Lessons From a Failed T-shirt Store

Before my success with Ethereum Clothing I had a failed T-shirt store, Stateless Apparel (aka SA). It was a side project I took up during my time with the Praxis program. Inspired by my interest in freedom and Libertarian Philosophy, I decided I could find a way to help spread ideas through design. Lots of fun but it was definitely a failed project. An extremely educational failure at that. Here’s what I’ve learned about running a t-shirt store.
1) Avoid acquiring inventory before making sales.

The most expensive mistake I made with SA was printing a couple boxes of shirts before I had any sales. Several years later I still have shirts sitting in my closet. This was an amateur mistake especially in the e-commerce clothing market. Now I know that printing as I get orders is the best way to do it. With Ethereumclothing.com I outsource my printing and shipping to the company Printful. It helps me keep my upfront costs low while freeing up my time to grow the business.

2) Keep website costs low.

Though not as costly as the product problem, I definitely lost some money with my web hosting. Before establishing my revenue I committed to a monthly payment of over $25 on Shopify. Now this isn’t a big cost, but for a first time entrepreneur it was a mistake. With the right combination of WordPress and web hosting systems I was able to get the monthly hosting cost down to under $10. I love Shopify, mind you. I actually currently run my site on it. If you kind of know what you’re doing, you’ll what to use it. I have an affiliate link you can check out. For a first timer though, it’s worth looking at your other options.

3) Start with several designs.

When I was running AS I only had two designs. They were pretty decent looking, but having such an empty site made my store unprofessional. Also if I had more designs I could have made a lot more sales. With my new site and all future projects I’ve decided to start with at least 5 designs.

4) Learn to do the designs yourself when possible.

Both of the designs were outsourced to a friend of mine. Great work! However the designs weren’t too complicated and I could easily recreate them now with my current design skills. I also overpaid. Unfamiliar with the market I offered much higher than I should have. My friend even gave me a discount, likely feeling the commissioned work wasn’t worth the cost. I also missed out on a great opportunity to learn a skill. I currently design most of the work at Ethereumclothing.com and will likely continue to sharpen that ability with further projects.

Failure is a necessary part of the growth process. Though it was unfortunate to lose time and money, I’m glad I had the courage to give it try.

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