Inspiration from Friends: Starting Another Company at Age 74
francine hardaway
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Francine — I only see one saying via that link — is that your plan (one now, another in the future?)

I love the broad concept — but I would suggest that you consider offering the second one sooner rather than later (or at least share with friends what it is) — also is there an option to offer the shirts in more than one color?

There are a bunch of online sites that sell custom t-shirts — definitely a model that can work and social selling is a good concept — but challenging as well — at some point folks in a network of people selling to each other need to be generating new funds otherwise the system is just people moving resources around (and that isn’t sustainable as everyone would have some expenses outside of that network — i.e. food, shelter, taxes etc. This is one of the challenging any network ecosystem faces (barter networks in particular faced this — how to deliver value but also help grow sustainable businesses)

For you I would suggest exploring answers to a few questions that occur to me (which your current experiment may start to answer):

  1. Are t-shirts with a saying on them something a large number of folks in your network want to buy and wear? Do they want many of these? For myself I’m in active job search mode — so not wearing a lot of t-shirts these days whether plain or with logos/sayings on them.
  2. Is there any other form factor your network would also want (either the same folks or perhaps better yet a different group who might not want a t-shirt but might want another item) — “inspirational posters” or coffee mugs come immediately to mind but perhaps there are other fun options to consider (“adult” lunch bags or laptop sleeves?)
  3. Are the costs vs revenues sustainable? (i.e. going forward will your sales cover the cost of a designer who isn’t working for free, the costs of fulfillment and manufacturing and the cost of any paid marketing you do? (promoted tweets/facebook posts etc)
  4. What makes something uniquely from you? (and of value to folks who know you?). My wife is exploring this idea a lot currently as well as she is thinking about whether she wants to invest in her own design business more seriously (and whether it would be a viable alternative to taking another corporate marketing role somewhere).
  5. Can you sell something to strangers as well as to friends? Are you offering something which friends of friends will want to buy? (ideal case is that your friends are exited about whatever you are making/selling and share that with their non-overlapping network — that’s how a real viable business IMHO can be sparked — if you get an engaged network around the thing you are making/selling. This is what happens with successful kickstarters — each person who backs it in the ideal case also shares that with their own network and helps find more backers — often backers whom the people behind the project both don’t know and might not have known how to reach.

Good luck! (and I love to see anyone at any age starting a new venture!)

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