We believe that everyone has a great idea inside them. But how do you actually go about making an idea happen? To celebrate the launch of our ‘Space for Ideas’ competition, we brought together founders of some of New York’s most exciting start-ups for our February Underground Session: ‘The People Who Do’. We discussed the practicalities of launching a business and the journeys of three people who are defining their respective industries: Andrew Livingston, Founder of Knickerbocker; Trinity Mouzon, Founder of Golde; and Archie Hewlett, Founder of Duke + Dexter. The session provoked an in-depth look at the highs and lows of turning a great idea into reality.
Honour your product.
A strong brand is nothing without its selling point, and although the products our speaker panel created ranged from turmeric teas to t-shirts, they all agreed that at the base of making any idea happen, was tried and tested products. Developing an eye-catching set of products was a real learning curve for Trinity when retailers including Sephora and Goop came knocking: “When you’re on a shelf in a big retailer, it’s a real challenge to make the product stand out.” Duke + Dexter founder Archie echoed this: “There are so many brands developing amazing stories and campaigns, but then you feel and see the product and it’s just not quite there. You need to understand the product side of things.”
Accept the highs with the lows.
The most common misconception about running a business, yet one that still attracts many, is the notion that it offers an incredibly glamorous lifestyle (when, in fact, it’s anything but). It’s an idea that’s emerged alongside the phenomena of the high-growth start-up, but as all our panel agreed, you have to take the highs with the inevitable lows. “There are so many crap days when you just want to get out but there’s nothing you can do,” recounted Archie, “You just need the obsession with your idea to keep you going.” Having previously run Knickerbocker on a skeleton crew in a small Brooklyn factory, Andrew confirmed the realist perspective needed to remedy the lows of a business journey: “For me, it’s always business first and the glamour runs right at the backend.”
Know your numbers.
It might not be the first on everyone’s to-do list, but getting to grips with bookkeeping could be crucial to getting your idea off the ground. How can you bring an idea to life if there’s nothing in the bank? Trinity stressed the importance of coming to terms with finances, even if you’re a self-confessed ‘creative type’ like her and many other founders: “So many people I speak to tell me that they haven’t looked at their books in weeks or even months! No matter how wonderful your brand is, if you’re losing money and don’t know how to bring it back in you’re not going to have a company for much longer.”
Embrace physical space.
In a saturated social media landscape, it’s not enough to have an aesthetically pleasing feed anymore. To get noticed, you need to stand out. Opening up a retail space for your brand, if only for a short time, can be the perfect opportunity to show the world what you’re about and meet the people actually buying your product. It’s an unrivalled way to get to know them and tell them the tales behind your brand. As last year’s Space for Ideas winner, Andrew knew this better than anybody: “I was quite sceptical of retail,” he admitted, “But to move into the tangible where most of our customer base is in New York was great. However many chats you set up on your online store, you just can’t replicate that.” Trinity agreed, saying: “It’s a way to invite people into your world, in a space that’s wholly your own.”
Put the work in.
One thing all of our panellists undeniably had in common was the enormous amount of work each of them put into their respective businesses. For Andrew, when it came to anything Knickerbocker, tireless research was crucial: “You’ve got to go to factories, to every part of your supply chain. You’ve got to meet the people and make sure the employees are being taken care of.” Archie agreed, citing endless drive as the key ingredient to the success of his idea. Moving back in with his parents after quitting his job, he spend the early days of his business committing all of his time and energy to it: “When I started Duke + Dexter, I set about with really limited funds but I had a real drive; which meant everything I had was going into the business and ideas. You need the relentless energy for it to succeed.”
Applications for Space for Ideas 2020 are open until March 1st. Enter to win your own store and make your idea happen. Apply here.