of the week!!
LazyNinja turns 2 years old today. And today I will share a story with you.
A story of why You Should Never Ever Give Up on Your Dreams.
Our first venture was ‘ColorSplash’ which failed horribly within 6 months of launch.
We started ColorSplash in MBA first year by taking Rs 20,000 loan from our friends. No business background or knowledge of apparels industry. We built the website on our own and found one t-shirt vendor from Bangalore who took care of entire production and we concentrated solely on growing the business, which was the biggest mistake we made.
Always Keep a Backup…
In 2012, we participated in Mumbai Comic Con by taking a loan of Rs 1 Lacs for stall and t-shirts. Our vendor promised delivery in a week. We were excited and felt like big businesses-men taking big risks. But 4 days before the event, our vendor dropped the bomb that he could deliver the tees only after the event. We begged him, cursed him, shouted at him, but all in vain. Time to put on our thinking caps. What we did? We printed Posters. Lots of them and we filled the entire store with them. Surprisingly, it was a hit; we got 200 pre-orders just from posters of t-shirts. We promised everyone delivery within a week. After the event, we called our vendor and his cell was Switched Off. We were bombarded by calls from people who ordered at the event. We went to Bangalore to check on the vendor and turns out, he was out of business and had left the city. We felt like crying. All our efforts, savings everything was gone and because of no fault of our own. We worked so hard and someone else screwed us over. Our Facebook page was filled with bad reviews and cursed words. We had no choice but to return everyone’s money and apologize. To pay off the debts, we started working on freelance projects. All this, along with college exams and lectures. We lost our confidence and our enthusiasm. And we had to shut down ColorSplash. Lesson? Learn as much as possible about your domain. And always keep a backup.
This was the first time I wanted to GIVE UP… But I didn’t.
Our entrepreneurship fever was almost gone. But I couldn’t let it go. I spent hours and hours learning about Facebook Ads, Google Ads, marketing strategies for e-commerce etc. I took a piece of paper and wrote down what all mistakes we had made in ColorSplash and made sure I looked at them everyday.
Doesn’t matter how many times you fail, you just have to be right once..
Exactly 3 months after shutting down ColorSplash, we started LazyNinja with an aim of becoming the Coolest T-Shirts Brand in India. We targeted niche areas like gaming, pop culture, geeks and it was instant hit. Before even launching the website, our Facebook page had more than 2000 fans. I still remember the time when we launched the website. It was epic, within 20 minutes, our entire stock was sold out.
LazyNinja was growing at a huge rate. We could not keep up. We used to attend lectures in the day, and pack that day’s orders till late night. Even during the exams when everyone was banging their heads with books, we were busy packing t-shirts. Sure, it was hectic but we loved every moment of it. Deciding to opt out of MBA placement was the most difficult choice we had to make. Imagine convincing your parents that you don’t want to join a stable job of 14 Lacs/annum package and want to sell t-shirts? Everyone thought we were crazy. Parents had one concern, How to get you married? If you are a struggling entrepreneur, then either find a girlfriend or be ready to get rejected many times because you don’t have a job. Apparently, people think entrepreneurship is for those who could not get a job.
Get your hands dirty early…
After passing out of college, for initial 6 months, we had no employees. Everything, from website management, t-shirt designs, packing, dispatching, customer care, we handled ourselves. Entrepreneurship is tough; you are the Chief Executive Officer as well as Chief Plumbing Officer. I wanted to learn about t-shirts as much as possible so we went to Tirupur, Tamil Nadu (the hub of textiles in India) If you are not from South India, going to Tirupur is like going to the mysterious land of Narnia. It’s like a different country. Nobody speaks Hindi and very rarely English. I was determined that until we learn about t-shirt industry in detail, I will not leave Tirupur. Everyday we roamed around learning how t-shirts are made, different types of fabrics, printing process, knitting process etc. The weather was unbearable, the food was difficult to adjust and language was the biggest problem. The 15 days we stayed there were hell.
This was the another time I wanted to GIVE UP… But I didn’t.
After just 6 months, we had to shift the office to accommodate the growing inventory. We always paid attention to what customers want. Sometimes we just used to post an idea on our FB page and let people suggest changes in the designs.
