The Lean Startup: Building FITS
“A startup is a human institution designed to create a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty.”
“The Lean Startup method, is designed to teach you how to drive a startup. Instead of making complex plans that are based on a lot of assumptions, you can make constant adjustments with a steering wheel called the Build-Measure-Learn Feedback loop.”
This blog post will document the lessons I have learned from The Lean Startup by Eric Ries and how I have applied them into building FITS.
Creating A Business
Every startup starts with a set of problems and a vision in mind to create a successful world-changing business. Your vision is a mix of your why and the idea you have on attacking that why. Then, you employ a strategy on how you plan on accomplishing that vision. This includes a business strategy, product roadmap, business model, and customer discovery. Finally, you build a product that is a result of your strategy. The product is what your customers experience from their interaction with your company. In looking at the build-measure-learn feedback loop, we can break down the process of building product.
Build-Measure-Learn Feedback loop
A startup starts with a problem and the founding team has a vision for what they want to build to address these problems. The first thing you can do is build a MVP (minimal viable product). This is the first step to see if your idea and product solves the problem that you set out to address. A MVP is the easiest product that you can build to validate your idea. It can be as simple as a landing page or as complex as a web app prototype but the goal of the MVP is to get a product out to the public in order to measure what happens. The next thing is measure what is going on. Talk to your customers and see how your product is working. Look at the data and google analytics to see how people are using your product. Measuring is constantly finding out new information about your business and product. You can measure what is going on through concrete data and talking to your customers. Finally, you have to learn from what you have built. What parts of your product have gone well? What parts of your product are still lacking? Did our idea work? After you learn, you must pick between one of two decisions: Pivot or Persevere. Pivot means changing some aspects of your product or service. Persevering is keeping along the path that you are on. The goal of the build-measure-learn feedback loop is to get to a point where you can learn and decide if you want to pivot your business or persevere along your current path.
How We Started Lean
As the CEO of FITS, I have applied the build-measure-learn feedback loop to our business more times than I can count.
Our problem starts with Robinson’s struggles as an emerging fashion designer. FITS started with 3 main problems: manufacturing, marketing, and finding a team / resources. For manufacturing, sourcing fabrics and finding a reliable manufacturer for your fashion collection is challenging. Making a blind investment into a domestic or overseas factory is a big commitment especially as an emerging designer. For marketing, the problem was finding your target audience and showcasing your work to people outside of your network. We felt like with platforms like Instagram, it was hard to showcase your collections to people that are 2 or 3 people away from you. Also, we don't think that people shop on Instagram or any of the other social platforms. Finally, a fashion collection takes a team and a plethora of resources to complete and this is something that is often hard to navigate for emerging designers.
Our Idea: Written October 14, 2020
FITS is a fashion community that allows users to create, post, buy, and sell clothes. FITS will feature an app that is simply a cultural phenomenon; a social network lifestyle hub and a retail ecommerce business - all in one place. We plan to disrupt the fashion industry by allowing users to see far more than just mainstream clothing brands that are offered to them in today's market. Cultural, underground fashion is incredibly important and Fits is the first time where this is emphasized in our niche at hand. Anyone can be a designer and create their own personal wardrobe through ‘create’ in Fits. They will then be able to market and sell their wardrobe on the Fits app. Fits will manufacture the clothes in any color, design, and material that the designer wishes to use. This will create an online marketplace for users to interact with one another through community and fashion.
How We Started: Building Runway MVP
We had a huge idea to build this platform where users can create, post, buy, and sell clothes. We felt like on one side of the business there was a selling aspect. A marketplace that is designed to connect a fashion community of buyers and sellers. On the other side, we had this insane idea to manufacture clothes and fill in all of those gaps for emerging designers. I spent the first few months mapping out the idea and creating a wireframe on Adobe XD. However, this was a waste of time: if you want to build a company, start building.
The first thing we did was set out to build the marketplace. We felt like a website that could act as the “Soundcloud for fashion” a place to discover emerging fashion designers, was the first thing that we could build. We took the mockup app wireframe and attempted to turn it into a website. We hired Brent Bobo who previously completed Robinson’s website and he got to work on building us the platform that we love. The main challenges were finding solutions that could make our website a true marketplace. We found a way to have a designer seller portal and have them list products straight onto our site and that completed the prototype for the FITS Runway (fits.clothing).
How We Built: Create
It was the very beginning of the summer and we had just been accepted into the Stern Venture Studio Program. Robinson and I wanted use this summer to find ways to create clothes. Our first idea was to hire seamstresses and try to manufacture clothes somehow. I say it like that because I really have no idea how that would’ve worked at the time. Then, we said you know what, we have connections in LA, NYC, and Milan: let’s try to just start helping make clothes. We reached out to a few designers at our school and told them that we wanted to assist them with anything they would need in their fashion process. Robinson began to hold “design meetings” to identify what parts of the process they’d like to work with us on. Our plan was:
Needs Discovery / Incubation Period
Manufacturing & Finance
Content & Marketing
Launch on FITS
We worked with a few designers throughout the summer and learned so much. Our first project was with Quintessential and it was to do shorts and shirts. Kaia was amazing to work with from the start. Her designs were finished and she just had to source the materials, make the clothes, and shoot. Along this process with Quintessential and the other designers, we learned that there are a few places where people could fill in the gaps and a few where resources would do the job. This gave me the idea to begin building Create.
The idea for Create is to put the whole fashion process from A → B → C in an accessible platform for emerging fashion designers. We started by introducing FITS Creatives:
“Create is a freelance service marketplace for fashion creatives. Create connects fashion designers to creatives for freelance projects in order to progress their collections. As a freelance platform, fashion creatives can create listings, connect with designers, complete projects, and earn income. Use create as an opportunity to create your world.”
Checkout Create: (https://www.fitscreatives.com/)
In building Create, I realised that this platform can open up opportunities for such a larger amount of people. Where I wasn’t as passionate about selling clothes, I am extremely passionate about business that can create opportunities for people. Create is going to become the future of work for a new industry. My mission is all revolved around a Power Struggle and this platform is the foundation in which creators can break through. Creators can’t be denied and when this platform truly comes into fruition, we will live in a generation where work talks louder than a resume.
Create has a long way to go in order to become the platform that we dream. We still haven’t officially launched our Development & Production product. However, it is extremely fun to find new problems that we can set out to build upon. I think the answer to all of our problems right now is a bright opportunity in the Web 3 space :)
Lessons You Can Apply
If you want to create anything, just start: There is no reason to not turn your ideas into reality and build something that can change the world.
When building, remember your why: For our company, it is to empower fashion designers. I will never forget when my mentor and first investor called FITS a picks and shovels business. This means we aren't trying to become a huge fashion brand ourselves, we want to build products that brands and creators can use to blow up. One piece of our strategy is to always Sell Shovels.
Measure and Learn: I thought that our idea from the very start would be our final product. However, we have changed our business, strategy, and products more times than I can count. This is because we have to learn from everything we do and decide when we should pivot or persevere.