Proving your market is essential when you’re a startup – not only does it show that there’s demand for your product, but it also gives others (such as investors) confidence in your proposition.
And if you can prove your idea whilst also making you some cash to develop your business further, all the better! That’s what Harriet Wolf and Melissa Whipp, founders of innovative sportswear brand Creatures of XIX did – and here’s how.
We are Creatures of XIX ® a provocative, primal and gritty clothing brand for extreme women into extreme fitness. We are currently focusing on the niche pole fitness market and are looking to expand into other extreme sports. We are the creators of Gecko XIX ® Grip leggings - a new-to-market fitness legging that is breathable, flexible and grippy.
For pole dancers our product not only provides an alternative to exposed skin (due to its grip) but means people can train for longer, as the leggings protect from bruising, soreness, and keep you warmer for longer to avoid injury. Further, the sophisticated design lines and whale-tail thick waistband shapes and lifts for a flattering fit. Our reviews and feedback from customers, including from world champion pole dancers, have been 100% positive for these leggings, and an industry expert stated “These are game-changing”.
As well as our Gecko XIX ® Grip leggings, we also designed and sell TeeVocative, provocative slogan tees, and are in the middle of launching a range of new pole dance and sports crop tops and shorts.
The idea for the Grippy Leggings had been one Managing Partner Harriet had for a few years. After a lot of research and discussions with potential manufacturing partners she realised we needed capital to invest into the research and development of the leggings. That’s when she invited me, Melissa, to go into partnership with her. We decided the best way to start was to set up as a distributor of other pole clothing brands.
This would allow us to: test the market and see how much demand there really was (you can’t download a mintel report for the market size of pole dancers!), build a reputation and customer base for the launch of our Gecko XIX ® Grip Leggings, and most importantly build a profit to invest into the research and development of our leggings.
Grabbing an opportunity
We wanted to get our brand known immediately and spotted a unique opportunity - a famous Russian pole dancer had launched a clothing line but was only selling on a Russian Social site and via Whatsapp messages. For a Western customer this was an unsecured way to buy. We got exclusive rights to sell the Russian brand Bembo in the UK. We spent one week building the website after work, and when we launched we saw immediate sales.
The distribution model worked well for us - we later took on a US brand and an Australian brand, building our stock, sales and customer base over seven months whilst working full time. The profits from this enabled us to get various samples to test with our manufacturer - to date we have spent over £17,216 on product development - and ultimately we finalised a product that was ready for market.
At this point we knew we needed investment in order to meet the minimum order quantity with our manufacturer. Manufacture was going to be our biggest risk; the order quantity was over eight times the size of the orders we had been placing at the time and over 1.5 times the cost per unit, so if the product didn’t sell we would be in trouble. However, we were confident in the market want for the product and our ability to market and sell it, so we applied for a Start Up Loan from Virgin StartUp.
The trading data we had accumulated from distributing and information on our customer buying habits was essential for us to secure the loan; it proved there was a customer base, and a big opportunity for us.
Launching our own leggings
We received the loan in June and began manufacture. We negotiated a three-month interest-only repayment period, which was perfect for us, as it allowed us to complete manufacture at the start of September and make a repayment that was manageable whilst only distributing.
When we launched the product mid-September, we had a two month market plan set out. After one week of marketing we had sold out of the most popular sizes and in less than a month total we had completely sold out! We immediately placed a reorder, and when we launched again at the start of January we sold out of most sizes in 24 hours, and the rest in a week.
We now have distributors of our product in the USA, Germany and Australia, and a waiting list of distributors covering Indonesia, New Zealand and France. The launch of Gecko XIX ® grip leggings saw our national vs international sales flip to 15% national and 85% international, selling to countries such as South Korea, China, Bermuda, and Oman - our leggings even made it into a national paper in Oman!
We would love you to follow our journey, hear your thoughts on our story, or if you can think of a way to collaborate we would love to hear from you – feel free to get in touch on Instagram, or through our website.
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