Updated: Jul 16, 2020
What are the steps of starting a gym wear/active wear line of clothing? how much does it cost? how much money should I have to start?
Active wears is a great niche market. Good companies such as Nike, Adidas, Spandx, Lulu Lemon were all started by individual entrepreneurs. The manufacturing resources are widely available. One can use social marketing tools to gain an edge.
If you intend start a clothing line in the United States, then you would need an estimate of:
$500,000 to $1Million to launch a small scale clothing line business
$1Million to $2Million to launch a medium scale clothing line business
5Million and above to launch a large scale clothing line business
The cost depends on which "league" you are in - there are three leagues, the hobby league (amateur), indie label league, and professional league. For starting a T-shirt line, here is another way to estimate cost for reference:
amateur: $500 (as hobby, low quality)
indie: 500-10,000 (have plan to grow)
professional: $25,000 and up (for brands)
The steps for launching an active wear brand:
Step 1: Determine if there is market and customers.
(Know what you are selling and who will buy)
Ideation for market competition, customer specialization, value to the customer
Use simple fast methods to determine if there is a potential desire. For example you can hire an artist to do sketch work of your design thoughts, present them on a landing page, attracting people to your page and asking, "would you buy this?" You could/should build your own clothes, wear them often and measure how often you are asked about your clothes (perhaps easier with women than with men).
Don't make something with projected acceptance and work in hard/secret for too long. If people don't like it now, they won't like it later. And remember, "liking" is very different from "give me one, here is money".
Jack's Threads is a small line that got much bigger when they were bought by a media property (Thrilllist.com) and Chubbies Shorts started as something they wore and then turned into a business. There are lots of other examples, but the point is that if you treat your clothing line like a true startup, you are much more likely to succeed and much less likely to end up with a garage full of clothes that nobody wants.
People don't casually spend money. They may buy on impulse, but that is not casual.
Knowing what you’re selling can be broken down into these key selling points; What, Who, Where, Why & How? (it’s Cliche but it works!)
Ask Yourself These 5 Questions
- What are you selling? What is your product? What is your ‘point of difference’ or ‘personalisation’ that will capture your audience? What is your unique brand identity?
- This leads you to the next point, your audience;
- Who are they? What do they like and dislike about activewear products? What is their disposable income for activewear pieces? Find and know your audience, conduct market research. Be thorough.
- Why is this product needed for the activewear market? Why will it sell? What was your aha moment? Why do you believe this product will sell? Why does your target market need this? Why do you need this product? Back yourself and your product.
- Where will you sell this? Where does your target audience like to spend? Will you be using your own ecommerce store? Will it start out in brick and mortar stores? If so what are these locations? Conducting market research on where your target market shops is key.
- How will you sell this? How are you planning to market your product? Is your marketing strategy inline with your product and audience? How are you going to engage your audience to buy? How are you going to be better and bigger than your direct competition? Utilising free social channels has changed the whole game. It's important to stay on-top of social media, its ever-changing.
Determine the viability - be brutally honest with yourself. Work the money.
Your activewear startup needs to be something you can make a profit doing or delivering. Ask yourself: would you buy it? Run the numbers: will customers pay enough so that you can cover costs and make a profit?
Most startups take a lot more time to get off the ground than you expect. Know where your living expenses for the first year will come from (savings, a job, spouse’s income, etc.). If you need financing for the business start investigating as soon as possible. Typical sample production runs $500-$1000 for development. Custom Apparels Source charge $375 for first 5 hours of consulting then work in 20 hour blocks. So it depends on how many items you are going to produce, but starting a brand with marketing and all may cost anywhere from $15-$30,000.
Step 2: Get products.
First you should get prototypes.
Based on the feedback that you receive and assuming that it's very positive. You can look to a build-on-demand model where you only produce a product when you have X number of orders for it (think Teespring but for a full line) or you could produce a limited number of items and make sure that you promote that there's a limited number (scarcity).
For active wear, you need to pay attention to design, materials, and manufacturing more than street wear. (Link to https://slyletica.com/blogs/article/launch-your-own-line-in-5-steps)
There are FULL SERVICE end to end services that help you make, contract, launch, and print, and ship. Or you can do everything yourself. There is a link below if you want someone to "handle the product part" for you, and you just focus on the market entry.
If you want to physically make the design yourself, A Tech Pack is a set of instructional documents made by your designer. Without a Tech Pack your manufacturer will not know how to create your design. This includes specifications such as size gradings, fabrications, colourways, sizing breakdowns, internal brand labels, care labels, swing tags & much more.
Step 3: Get a name.
Name is important. Many times I suspect people buy the name, not the product. You want a name that will stick in your target audience’s heads. And it shouldn’t already be taken by another company. Do Google searches and use a corporate name search tool to see if the name you have in mind is unique. The company name and the brand name could be different. For example, your company name could be Intertrade Corp and the brand name could be Gucci. Keep in mind that you want to have a good name - a name you use is eventually yours. Don't worry too much about trademarks and government database in the era of social network. Check domain name registers, social network nicknames, etc.
