small factory in India that could deliver on our requirements. The custom shirts that we saw them produce were of standards nowhere to be seen in the market. We knew we had a unique product in terms of quality and one that we could price appropriately.
It’s all in the shirt
This is when we decided that we would make our shirts the primary product line.
We envisioned a complete turnaround in the creation of demand for our products. We wanted to change our marketing strategy placing our product line of shirts at the heart of it all.
It wasn’t just the launch of a new product line, it was much more. We had decided to pivot our start-up and re-think our company strategy and direction. We saw our line of custom dress shirts driving value to our business and in turn creating demand for a complementary set of products i.e. custom suits.
Crowd funding has been used by numerous start-ups to gain initial traction for their products. We wanted to take advantage of the trend to test the validity and estimate demand for a new product such as ours. Our primary point of differentiation was quality and in a competitive market it is quite a challenge to compete on quality. Crowd funding would allow us to make an estimate and gauge the market with real data.
By the fourth day of our crowd funding campaign and we had reached 40% of our goal. Now, with still 10 days of the campaign to run, we have exceeded our target; we have achieved 136% of our target. We needed $15,000 to go into production, right now, we have more than $20,000 pledged on Indiegogo.
Changing strategy and using crowd funding has put us on track to launch these shirts on our website. And, the success so far has reinforced our decision to pivot and, made us confident in our strategic direction.
Yashas Alur is the co-founder of Buttons ‘n’ Threads. Having completed a Bachelors in Economics and Finance from the Australian National University in Canberra, Yashas joined his friend and fellow alum Sanchit Baweja to start Buttons ‘n’ Threads.