Scaling in the real world a startup story

The Story of the hopper

The hopper learns to fly by riding the wind. When the wind blows and treetops rustle, the hopper’s instincts say: “This is my time to jump”

As the seasons change, stay in tune to signs of opportunity, the wind blows and expose secrets hiding in the sands. The change in our daily patterns and work flows should cause us to stop and think as we adjust to new climes

Last year the rains caused us to stop and think about our production methods. We had been too busy chasing our tails keeping up with demand for our fledgling beachwear business to take account of how we were doing. We were locked into batches of 24 units which we parsed out to our contract tailors part of our community network.

The idea at inception was to train a team of independent tailors running their own small business to produce our complex to make simple designed shorts at a price that was competitive. We needed volumes that were profitable; in this way we hoped we could support their business by eliminating down time, Tailoring is a very seasonal business which is normally based on women’s fashion weddings religious ceremonies etc . This compliments our effort with African print wax cotton another small business locked in a seasonal cycle but with wide spread community participation.

As the season changes and the rains come we take time out to return to our business plan and audit ourselves by mining our data. Encouraged by the numbers and the confidence in our tailors proficiency we decided to scale our batches to 160 units. The rains force us to maximise sunny breaks for processing our fabric to make it water resistant a process which requires we work outdoors due to space constraints.

Of course having 160 units in each design also brings about its own problems, Storage! We run a lean machine and space is at a premium around here, there was no way we could store that amount of goods and keep our sanity. This lead us to create a marketing campaign. To reach out to our fanbase on instagram and facebook. This lead to international shipping and this lead us to our local postal service Nipost the only way to competitively ship worldwide.

Local deliveries were handled mostly on the beach and by personal delivery, inefficient and a general hassle, having a strong unique product and niche cult following helped. A follower would hook us up with Jumai the local amazon like ecommerce retailer based on our doorsteps. Jumai we thought would solve our local fulfilment issues, It opened us up to a latent national market we had not foreseen.

The reason for the beachwear label is to raise independent cash to support local primary education, our initial attempts to do this were to use plastic waste on the beach, perhaps with 3d printing technology we could create a closedloop. We even approached Coca-cola who are responsible for a large portion of the 1 billion plastic bottles that are produced and dumped into the ecosystem each day for funding to buy a 3d machine. We never received a reply. In the meantime we went with cotton which is sustainable if produced responsibly

A post we made on a couple of dead whales would start a string of connections leading us to an education in the worldwide problem and a factory in Indonesia which was at the forefront of recycled polyester production from plastic waste. A closedloop. But with a minimum order of 10,000 meters they were out of reach. We had seen the power of crowdfunding and had explored kickstarter and indiegogo. The most important thing in campaigns was the video being able to tell your story in 3mins or less on film was a skill we did not possess

Instagram once again would put us in touch with a young award winning director Dafe Oboro via a brilliant pr agency Vrcreative agency, who made it happen. We had a very short window of opportunity once again the winds were in our favour and we jumped.

Crowdfunding was the greatest lesson in scaling and marketing we have been on so far! In our first week when we could gleam possible success, the ghost of storage would come back to haunt us. This time we knew we were not quite up to scaling our marketing prowess to handling 10,000 or more units, we would have to scale back our ambitions. We baulked! Instead we decided to learn all about running a successful campaign without actually having a successful campaign. We raised a bit of money though and had to go through a difficult month of making decisions on the way forward

a pair of shorts could change our world

Our campaign would bring us to the attention of a company who were ready to make a much smaller run in a varied selection of tailor made colours ! Once again the winds were blowing and we were on our way. After a few delays which is to be expected with a first run, fabric samples have arrived and we are in the process of production sampling. The bulk of the fabric will be shipped in the coming weeks.

Sampling has open new jet streams! Our tailors will not be able to handle our required numbers and certainly not in the time span required we couldn’t prepare earlier as we didn’t have fabric to use for sampling nor accurate time scales which are required for business decisions. This as lead us to manufacturers in the east of Nigeria the great city of Aba a journey we shall be making in a couple of weeks !

In the mean time our efforts in education have opened new challenges and opportunities for scale I shall write about this subsequently as they materialise

You can follow our story on instagram @popbeachclub we shall be launching a follow up campaign on indiegogo in the following days if you would like to be informed send me a dm