This is a follow up story for Highway Robery. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published over 4 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
Hello again! Happy to be back on Starter Story, sharing our progress.
We started Highway Robery (roe-bur-ree)..get it? - a sustainable robe company based in Austin, TX, making colorful kimono-style robes, and we’re doing a new twist on an old standard.
With our robes, we strive to exude a sense of adventure and whimsy so that our wearers can stay in touch with their inner-goofball. We make all of our robes in the USA, using sustainable production methods. We focus on having as little waste as possible and ensuring that our sewers are treated (and paid) well above industry standards.
All of our robes are one-size-fits-most and are gender-neutral. It was important for us to be as inclusive as possible with our robes.
Our sales are up 5x what they were last year so far this year. Apparently, with everyone working from home, more people have decided that robes need to play a bigger part in their wardrobes.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
With more people working from home, robe sales have gone up significantly this year. We’re up 500% YoY. It’s been exciting for the business but has also provided a lot of challenges. There were 2 separate 6-week stretches where we were completely sold out of robes because of increased demand. We’re now in a better place inventory-wise and have ramped up production big time.
If things don’t work out, you’ll still gain a lot from the experience. It might even lead you to something that does work out.
This year we’ve increased our ad spend on Google, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, though currently (July 2020) we’re participating in the Stop Hate for Profit Campaign, so all our ads on Instagram ad Facebook have been paused for the month of July. We’re using this pause to try out ads on Snapchat, but it’s far too early to speak on how it’s going so far.
We only sell one product (robes), but we are constantly introducing new fabrics + prints. This year I think we’ve launched 15 new prints so far, with more to come.
The ad spend has definitely won us a lot of new customers, and they seem to be coming back for more. We also got a nice mention in Texas Monthly at the end of 2019 in their holiday gift guide.
We like to keep people involved through our Instagram feed and our email newsletter. We don’t send out a ton of emails (maybe once per week), but we do our best to make them fun.
Over the holidays we did a vintage holiday photoshoot that turned out well.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
When the pandemic hit, we had the usual amount of inventory available, but that went much, much quicker than it would’ve in a normal year. We did miss the opportunity to sell more robes during those first few months, but you don’t typically plan for a pandemic! Obviously, our primary concern there is getting through this thing safe and healthy. If we missed out on robe sales, so be it. Small potatoes.
One cool thing we were able to do was a collaboration with Siete Foods. We made robes for them to use as swag, but also produced some to sell through our own site. They sold out quickly! We donated $20 from the sale of each robe to the Central Texas Food Bank, which helps families in need of food.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
5-year plan? How about our 6-month plan? ;) In an effort to meet our increased demand, we’re ramping up production as much as possible. We’re bootstrapping this thing 100%, so we can only produce using our existing cash and revenue.
We’re doing everything we can to make as many robes as possible for the next 6 months. After that, our plan is to continue growing our customer base through social and emails. We’re more than ok with slow and steady. We do plan to seek out more collaborations like the one with did with Siete Foods as well.
Have you read any good books in the last year?
I recently finished How to Change Your Mind, the Michael Pollan book about the Science of Psychedelics, which was fantastic.
I’m currently reading Parting the Waters: America in the King Years (1954-63), by Taylor Branch. It’s an incredible telling of MLK’s story and the civil rights movement he was so instrumental in.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
If you believe in what you’re doing, then see it through. If things don’t work out, you’ll still gain a lot from the experience. It might even lead you to something that does work out.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We’re not hiring staff, but we’re always looking for photographers to work with. Wanna shoot our robes? Hit us up!
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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