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Building a New Online Fashion Brand: Combatant Gentlemen CEO Vishaal Melwani (Part 4)

Posted on Tuesday, May 20th 2014

Sramana Mitra: Tell me more about how you bootstrapped. What were some of the components of that bootstrap phase?

Vishaal Melwani: I didn’t know too much about startups. I didn’t know anything about Silicon Valley or raising money. We just knew how to build businesses that were cash flow positive. That was our number one goal. I invested about $100,000 of my own money to get the product going. Scott built all the early site development. For a year, we all worked completely for free focusing on building a great experience online that help facilitate sales. We took $100,000 and I said, “I don’t expect to get this back. This is how we’re going to do this. We’re going to buy a minimal amount of clothing. We’re going to turn this $100,000 into to $280,000.”

Within our first month of sales, we were there. What we said to ourselves at that point was, “If we can scale, we don’t need to raise funding.” We quickly realized that we had a lot of goals and aspirations that we wanted to achieve faster and faster.

Sramana Mitra: In the first $700,000 worth of revenue that you raised, what was your customer acquisition strategy?

Vishaal Melwani: Our customer acquisition strategy was two things. It was Facebook. Our guys typically spend a lot of time on Facebook. We did spend some money on Facebook ads. Every $100 we spent on Facebook was worth $1,000 sales. For us, it was a simple math equation.

Sramana Mitra: You were going after specific segments then obviously, right?

Vishaal Melwani: Mo is our CTO. What he really did was hone in on who our target was. What was he into? Was he into real estate, finance, or sports? This way, we really found out who our guy was. This led us to brand and segment the market towards this guy.

Sramana Mitra: Who is the guy? Describe the guy to me.

Vishaal Melwani: This guy is the alpha male. He is the guy who is not going to let anything get in his way. He’s young but very aspirational. He wants to take the world by storm and make some kind of a statement. We have guys who are in accounting and banking. We have lawyers and doctors. One thing that they all share is an innate drive to be better and to make themselves better. He can be a little bit uncouth at times and we’re okay with that. Our name is Combatant Gentlemen. He does fight a good fight to get to where he wants to go but at the same time, he has his ethics and morals and he understands what it takes to get there. He’s not afraid of hard work.

Sramana Mitra: When you put that profile on your Facebook advertising campaign, what do you sort that campaign on?

Vishaal Melwani: I’m not well-versed with the Facebook campaign. That’s more of Mo’s segment. What we do is we sorted a lot of likes that a user has. We are able to inventory the likes that these guys have. We target based on these likes.

Sramana Mitra: I’m trying to understand how that digs down into a real campaign.

Vishaal Melwani: For example, we have a lot of guys in real estate who are climbing up the ladder. What we do is we put these guys into cohorts and we say, “These are our real estate guys.”

Sramana Mitra: Real estate agents is a category where you do well?

Vishaal Melwani: Yes. These guys have all liked our page and then we can inventory what they’re into. It’s amazing. We are able to look at who these guys are, what they do for a living. Are they Junior Associate, Associates, or Senior Associates? We’re able to gather characteristic of each cohort. We’ll have real estate agents in one sector. We have accountants in one sector. In one sector, we have unemployed guys – guys who are striving to look for better jobs or new jobs.

Every one of those cohorts then has their own characteristics. The real estate agents are definitely the more full-on suit guys. The banker guys are more rigid. I need to buy 30 white shirts a week. They do that. We have guys who buy 30 white shirts a month because it’s cheaper than dry cleaning on the east coast. We have a lot of guys who use us as a service and we have a lot of guys who use us as their platform. Once they buy something, they talk to our stylist, “I have a job interview, how do I team this up with something?” Our guy is a very introductory guy into the space and we love that. It starts from that Facebook campaign. 

This segment is part 4 in the series : Building a New Online Fashion Brand: Combatant Gentlemen CEO Vishaal Melwani
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