Friday, September 25, 2009

Namestorming Competition

As we mentioned in our last post, sadly and unfortunately we have to re-name our shoe business, and we'd like to enlist your help in this process. Below is a brief that gives an outline of what we're looking for in a name. If you'd like to help us brainstorm and you come up with the name we decide on, you'll be custom making for yourself or significant other, the very first pair of shoes after our official launch! Just add your ideas to the comments section of this blog post to be in the running.

Here's the brief:

Women dress for other women. When a woman sees another woman walking down the street in a beautiful pair of shoes her predatory instincts kick in. 'Where did she get those shoes?' 'How do I get those shoes?'. In the extreme she wants to knock that woman over and steal her shoes. Alternatively she visits our website and designs a pair of her own beautiful custom made shoes.

We aren't a luxury brand, and we don't want to pretend to be. We are a creative, reliable, young brand that can help you to realise yourself as a shoe designer. The quality that we offer is high-end, but the brand itself can't afford any snobbery, because Jodie, Mike and I aren't offering to personally stitch you some shoes. :)

We want a name that embodies the above, but at the same time, as the great marketer Matt Newell once said, 'You don't want your brand strategy showing'. The name must subtly rather than explicitly refer to the above. We actually felt that Shoes of Prey might have been letting just a bit too much of the brand strategy show.

Before deciding on a name we'll need to check that "thename".com is available and as we've just learnt there must be no trademarking issues with the name!

For more insight into what we're after check out Jodie's posts about developing the name Shoes of Prey and detailing the brand insight.

We'll add our thoughts to the comments as we go along too, happy brainstorming and thanks in advance!

Photo Credit:

Trademark Bad Times :(

Back in July we applied to IP Australia to register 'Shoes of Prey' as a trademark in Australia under two classes covering shoes and shoe making. On Wednesday I arrived home from China to a 2 week old letter from IP Australia saying that there is another trademark 'Prey' in the shoes/clothing class and that we can't register 'Shoes of Prey' as the names are too similar. Ouch.

I immediately spoke to Jodie and Mike and we decided to contact the 'Prey' trademark owners to see if they would either be willing to sell it or consent to us registering 'Shoes of Prey'. Understandably it doesn't look like either of those options are going to pan out so it looks like we're back to square one with coming up with a new brand name.

We'd planned to launch next week so this is less than ideal, however it's lucky we found this out prior to launch as changing names, while time consuming, won't be too costly for us.

We've learnt some good lessons from this:

1. Do your trademark searches properly, and if there's anything similar to the mark you want to register look into it in detail. I am kicking myself for not doing this properly.

2. If you have the money (we don't) a trademark lawyer would be very useful to help out with this.

3. It would be nice if IP Australia didn't take 2 months to assess a trademark registration and that they had an option for emailing the results rather than posting them.

We want to come up with a great new brand name and we want to do it fast so we can launch, so we're going to put together some info and a competition to help us come up with a new brand name. More on that shortly :)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Company Registration

Recently we registered Shoes of Prey as a company. It cost AUD$400 to do this at our local ASIC office. The alternative structure for us was a partnership, which is where Clickversity is at, but we decided to go with a company as a company is likely to be better for tax purposes down the track, it limits our personal liability and if we're going to use this structure doing it now makes sense as we start to open bank accounts and set up credit card merchant facilities etc.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The best way to be a better employee is to think like your boss

Image credit: Star5112 on Flickr

Mike: After having our first contractor, Alice, for the best part of 2 weeks, I think I've grown not only as a manager but also as an employee. It's really enlightening to see things from the other side of the table, and to reflect on some my own experiences as an employee.

During my career, like most normal people, I've been guilty of being a lazy or otherwise incompetent employee at various times. What do I mean? I'm talking about being late to work, taking longer than allowed lunch breaks, not completing tasks on time, going home early, occasionally handing in sub-par work... that sort of thing. Not every day of course, but now and then. Back then I would have dismissed these incidents as trivial -- "near enough is good enough" -- but now I'm not so convinced.

It turns out that employers DO notice and care about these things. Even small things. They care about how you spend their money. They care if you waste their time, and are inefficient at your job, or take an extra 20 minutes for lunch. They watch everything you do, and process it silently.

