I met up with my dear friend Louise and her husband Albert this past weekend at the Coto De Caza Golf & Racquet Club, which is one of two clubs in the private, gated community of Coto De Caza. If you’ve never heard of Coto, it is the setting of the reality-based TV show on Bravo, The…
As I mentioned in previous posts, I was told by the CEO of BeyondTheRack.com that I should just launch with whatever members I have. Currently, T.I.L. Darling has about 13,000 newsletter subscribers/members. Also, I believe by the time T.I.L. Darling launches that it will have around 15,000 newsletter subscribers, which was my goal at the beginning. So, now, it’s all about choosing a date.
At times, I’m a pretty superstitious person. In this case, I looked at what are considered lucky numbers in Chinese culture. According to Wiki, unlucky numbers are 4, 5, 6, and 7. I’ve always know 4 is unlucky because in Cantonese the way it’s pronounce is exactly like “dead.” 7 is a little surprising. Actually, it’s a bit of a neutral number because the seventh month in the Chinese Calendar is a “Ghost Month,” but at the same time the seventh day of the month is Chinese Valentine’s Day. Nonetheless, better to choose a lucky number than a neutral number. Oddly enough, 5 and 6 are both numbers that show up as lucky and unlucky numbers for different reasons. Still, I’m not going to think about it too much and just avoid them both.
As for lucky numbers, 2, 3, 8, and 9 are in the running. 2 because often good things come in pairs. 3 because it’s similar to the pronunciation of the word “birth.” 8 because it sounds similar to the word “prosper.” 9 because it’s associated with an Emperor in China and also it is a homophone of the word “longlasting.”
Then, there are combination of numbers. 28 is a really lucky number because it essentially means “double prosperity.” OK, so how in the world could I beat that as a date to launch. It’s not a sure thing, but I am going to aim for March (3) 28th. Birth and Double Prosperity. I may have a sneak peak sales event on the 8th or 9th, but that is not an official launch, rather more of a test;)
Is this band famous? I have no idea, but I really enjoy them.
I was just thinking about them because of the band name, The Pains of Being Pure At Heart. Business is tough because, for the most part, it doesn’t matter how sincere you or how nice you are, but rather what you can do for others. Essentially, if you can’t benefit someone, then for the most part nobody pays attention to you. It doesn’t matter how “pure at heart” you are.
To tell you truth, it matters to me though. If T.I.L. Darling becomes a successful business, then I will remember everybody who was kind to us or supported us when we were essentially nothing. For everybody else, they’re going to have to prove to me that I have something to gain by dealing with them. It’s brutal, but it’s true. Hey, it’s kind of like high school where some people only talk to you if you’re cool. Otherwise, they couldn’t care less. Then, there are those “real” people who don’t care about what social status you are, but rather who you are as a person. I wish there was more people like that in the business world.
As some may know, T.I.L. Darling was actually founded by two Masters in Finance students, while attending London Business School during 2007-2008. To be quite honest, we have always had an advantage on most competitors because we’re able to process data in pretty advanced ways. Also, we both have Bachelor degrees in Business Administration from top programs in our respective countries. So, not only are we pretty advanced in terms of dealing with numbers, but we both have a pretty good background in general business theory. During my undergrad, I took a strategic management class and I would have to say that I had a natural knack for looking at general business problems, analyzing it, and coming up with innovative solutions that are backed by business theory. With T.I.L. Darling, that is what I do every day.
Nonetheless, what we don’t have is actual background in fashion, in terms of attending a fashion program or even being connected to the community. I have to say, being an outsider in any regards is difficult. When we were both starting out and attended our first fashion trade show in London called Pure, we felt like two fishes out of water. Some brands/wholesalers honestly aren’t too open to you because of that, but others are welcoming. But that was in February of 2008. It’s been 4 years since I started my career in Fashion Retail. At this point, I’m not quite a veteran, but I’m certainly no spring chicken. Fortunately, I think it’s all finally coming together.
