The Amsterdam University Boat Club is a fashion brand that i co-created in November 2015 together with a friend from my rowing club in Amsterdam. In the beginning the venture was just an experiment for us. We asked ourselfs the question if it would be possible not just to sell a physical product but rather sell a ‘membership’ or an ‘experience’ and give the buyer a free piece of clothing with it.
In the end this question resulted in a company with an online shop and a completely automated ordering process. In the first year we sold just a little under a hundred products. In this article i want to share some of my thought on the success of this idea and the lessons that we have learned along the way.
The first weeks we started with a lot of brainstorming on how to set all the wheels in motion for this idea. The first step of our plan was to sell leisure clothing for all the student rowers living in Amsterdam. For this experiment we wanted to find a niche marked in order to create an exclusive image. This exclusive image was needed to sell our ‘membership’ or ‘experience’ and not just the product.
After we had set up our supply chain with finding the right supplier, getting the web shop up and running and various photo shoots with some recognizable men and women in the Amsterdam rowing scene, we needed to launch and start selling.
Our goal was to create something exclusive, something everybody wanted to have and wanted to be seen with. The owners of an AUBC product needed to be proud of it. To achieve this level of exclusiveness the idea we had was not just to simply get the web shop online and waiting for the first customer to buy one of our products, we wanted to do something special and something that was more in line with our idea of high exclusiveness.
With the whole brand still kept quiet for the outside world we selected 20 influential people for various rowing clubs in Amsterdam and invited them to be part of an exclusive group.
The result of the pilot with 20 people was really good. Within one week everyone from all rowing clubs in Amsterdam had seen someone with one of our sweaters and the web shop started getting traction. A couple of weeks later we saw people we’ve never met wearing our clothing on the university campus, that was a moment that i felt a little proud of our work.
Although the sales in the web shop started flowing in we did not really got it viral. The growth in sales stayed linear and we could not manage to scale up.
A combination of this slow growth together with our studies demanding more time and the rowing season coming to it’s peak we got stuck in some kind of summer break with AUBC and we did not manage to pick it back up again until the autumn of 2016.
During the summer holiday i was thinking about a way to sell the remaining stock and got the idea to start an Authumn sale. To my surprise this autumn sale became very successful in terms of revenue and brand recognition. With only a handfull of facebook posts and a discount in the web shop i managed to sell the remaining stock to the last item. I was surprised to see that still so many people knew the brand we had created nearly a year before.
This brings us to the situation that AUBC is now in. The web shop is sold out, around one hundred people are the proud owners of our product and the brand awareness remains high among the target audience. This idle state where the brand is currently in gives me freedom to create new products but also saves me time because in this moment AUBC does not require my time and energy.
From the beginning up until now i’ve learned a lot from this venture and it also brought me a lot of fun running it. I hope to report back in the future with new idea’s and results from AUBC.