Growing a small business is hard work. Growing a brand that nobody has ever heard of before is extremely hard work. How do you do it? That’s the million dollar question.
In the retail world, there are steps you are “suppose” to take and there is a certain growth path you are suppose to follow. I’m sure this happens in all industries. There are outside forces and expectations of how and what you are suppose to do.
For Snoloha, I should be traveling to trade shows, hiring sales reps, opening a Snoloha branded store and opening retailers at a rapid pace.
Easier said than done.
Trade shows (I’m talking the BIG ones…not the the smaller, regional shows) for small brands, are difficult to rationalize when you really step back and logically crunch the numbers. Getting lost in a sea of big brands and big budgets is too often the case. Don’t get me wrong, trade shows make sense…once you are at a certain size, and perhaps if it’s geographically more convenient (which makes it more cost effective).
Of course anything can be done with big budgets. Snoloha does not have a big budget. Snoloha is completely owned, operated and funded by three people…me, myself and I (if you step into my head, you will realize there really is more than one person…but that’s another topic). There are pros and cons to this, of course.
This brand is my baby. This brand is not an attempt to sell a bunch of cheap t-shirts, try to make a lot of money and then ride off into the sunset. This brand is my passion. And that comes across when talking with customers and retailers. That’s the beauty of independently owned small business.
There are limitations because you must do things in a much more cost effective way. But it doesn’t have to be viewed as a limitation, rather as an opportunity to be more creative…which only helps you stand apart from the all the other brands vying for attention.
I am still waiting to take the big trade show leap…I’m still not convinced in the return. And reps…well, it’s very difficult to find a good rep willing to take on a new brand. Sales reps work on commission (usually), which means their livelihood depends on sales. So they need to carry brands that they know sell and there is a demand for. With Snoloha, there are no guarantees. We are still creating demand. We are still introducing the brand. However, since it is so new…that also means there is nothing but room for growth (sales). Finding a sales rep with a hint of entrepreneurial drive may be needed. I have been burned a handful of times by reps, so I’m now being much more diligent in my hunt.
A Snoloha branded store? I still kick that idea around. I like the overall concept. But Traverse City, Michigan can be a very tough town for brick and mortar. Traverse City is an amazingly beautiful resort town in northern Michigan located at the base of the Old Mission Peninsula which divides two bays that empty into Lake Michigan. I LOVE living here. But doing business here is not as easy. Our window of opportunity is small. There are 3 months in the summer when the town is busy with tourists. The rest of the year, they trickle in, but for the most part it’s quiet. I’m not willing to open a store in downtown and rely on a short tourist season in order to succeed. So at this point, it’s growing through other retailers and through the website. I’m not throwing the idea out entirely though, because I really like it, a lot. It would be a great way to connect with the customer on a more personal level, to test new designs, and to continue introducing the brand through my own eyes. So if the right opportunity presents itself…who knows.
In the meantime, I’m contacting and opening retailers myself, searching for the right sales reps, continuing to grow online and through my licensee in Spain.
It’s hard, but rewarding…and sure beats the alternative.