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EXECUTION Building a brand

pumpking

New Contributor
Sep 14, 2019
18
9
12
Hi everyone,

I’ll be using this as a progress thread and space for me to collect feedback / sanity-check what I’m doing. I’ll be very happy to hear any and all feedback you have for me. I’m a first-time entrepreneur so there is a steep learning curve here but I’m also very excited and not afraid of hard work. Like many of you, I was hugely impressed with and inspired by MJ’s book.

What is it?
My business is focused on creating a strong brand with an internet following for a very unique music and culture niche.

More context:
The niche is somewhat obscure but not entirely unknown. The first hit on YouTube using the genre name returns a music mix with about 8m views (over ~4 years), and the same search returns a genre with 37k followers on Spotify, to give a sense for how popular (or not) the scene is. There are a number of musical artists that fall under the genre that have millions of ‘listens’ on their top songs. Full disclosure as well, I’m personally very interested in the genre and have been for 4 years or so, so I’m somewhat of a subject matter expert on the content.

Monetization, there are two avenues:
  • T-shirts and related apparel sold through Shopify and facilitated with a print-on-demand (POD) service.
  • Site advertisements (on forum pages, etc)
  • ??? Something else, not sure yet?
The competition:
  • There are two other websites that are selling merchandise related to my niche, neither of them are knocking it out of the park as far as I can see (based on the quality of their work, and level of polish on their websites). Then there is a short tail of other sites that rapidly decrease in quality which I’d consider virtually non-competitive.
  • There is a record label that has a pretty well established presence online, with merch for sale. They have a facebook page with 90k likes. Probably the most well known single entity for the niche.
My goals with this business:
I’m honestly unsure how far this business can go given that it may be somewhat underground in nature from the perspective of mainstream consumers. I’ve run some back of the envelope math on profitability with some assumptions: 20k site visitors / month with a 2% conversion should net about $2k in profit revenue… and an additional ~1k from site advertisements. At that level the business itself would be worth $75k, which would be a “not bad” place to land. Still- it doesn’t really unlock the Fastlane that MJ writes about, so I wouldn’t really be satisfied until I can start earning upwards of 500k+/year. But again, I don’t know if this is the vehicle that can take me there. Since I am not making large investments of cash to get this going, I have been entertaining this project as something of a learning mechanism for me since I need to learn quite a bit about advertising, etc, if I am to reach my ultimate goals with online businesses. I would still love to see it become a financial hit of course.

Where I’m at right now (Sept-Oct 2019):
  • Logo and branding created (wife is a great designer, so that was fast and free)
  • Instagram account created and daily postings created by me
  • Domain name purchase, WIX subscription purchased and site launched. The site has a shop section, forum section, link to my brand’s instagram and some music players they can click on.
  • 4 T-shirt designs created by me (not for sale yet)
  • 1 sample ordered and shipped from a POD vendor- unfortunately quality was poor.
  • 1 identical sample ordered from a different POD (yesterday, will arrive in ~7 days)
My next steps:
  • Working on more shirt designs. I want to have at least 5 before I subscribe to Shopify. Short term goals to have five designs by mid Oct, ten by Nov 1 and fifteen by Nov 15.
  • Finalize a POD vendor, pending the second sample. If that one also sucks I will investigate more expensive vendors, but I really don’t want to handle my own inventory!!
  • Learn more about SEO and social media advertising (to bring visitors to the site), brain storm other ways to better establish my new brand.
  • Get feedback here :)
Requests for input / feedback:
  • I want to make coming to my site a valuable experience for my visitors / customers, and give them reasons to return often. What’s the best way to do this? I imagine the answer may be blog posts which I do not have time to create. I can look into hiring someone to do this but I’m uncertain I can find someone who can write about my niche specifically. Will investigate.
  • I’ve also been thinking about interviewing music artists- which may be possible since the niche isn’t so huge that musicians / artists aren’t possible to get in touch with.
  • Right now I’m designing all of the shirts myself. I enjoy it, but I’m also not the best artist and my time is the limiting factor. I want to partner with some of the more well known artists who are already creating amazing work. But I’ve hesitated because I can’t see why they would want to work with me- when they could just create a site and market their own work by themselves. I’m likely overthinking that part, since obviously they are not doing that already (but they might as soon as I tell them I want to make shirts from their work?). Also, how would I pay them- split the profits maybe? But that will also erode my bottom line. The other option is to farm the work out to freelance sites like 99designs. Probably the smartest move, I can probably get a design for $50. But I’m not sure yet how that will play out since they may create designs that aren’t to my satisfaction- for that matter I haven’t completely industrialized my own process so I’m not sure how well I could instruct someone else to make art with a creative brief, etc. Looking into this more.
Thanks for reading. Looking forward to your replies.

Pumpking
 

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MHP368

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Is the niche big enough to support a weekly podcast? , Maybe a quick 5 minute interview and then the artist lays down some tracks?
 
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pumpking

New Contributor
Sep 14, 2019
18
9
12
Is the niche big enough to support a weekly podcast? , Maybe a quick 5 minute interview and then the artist lays down some tracks?
This is actually a great suggestion, thanks! I only worry about the "T" in the "CENTS" model, it could end up being a time drain, but I can't argue that it would make my brand / site stand out and begin to make some ripples in the niche community.
 
OP
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pumpking

New Contributor
Sep 14, 2019
18
9
12
Hi folks, just wanted to post an update.
  • Started outreach to a few musicians and artists to conduct interviews. Secured one, two others have not responded (likely due to the fact that my site is totally unknown still... something I hope to change!)
  • I've gone through a few passes at SEO on the site to maximize organic visits.
  • No official advertising done yet, but as soon as I have finalized a few more shirt designs and have my first interview live on the site I am planning to do some instagram spending as a first step.
  • Follow / Unfollow has yielded about 100 instagram followers. No biggie, but it was free growth and some of the "fans" have been chatting with me through direct messages. Seems like a good core to grow from.
Open questions and next steps:
  • Going to file for an LLC soon and could use some advice. Common googling seems to indicate that Delaware is the best place to file regardless of which state you live in (I am US based) for people who own websites / e-comm shops. Is it really that simple? What should I be aware of?
  • Shirt design, I am very tempted to use some imagery from hollywood movies in a few of my products (not direct use but manipulated a bit), as I have seen similarly small sized shirt sites do the same thing (seemingly without copyright concerns). While I admit they may have paid for the rights and I just don't see that they have, it seems more likely that they just went ahead with the assumption that they are too small to be noticed. I tend to overthink things so I could use some advice on this point as well- am I being overly paranoid, or correctly cautious?
Thanks. In my next update I should have some actual business results to speak to.
 

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Very interesting, I like your style, I check it right now! Thanks @Lenin looking forward to it. :)
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