The shift from retail to online shopping has enabled young companies and niche-focused brands to launch products the lean way. Less expensive and more flexible, the digital-first strategy might be one of the best ways for young founder to test out ideas, prove a concept and grow a following.
To help you make the jump into the world of business we uncovered the strategies behind up-and-coming lifestyle brand Outdoor Voices.
A great example of successful digital-first company, Outdoor Voices, the activewear brand founded in 2013 by former Parsons School of Design graduate Tyler Haney, has been paving the road for millenial founders.
With a product line expanding beyond the usual black and neon super-sporty apparel, the young brand focuses on garments made for spending time outdoors and provides something that isn’t solely dedicated to jogging or yoga or tennis, but rather made to “do things”. Embodying the idea that casual activity is naturally integrated into everyday life the brand has gathered a creative design team that hails from Lululemon, Calvin Klein, and Alexander Wang, bringing an artful, aesthetics-driven perspective to activewear without the sacrifice of either sartorial style or comfort.
Outdoor Voices stands behind the credo that fitness need not be defined by performance but by moderation, humor, and delight. This relaxed and playful approach to life and fitness is mirrored into the way that its young founder does business.
While studying at Parsons Tyler researched thoughtfully fabrics after identifying a gap in the fast growing activewear market. Competing against big players such as Lululemon, the young founder started small and online, using the power of social media and influencers to grow a massive following. Now, after only two-and-a-half-years into business, the company just raised $7 million in funding and is opening it’s first New-York based store in Nolita.
Here are ten key strategies that were crucial to Outdoor Voices success that might inspire you before you launch your own brand.
Choose your market wisely
Don’t be afraid of competition. A crowded sector usually means a large customers demand. Outdoor Voices was certainly not the first activewear company targeting the fashion-forward crowd but that didn’t stop Haney to find her own specific niche. Jumping into a low-competitive market might seem a great idea at first but if there’s no competition be sure that there will be even less costumers.
Set high standard
Fabric is Outdoor Voices obsession. Sourcing the highest quality materials from around the world, and having spent years building an archive of fabrics that are functional and flattering, with a color palette of subdued hues, the OV team elevates the standars of what activewear looks and feels like. Knowing that apparel, even the sweaty kind, should last a long time, Outdoor Voice created trusted partnerships with the best factories in the industry to ensure that every piece is created with impeccable attention to detail. High quality often means returning costumers, so don’t neglegt research and reiteration. Doing extensive research and following high production standards take time but you’ll be glad you did it.
Start small and grow from there
At the early stages of your business, you will probably only be able to make low volumes of samples. Later, with the help of bigger production partners, there will be the opportunity to produce the quantities demanded. Outdoor Voices started with just five essential pieces and grow its collection later on. So don’t be afraid to start small and grow with time.
And, by the way, staying small is also a great option.
Understand your customer
Shopping is time consuming. To respond to it’s costumers needs and make their life easier the brand created OV Kits, handpicked collections of their best-selling essentials. Each Kit contains all the items needed for Recreation (such as leggings, hoodie, cross-back bra etc) nestled into a custom Doing Things tote and sold for 20% off the retail price. What does your costumer struggle with? Put yourself in your costumer feet and answer this question. It might take time to come up with the best answer and solution but it’s worth the time. It’s essential that you have an idea of the person you are designing/producing for. Get inside the mind of your customer to understand how you can meet their needs and how you can solve their struggle.
Cut the cost, embrace the joy of digital life
“Unlike the big guys, we’re going digital first, and then supporting the digital with little spaces like this,” says Haney about the lastest Nolita New York pop-up store in a VOGUE article. You might be scared to take the leap because your budget is thight but you won’t need much budget if you start online. Setting up an online store/website won’t cost you more than a few dollars per month and you’ll always have the option to open small pop-up store in the future.
Collaborate and partner up with trend-setters
Don’t underestimate the power of influencers and trend-setters. After createinga special OVKit with infleuntial blogger Leandra Medine from Man Repeller, Outdoor Voices partenered up with it-girl/designer/artist Ana Kras to design the “play area” inside the Nolita pop-up store. You can start with less-known influencers or target specific tastemakers in your industry, don’t be fooled by large number of followers thought, a smaller number of engaged followers trumps large number of non-engaged ones.
Build it first, seek investors later
Outdoor Voices recently raised $7 million in funding, some of it coming from Jean Touitou, the man behind the sartorial spirit of downtown Paris, A.P.C. Sure that’s a lot of money, and don’t expect to get it immediately. But do plan it. Starting with a minimum investement will force you to get creative and learn from your mistakes. It will also prrove your motivation and grit once you will go to search for an investement.
Harness the power of social media
Social media is a powerful and affordable way to build awareness about your brand. Haney used Instagram to launch the brand’s first campaign, #DoingThings, promoting the clothing as comfortable activewear. With more than 75 milions of users, Instagram is a pool of opprtunities, especially if your brand is very visual. Don’t attempt to be on eveyr single social media, engage in those platforms that address your target customer. It migth seem easy but runninga succesfull campaign takes time and resources so it is probably the right choice to begin with only one or two social media channels but plan it the right way.
Enjoy the ride
It ain’t easy as it looks and once you start you’ll have to face many dificulties and hard moments but remember to take it easy and relax if you need to. Take the time to enjoy the ride.
Tyler Haney and Ana Kras in front and inside the new Nolita store.
Photo: Courtesy of Outdoor Voices