Developing an Eagle Eye Perspective: When I started, there were some months when I was working day and night only to crack marketing campaigns. Other months, I was only obsessed with improving User Interface of the website and in the process, I would compromise on some very critical points that deserved more attention. It took me some years to sketch a clear broader view of the critical points that dictates the success of our business.
Asa part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Syed Obaid.
Syed is the CEO and Co-Founder of The Jacket Maker, a one-of-a-kind startup, combining old-world bespoke tailoring with e-commerce to make finest quality custom & ready-to-wear leather jackets.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
Any wardrobe is simply incomplete without a great leather jacket. A search for a good leather jacket is exactly where The Jacket Maker started, when some friends and I were in the market, looking for leather jackets ourselves.
I was fed up with either choosing between fast-fashion or overpriced luxury. On one side were luxury brands, which meant spending over a $1000 and on the other side was fast-fashion which meant buying a product that wouldn’t last for years to come. Where were the other options?
After much digging and research, it turned out that the explanation for higher prices of leather outerwear was; long supply chain of distributors, wholesalers, retailers coupled with costly marketing campaigns. This meant only a minute fraction of the price consumers paid went into the product itself.
I could identify that the problem was solvable and consumers like us deserve better, so we started The Jacket Maker.
By cutting out the unnecessary expenses, designing and manufacturing in-house, selling directly to consumers and utilizing just-in-time production we are able to provide higher quality leather jackets at a fraction of market price.
“We know that electrifying feeling of wearing a leather jacket and believe everyone has the right to have that feeling.”
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
I think we are disrupting leather outerwear by two means
• Fusing Bespoke With E-Commerce: Bespoke tailoring has existed since centuries but has always been confined to a particular area, by combining with e-commerce we are able to take it on global scale and have enabled customers to get their dream jacket without leaving the comfort of their home.
• Direct-to-Consumer Approach: With our direct-to-consumer approach, our products come at ¼ the price of what luxury brands would sell them for. We keep our prices lower by cutting out middlemen, storefront costs and inefficient marketing spent. Additionally, with just-in-time production.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I think there have several mistakes that I made, specially considering I started out young when I was in my 20s. Let me share a couple of basic mistakes
• Difference in a roadmap for VC Funded Company Vs Bootstrap Business: Before The Jacket Maker, I was the Channel Marketing Manager at a VC funded company. We achieved exponential growth by primarily using paid marketing with a huge budget. I developed this bias that the best way to growth for an e-commerce business is through paid marketing. I implemented the same thinking at The Jacket Maker and didn’t focus on other marketing channels to an extent I should have. What I missed was that the growth paths of a VC funded company and the business you are trying to bootstrap are very different. My advice is to leave the biases of your past job experience when you are starting an entrepreneurial journey.
• Developing an Eagle Eye Perspective: When I started, there were some months when I was working day and night only to crack marketing campaigns. Other months, I was only obsessed with improving User Interface of the website and in the process, I would compromise on some very critical points that deserved more attention. It took me some years to sketch a clear broader view of the critical points that dictates the success of our business.
We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
There are multiple people who have helped me in my journey. If I must name one person, that has to be my mom. If I leave all the remarkable things, she has taught me and just pick one thing taught by her, that alone will make her the best contender in the list.
It is the belief she instilled in me that whatever effort you put in, would never ever go in vain.
She would tell me that the effort you are putting to pass a course at college that I thought would never help me in life, even that effort is not in vain.
This helped me to develop a different mindset towards how I approach life, which is irrespective of immediate results and this takes failures out of the equation.
In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?
My theory to evaluate any disruption is asking a simple question, “Is this disruption adding value for the consumer or ecosystem of the business somehow”? Disruption for the sake of disruption is meaningless.
For example, if you look at why direct to consumer brands have been able to disrupt consumer goods, you will find that it is not the direct to consumer approach in itself but the ‘winning customer experience’ they all were able to create through d2c model, which is fast, convenient, omnichannel, personalized, and based on brand storytelling.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
• “Destination is nothing, journey is everything”, this has helped me keep away from the arrival fallacy and enjoy the hardships of startup.
• “Don’t settle for ordinary” — This may seem considerably basic but can help you keep things in perspective for any complicated decision making and also not be complacent.
• “Super Successful startups are like superstars; millions try to make it but only a few make it” shared by one of my colleagues. This helps in keeping myself motivated in tough times, when I keep in perspective that the case studies, we hear of starts growing ruling the world in matter of years are very very rare and majority of the startups are like you moving things steadily by keeping at it.
Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business. Can you share some of the strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?
When I started, I already came from a very performance marketing centric background with the experience of running large scale SEM campaigns, so lead generation was relatively sorted for me. I don’t look for ‘one winning channel’ but create a multi-channel strategy for traffic/lead generation which includes:
• Performance/Paid Marketing (Google + Facebook): In the start this was the first channel we used to drive traffic and I made sure that optimization is top notch here. The key area here is to A/B Test all possible variables including creatives, audience, bid type and optimization goal that works best for you.
• CRM (Emails + Push Notifications): This may not yield results when you are starting out but is certainly the most important channel for long term. Make sure you are collection emails and acquiring as many users on app (if you have an impact). Once you have a sufficient database here automation helps in driving sales here
• Organic Search: Organic search is one of the best performing channels for us. We got the best results here by making sure to follow best on-page and off-page practices. Again, this will not work from day one but in a long-run-performance channel
• Community Marketing: This has really helped in building authenticity and brand awareness through collaboration with bloggers, youtubers and influencers. When you look at community marketing, ask a simple question, who can influence my prospect’s opinion?
• Affiliates: We have lately started to focus on affiliate marketing, and this is the most less stressful channel if it gets going.
Blog: From the start we had a blog where we focused on problem solving for prospect which yielded quality leads. This is not bottom of the funnel channel but can help you acquire quality leads
We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?
I certainly believe that we have just started, and we can disrupt the multi-billion outerwear industry. We hit a million dollars in sales last year and are looking at am ambitious target of growing to $50 million annual sales in next five years.
Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?
It’s a book, “Delivering Happiness” by Tony Hsieh has made an enormous impact on how I approach business. It taught me not to get too focused on technicalities and focus on the basics of creating value.
It taught me that e-commerce is just another point of sale; the main principles of business and marketing remain the same. You have to be obsessed with creating value for the customers and it remains constant for both brick and mortar and e-commerce.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Truth is stranger than fiction” is my favorite. It tells you strange is nothing so be ready for it.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
It is not actually a movement, but “Universal basic income” is one idea I am really intrigued by, I would love to experience a world with universal basic income across the globe in my lifetime 😊
How can our readers follow you online?