How to name a company or product? see this link.
Step 4: Get a story.
A company who wishes for word-of-mouth marketing needs a story. It is a "legend" proof that you need eventually, such as Coca-cola's secret formula, Steve Jobs' being fired from his company.
Step 5: Choose the store/market.
Step 6: Engage with your target niche customer, draw them to you.
Engage with your customers, pay influencer to wear your clothing. Use different tones of voice in Facebook and Instagram.
Step 7: Go bigger, expand, scale.
You need to get quotes directly from factories, and order samples. You may need to visit the actual factory to meet the factory owners and inspect the work place.
Step 8: Heavy duty marketing
Marketing means "taking your product and setup a shop in a market" AND "attracting your customers to the market and to your stand". Hopefully you have confidence that some of the customers would pay you. Now it is a matter of getting them here.
There are three types of marketing approach:
Small operator: a shopify stand, or a Youtube channel would be a good place to start with low cost. The caution is that most of the efforts would take long time to come to fruition so you need to prepare to be a good operator and survive for a number of years before breaking even.
Bigger market like Amazon. Keep in mind that Amazon may seem easy but there are various fees and regulars involved. In Amazon, you will also need to be ranked higher, and that is typically related to your sales volume and other gimmicks.
Big channels such as going to Macy's or targets. Then a very comprehensive deal needs to be reached. Those stores won't carry your product if your products do not make money for them. (Big stores typically take a 50% cut of every item they sell).
Should I DIY (Do Everything Myself) or Launch Using Service Platforms?
If you do it completely DIY style, you need to design the clothing, have it made, pre produced, and shipped. A lot of things to worry about, and the manufacturing would contain knowhow and intellectual properties.
Just remember, to follow the 5 simple steps:
1) The Idea - your 'Who, What, Where, Why & How'. These 5 key points combined with a solid business plan will get the wheels turning for your idea.
2) Design & Tech Pack - Start to bring your activewear product to life. Find your visual inspiration, get your design board created & finalise your Tech Pack. Without this step you will find bringing the idea to production near impossible
3) Get Your Quote - Now you’ve got your product clearly laid out, it’s time to figure out the cost of production. This is where you can crunch numbers and trim the fat.
4) Start Sampling - Try, try, try before you buy. Make sure your samples are accurate to your tech pack specs.
5) Production & Manufacturing - You’ve come this far, you’re on the home stretch. Time to get the product made.
Word of advice for beginner
The biggest reason beginners fail is - ill preparation. If you are not well prepared, you won't succeed. If you do not prepare well, you won't make a pie, go to college, make it to a sports team, or have a satisfying job. This is the same.
Your success is result of CUSTOMER ACCEPTANCE (viral) and MARKETING TACTICS. For example, a good name would be a great tactic. If your design is not viral, no amount of marketing would make it up.
Companies that specializes in OEM manufacturing and distribution of active wear products:
Consulting and design specialists:
[Involves customers in the story/Involve influencers for sales/use sales strategies such as BlackFridays/Use trade shows.]
Gymshark began in 2012 when founder Ben Francis (then 19-years old) spotted a gap in the sportswear market. This was namely a lack of affordable and desirable workout gear for young gym-goers.
At the time, brands were either selling baggy body-building gear targeted towards older consumers, or high-end and expensive fitness clothes that were designed to be purely functional rather than fashionable.
The idea for Gymshark followed; an online retail business aimed at fitness fanatics that originally sold health supplements. "I was going to the gym and basically was interested in, and wanted to be involved in, the fitness industry," he says. "I wanted to combine that with making a transactional website."
When Ben found that the profit margins from selling the supplements were too low, he dived into another area - clothing. "I remember looking around, and I couldn't find any clothing I wanted to wear," he says. "So I said, 'let's make it ourselves.'"
At the same time, health and fitness accounts were a growing trend on social media, generating a massive following from young audiences also interested in the subject matter. Gymshark started with the aim of creating fitness gear for this market – one that appears just as concerned with looking good at the gym as on a night out.
With its focused targeting and niche products, Gymshark has managed to disrupt a wider industry made up of established brands such as Nike and Adidas. It has also managed to maintain its cult-like status by refusing to sell through third-party retailers such as ASOS or JD Sports.
BodyPower Expo, one of the premier fitness trade shows, is where it all began. This is the big time and idea for Gymshark to move forward. At the end of 2012, Francis attended BodyPower. He wanted to bring Gymshark to the upcoming show, and in order to do so, he almost emptied his bank account to get space on the trade show floor. He and his friends worked so hard to develop the Luxe fitted tracksuit and build the brand name, which eventually paid off. This product spiked Gymshark’s growth with the so-high order quantity that they never expected. Within a day, the sales volume o the company jumped by 300 times.
At the end of 2012, Ben and his team started developing the Luxe fitted tracksuit. This product was what spiked Gym Shark’s growth. The minimum order quantity of this tracksuit was so high that they had to put everything they had into inventory.
