How do you get from an idea to a full-fledged e-commerce business that earned 1 million last year and is targeted to double this year? We talked to the co-owner of Bench Clearers, Joe Carson, about his journey and how he thought outside the box and traveled from zero to hero.
The Beginning of the Journey
Joe has been a lifelong hockey player from Long Island, New York, where the summers are hot and getting ice time is expensive. Because of it, kids prefer to play on the pavement, wearing their teams’ colors. The problem is that regular jerseys are made for frozen ponds in Canada and not hot pavements in New York or Florida.
Joe felt there was a need for something lighter that still represents your team. So he came up with an idea to cut the sleeves off and make them more delicate. The result is a summer-style jersey, an off-season jersey, or a tank top, whatever you like to call it. They are 100% polyester and much more breathable than an actual sweater. Made to be worn and played year-round, they are easily washable and can be worn in the winter over a hoodie.
Joe started playing with his idea in Photoshop and shared the designs on Instagram, asking people if they thought it was cool. In his mini customer survey, he found out people loved it. However, it was still just a digital image when followers started asking where to get it.
Overcome Your Entrepreneurial Challenges
With the help of his aunt, a fashion designer, he made prototypes. The next step was to figure out how to manufacture and get them out there, as they needed an NHL license. Getting an NHL license isn’t easy. You need to have a hundred thousand in wholesales over three years, ten years of manufacturing experience, and pay a 14.5% royalty on top of all that. Joe realized he would need a manufacturing partner with an NHL license. But who should he talk to and where to look?
Finding the right person was the longest part of the process. There are around 250 NHL license holders. Each has its realm of products; meanwhile, bigger guys have the universal license. Joe and his partner signed an exclusive distributorship with a summer wear license holder, now manufacturing Joe’s designs. They are now the only ones selling summer-style jerseys.
“How did you get the license? Well, it was about five years of talking to the wrong people.” – Joe Carson
Learn Your Business Processes So You Can Outsource
When you first start any business, you have to do all the processes yourself to know how they work. Before they got a customer support team, Joe learned everything he could about the FAQs. To hand them out to your team, you have to log all the questions yourself.
“You gotta do it yourself at first, learn from those mistakes, and then see what you can systemize.” – Joe Carson
Once you have customer service and a strong team, your days can go from 10-14 hours down to 8, 6, or even 4. No more Mondays to Fridays, from 8 – 5.
You start owning your destiny. But that takes time.
Have Enough Passion to Get Through Difficult Times
Be passionate about what you are doing. Go into it less for the money and more for the passion because there will be tough times.
“The thing about running a business is if there’s something that you don’t want to do, especially when you’re first starting it up. No one else is going to do it.” – Joe Carson
Embrace your mistakes and learn from them. Stick to it, as it doesn’t happen overnight or over a month. It rarely happens over a year, too. Passion is crucial because if you don’t care that much, you won’t do it. It helps you stay focused and get through hard times.
Joe’s Advice for Entrepreneurs
When you first start your business, odds are that you are still working a full-time job. It takes time to get things off the ground, and your business won’t pay up initially. So make sure you have at least three months of savings before you quit your job. You will have to sacrifice something to make your dreams come true, whether it’s money, time, or energy, or all of them. Be flexible and aware of opportunities – you never know who your partner or team member might be. Give your business the attention it needs, and you will get there.
The “Idea Pros” at IdeaPros have the resources, experience, and tools to help you at this step or any step in the entrepreneurial journey. We partner with entrepreneurs at any stage and who are ready to invest their ideas. Apply for an interview and let’s explore partnering together.