To win the race, just stay in the race…
In Oct 2013, we participated in Hyderabad Comic Con by investing almost 3 Lacs for stall and t-shirts. The event was amazing. Our stall was always over crowded. We did not eat or even had water whole day due to huge crowd. On the last day, 3 hours before the event, as usual our stall of over crowded. Suddenly, someone shouted, ‘Dude, your bag.. That guy took your bag.. Catch him.. Catch him.. ’ Turns out, while were busy with the crowd, some guy took our Cash Bag from inside the store and ran away. My heart skipped a beat because all of our earning of past 3 days was in that bag. Almost Rs 6 Lacs. We ran like mad towards the direction he went. We looked for him for hours but no luck. He was gone. The security, the organizers, everyone tried their best but nothing. We just wanted to sit there and cry. We worked so hard without eating or sleeping properly. After the event, the police came and an FIR was filed. It was brutal. All the hard work, all the investment was gone in a second, just like that. My parents started telling me to take up an easy job, why am I going through so much trouble and hardships after studying so much.
This time I really really wanted to GIVE UP… But I didn’t.
When we celebrated our 1st Birthday in March 2014, we were touching 100-150 orders per day, which was a huge achievement for us. Our team size grew to 6. Our Facebook community had crossed more than 2 Lacs fans.
One more incident, which will always be memorable for us was during Comic Con Delhi. I had to reach Delhi for the event. After finishing that days’ work, I was rushing towards airport on a bike carrying a huge bag of t-shirts when I met with an accident. I fell directly on my face and was dragged on the road. I blacked out; I could not see or feel anything. I was taken to hospital. I got injuries on my hands, knees and mostly on face. They tested me for head injuries and I was sent home instructing to take rest. My team in Delhi told me to they will handle everything but I was so worried because of what happened in Hyderabad. So, the next day, even though I was in lot of pain, I booked another flight and went to Delhi. Everyone thought I was crazy but I could not leave the team alone. Somehow we finished the event but I had to go to my hometown to rest for couple of weeks and recover fully.
If you are truly passionate about something, you can bear any hardship to achieve it..
Today, We are celebrating our 2nd Birthday. We have an awesome 8-member team. We have changed 4 offices in last 2 years. Last month we have setup our own printing unit to increase our production capacity. We have more than 3.5 Lacs fans on Facebook. We have trended on Twitter at least 40 times on various occasions. Our customer base is growing at a huge pace. We are planning to launch many awesome products real soon. Our revenues are multiple of Crores and we’re aiming to touch $1Million if all goes well. Starting from college hostel room to making a popular brand seems like a dream now.
And we have not taken any funding so far. Everything is bootstrapped. We didn’t get chance to join any Incubators or Accelerator program. We tried to learn as much as possible ourselves and that has helped us survive even in the worst of conditions. I see most of the startups worrying about funding before even launching the product. Funding is not the only criteria for success. Make a quality product, build something great, prove something, make a brand, bleed a little, sweat some more, and then look for funding. And most importantly WORK HARD. We have carried 1000s of t-shirts on our back. We have stayed up all night packing t-shirts. We have learned marketing, designing, SEO, everything by ourselves. But most importantly, WE NEVER GAVE UP. There were many occasions where we really wanted to, where we could not take it any more. Our bodies ached by lifting heavy boxes of t-shirts, arranging the t-shirts but our minds wouldn’t give up. We could get a corporate job anytime we want. We sweat, we bled, we cried in the worst of conditions but we never gave up. And we never will. We are determined, we are focused, and we are on a mission to make a cool t-shirts brand in India. Many people tell me the t-shirt industry is saturated. There is no scope in t-shirt business but I am loving what I am doing, and our customer loves us. We all see brands for watches, jeans, shirts so why not for t-shirts?
We believe now the time has come to take LazyNinja to the next level. Till now we have done everything on our own. We are looking for mentors and investors who could help us scaling to next level. For entrepreneurs, if any startup needs any advise or suggestion from my experience, I would be happy to pass on whatever little I’ve learned in these 2 years.
I am also launching my second venture in couple of weeks and I am sure all the learnings so far will be helpful in avoiding mistakes made in 1st venture.
Don’t be Sad, be Awesome…!!
I can be reached on Twitter – @MubaidS