My name is Anthony Bencomo but most of my friends call me Biggie. I love sandwiches. Ever since I was little I have loved them. I could eat a sandwich at every meal if I wanted to! I also love t-shirts and branding. The best thing about t-shirts and sandwiches – everyone wears them and likes to eats them.
I’ve had the itch to start my own business for years and after waiting a while I decided to jump right in. I love food and coming up with creative ways to turn ordinary meals into a sandwich. I could have opened a food truck or restaurant but I wanted something I could grow and at the same time keep my day job to support my family. Merging my two favorites was pretty easy, especially since t-shirts are works of art and there is not enough love given to the #KingOfMeals the humble sandwich.
I started Deli Fresh Threads on January 18th, 2013. I knew getting into this business that there would be lots of lessons learned along the way. Here are the 4 biggest lessons I learned from launching my own brand:
Patience in a world of immediate feedback
When you start a brand it’s like screaming into the black hole, “HELLO! I’M HERE AND I’M OPEN FOR BUSINESS!” So don’t think once you open up shop that you are going to start selling. It takes time to build a following. There are thousands of people all with the same idea of creating their own clothing brand. It’s not easy. Pace yourself and know that this is a marathon not a sprint.
If you plan properly and are patient – it will grow. Keep at it. Keep posting relevant posts on your site and sharing. In most industries, success is not immediate. Times will be tough and there will be moments where you doubt yourself. If you believe in your brand and concept, don’t quit! Keep posting, creating content, finding new people to introduce yourself to and new mediums to do it in.
I feel that I can only make one good first impression since there are other food inspired clothing brands. So I had a clear idea of what I wanted before I opened up shop. I started interacting with people via social media almost a year before my brand opened its doors.
I knew that creating a clothing brand was not a get rich quick scheme. After a several years in business I still wonder if I’m doing this right. But I know that Rome was not built in a day and to build the type of community I want to create it will not happen overnight. It has to grow and flourish. So patience is required.
Find your niche/passion
What is it that you love? Show people. Show them what you are focused on.
I read a great book called CRUSH IT by Gary Vaynerchuk that spells it out for you. I love Sandwiches. I wanted to show people that I love and celebrate the #KingOfMeals. I started writing, tweeting and sharing anything cool that I could find that was sandwich related before I even sold a shirt.
Why? Because I wanted people to see that I had a true passion for sandwiches. Now they know. It is such a great feeling to hear people say they think of me and my brand when they see a sandwich.
When you have too many different ideas of what your brand is about- people have no idea what your story is. Try to make it focused. What is your brand really about? Is it something you’re so passionate about that you can write about it at length? Or is it just a trendy concept?
Take the time and be patient while you figure it out. I know getting started can be exciting but do it right. Before I launched, thought about everything about from packaging, tweets, Instagram, blog posts and how it all ties back to my brand. I would write them all down. I knew it all connected. So should yours.
Stay humble and always keep evolving
When you start out you may have a big vision of what you want to be and then you realize that you can’t afford it all on your current budget. It’s ok to start small and work towards that vision. Take the right steps. Don’t overdo it. Put yourself into a successful position.
When I started I had to scale back some of my ideas in order to start and not over extend my budget. I wanted to launch with 8 shirts and I quickly realized it was more expensive than I planned for. It was wiser to do smaller releases more often and spread it out than to do a big one.
I am always looking at better ways to do things from the logistics of packing/shipping orders to social media/blogging. I have no problem asking others how they do certain things. The same goes with me not having a problem helping others. You have to work hard, always be willing to learn and keep climbing to your goal.
Build a network
The world is full of people. Meet them and interact with them. Meet others and share with them. It’s amazing what you can learn. I am blessed to have people like Monique who I can bounce ideas off of. When I started, I reached out to various brands I admired and asked them for tips and suggestions on launching a brand. I also make it a point to interact with others that are a part of my target market.
WORD OF MOUTH is the greatest advertisement. I want people to meet me and know me. Once they see me they also see the passion I have for my brand and for sandwiches. Those people may not buy from me but they may tell others about my brand which could lead to sales and new fans. So go out and meet new people both online and offline.
Just to be clear do NOT SPAM others constantly pushing your brand. You have to give, give, give, and then ask. You have to build that trust and then when you ask people are willing to share and help.
Taking the road to entrepreneurship is not easy. However, if you stay focused and remain patient you’ll find that you can build something bigger than yourself. That’s the ultimate reward.