Anyway, I’ve been applying to what are known as “incubator” or “accelerator” programs for early-stage companies. Not to get into too much detail, but essentially these programs take early stage businesses, invest up to $50K (taking about 8%-10% equity), and help mentor and advise those accepted to the program. A lot of successful companies have gone through these incubator programs.
The fact is that it’s never easy to get money from people you don’t really know, so I’m certainly not planning T.I.L. Darling around whether or not we get accepted. In fact, it’s better for me to just assume that we are not getting accepted and move forward that way. What’s interesting is that T.I.L. Darling really may not need the funding. Don’t get me wrong, we are not rich. In fact, Toon works for around $25K/year and, well, I’m actually worse off. Nonetheless, I have projected our income around our new business model using amazingly conservative numbers and it’s really difficult for the business model to fail. The fact is that the hard work I’ve put into T.I.L. Darling for the last 3 years is bringing in new visitors and members every day, so our “acquisition” cost is almost nothing. Additionally, I’ve become pretty savvy at social media and so I’m introducing people to T.I.L. Darling every day for free.
So, I feel confident that we can run a nice small company successfully. The only difference is if we want to become a $100M business. Then, well, we’ll need money for advertising and that’s where incubator programs are helpful. They help companies be in position to receive millions of dollars from Venture Capitalists. There is a company called Fab.com who received $40M in funding after 6 months of selling to customers. Actually, they were not in an accelerator program, but I’m just giving an example of how much money is out there to be invested from VCs.
The thing is, not getting accepted might be even better. T.I.L. Darling works best as an underdog. We always have. I’ve personally been an underdog my entire life.
How do you like the new template I chose? I hope you like it because I actually decided to pay $49 for a premium template and I have to say that I’m pretty happy with it. Also, it means that I’m going to commit tumblr as a blogging platform, despite not having any ability to post ads or what not. Geez, after I wrote that, I’m kind of regretting spending $49. LOL.
"You gotta hear this one song, it'll change your life I swear."
OK, I’m not going to choose one song, but my top ten songs that I think are life changing events. Not in any particular order. In reality, I have a way longer list, but I’ll keep it to ten just for this post.
First, I should say that I’m back home and I’m exhausted, but I think MAGIC was a better experience for me than my previous attendance. Even though it’s not a long time, but I’ve now been working in fashion retail for 4 years and T.I.L. Darling now has a small but respectable following. For a lot of the smaller brands, I’m pretty much at the same stage, if not further, in developing my business and so many of the brand owners and I can really relate to each other better. While in previous years, I really was still pretty inexperienced navigating shows and talking to sales reps/brand owners. Quite honestly, I now can walk in with a quite a bit of confidence because I do have a respectable email list, Facebook fan page, and twitter page.
I talked mostly to smaller brands, versus nationally recognized ones such as Free People, Betsey Johnson, etc. Except for maybe 3, I would say all were very receptive to what T.I.L. Darling is doing. Flash sales site are not new anymore and I believe many have already done sales events with bigger companies, so they are very aware of the potential sales that can be generated. I was fairly straightforward that I have no idea how much sales we can actually do, since we haven’t had our first sales event, but most seem happy to be part of it anyway. I believe that T.I.L. Darling is going to have plenty of brand partners going into the future.
Right now, I’ve actually decided that I’m going to just pick a date for the first sales event. I believe either way I’ll be close to having the intended 15K members/subscribers. The CEO of BeyondTheRack repeated a couple of times to me that “You just launch with what you have” and the Founder of JackThreads said he launched with zero members and only had about 3-5 orders his first day, mostly from friends or family members. Even though I don’t want to be, I’m a bit superstitious so I’m going to choose a date that’s good luck. I’ve been jokingly saying that I need to see a fortune teller, but Buddhist Monks are really into picking dates. I may have Toon, my girlfriend, go ask a monk what date we should launch, though it kind of has to be a Monday.
Last thing, I actually bought one sample the last day of the show. It’s a handmade custom bag made of recycled seat belts. It’s not cheap, but it’s super cool.
