On Starting A Premium Lifestyle Apparel Company From Compton
Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi there, Tramell McInnis here. I am the Owner & Co Designer here at LilKong Brand. I started working on my lifestyle designer fashion brand in late 2017. I got it established mid-2018.
The road to launch was a long tough road, being I don’t come from a place with many funds. Just a day to day work that put everything into an idea & worked tirelessly to finally make it a reality.
I work closely day in and day out with our very talented Creative Director/Head Designer Michelle Sheri Woolfolk. She’s been in the industry for some years now & has a high level of experience, from designing to sewing her own apparel together. Together we bring you one of the most anticipated Urban Designer Brands to hit the market.
Our main demographic will be young to middle-aged men & women, with middle to high-class income.
Within 3 years of launch, our expected business evaluation is to be around $300,000.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Every since I was a child I was really drawn to clothing that stood out in the crowd, no matter what the brand was. I loved clothing that was well put together & had that creative look that you wouldn’t find in your everyday clothing store.
Study the market that your passionate about inside & out.
It’s a long journey when starting up your own business. It takes countless hours a day in & day out to build a successful business. Knowledge & research is everything. The more knowledge you have the fewer mistakes & less time you’ll waste fixing the preventable mistakes that you’ll make along the journey.
Me growing up in Compton, Ca our main goal was to make it see 21. In that type of environment, it’s about survival. Even if you’re not directly tied to the streets, your whole life can be changed by the acts of the streets. I did everything in my power to follow my parent's advice, stay busy, stay focused & not feel confined to a certain area but to get out the city & adventure into what’s past my zip code.
I didn’t have all the luxuries of being able to purchase all the high-end designer fashion. As far back as I can remember my first name brand item was from Jordan Brand for my first Christmas, a gift from my godfather at the age of 5 months. I always mixed brand with generic to create something great that I felt good about the day-to-day. Deep inside I always knew I was a Creator.
I never attended any fashion schools, but I did participate in different fashion shows as a child, all while keeping my eyes & ears to the industry & was always directly involved within the urban market. I feel me teaming with our current head designer Michele Sheri, was one of the best decisions I made for my business. She is so experienced and highly knowledgeable in areas that I might not be so knowledgeable in. I truly believe in teamwork, it's a huge & important part of doing business. Getting the right team around you will accelerate and makes the process & decision making a bit easier.
The name LilKong actually came to me during my time in the music industry from my Uncle Larry. It was a form of my sound & stage presence which evolved around high energy sound & presence. While continuing forward with my music career, at the same time driving commercial trucks day-to-day, it was within several months pondering on the LilKong title that was placed before me, I then decided I wanted to brand the idea & build a designer fashion empire, LilKong Brand.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
There were many challenges during the first design - manufacturing process. The most challenging part of teaming with that perfect manufacturer for our company was finding one that really fits our core values (high quality, intense QC procedures, excellent communication), while at the same time being able to accept lower minimums for starting out as a new premium fashion brand.
We went step by step which was about an 8-month process with our complete first order. We sketched our designs out, we then process of elimination down to the final styles we wanted to present. We then sent them out to our manufacturer to begin the creation of our tech-packs.
After that was confirmed, we began the sampling stage to be sure everything was up to standard before beginning the bulk process. During this part of the process, we were also getting all our labels & finishing together for our pieces. Once the sampling & QC process was complete we begin the bulk order, which was then followed by shipping.
Our startup cost based on the amount of styles/pieces + marketing, trademarking & other expenses, it ranged from $40,000 to &50,000 in total expenses.
Describe the process of launching the business.
We love to present different opportunities to many different talented individuals. A lot of work you see throughout LilKong Brand is from independent contractors in that field.
Our official website was built by multiple and modified by an independent web designer & our marketing team.
I financed the startup with my life savings, donations, & credit cards/business finance program. I knew I would need all the help I can get to launch this fashion brand at the level I wanted to launch it.
We started off with 8 different styles & 2 accessory items. I personally wanted to provide a lot of options out of the gate. I chose the multiple styles, low quantities route, just to allow the consumer many different options from our new startup brand. I personally wouldn’t recommend it unless you have the capital to have multiple styles, but rather focus in on your niche.
We are still very early within the launch of LilKong Brand, but with the help of our marketing agency, we are seeing lots of people tuning into the brand social pages & website. We didn’t start out with this marketing agency in the very beginning, we marketed ourselves through social media & word of mouth. We used our connects through the music industry as-well to bring more awareness to our brand. Our marketing started long before the official launch of our brand. As of right now, we are looking more & more into influencers & bloggers for branding purposes. The markets are constantly changing at a rapid rate, so stay educated & up to date on the smartest marketing tactics & the newest trends.
The biggest lessons I learned personally from the process of starting up is to be patient and have a solid business plan and FOLLOW IT! Without a solid plan your diving into a tank full of hungry Sharks! So plan out everything & create that road map for your team to follow.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
We love to communicate weekly with our customers & potential customers. Asking them what they think of our product, what they feel we can do better at as far as apparel online presence, navigation of our site, etc. We take their feedback very seriously because they are what's keeping this business ahead.
We stay very focused on upcoming possible trends & will be taking full advantage in future styles to come. Keeping our eyes & ears to the urban world, and leaving our mark everywhere.
We stay consistent with postings on social media, working closely with our marketing team to stay in the eyes of the public & continue to grow. We continuously run ads & implement keywords throughout all our ads & SEO.
We want our customers to not just feel like a customer, but to understand they are ALL a part of the LilKong Brand FAMILY! Their words have a strong impact on the future of our brand.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We use many platforms such as social media, marketing agency, promotions on some of the biggest platforms such as YouTube, Google, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
We also use Trello for scheduling & important reminders. We use Microsoft Office for a lot of business matters dealing with documents, etc.
For some services, we also use Fiverr to find independent workers in certain areas.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I have been really tuned into the Business Of Fashion channel, fashion week, and much more dealing with the fashion industry & business in general. To run a successful fashion company you can’t only know about fashion, you need to learn how to run a business as well.
One that I truly enjoy in particular is Gary Vee podcast. He keeps it very real & straight to the point, with the “NO TIME TO WASTE ATTITUDE”.
Another huge influential person that I really appreciate, love what he’s doing & heavily looks into what he’s putting out, is Daymond John. I can really relate to his story, based on my own path & where I come from, to the heights I’m trying to reach in the future.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Study the market that your passionate about inside & out. Knowledge is the key to success. Never listen to the doubters & follow your dreams. Stay consistent and to the plan that you’ve laid out. Build a great team of trustworthy & motivated people.
Do not be discouraged when turned away by people of power or great influence, keep pushing forward and show them what they missed out on. Take advantage of great opportunities as they come, because it's not every day that blessings come by.
Learn from your mistakes, don’t dwell on them too long & strategize around the mistakes in those situations.
Starting any business is always a risk you take, the most successful people in the world are risk-takers, so if you're afraid of a little risk entrepreneurship may not be your calling.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
At the moment since we are newly launched we aren’t currently looking to hire any positions at the time. We will be looking for a social media manager in the near future to manage all our media channels & engagements. Stay tuned to our postings & our Google page for updates.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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