By Janna M Hall
Behind every successful business is a team who’s dedicated their work to ensuring its success. Whether a simple concept, viagra dosage a small product, or an easy service, developing a finished product to be enjoyed by the masses requires a rigorous process. Underneath your favorite brand’s logo, you’ll find a Rubix Cube of paperwork, ideas, and team members that, when shifted just right, make up the finished products we know and love.
Broderick Thomas, Founder of BiziBibb, knows this process all too well. What started out as a personal need to protect his shirts during business lunches turned into a fully-formed product dedicated to saving the shirts of businessmen everywhere. The process wasn’t easy, though, and it required time, money, resources, and a team of professionals in order to bring his vision to fruition. But the end result—a waterproof bib made in the likeness of a business shirt—made a lane for itself in a $29 billion dress shirt industry.
“I’ve always been sloppy when it comes to eating,” he explains. “One Friday, my sales team and I went to Buzz & Ned’s, but I had a sales appointment that afternoon and still had to dress in my white shirt and jacket. So I brought a big black t-shirt to put on over my dress shirt so I wouldn’t waste sauce on myself, and my coworkers made fun of me. I instantly thought, ‘Well, would it be better if it actually looked like the same shirt I was wearing?’”
That evening, Thomas went home and began cutting away at a shirt he found tucked away in his closet. He removed most of its parts, and had the dry cleaners sew on a waterproof material he bought from Jo-Ann Fabrics. He wore his new creation to power lunches and happy hours, and over the course of a couple years, caught the eye of waitresses who believed it was a serious money-maker. The best part? He wasn’t even looking to make money! His sole purpose was to protect his shirt collection, which he, like many businessmen, takes very seriously. Now, with a fully launched website and a growing demand, he’s able to help other businessmen enjoy their power lunches without sacrificing their attire. Most importantly, they don’t have to look ridiculous doing it.
Though producing the very first BiziBibb had a quick turnaround time, Thomas stresses the importance of remaining patient and doing the necessary research before jumping into a business venture.
“My first step was to write a good business plan,” he says. “That’s always critical, even if you’re not trying to make money. Business plans give you the ability to think the process out in your own mind and put it on paper. As you re-read it, you’re able to make adjustments and rework your ideas.”
As Thomas wrote his business plan, he asked himself key questions that would inform his process moving forward. He asked questions like does this product even make sense? What kind of money could I actually make? It’s crucial that when creating a business plan, you remain realistic about what to expect. Decide who your target market is, what the demand will be, and get familiar with the industry you’re entering. Here’s where the months and months of research come in. Research allows you to learn so much more about your market and potential opportunities for growth.
“I didn’t know this at the time, but the industry for men’s dress shirts is a $29 billion industry in the U.S. alone,” explains Thomas. “Dress shirts are to men what shoes are to women. And especially with men in a professional environment—their shirts are important to them.”
Thomas spent six months conducting research about clothing manufacturers, consulting with people already working in the field, and incorporating the counsel of those in his network every step of the way. The planning and research required for this type of project—and any new business venture—is critical, no matter how intense and exhaustive it becomes. After completing the business plan and researching the industry, Thomas focused on the patenting process. Soon, he was working with manufacturers to bring his idea to life.
A common trend throughout the early stages of BiziBibb is Thomas’ willingness to ask for help. He knew that he couldn’t do it alone, and like any smart businessman, he identified his strengths and weaknesses and brought others on to build a powerhouse team.
“Know that you can’t do it all alone,” he stresses. “Ask lots of questions.”
Fortunately for Thomas, his position as Digital Sales Director of the Richmond Times Dispatch afforded him a built-in network of industry professionals who recommended people to add to his team. He hired web designers, content writers who help with Google placement and search engine optimization (SEO), and hired a brand designer to create the BiziBibb logo and a package of marketing materials. With this team, he established a strong brand image, decided the exact customers he wanted to attract, and developed a strategy to make it all happen. Each member brought to the table a wealth of knowledge that helped transform a simple product into a brand, complete with creative messaging and a distinct image.
Finally, it was launch time. On May 18th, almost a year after beginning his initial research for BiziBibb, Thomas invited media, restaurant owners, and local linen companies to view his latest invention at C Street restaurant in Carytown. He performed demonstrations of the product, squirting sauce on the BiziBibb a friend wore over his $200 Brooks Brothers shirt, proving that this waterproof product can protect your clothes in ways that the standard restaurant napkin cannot. The launch party allowed guests to view the official website which launched that evening, and provided the opportunity for Thomas to speak directly with influencers in the industry. He earned features in Style Weekly and Richmond BizSense, catapulting him into a market beyond the 20-25 guests who attended that evening.
Like every journey to greatness, you’re bound to encounter obstacles along the way. For Thomas, that obstacle was money, and he stresses that it’s a roadblock many will encounter.
“Unless you can find a good investor or want to take out a large loan from the bank, start small and utilize what you have,” he advises. “If I had the ability to launch a $50,000 marketing campaign, we would’ve. But we didn’t, so we started out testing with things that were free and readily available to us.”
After spending $1,500 of his own money on the first batch of BiziBibbs, Thomas strategized to see how much more he could contribute before getting revenue. He advises all entrepreneurs to make these types of assessments and think realistically about how long they can sustain on what they’re making (or not making) before exploring another option.
That other option may be finding investors. An avid Shark Tank watcher, Thomas knows that it’s best to begin your hunt for investors with family and friends. Show them what you’re doing and know exactly how much you need before asking for anything. Attending Chamber of Commerce socials and Retail Merchants Associations are also ways to connect with potential investors. The people you’ll meet at those events are already in business and can provide insight on where to find funding. Above all, make yourself visible. With visibility comes the increased chance you’ll attract the people most interested in what you’re doing.
When starting a business, there’s always more information to learn, more people to meet, more tactics to add to your strategy. As a business owner, you’re never finished developing your brand, and therefore should always be open to growth. And though the journey is often a long, tiring one, Thomas advises everyone to trust the process, stay informed, and persevere.
“Be patient,” he advises. “Starting a business doesn’t happen overnight, and it’s not something you want to rush into. Avoid “Get Rich Quick” schemes. The months I spent researching—what I wanted to do, how my product fit into the industry, revenue and expenditures, etc.—resulted in me having the most successful business I’ve ever had. So don’t give up because it doesn’t work right away. There are lots of pieces that you have to figure out to put the puzzle together. Be patient, take your time, and stick with it.”