From lightbulb moment to finished product: Bore Off
When you have an idea for a business, what are the first things you should do to make it happen? That's what we're asking entrepreneurs funded by Virgin StartUp a part of Global Entrepreneurship Week 2015. In this post, Lee McKervey founder of the Bore Off brand explains how he turned his love of a simple phrase into a fully-fledged business that's now partnered with Macmillan Cancer Support.
Back in 2011 I was on Facebook, scrolling through the usual repetitive boring posts, and I said “I wish there was a Bore Off button on Facebook so that I could use it for the boring posts that I keep seeing!” I liked the phrase, and the more I thought about it, the more I realised that a product incorporating this popular phrase could potentially be a huge success.
My first step was to check that the phrase was available to be trademarked. At first the very thought of trademarking something was very daunting, but after digging around on the internet and calling various independent IPO specialists I managed to learn about the process so I could do it myself.
After extensive research, I decided it was time to complete the online Right Start trademark application form via the Intellectual property office website. You have two options to submit a trademark application. The Right Start application is half the fee and includes expert screening from one of the IPO trademark examiners, where they will let you know their opinion and the likelihood of your trademarkmark succeeding. This does not guarantee you that the mark will get through, but having an examiner look at the possibilities improves your chances.
After successfully submitting the application it was then just a matter of waiting to see whether the trademark would be approved. However that didn’t delay me - I needed the domain names. Boreoff.co.uk was available but not boreoff.com. However there was no website for it either, just a holding page. Eventually, after some digging, I managed to track down the registered owner of the domain and cut a deal to buy the domain for £750. He initially wanted £1,500 as he believed in the potential of the domain; however I managed to haggle my way through and got a good deal.
The next stage after this was to secure more trademarks for Bore Off - I managed to get them for the EU and USA. I also spent a lot of time researching the markets I was entering. Trademarking is obviously a costly process, but in my opinion necessary.
Creating the brand
During my journey I have been tested on many levels and have had to have unwavering faith! I asked myself questions like “Am I mad for trying to create a brand based on a phrase that no one has ever really heard of? Can this really work?” But every time I hit a brick wall something would pop up that gave me some hope – for instance, I discovered it was one of Cheryl Fernandez-Versini’s favourite phrases, and then I started to hear Bore Off popping up everywhere on social media, the television and in the media.
It was time to develop a logo. I reached out to 100 of the top brand design companies in Europe; I sent them all a brief of my ideas for Bore Off and waited to see what happened. At first many emails came back saying that they were not interested, but then I received a call from a company called Blue Marlin inviting me to meet with them and telling me they were excited about my brand. They developed our original green smiley logo. The briefing was for something iconic and to the point, and the logo was just that!
Creating the product
I then decided it was about time to get some t-shirts made and try and get the physical product out there. Once I had the t-shirts ready I hired a PR company from Manchester to promote Bore Off. There were lots of promises, but unfortunately nothing came out of the campaign - not one single sale. I spent some time contacting several buyers and independent shops to see if we could stock with them and managed to win a contract with HMV, but they suddenly went into administration shortly after. One thing that I have learned on this journey is that everything is about timing and have learnt to not get so down when a door closes – it’s normally always for a good reason in the end.
Developing the brand
Following on from the advice of fashion designers and retail buyers, it was apparent that the green smiley logo wasn’t suitable for the fashion industry, so I decided to get some new designs done that would suit the fashion scene. I did a few trade shows and we started to sell quite well at these, as by this time people knew what Bore Off meant and liked the designs too. All of my experiences meant that I was more rounded and enabled me to give an appealing and polished story to the customers. Our hard work was paying off – people were engaged with the brand, loved the t-shirts, and we were seeing sales.
The sky’s the limit
Now you can buy a wide range of Bore Off products, from t-shirts to hats to hoodies, and we recently teamed up with Macmillan Cancer Support to launch a range of “Bore Off Cancer” t-shirts. All this from an idea I had whilst browsing Facebook one evening, and the determination to put it into action.
Support Bore Off’s campaign Bore Off Cancer by purchasing a t-shirt - £5 from each purchase goes to Macmillan Cancer Support.