I learned this lesson while building my sock company. Yes, I’m a technology entrepreneur in the mobile industry who also happens to run an online sock company, Nicharry.com. Socks as a Service (SaaS) thankyouverymuch.
Textiles, manufacturing, distribution, ecommerce, online payments, stock management, minimum item orders, colour choices, ink dying and many more new things baffled me when I began thinking about socks. I wanted a product that was easy to explain, simple to show people and locally made. Easy.
The truth is that for me it was easy. It was easy because I had no idea what the rules were. I’m not a fashion designer. I’m certainly not “qualified” to do what I am doing in the fashion and textile markets but I’m doing it nonetheless and doing it the way I want to and know how to.
Why? Because I can and because I’d never done anything like this before.
How? With enthusiasm and a lust to learn new things.
Don’t be ashamed to ask about what you don’t know and don’t follow the rules.
Rules exist in places where there is an established norm. Norms exist because there is an established way of doing things and a system in place that “works” for the people who are profiting from the system. These people generally don’t like things to change or for their profit centres to be challenged.
I built my sock company on the premise that I wanted everything to happen online. The fashion industry in South Africa isn’t familiar with this approach, Bonobos is unknown and a model that has never been tried here. So meeting with people entrenched in the fashion industry who think they “get it” is always fun for me.
This particular meeting was with a young and vibrant self-proclaimed fashionista who owns her own boutique store. She wanted to stock my socks in her real-life store. She wanted to make a minimum of 150% profit from my product. That means that for me to allow her to retail my socks at a reasonable price for the consumer I’d have to give her more than 50% off of my price at a “wholesale” price. I refused and she lost it. She called me an amateur, she was stunned at my aggressive approach to business and refused to engage with me. She ended up asking me to leave the meeting. So I did.
I decided there and then that retail would do things on my terms because I simply didn’t know, don’t care or even like the rules. I didn’t really even realise that I was breaking the rules until that meeting.
Now I’m actively trying to disrupt and unhinge the established norms. This way, the established companies are playing catchup with the smaller contender in the market.