It's in this context I've come to appreciate and value what it means to act "professionally." Being professional is really the art of not pissing off your boss and showing him or her that you take your job seriously. Very seriously. Before today, I don't think I fully appreciated this.

Of course, no employee is perfect. As a manager you are making allowances for normal human behavior. However I can see that, over time, these allowances will add up. Probably pretty quickly at that. If your employee isn't delighting you at every interaction, it's very likely that you're not going to go out of your way to advance their career.

(I should clarify that, happily, our contractor, Alice, rocks. She's great at her job, spends money wisely and solves problems proactively. That said, I'm still able to zoom into small details she probably thinks I'm glossing over. This got me thinking about my time as an employee, and how my bosses might have perceived various situations differently. The post was really inspired by the seemly innocuous stuff we've all done as employees from time to time.)

It's a shame that I had to quit my job and become my own boss to have this realization. I wish I could have realized this 5 years ago.

So, if you're an employee and want to become better at your job, my advice is simple.... go get yourself an intern. Only after walking a mile in your boss's shoes will you understand how to move to the next level.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Gone to Guangzhou

Michael: Mike's been in China the last month without access to Blogger, so he's emailed through this update for me to post.

Mike: A few months back Michael and I decided we should spend 3 months in Guangzhou, China working closely with our supplier and getting ourselves set up here. I've spent the last month here and here's what I've been up to:

1. Lots of supplier meetings. Out of these we've tweaked our model and will be starting selling at markets while we continue to test sizing methods.

2. We've hired a Chinese contractor, Alice, to work with us for the 3 months. I've been working with her on a lot of different tasks like product photography and setting up shipping arrangements from China to our customers. More about Alice in our next post.

3. And of course I've been continuing to work on programming the website. We've changed the vision and short term plans for the website many times in the last few months, which has made it a challenge in terms of finishing the programming. However, we're almost there. In about 2 weeks we should have a decent version of the site ready to go. We're looking forward to gradually opening up the website after that, and of course starting our market stall in Sydney.

Other than that, living in Guangzhou has been a great experience so far. Eating the local food, and trying to learn Mandarin makes each day memorable - as well as looking out to the impressive and rapidly changing skyline while I work! (The image in this blog post is from our apartment.)

Michael: I'm joining Mike in Guangzhou today and will be there for 2 weeks. We're still able to post to blogger but can't access the site (China blocks it), so we'll respond to any comments when I'm back. :)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Shoe Sizing Conundrum (Part 2)

Back in May we posted about the issue of being able to make custom made shoes in the right size for people. As we expected, this is most definitely one of our biggest challenges.

There were some great comments and suggestions in that original post and we explored all of them. In the end, because we hoped it might be simplest for our customers and quick for us to set up, we decided to test having people measure their feet with a tape measure. We've run one beta test and are in the middle of a second one and the results so far haven't been great.

For the first test we wanted to develop the simplest possible method to measure your feet with a tape measure. We experimented and came up with a method we thought might work. I measured everyone's feet using that method and our supplier determined sizes from my measurements. 12/16 shoes fit first time = 75% success rate. Not brilliant, but ok and I'm sure we could improve from there - so the measuring method works, but that's with one person measuring everyone's feet.

For the second test we wanted to see if customers could be taught to measure their feet accurately using the same method. We created the instruction video below and put together a document explaining how to measure your feet.

24 people measured their own feet following these instructions. Jodie or I then measured their feet to compare measurements. Unfortunately only 4 people got the same measurements as Jodie and I. Those 4 people each took about 20 minutes to follow the instructions really carefully, so the method works if people do that, but we can't expect everyone to take the time to do this, so the failure rate is likely to be too high if we have people take measurements of their feet with a tape measure.

Still, all is far from lost, the plan from here is:
1. We're going to set up a market stall in Sydney, ideally at the Bondi markets, where we have sample shoes for people to try on for sizing. Once sized up, people can order online through the website (we'll have computers with internet access at the stall). This will let us start selling shoes and give us the opportunity to keep testing alternate sizing methods.

