Bryan Lewis of FINCH on getting to $300k subscription sales in 6 months, then starting again (episode 215)

Bryan Lewis is founder and CEO at FINCH. FINCH, is a subscription-based eco-friendly activewear brand that makes technical apparel designed for comfort, performance, and everyday use. The business launched in early 2018 and it took them just 6 months to get to $300k in sales.

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About the Business

finch bryan lewis podcast
  • Launched in 2018
  • HQ California
  • Subscription + ‘normal’ eCommerce
  • Using Subbly

Getting in Online

Two years ago, New York native Bryan Lewis moved to California where he saw an entirely different way that people worked. Instead of the typical nine to five grind that is status quo in New York City, the professionals in California were focused on eCommerce and online. 

Intrigued, Bryan decided he wanted in and went into his eCommerce brand from the very beginning with a business mindset and focus on fast growth. Bryan’s process was deliberate and he intentionally began scouting for a solid market with good growth projections. He quickly identified the trend of athleisure wear and got to work creating a brand and doing the appropriate research for a launch.

From Project Pitch to Business

Before his launch into the eCommerce space, Bryan owned an experiential agency that developed on the ground ‘people’ campaigns for major brands—from Starbucks to RedBull. In 2016, the team pitched an idea to a client that would become the basis for the Finch business.

Bryan’s potential client owned a branded clothing company for colleges and was looking for ideas about how to increase business. Bryan and his team pitched the idea of a subscription box full of college branded gear. The idea was turned down by the more traditional client, but Bryan couldn’t let it go and kept it in his back pocket to wait for a more opportune moment.

After a couple more failure to launch scenarios, Bryan had the opportunity to make his subscription active wear company work. The brand was initially called FabCrate and Bryan says that there weren’t a lot of other clothing companies who were doing the subscription based platform.

Lacking many role models, Bryan began reaching out to people in the subscription world which is where he connected with the owner of Subbly—a subscription box platform, who helped convince him that his idea was not only possible, but could be a big success.

Finding Balance—Not Perfection

For the first iteration of the website and brand, Bryan admits he was a perfectionist and over complicated the project—even paying a big portion of his startup money to a custom web developer to create the brand and the website.

$10,000 and some major letdowns later, Bryan and his team ended up building FabCrate out on the Subbly platform and launched primarily using Instagram ads.

Listen to learn about the slip ups and recoveries of the brand’s early days.

The Team

Starting out with just himself, a contract photographer and manufacturing relationships, Bryan has grown the business to now include five employees. A Chief Creative Officer takes care of everything visual, which is absolutely crucial in a competitive market.

There is also a Digital Content Coordinator who handles outreach, influencer marketing and other social media elements as well as an in-house photographer and a product team.

Hot Jar

Bryan became obsessed with optimizing the businesses checkout channels, advertisements and website in an effort to cut down on waste, returns and anything else that wasn’t working.

He began to use Hot Jar—the software service product that allows website owner to run overlay use maps on their site and see what people are—and aren’t—are clicking on.

He watched Hot Jar regularly over the period of a month, taking detailed notes until he finally felt he had a good idea about how to optimize the website.

Listen to learn how client first design makes online business work better.

The ReBrand

Initially launched in April 2018 as FabCrate, Bryan and his team were gearing up for the major holiday shopping season when a big competitor served the business with a cease and desist trademark filing.

Bryan was initially stubborn and frustrated about how much time and energy had been put into the business and name thus far but was quickly convinced that they didn’t have the resources to take on the lawsuit.

They settled and part of the agreement was a mandate that the business halt all advertising for 45 days over the holiday season. At the time, Bryan was crushed and the decision almost destroyed the business.

During his (mandatory) time off, Bryan started listening extra hard to his market. What he heard was a lot of strong opposition to the throw away and fast fashion model.

The Australian market, in particular, was unimpressed by the revolving door model that Bryan had built the FabCrate business on. As he began learning more and digging deeper, Bryan was convinced that there was a better way to make clothing and made a promise that the next iteration of the business would be a brand not a box and that it would be sustainable.

A lot of late nights and long phone calls with China later, Bryan says they now have a beautiful product line made from recycled fishing nets and plastic bottles. For the new launch, Finch will be sending out their subscription boxes quarterly and will also offer a full eCommerce shop.

Advice for Subscription Entrepreneurs

If you’re interested in getting into a subscription business, it’s important to ensure the market you are going in to is big enough.

If it’s not big, you’ll need to have the money necessary to educate and test your market.

Bryan’s top three tips for growing a successful subscription business are:

1.) Get out and talk to people offline about the brand. Word of mouth is the best way to grow your business.

2.) Make sure you quantify everything you do. Watch and check your data

3.) Marketing and Branding have to be amazing. Every eCommerce brand needs to be spending money on great photography and visuals.

eCommerce Book Top Tip

eCommerce Traffic Top Tip

  • Instagram is a great platform for advertising, but influencers can be overblown.  Double down on Instagram and don’t believe all the hype about influencers.

Tool Top Tip

  • Frontapp –  allows the team to collaborate with customers in a transparent way.
  • Slack -allows the internal team to communicate easily across all devices.

Growth Top Tip

  • You need to have the right amount of money. Bryan says that $20,000 seems like the magic number to achieve a five to one return on investment.

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