Creating Credibility to Maximize the Growth of Your Retail Startup
All entrepreneurs know that being a small company comes with a variety of daily challenges. We wear many hats, strain our bank accounts and lose hours of sleep building and protecting our vision. Sometimes we know it would be easier to be the big guys. And at times, we simply cannot move forward without appearing large enough to get things accomplished.
As a retail sock company, we're constantly relying on suppliers and vendors. Since we're in a common and competitive industry, we often get overlooked by suppliers, as they have little to no incentive to prioritize a small brand over the big-box retailers. So how do we compete on their level? How do we position ourselves to receive the attention and consideration we need to get our orders completed and win in the market? Whether you're running your company out of your dorm room, or Skyping your partners in four different time zones, here are a few tricks to help the little guys look larger than life.
Design and operational efficiency
Most suppliers have a minimum order quantity that is not a problem for large retailers to hit, but would nearly destroy our cash flow if we placed an order. To combat this issue we found a way to break up the minimum into various styles by reusing the same material colors. Instead of three socks with three colors each, we modified to three socks that use some combination of the same four colors. By making small design sacrifices, we were able to get three styles with low material costs, thus reducing the minimum order quantity per style. The key here is to be as efficient as possible with your variable costs and leverage that efficiency to get the most out of your supplier.
Small companies don't seem as small when there are many of them. Consider partnering with complementary products or services in order to capitalize on each other's' customer and vendors. From combining orders to hit minimum quantities to expanding the scope of your offerings to appear larger and more credible, partnerships can both enhance your image and help small companies experience economies of scale.
The Internet allows us to cultivate and curate the image we want to portray to our potential customers and suppliers. Producing high-quality content in large quantities helps build credibility for your company and your website from the get-go. Ensuring that your site is easily accessible and consumable is key to driving traffic to your brand and instilling trust in vendors and partners. Even a company of one person can have an 800-number, a "TalkToUs@xyz.com" email address and a company history, mission and vision. Your company is always going to be larger than you, so don't be afraid to reflect that in your digital image.
These are just a few of the ways your company can create credibility to maximize the growth of your startup. The challenges will never disappear, but as entrepreneurs we will continue to find solutions to achieve our goals.
Sarah is a recent graduate of Washington University in St. Louis where she studied systems engineering and entrepreneurship. During her junior year she opened Green Bean, an eco-healthy salad restaurant. She is now in the midst of launching her second business, a line of performance-focused men's business socks: Unfettered Socks. She was a finalist in the Entrepreneurs' Organization's Global Student Entrepreneur Awards in 2012. Find more about her on her website.