2. Our supplier likes the idea of people posting us a closed in shoe that fits really well. We can use that to get sizing right and ship the shoe back with the customer's order. We're still thinking this through, but we're likely to run a third beta test trialling this method.

We're still very open to other possibilities that came from the comments in our original sizing post, like an iPhone app (check out RulerPhone) that helps you measure your feet (thanks Ben) or a way to take a foot mold at home (thanks Cameron).

As always we'd love to hear your thoughts. Would you visit us at the Bondi markets in Sydney to get sized up? Would you be willing to post us a shoe that fits you really well?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Naming our baby

Image Credit:

As we discovered, naming a shoe design company is no small task. We spent a number of weeks looking at this from as many different angles, and thought we'd share the process with you :)

Throughout the entire process we thought about brand names that we love. We thought about what made them impressive - usually it was the way the word sounded and how easily it could be remembered - google, zappos, mimco. We also loved brand names that related to something very relevant in a clever way.

On the very practical side of things, as we brainstormed we kept our laptops close by to check the availability of the business name and domain name as we worked.

We then went through 3 phases of brainstorming:

1. We started by taking the brand insight - that women behave as predators of couture. We then teased out the following territories to explore: 

  • an actual name - i.e. Michael 
  • hunting
  • myths/legends
  • design
  • using a play on words using a shoe-related word/s

From here we put some research into each territory, looking at stories, famous figures, foreign customs etc.

Although this helped us to open up where we could be, it didn't of itself yield a name. 

2. We then looked at a naming methodology from the 'Igor Naming Guide' (which is awesome by the way). This methodology suggests thinking about naming by:

  • Doing a competitive analysis. If many competitors have followed a particular path, you can differentiate easily.
  • Not trying to describe your business in your name. Brands will always appear in a context that describes the business. Let your brand name do something productive. 
  • Remembering that names built upon greek and latin roots can be seen as cold.
  • Thinking of poetic, rhythmic names - they're are great as people like to say them and they seem warm and friendly e.g. Google, Zappos, Kleenex, Oreo.
  • Trying to come up with evocative names - these are bigger than the good or service. They evoke the positioning of the product, rather than the good or service e.g. Virgin, Apple, Yahoo - however what they evoke must match the brand.
  • Remembering that tag lines are important and can help brands rise above their product of service: e.g. Nike - Just Do It, Apple - Think Different.

This helped us to take the exploration of territories, and try to turn them into a word...however again, this didn't of itself yield a name.

3. Last, but by far not the least, we took all this information we'd amassed, lots of wine, sushi, some good friends and sat in our courtyard for hours until Lisa from A Slice of Orange quite literally blurted out "Shoes of Prey". We all fell in love with the name instantly.  That's not to say that we didn't realise any hesitations:

  • Firstly, we wanted to make sure that this worked for people who weren't so close to the subject matter as we were, and so we went out to test it. We found that women connected with the name, understood the insight immediately and appreciated the duality of the word "Prey". Men however needed the insight to be framed up prior to being told what the brand name was to understand it.  They generally liked the name, but felt it didnt make sense.
  • As owners of this name, we also had other concerns - what if we branched out from shoes in the future? How do we use this name then? Should we not attempt to develop a name that is not so connected to a single product?

Stemming from these concerns, we sat down to brainstorm again, using Shoes of Prey as our bench-mark.  However, a new name never came.  We collectively decided that the fact that men didn't connect with this as women did was not a great concern, because we are only marketing to women.  Once the brand gains momentum and popularity amongst women (fingers crossed!!), men would be accepting of the name on this basis and by the way women behave in relation to the brand.

We are still not sure how this brand name will operate if or when we do expand into other products, but the name works so well for us that we can't justify changing it.

How would you have approached naming? Can you think of any other ways we could have considered this?

