The Lean Kite Fighting Machines – Creating an online brand in 12 hour

Some businesses you start are not so much of a good idea but a nagging obsession that you can’t get rid off.

As a result of several nagging obsessions I decided to create an online clothing brand, selling actual products. Remarkably Kalari Kites took a grand total of 12 hours to launch. This is how I did it…

Seeds for an ideaScreen Shot 2015-08-20 at 6.15.46 pm

In a book I read about 10 years ago, the 4 hour Working Week, Tim Ferriss describes two concepts that I haven’t been able to shake off. The first is having a self operational business. When you create technology that is available every hour of every day, having a project that is self sufficient is revolutionary. The other concept is testing your ideas quickly. In Tim’s case faking a t-shirt range and publishing it on ebay to see if there is a customer base.

Goal One : Create a business that runs itself

Which means I can undertake tasks that might be quicker for me to complete but would outsource all operational and ongoing work. I decided I would create a website that show cased my products but sends the orders to a partner that shipped the product. In addition I would have to find a manufacturer to produce my products and a designer to create the brand.

The spreadsheet

With all this in mind I got down to researching and creating a business plan. I had a concept, no name, no brand assets and a big spreadsheet. In a cash flow spreadsheet I plotted out all the things that brands like figleaves and Adidas spend their money on. Quickly I realised that employing product designers, creating stock, having a warehouse and engaging marketing agencies  would mean that I could sink millions in this business before I could break even.

Goal Two : Break even quickly

With these new goals in mind I read how Richard Lazazzera created an Online T-Shirt Business In 24 Hours. Good man. His article encouraged me to find someone who would not only ship my product but print it on demand so I didn’t have the initial outlay for stock. Richard designed his product himself. Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 6.16.04 pmThis was going to be a learning curve for me. I read and reread the article and was left with just one little doubt.

I love my sleep and have a life. In fact I had to fit this project around a stay in hospital and subsequent recovery. So the challenge was set. Can I create a new brand by working just a few hours at a time over six weeks ?

Hour One – Name the Brand

Once we have chosen a brand name we can rush ahead and buy domain names. We need  a name that can be remembered, links well to the concept and available as a domain. In the end I chose a Hinglish name as it fit well with the concept. I will write about how I came up with the name in a another blog post.

Hour Two – Choose a T-shirt Partner and Buy a Domain Name

My target audience are people who love Indian sports. So obviously I could have found a T shirt printing and shipping company in India but at my price point – affordable luxury – international Indians were also a valuable test audience. Looking at Wikipedia the largest location for Indians abroad is North America and mainly around California. With a little searching I signed up for free with Print Aura based in Sacramento.

The domains and hosting cost 37 pounds. To save time I used my usual hosting company and repurposed an old server rather than do something new.

Hours Three and Four – Build My Website

Print Aura offered various software solutions to seamlessly manage the product catalog and collect any customer orders. I thought about learning a new eCommerce platform but my goal was to break even quickly, so I chose my well trusted WordPress.

Inside WordPress you have to install the Print Aura plugin which needs WooCommerce. This magically gave me all the elements of an e-commerce site. Shopping Cart, Shop Front and Account Details. It even does discount vouchers, geo tracking and wish lists. It took about 5 minutes to press the buttons to install the software and about an hour to follow the video to configure the system.

Finally when I had all three bits of software in place I picked a free template to show off the website and make the whole thing look more like a shop and less like a blog.

Hours Five to Eight – Create Some Products

Now to the hard part learning something brand new. I used the free thirty day trail of Adobe’s Photoshop. Downloaded all the templates that Print Aura gave me and created some really basic designs. Picking fonts and finding inspiration by looking at designs of the brands that have inspired this project.

Hours Nine and Ten – Battling with Paypal

It took forever to configure Paypal. I was live testing my orders and it was a real pain to configure WooCommerce not to break the link with Print Aura and get end to end payments operational. I haven’t managed it. My website takes payments via Paypal but I have to manually enter my orders into the Print Aura.

Eleveth Hour – Snagging

Ok bugs. Besides the automated orders not working the product catalog decided to stop syncing up with the website. I lost a tiresome evening deleting and updating databases. Thankfully I understand how to debug, read logs and run diagnostic testing to figure out how to hack the system.

Hour Twelve – Launch on Twitter

In the end I had to give myself a deadline.  Although the site had been live and searchable from the day I bought the domain, I wanted to officially launch. I need a little brand history. I chose Indian Independence Day and Twitter for my launch. You may not know this but Kites are flown for Indian Independence day. As for Twitter I didn’t have time to have hundreds of social channels so a single open platform made sense. By using Independence Day I had ready made hashtag that everyone was using which also made sense with the brand. The only problem I made plans on Saturday the 15th August which involved being at the seaside. Not the best place to take my computer.

After asking on twitter, I decided to use Buffer to launch my site on Twitter while I was away. On Twitter I created an account and grabbed my brand name. Then I used the assets that I have decorated the website to brand match the Twitter account. Finally  I created five posts and lined them in Buffer so the automated tweets covered a 20 hour period to hit both the Indian and Californian time zone.

Did it work ? What Next ?

My site was officially launched, It took just 12 hours work and there has been one order on the site. From me !  As someone who is scrupulously honest I want to see my design and the quality of the shirts before I start promoting the brand. The promotion will involve a few friends modelling my shirts and making more noise online. Following Richards approach I now have 12 hours left for marketing to hit my goal of breaking even.

In the mean time Buffer is churning through my tweets and I can see every day a new flurry of followers. And there was that great moment when Victoria Beckham followed Kalari Kites.

If you have time please check out Kalari Kites and let me know what you think @kavitakapoor.