Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Anthony Mellor and if it sounds familiar, it’s because this is my second time on Starter Story. The first story I featured in was about my previous business - Absolute Fitness Apparel. Now, a little over a year later I decided to move away from that business after spotting a gap in the sportswear manufacturing market.
White labeling is apparent in every industry and it was ever-growing in the supplement industry too. That being said, I couldn’t understand why no one had implemented this service into the sportswear sector. Sure, it takes a significant financial investment and planning but it can’t be that hard to implement, right? Well, little did I know that it is, but the only reason I was able to see this gap was that I had the experience, the knowledge and market statistics to build this platform after building an independent label.
So, what is White2Label Manufacturing? It is a sportswear manufacturing wholesaler who uses both white label and bespoke services to provide clients with the products they need for their brand. We have essentially created a fluid, easy-to-use service that alleviates the common issues with modern manufacturing for sportswear brands; lowering MOQ’s (minimum order quantities), decreasing lead times and creating a more accessible service for all.
Since the launch of our services in November of 2018, we’ve sold around £55,000 in stock to brands through both white labeling and bespoke product servicing.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
As briefly mentioned earlier, I noticed whilst running my independent sportswear brand that there must be a better way of producing garments. Surely, I can’t be the only person who finds sending thousands of pounds to countries I’ve never even been to a bit strange? It stressed me out worrying whether the stock would actually turn up or not. Not to mention, I couldn’t even afford this stock. I was breaking the bank to hit these minimums that I ultimately knew I wouldn’t sell, but I had no alternative option. Luckily, I was never ripped off or scammed, but I know people who had been- they’d sent thousands of pounds only to receive hundreds of products that were nothing like the samples and basically unwearable. I personally had a lot of issues with shipping- more specifically the manufacturers under-declaring the value of the garments and then me having to deal with the issues my end with customs who claim it’s my responsibility to ensure everything is declared properly. I think the biggest worry for me was just the pure lack of security- in the sense that you were sending so much money without the protection of PayPal, or any other business that promises to help you if things don’t go right.
That’s when I started doing some research and this was around the same time I got involved in the Natwest bank pre-accelerator entrepreneur program which helped me with both pitching and market research for a new business. That complimented the research I did but also gave me a room full of entrepreneurs and potential customers to pitch the idea to and get live feedback.
At the time, I was still working full-time as a Security Officer at Heathrow airport so financially I was comfortable but on an average wage and therefore didn’t have huge amounts of money to invest in a stock. I, therefore, decided it would be better to just launch the bespoke service and run with that as it required no overhead.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
As I already had some experience in manufacturing, I managed to quickly put together some tech-packs on what items I thought would sell well under a white label service, but I knew that my supply chain needed to be better to ensure that I could not only provide a good white label service but also deal with larger clients (if they came through, which I hoped they would).
Essentially what we do is act as both a middleman and wholesaler for brands. The white-label service is tailored for brands with a slightly more restricted budget and therefore allows you to invest into more styles under that budget. This is doable because we’ve pre-produced these blank items and have them branded here in the UK. On the other hand, we act as a middleman by outsourcing bespoke production using one of our trusted manufacturers. We manage everything from tech-pack creation, sampling and then ultimately production.
After deciding what items I thought would sell well, I decided to launch these on my website (which at the time was my MVP) to test my assumptions. After a couple of months with the site live, the products on the site and having conversations with potential clients I came to a concrete decision to hold off on the white label service and focus on bespoke for the time being. Mostly to save on investment, overhead and allow the business to establish itself a bit more first. My startup costs were therefore very low (just £40) as we didn’t encounter costs until we made a sale!
Describe the process of launching the business.
As I launched an MVP, to begin with, there wasn’t a huge amount of “hype” around it. I kept it relatively quiet- even to friends and family whilst I tested my assumptions. I launched the website using Wix and decided to ensure that the website answered as many questions as possible and then making sure there was an option whereby people can reach me if they have any more questions.
I launched an Instagram page where I tried my best to convey the brand message across to people but was met by some confusion and people still asking “so what is it you do?” despite all the information I had on the website and this was one of the best pieces of feedback I got through this testing phase, as it helped me learn how to convey the branding message.
