“Start selling the product before you even have it.” - quote from David, founder of startup Dajoro
Not all startups see the light of day. This is the story of Dajoro, a fashion startup focused on creating sustainable products with the fair-trade label. We have a chat with David, founder of Dajoro, about how he started it, the challenges that come along with establishing a business like this, and what made him decide to not invest in his startup anymore despite having high-quality products. David gives business advice, which we think is very applicable to anyone who will become an entrepreneur.
In this episode, you’ll learn:
Who David is and how he founded Dajoro
What the process is like of coming up with the first product
What the different ways to sell your product are and how to create demand
How the story behind your product can be used as a selling point
Knowing when it’s time to stop and pursue another path
What David’s biggest lessons are from his failed business and what he would have done differently
Dajoro is a fair fashion startup founded four years ago. David, its founder, with only the intention of just traveling around the world, went to Peru and found this very special cotton found nowhere else in the world – making it a very unique selling point.
At that time, fairness and sustainability started to become buzzwords and many big international brands started producing in Peru, leading David to turn his business idea into a product, made his third travel down to Peru, and eventually bring it to market.
The first step David took was doing an online search, looked at what the other brands were already doing, and asked whether they could tell him their suppliers. Unsurprisingly, they didn’t want to. So with only one known address, taking a big risk going back to Peru, found an intermediary/first point of contact with the hopes that he would be referred to others. And yes, he eventually did find the right supplier after one full month.
The process of making the first sample
Now comes the question of how to get started creating the first sample. David personally went to the Pima cotton fields just to see where it’s growing, to see the whole value chain from beginning to end. Then they proceeded with producing the first samples to gauge whether there is something that can tell if they have a chance of surviving in the market.
Using spec sheets
David wanted to use spec sheets to come up with the clothing designs. After his time in Peru, he went to a university and asked whether someone was willing to put his idea into the spec sheets. Luckily, he found somebody who helped him come up with the specifications of the hundreds of garment ideas he had in mind into these spec sheets.
With the supply, there needs to be a demand – which is something many tend to forget about. To be able to build this demand because there are so many products out in the market, you need to be able to sell it and to market it. This is something David found he was very bad at.
So first, he outsourced it to two to three shops that were willing to take some of his products into their own. Another thing he did was through internet selling, which he struggled with because people wanted to see and touch the product.
So he switched to a marketplace that already existed: the Fair Customer.
Communicating fair and sustainable products
David advises to put your products as having a fair standard and selling it as a fair brand. He focuses on another level and tries to communicate that there should be a willingness to actually spend a bit more for products that can sustain in other parts of the world as well. He believes that this might be an eyeopener for people on their approach to buying things that aren’t fairly produced.
The fair standard label
There is that obligation of any seller as the last point in the value chain to be certified as a fair label. Many of these requirements do need shelling out a lot of money, so David warns that you don’t fall into the trap of spending so much money to put that label on your products. David admits this was one of his many struggles, but this should not limit anybody just because of monetary reasons.
Solving intangible problems through your story
There is that challenge of making a product that is fairly produced while still building a business that still makes profit. With the internet, globalization became more transparent, but also undesirable things got more intransparent and hidden by the guise of a good story. David’s approach to this is making your own good story to tell – evidenced by him going to the first seed, the point where the cotton starts to grow until it becomes the final product. For him, your story to tell becomes a selling point for your fair products, which might make people want to get in contact with you.
Growing by failing
At the present moment, David has stopped investing in Dajoro. But it’s important to note he didn’t immediately just let go. So he asked his sellers if they wanted to take his products again into their markets with a bigger commission and also even asked his web customers. But things didn’t work out and it was a hard process, coming to terms with the thing that he dreamed of slowly dying.
With no formal training in entrepreneurship education but having first-hand experience in launching a startup, David’s advice would be, number one, to start smart. You can come up with an idea, but at that moment it's still only in your mind. It might be very good and valid, but you need to test it. Start by selling the product before you even have it.
Number two, David thinks producing a second sample would have been a good idea. It does need investing a bit more money, but at least there’s that certainty. Then you could then try to sell it or modify it again before going into full-scale production. See whether people are interested to try your products out.
There is a new project David is in, and this time he is starting smart. He has ventured into liquor and music.
Feedback and modification
As with anything, you need to be realistic and put the time into it. David suggests getting the feedback from the market and then modifying your product. It’s an active effort. If you don’t find a customer in six months, then modify it. Then there’s a small chance of actually making anything a success.
How to get started in any business and be successful in it is a question that has no one definite answer. It does take a combination of time, effort, money, business strategies and many other factors. Some prosper and become success stories while some are cut short and never get the chance to fully thrive.
Although for David it was a bitter pill to swallow to accept Dajoro as being a “failure,” he did learn some very valuable lessons from it – something he hopes to apply in his new projects.
Bottom line is, when you do not get your desired result or when you feel like your dream has died, you should not be afraid to try again. The key thing is to learn from the past and use it to move forward.
So, what failures have helped you grow?
The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell – David relates it to any product that anyone tries to sell. The tipping point is that point where something suddenly out of control just becomes successful, and this book explains why it happens.