Friday, September 4, 2009

Startup related blogs we read

Image Credit

Doing a startup means we like to read about other startups. Here's a list of startup related blogs we read:

  • Start Up Blog - by Steve Sammartino. Steve is the founder of Rentoid (a very cool business model) and he lectures in Marketing at Melbourne University. One of my favourite blog posts ever comes from this blog, about how a banana comes in near perfect packaging.
  • Springwise - Very inspirational. This blog focuses on new, innovative business concepts from around the world. One of our favourites.
  • Signal vs. Noise - by the team at 37signals. These guys build web based software for small businesses. Their blog gets a bit techy (Mike likes these posts) but it's also good for general startup tips.
  • Seth's Blog - by Seth Godin. In addition to a very thought provoking blog, Seth has written some great books which have inspired us to give the startup gig a go.
  • Ross Hill - by Ross Hill. Ross works at Deloitte and is involved in Melbourne's thriving startup scene. He posts a little less frequently than others which I don't mind because when he posts it's good.
  • TechCrunch - You can't go past TechCrunch for information and inspiration about tech related startups.
  • TechNation Australia - by Kim Herras - a smaller, Australian version of TechCrunch. Great for keeping up with tech startup news from Australia.
  • New Rules for the New Economy - by Kevin Kelly. The blog entries actually come from a book Kevin wrote in 1998 with the same title as his blog. Although the book is 10 years old the posts are still very relevant and interesting.
  • Come Together - by Scott Drummond. While not strictly a startup blog, we read this one for Scott's thoughts on online communities. His Philosofriday concept is a cool one.

We use Google Reader to subscribe to and read the blogs above.

What startup related blogs do you follow?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

5 Lessons from Darwin Dating

In early 2006 Mike and I read a book called 'Buzz Marketing' which provides a framework for building buzz for your brand. We decided to try out the framework and Mike came up with the concept of a joke dating site for attractive people only. We enlisted the help of James Duffy and Darwin Dating was born.

The site definitely got the buzz we'd hoped for, and now has over 20,000 members, but we haven't made a lot of money from the site. That said we've learnt a lot, here are those lessons:

1. If you want to build buzz, the framework in 'Buzz Marketing' works. It's probably obvious if you've seen the Darwin Dating website that we used the 'controversy' angle to get people talking! You can download the key chapter in the book here, but essentially the theory is you need to push the '6 buttons of buzz':
- The taboo (sex, lies, bathroom humor)
- The unusual
- The outrageous
- The hilarious
- The remarkable
- Secrets (both kept and revealed)
While we designed the Darwin Dating brand to satisfy these 6 buttons, you don't have to go that far. We pulled a little stunt when Google did a flyover of Sydney for Google Maps a few years back that got us some good buzz. (Read the comments on the post!)

2. Buzz = lots of links to your site = great for SEO. For a long time (and sometimes it still does) Darwin Dating ranked on page 1 of Google for the keywords 'dating website' and 'dating websites'. Not bad for a very niche, joke dating site. We put this down to all the buzz related links to the site and...

3. Encouraging people to link to your site = great for SEO. And who better to do this than your customers or users! They just need a reason to do it. To join Darwin Dating, users need to be voted in as 'attractive'. We provide newly signed up users with code to embed a 'vote for me' button on their website or blog so they can encourage their friends to vote for them. Not everyone takes advantage of this but enough people do resulting in lots of links to our site.

4. If your business requires a critical mass or users, make sure you've fully thought through all the implications before you begin and planned your strategy accordingly. Dating websites require a critical mass of users in a geographic area before you can charge users and make money. While Darwin Dating has 20,000 members we only have critical mass in two markets, London (5k members) and New York (3k members). We could charge members a fee in those markets, but not in places like Sydney (100 members). As we've since learnt, other dating sites either target specific geographic regions, or group together 100's of niche dating sites like ours that all share the same membership base.

5. Make sure you're passionate about the business you're building. It makes us feel really bad when we reject 'ugly' people from Darwin Dating and they don't realise the site's a joke. This hurts our motivation and has played a big part in us not working on the site a great deal in nearly 2 years. We've taken a lot from the experience of working on Darwin Dating, and the site's still up and running so hopefully we'll continue to learn some more. We'll do a follow up post to this one about how we're applying these lessons to Shoes of Prey and Clickversity.

Fun postscript - last week a Darwin Dating member emailed us to delete their account and say thanks as they're now engaged after meeting their partner on Darwin Dating! That's our first known Darwin Dating marriage, hooray! (Both members are HOT by the way!) ;)