Birth of an Idea
Or the story of how the idea for DULO came about, told from a first-person point of view.
1 September 2016, betahaus Sofia, sometime around 9:30 I assume
That’s an interesting thought…why not make shirts from performance fabrics in Bulgaria? There is a lot of experience in sewing and manufacturing in Bulgaria — for years I have been aware of places in the country (even in the village where my grandmother lives) where foreign companies outsource production to. It must be pretty cheap too. The people working there are quite skilled because they used to work in the old and renowned big manufacturing plants which either no longer exist or are bare representations of their former selves.
The country is small enough that I am certain I will easily find contacts who can introduce me to people with experience.
This American company — Mizzen and Main — they advertised in the Tim Ferriss podcast and I tend to trust Tim’s recommendation for products that add value to my life — mostly by reducing inefficiencies and optimising performance. Perhaps I could order a shirt or two from these guys and see what their product is all about. They don’t sell directly from Europe but I can order internationally. Probably gonna cost me a bit.
If I have one or two of those shirts in my hand, perhaps I can go around the country and try to find someone who can make a similar product. It’s definitely worth to explore further.
It’s Thursday morning. My second week of working remotely. I am thinking all this while I am sitting at the betahaus beta breakfast event. It is a weekly networking event where you can sit together with other visitors of the co-working space, have a croissant and a cup of coffee and hear the story of a small entrepreneur or a company who have been invited to share what they are about. It is a fun way to get to know new people and explore and discover new opportunities for the people who attend. It is a good way for those who present to spread the word about their business.
This week the guests are a girl and a boy who run a very small operation. They make custom printed shirts. They create special patterns that they print on the fabric and sell online or through a little storefront in the center of Sofia.
Halfway through their talk the idea comes to mind and I wrote it down on my phone. Then I get back into the talk. I have to go back to my desk in a bit because I have work to do (and the working day will officially start soon).
I don’t remember clearly but I am pretty certain that for the rest of the day I didn’t give the idea much thought.
2 September 2016, Friday afternoon
On my way home from work I decide to go for a walk instead of using the tram. It is a pleasant September afternoon and I tend to appreciate it very much when the weather is so nice. That’s what happens when most of the year you live in the Netherlands where weather like this is not that common.
With the last of the autumn sun rays beaming down on me my thoughts bring me back to the idea. Making shirts from performance fabrics in Bulgaria. It is starting to sound more plausible. The more I think about it the more excitements builds up in me. I start to think about names. I go over a few and something sticks in my mind — Qool — because wearing a shirt like this would keep you cool (meaning both not warm and looking good). I think that it is a good idea to make a connection between the product’s properties and the name. Of course it has to be Qool because Qool is cooler then Cool 😁! Coming from the tech/startup world it is quite common to have names that are spelled incorrectly yet they sound right. This also helps if the domain name for the correct spelling is taken and you have to get creative.
Thinking about Qool I start to envision how the brand will look like, meaning what kind of logo can I make (at this time I am thinking that I can make one myself with my semi-proficient knowledge of Illustrator). I think of a futuristic direction. Later that day I started Illustrator and sketched this:
I find myself thinking about the idea more and more and the excitement growing. I know myself quite well and have had similar experiences before only for the excitement dwindling down with more time passing after the moment the idea originates in my head. I notice that this time it is different. It is more than 24 hours since the idea inception and the excitement is still there and what is even more interesting — it keeps on growing.
Perhaps I should share it with someone else. Perhaps I can share it with Julian…
It’s a funny thing about ideas — they are a fragile thing. I think because they are so personal and can be closely tied to our self esteem we are generally protective of our ideas. Yet unless we possess incredible amounts of perseverance, experience, smarts and connections — executing upon ideas is really hard. It takes tremendous amount of work to bring an idea to life. It’s a journey that usually you cannot do alone. Yet, our initial reaction is often to keep ideas to ourselves — mostly because of fear — fear that people will laugh at us, that they will steal them. Fortunately, I have had that experience before (mostly failures at execution due to persistence missing or interest decreasing over time). I have learned that what works best for myself is to get ideas I am excited about out of my head and discuss it with people closest to me.
So I took a mental note: share this idea with Julian.
Saturday night, at my parents’ apartment, my old room, very late at night
I am sitting behind my desk on my laptop. I have been chatting with Julian for a while and suddenly decide to do what I have been planning to do for a while.
“I’ve had an idea the other day…About making dress shirts from performance fabrics in Bulgaria. There is a lot of expertise in the country in the textile and apparel industry, big international companies are outsourcing in Bulgaria because the quality is high and prices are low…Sounds like an interesting opportunity to explore. I also thought about a name — Qool”
Julian’s reaction was enthusiastic. I took note of that — it is external validation. An idea is only worth something if you can validate it externally.
My enthusiasm kept on growing. Now Julian was getting excited as well. Perhaps there was something behind the idea. We agreed to spend some time to discuss it when we get together next time which was to be in a week.
Julian and I live in Amsterdam. We are roommates as well as colleagues in our regular jobs. We are also both accidental programmers. At the time Julian was in Amsterdam and I have been working remotely from Bulgaria and was about to start a week of holiday before I returned to Amsterdam.
I went to bed excited about the idea. For me still being enthusiastic about it after three days was a sign that it is worth to explore how can we execute the idea. A viable business opportunity had started to form.
It takes a moment to come up with an idea. It can happen so quickly that you forget about it soon after unless you write it down. Ideas come and go. It is not hard to come up with ideas — it is hard to execute them. I was well aware of that fact. I knew that I have considered ideas to be promising before only to do nothing about them — mostly due to lack of viability or enough interest to see them through. This time though it felt different. I was still pumped about the idea after 3 days had passed. And my enthusiasm was getting bigger and bigger. Julian was getting on board as well and I felt his excitement. 1>0 but might not be enough…but 2…now that is a different story.
So this is how the idea was born — it started with a moment on a Thursday morning during a networking event. But that was barely the first contraction. The idea was finally formed after three days, after some external validation that added to my internal excitement. But finally it was born. However, it was about to go through a very intense couple of months of growing up ☺
And I wasn’t sure about the name anymore. I think we have to change it…