It was the first time Gym Shark didn’t have to hand make their products and actually used an official manufacturer. With this product in hand and some inventory, the Gym Shark team now headed off to the BodyPower expo that they had bought a booth at earlier in 2012.
At this show, Gym Shark got flooded. Literally from the second the door opened their booth was packed. As Ben says, “It was absolutely insane. I had never seen so many people interested in a product and it was unmanageable.”
When they got back from the tradeshow, Ben put up more stock, as they’d made most their products out of stock online to focus on managing the tradeshow. As soon as they put stock back online, things went nuts. Within the first 30 minutes, they had more traffic and more sales than they had the previous year. Now it was time to scale. Read More at beeketing.com/blog/gymshark-growth-story/ © Beeketing Blog
Below is an extremely good personal account of someone's experience of setting up a Shopify brand for active wear. The link is here. Key messages are culled below:
Introduce your business and tell us your story: How did you decide on what to sell, and how did you source your products?
I have always loved fitness and fashion from the time I was a young girl. I felt there was a lack-luster feel in activewear for women who want to look good while they workout. Activewear was a booming business, however most brands on the market seemed very similar. I could not find cute workout clothes that made me feel happy, excited and motivated for the gym. So I decided to take on the challenge of creating an innovative, fun, flirty line for females who want to be comfortable and effortlessly sexy in their active everyday lives.
I took a chance with something different and unique as I felt there was an untapped market for something NEW and different. The process was not an easy task. I started with nothing more than my name. It took me two years of research and development to bring my company to life in 2014. I sourced my products 24/7 online. I walked into just about every building in downtown Los Angeles. I talked to everyone I could, asking questions, walking around trade-shows. I left no stone unturned. When you are passionate about something you will do whatever it takes to bring your vision to life. How did you earn your first sales? Which channels are now generating the most traffic and sales for you?
This was very tough. When you have a new product to sell, no matter how great it is, consumers are leery about purchasing. I found out early on that it is very hard to get your brand noticed. I thought manufacturing and development was challenging, but marketing is the hardest part! YOU need to prove to the public your product is worth buying. I had to think of every strategy possible within my budget as to how I could prove to potential customers I had a great product.
I reached out to every well-known social media influencer in my target market. I contacted every photographer I could, offering wardrobe for upcoming editorial photo shoots. I reached out to magazines, stylists, trainers, bloggers, gyms etc. I believe it is very important to get your product out there any way you can. Gifting was very important for my brand in the beginning. I looked at it as a marketing expense. Once I started gifting females I noticed I was gaining more followers and traffic to my website. Women loved Bombshell Sportswear and started posting on their social media outlets linking back to my feed. I slowly started creating a buzz that gained my line exposure, which followed in sales.
The public trusts bloggers and influencers that they follow so this gave me instant credibility. I also spent months focusing on my packaging. I wanted my product to be a pleasant experience for the online shoppers. There is something wonderful about a new product arriving in pretty packing. It makes you feel special. Who does not want to feel important or special? I also felt customer service was extremely important. If I received a new order it was shipped out immediately. Whatever I could do to please the customer that made me standout I did. Instagram and Facebook are my best channels for generating the most traffic. Keep in mind it's all about the right influencers wearing my brand that spikes up the sales and traffic. Once you start making sales, every HAPPY customer will share what they're wearing with their friends. It is a snowball effect. Tell us about the back-end of your business. What tools and apps do you use to run your store? How do you handle shipping and fulfillment?
I use a lot of Shopify apps that make my life a whole lot easier when it comes to fulfilling orders. As a business owner I have enough stress in my life so I really try to simplify the shipping process as best I can. I have to say this is the one thing "behind the scenes" that I can do in a quick orderly fashion thanks to Shopify. My favorite apps that I use are Orderly Print, Fraud Filter, Bulk Discounts, Kudobuzz, Retargeting, MailChimp, Refersion and Beetailer. I do all my shipping myself. I'm a bit of a perfectionist and like to oversee everything so mistakes don't happen.
No one will love your business as much as you do, or go above and beyond to make sure everything runs perfectly. Sometimes that means working all day and fulfilling orders all night so packages can be sent out within 24 hours. My first priority is always making the customer happy.
What are your top recommendations for new store owners?
Don't be discouraged when your business does not make a lot of sales in the beginning. It takes a lot of time and hard work to gain exposure. Do not lose focus. Keeping plugging away everyday and little by little things will start to happen. Focus on creative strategies to market your business rather than counting solely on what sales are coming in, if any. This will kill your ambition and drive. Everyone starts at the bottom, so remember that. I believe a key ingredient for new business owners is to launch when everything looks great on your website. You never get a second chance to make a first impression. You always want to give the customers the impression you are established and a trustworthy business. Don't cut corners on visuals, this is everything! You are selling online, which is 100% a visual shopping portal. So make sure everything looks sharp and clean and runs smoothly.