Starting a cycling brand

If you know or follow me on social media, you will probably have noticed or been slightly annoyed by the constant barrage of T Cycling posts. It is not me fanboying a new brand, well actually, I suppose it is, the only difference is that T Cycling is my brand. It's something I had thought about doing a long time ago but never kicked myself to start doing something about it.

So I decided to set myself a few deadlines:

  • Two months to design five full cycling outfits including producing samples
  • Two months to build a social following of the brand
  • Start a Kickstarter campaign for a debt free beginning to the company (Two weeks to prepare after the above)
  • Four weeks to build online store while campaign was running

Why start a cycling brand?

I personally have found it very hard to find cycling apparel that appeals from a design perspective. A lot of brands I came across either went for very bland or very garish design style. Don’t get me wrong; some brands out there have very functional clothing, and we have to remember that first and foremost whatever we design has to fulfil the needs of cyclists.

Another reason I wanted to start a brand was I felt that we are in a period in cycling where some of the pricing puts products out of reach of 70% of the riders that would love to wear them. From my research into manufacturers, I had found that it was entirely possible to produce cycling apparel that was high performance and functional but without the significant cost that usually comes with that.

My background of being a developer/designer who also had a keen interest in photography lent itself perfectly to begin a brand. It meant that I could keep costs at a minimum while setting up the brand.

How did you build a social following?

It was a lot easier than I thought it would be to build. From initial research, it was quite easy to see that Instagram was going to be the best platform to push my efforts. Cycling is well received there as is Twitter, the difference is to be seen by the masses on Twitter is very very hard.

The main thing I did throughout creating the designs was to post interesting images of them straight to social media to get people interested in what I was creating. Keyword research gave me some tags I should use with my photos to get them seen by the widest variety of cycling and triathlon fans. I kept this building throughout, then with a week before the campaign was due to launch, I created a campaign to get an early bird mailing list together. This converted at around 10% of my following on Instagram, which was very pleasing and drastically helped the campaign.

Why Kickstarter?

Marketing campaigns to bring a new brand to market cost a lot of money. They can easily run into the millions of pounds, and we simply didn’t have the budget to go it alone and successfully get our product into cyclists and triathlete hands. Not only this, but you have to have excellent contacts to get enough interest to write articles about your product to give it a natural uplift in search ability in Google / Bing.

Kickstarter is probably the largest crowdfunding platforms in the world, here in the UK we also have IndieGoGo, but unfortunately it doesn’t have the reach of Kickstarter. Also, I have noticed that it's searching algorithms and discovery of projects isn’t in the same league as Kickstarter. Not only that but people have built up a trust in it as a platform that they are more willing to pledge their money in a product, brand or idea. All the above made it a no-brainer for us to use the platform for our campaign.

How did the campaign go?

One word sums it up, ‘Unbelievable.’ When this was just an idea, I never believed that the response would be as positive as its been. Within 24 hours we had almost smashed our target, and it just built from there. Thanks to Cycling Weekly picking up our campaign and writing an article about us this helped drastically. The Triathlon world also found on our design for the Tri Suits which I am happy about, the majority of design in Tri Suits I feel is dull and lifeless, they are not the most pleasant to slide into as a body conscious person without the design helping you to feel better about the experience.

At the end of the campaign, we had gone far beyond I believed was possible as a small operation with little to no budget spent on marketing. In fact, I think I only spent a total on £100 in social media campaigns, the rest done by word of mouth or my leg work finding groups of cyclists and clubs who I felt would be interested in the brand I was building. We were over 600% our original target which was a great foot forward and re-affirmed my beliefs that people would back the brand and my design choices.

What next?

There is still a lot to do with the brand, first and foremost though we are concentrating on manufacturing our products so that we can get them sent out to our backers as soon as possible. What this also allows us to do is stock our online store, along with having samples we can send out for press or giveaways that we are currently planning.

As the manufacturing process is also underway, it allows me to start to think more about the future of the business and where I plan to take it. I am currently on the lookout for distributors in foreign territories as well as in the UK. If you know of or have details of any that you think we should be aware of, please do pass on our details either to them or send me their details so I can hopefully contact them.

We look to team up with independent stores across the globe to join us in selling our products. We have devised a pricing strategy we think makes us as a brand very accessible to local bike shops to stock our range. Please if you are interested in stocking us get in touch, we would love to hear from you.

If you hadn’t seen through my recent tweets over the past month, we have begun a ‘Brand Ambassador’ campaign to link up with passionate cyclists keen on building a community. This gives them the opportunity to earn free gear to help their cycling careers or hobbies. It also gives them the chance to write for the T Cycling website about exciting things occurring in their region around cycling and sport. We are trying to promote a community aspect to our brand to set us apart from most others hopefully.