Categorized | Shoestring Startup

Finally, a Clothing Subscription for Guys

Finally, a Clothing Subscription for GuysName of your company and URL?

Bombfell (http://www.bombfell.com)

Date started?

February 2011

What is your product or service?

Bombfell’s the clothing subscription for guys that’s like having a fashion-savvy girlfriend send you stylish clothes every month. Subscribers get one clothing item – a collared shirt, a pair of jeans or a polo shirt to name a few possibilities – in their size every month that’s been handpicked by our shoppers with them in mind.

Why did you start your company?

Finally, a Clothing Subscription for GuysWe started Bombfell because we were still wearing jeans that we’d bought 4 years ago despite the telltale signs of being old and worn-out: holes in the crotch and around the pockets, saggy “diaper butt” and an outdated wash. So we asked ourselves, why were we still wearing these when we knew they made us look bad?

Well, we found that for a lot of guys there’s two significant barriers to getting new clothes: 1) a lack of time to go shopping and 2) a lack of knowledge about what looks good on them.

To solve the latter problem, many of us ask female friends or girlfriends to come along shopping and pick out clothes for us to buy. There’s a limit to how often you can ask someone to do that, though, so you end up only getting new clothes once in a blue moon.

With Bombfell, we’ve built a service that recreates the experience of having someone knowledgeable about men’s fashion select clothes that look great on you and fit well. Your wardrobe stays fresh and updated since you get a new item every month, and our users tell us it’s also a great way to discover new up-and-coming brands they wouldn’t have found otherwise.

We’ve always wanted to see something like Bombfell exist so we could use it ourselves and we got tired of waiting for it, so we decided to go out and build it instead.

How was it financed?

Completely bootstrapped and initially, for less than $500 (see below).

Date officially launched?

We linked to a bare-bones landing page from a post on Hacker News (an online forum for startup and tech enthusiasts) in February to see if there was any interest in the concept – at that point we didn’t even have a website. We launched in private beta in March and, for the first month, sourced clothes by shopping at Macy’s to prove out the concept.

What free online or offline tools do you use?

Google Apps for email/spreadsheets, Mailchimp for email marketing, Amazon Web Services for hosting/email delivery, Kissmetrics for funnel analysis, Survey.io for user feedback.

Do you use Social Media tools like Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn? Provide exact URL of each

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Bombfell

Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/bombfell

What is the best advice you ever got?

All advice is drawn from a limited scope of the personal experience of the person giving it. It’s up to you to decide if it’s relevant to your situation.

What almost killed your business in the start?

Funnily enough, launching on the fly was both the best and the worst thing we could have done. It was great in that we immediately started testing our assumptions, but conversely we also had no infrastructure in place – no website, wholesale accounts with clothing brands, shipping solutions etc. – to support the service at the very beginning.

What is the one thing that you did right?

We learned from prior mistakes and launched Bombfell without writing a line of code, so we could start proving out the concept and collecting feedback immediately. The sting of spending several months preparing and making things perfect for a launch that flops doesn’t go away easily!

What was the biggest transition you had to make (i.e. new skill set, habits, abilities, focus)?

Finally, a Clothing Subscription for GuysThere are pretty stark differences between the fashion and tech worlds. When you work with clothing brands you’ll notice a thousand small examples of how the apparel sector is still in many ways a centuries-old industry that has set ways of doing things and changes at a more deliberate pace. For instance, there’s a lot of reps in the industry that still prefer to do business over fax instead of email, and we realized early on we’d need to get a dedicated fax line.

There’s also a marked focus in fashion on branding, which certainly makes sense given how important image is to apparel, but it took some getting used to on our part. In our prior professional lives, we would assess opportunities largely based on easily measurable metrics like user growth and revenue potential, but with clothing brands they’re often (rightly) focused on more intangible aspects of how the brand will be represented, what other brands will be carried and how a partnership reflects on their brand. It’s a different way of thinking.

What type of marketing or advertising do you do?

To date we’ve grown largely by word of mouth. The idea of a clothing subscription is still a fairly new concept that requires some explanation, so it’s really great when we can have our users act as evangelists and tell their friends about the service and how it works.

To encourage this we have a double-sided referral system whereby for every friend a user signs up, we’ll give both the user and their friend $10 credit towards buying their clothes.

What would make your business more “Successful”?

Our long-term goal for the business is to provide the end-to-end wardrobe solution for guys. No going to the mall and no wading through endless racks of clothes, just a simple service that enables you to look put together with zero effort and no prior knowledge required.

We’ll consider ourselves successful when we’ve built the service to a point where our users can address every conceivable need for their wardrobe solely through using Bombfell.

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