I think I’m determined not to ever really write about fashion, despite the blog being called theonlinefashionblog.com.
Today, I actually didn’t get to the MAGIC trade show until about noon. In the morning, I was trying to find a Bank of America branch, not ATM, and in the meantime I scored tickets to The Beatles Love show at the Mirage, as well as 50% meal tickets. Oddly enough, I’m having a marginally better time than my first trip to MAGIC simply because I’m doing non-fashion related activities, which I suppose is the reason why they have trade shows in Las Vegas and not somewhere like Fresno.
My first experience at MAGIC today was a seminar on some subject I have no idea. All I know is that the CEO of BeyondTheRack was there. I talked to him very briefly at the end to get some advice for the new relaunch of T.I.L. Darling and basically he said he would never do what we’re doing because our target market is not primed for flash sales sites. I certainly agree that our target market, women 18-24 years old, are not the most profitable segment for flash sales, but I certainly think it’s worth doing. Gilt, Rue La La, MyHabit, and BeyondTheRack are all going after the aspirational luxury buyer and they’re doing a great job at it, so I’m certainly not going to compete in that specific demographic space. I also asked him how many members did BeyondTheRack launch with and it turns out they launched with only 1,500 members! The Founder of Jackthreads later told me that he actually had seed funding, but nonetheless that was surprising.
I’ve been really bent out of shape about attaining 15,000 members/subscribers, just as Gilt did when they launch, but the CEO of BeyondTheRack said, “launch with what you have.” After that, I realize that I just need to choose a date for the launch of the new site and just build from there.
After that seminar and a quick lunch, I took the free shuttle bus between the Las Vegas Convention center to the Mandalay Bay Resort, where the other half of MAGIC is held. There, I attended another seminar focused on marketing. That was slightly more interesting because one of the founders of Adroll, which is a retargeting platform, was there. Adroll actually reached out to me about a year ago and I was signed up on the platform before they blew up as big as they are becoming. But more importantly, the founder of Jackthreads, a flash sales site for men’s street wear, was there. He didn’t exactly give me words of advice, but he did tell me that when he started out that he had zero members and maybe had only 3-5 sales the first day from friends and family. I read he did have a SBA loan for around $75K, but in reality that’s not much money and still considered a shoe string budget in my opinion. Anyway, if he and I met in any other situation, then I feel he’s someone I probably could have befriended in a different world.
I forgot to mention that after the first seminar, I saw Susan Kroger, the founder of ModCloth, and two of her friends/buyers in one of the lobbies of the convention center. I considered introducing myself, but considering I received a letter from their legal department just about 2 weeks ago, I hesitated. Hahaha. I actually “tweeted” that I saw her and for some reason @modcloth followed me on twitter.
Anyway, after the 2nd seminar, I walked around the men’s section of MAGIC. I was actually looking for the UFC booth because the UFC always has fighters at their booth. I’m a pretty big MMA fan. I saw Nate Diaz, who I actually met last year because my friend use to teach Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at Gracie Fighter and I filmed a youtube video with them. He was with a bunch of his friends so I didn’t say “hello.” Who I did say “hello” to was Stephan Bonnar. One of the original TUF fighters. I got a photo with him and he seemed really nice.
That was really it for MAGIC. After spending a little bit at the hotel room at the MGM Grand, I went to the Mirage to pick up the actual tickets for The Beatles Love show and then had dinner at Treasure Island. The portion sizes where huge. Food is really expensive in Las Vegas, which is pretty frustrating because I know how much food really cost, but the portion sizes are fair.
After losing about $2 on the penny slots, I finally watched Love. It was pretty cool. I’m really surprised not more people watch that show high. It’s so psychedelic and it would be pretty close to watching Roger Water’s The Wall. It was great, but it just makes me more eager to watch Paul McCartney live before he stops touring.
I’ve been taking the Monorail, which is the way to go by the way because it gets your exercise in. Tomorrow is Day 2. The plan is to actually look at the vendors. Sleeping in first though.