I think the biggest lesson I learned was to launch an MVP and get real-time feedback. It’s all well and good going and getting people to answer questions in a questionnaire, but it’s completely different from having someone land on your site, read through your content and still come out the other end saying they’re interested in using your product/ service.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
I think the main thing is just ensuring you have a real USP (unique selling point), and if you do then people will find you. Truth be told, we’ve had a £0 ad spend since launch and actually spent barely anything on marketing. Sure, you could wonder how well we could’ve done if we had implemented a marketing budget, but I’d rather reinvest into the business to ensure we can offer the clients we do have the best possible service and product on the market and that’s the real secret to customer acquisition and retention.
We’ve maintained a strong online presence, mainly through Instagram and Facebook recently, as we found that the main issue with modern manufacturing was the inaccessibility of overseas manufacturers and uncertainty about their reliability. Since asking clients to leave reviews about the services and products, we’ve seen a huge increase in people interested in our services as I think it removes any doubt in people’s minds about the lack of reliability in our services.
We’ve managed to steadily grow our Facebook and Instagram pages through consistent posting high-quality content and also running a few giveaways that promote the sharing of the pages, which have proven to be quite effective. No secrets, just good quality content, thoughtful captions and consistency always win.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
We currently operate at a 35% gross profit margin. Some of our items carry higher margins than others, but it depends on how many units are purchased by the client.
On average, we have around 300 visitors a month which isn’t bad considering it’s all organic!
At the moment, we have a pretty even split of clients around the UK, but we’ve recently been taking in some more clients from North America and we’ve therefore been doing a lot of research around how to properly implement our services into the North American market; whereby a hub has been discussed and is being looked into as we speak.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I think it’s very important to back yourself and believe in your vision, but also know when it’s time to sit back and listen to people. All feedback (even if it’s perceived to be negative) stems from somewhere, it’s, therefore, your job to look for the root of the comment. For example, if someone says “this business looks tacky” then there might be a possibility that your brand message is being conveyed in a negative way by more than one person and is, therefore, your responsibility to fix it.
Business is also about taking calculated risks and sometimes you need to take a jump, whereby you’ll often find you’re much better off and even if you aren’t then you at least know you tried. I don’t believe there is the “right time” to do things and as an ancient Chinese proverb says “the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago”. It’s best you start now!
I personally work best early in the morning and me, therefore, start my work early in the morning (around 7 am) and continue to work until midday, where I break it up with some food and going to the gym. I think it’s important to know when your optimal time is and capitalizing on that. We’re all different, so it’s hard to advise you on when this should be done, but I will say that you need to double down on your strengths.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Truth be told, I simply don’t use a lot of tools for this business, but my absolute go-to’s are:
Short and sweet! I think that running this type of business, it’s important to add value to conversations with potential and current clients and I, therefore, don’t like using tools that are automated!
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I think there’s a lot of books out there that aren’t beneficial to most. My top picks however are:
- Think and grow rich by Napolean Hill,
- How to win friends & influence people by Dale Carnegie,
- Rework by Jason Fried,
- 24 Assets by Daniel Priestly,
- Start now, get perfect later by Rob Moore,
- The key person of influence by Daniel Priestly
- The 80/20 principle by Richard Koch.
My go-to podcasts are:
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Find something you love, find a way to monetize it, be consistent with it and devote your time to constantly improving your knowledge, skills, and understanding around that passion.
Don’t chase materialistic things- sure, it’s fine to want nice things, we all do but in reality, if that’s all that motivates you then you won’t last more than a year because any money that comes in needs to be reinvested into the business to ensure it continues to grow.
I think working in a B2B business whereby I come across a lot of startups, I always notice when someone has that special something, but you can’t describe it. The way they speak, the way they conduct themselves and their sheer confidence in both their ability and concept is something you can’t match. Just look at Conor Mcgregor and I think that’s a great example of what I mean. You can only have that for something you truly love and believe in.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Not at the moment! We are however opening up to new clients, so if anyone has a need for a fashion supplier then let’s have a chat and see if we can help you!
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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