When we first started discussing the idea of Larkshead, we were on a college campus attending business school. One of the great things about campus life is there is no shortage of opinions. For a company that wanted to focus on college apparel, it was the perfect incubator for market research. While there was plenty of feedback, the viewpoints were diverse which made it difficult to pinpoint any specific trends of what people were looking for in their apparel.
After talking about it for months, we realized that only a few of the comments focused on the apparel, with the rest focusing on the business and falling into one of three types of responses:
Daunting and Downright Frightening
“How are you going to compete against….[insert large athletic company]?”
“When are you going to quit and get a job, how long will you do this?”
“There’s so much apparel on the market, how can you differentiate yourself? What is your unique value proposition?”
“Where’s your innovative business model, are you trying to be the…[insert well known tech company] of apparel?”
“What about Amazon?”
“How will you know what to design? What if no one likes your apparel?
“What if you lose all your investment?”
“You don’t know enough about apparel, do something you already know.”
“What is your cost of acquisition relative to the customer lifetime value and ability to scale….[insert more business terms when all we want to know about is apparel].”
Doubtful but Won't Express it because it is Awkward.
“Yeah sounds interesting….[move on to mundane topic].”
“It could work but have you thought about …[insert potential problem]?”
“…sounds like you’ve figured that out but how about…[insert even more terrible and vexing problem]?”
“When are you going on Shark Tank” ….translation*: I’m not telling them it’s a terrible idea, will let 5 investment professionals on national TV do it.
“Sounds like a great idea, you should check out XYZ company.”….translation*: It’s not unique, here’s a company doing the same thing.
Humbling and Encouraging
“When is your apparel coming out, I want to buy some?”
“Put me down for one of each, I don’t care what it looks like.”
“I don’t really know if this is a good idea but I know you’ll figure it out.”
“I will put you in touch with XYZ person, they might be able to help.”
“When can I invest in Larkshead?”
“Majority of people talk about business ideas but never follow through on them. You are already further than most people.”
Not only were there more comments in the first category, Daunting and Frightening, a majority of them had very valid points. How can a small startup even attempt to take on multibillion-dollar apparel companies? The second category provided more comic relief so we remembered not to take ourselves too seriously. No we are not going on Shark Tank. The third category really made Larkshead possible. We were so humbled people would support us unconditionally that we knew we had to try. A lot of people may look to famous philosophers or leaders for guidance, ascribing to the notions of “follow your dreams” and “never give up” clichés. We found the most inspiration and humor from the people who could eventually become our first customers. No matter what happens along our journey, we know those same people will be the ones to pick us up when a new design is not well received or there are problems with production. We thank everyone for the feedback.
From the entire experiment, we learned the most valuable insight and embedded it in our company DNA. College campuses are tight knit communities with students from a wide array of backgrounds. Everyone has an opinion. At Larkshead, we celebrate the differences in opinion. We created a platform so that your voice can be heard. As your voice or interests change, so do we. All we ask is you let us know what matters most to you. We will create the designs and logos you want to see.
The Larkshead Team
Photo Credits: All Photos were taken by the University of Pennsylvania and provided to the public by the Office of University Communications.