Back in 2016, Louis Pereira and I figured that selling tee shirts could be a good side hustle and would help us make some extra money for a trip we had planned. We spent 6 months building this brand called Dot, and while it wasn’t the biggest success, it was a great experience and taught us a whole bunch, and arguably changed our wardrobes forever.

What is really interesting, is that a lot of what I learnt while building Dot, would actually help me when I was at Zilingo. At the time, I would have never thought that I would end up working at a fashion startup, but that’s exactly what happened. The lesson I learnt through all this is that you must spend time on doing things you enjoy. It might not seem like the “right” thing to do at the time, but you can always connects the dots in hindsight.

Dot, the only grey tee you need

Both Louis and I are not very fashion savvy. In fact we were both pretty bad at dressing up. We also hated shopping for clothes. So when we were deciding what the brand should stand for, it had to be the anti-thesis of fashion as we had experienced so far. No colours, no prints, no designs, no logos, no choosing. And that’s how Dot was born.

1. Starting a fashion brand is hard

We started with one SKU — a grey tee in two sizes. We thought, given the limited collection, this would be an easy task. But it turns out that launching a fashion brand is not that simple. From locking down a vendor, negotiating prices, choosing from samples, designing the product, cataloging, marketing, shipping, building a website, payments, social media — it was much more than what we had imagined.

2. Cataloging is key

Once we had received out first batch of tees, we needed to sell it. And to sell it, we needed to market our product. Since we didn’t have any money to get professional shoots (the entire point of launching the brand was to make some money), we did it ourselves. This process taught us the power of great content, social media and Canva. Years later, I would have the opportunity to build this as a service at Zilingo, where we would offer cataloging and other marketing services to fashion brands across south east Asia

3. #ConnectingTheDots — Influencer marketing 101

When we failed to generate enough sales through our social channels we figured that people who had more followers would help us reach a larger audience. We found a couple of “influencer” friends and started a hashtag called #ConnectingTheDots in which we would talk about their stories. It was a cool way for everyone to help each other out. Rahul and Armaan are both doing amazingly well in their respective fields and influencer marketing is a massive industry today, especially for fashion and beauty.

4. Decision fatigue — the mission of the brand

While trying to justify this new anti-fashion brand, we came across this thing called decision fatigue. The idea is that an average person makes a lot of decision every day — what clothes to wear, what route to take to work, what Netflix shows to watch, what food to order and so on. With the number of available choices exploding, our mind is struggling to keep up with all the decisions it needs to make. While some decision are important, most decisions are trivial and only drain our decision making capacity. The remedy to this is to reduce the choices for the trivial decisions like “What clothes should I wear?”.

This would become the bigger mission of Dot — to help people preserve their mental capacity for the important decisions. We learnt that all powerful brands need to stand for something, which is much more than just the utility of the product. Any amount of marketing wouldn’t be enough if we were selling just a grey tee.

To conclude, this small experiment ended up teaching me a ton of stuff which I used in the years to come. Even though we didn’t end up selling thousands of tee shirts, we had one hell of a time building Dot.

This essay is a part of my 30 day writing challenge. You can read more about why I’m doing it here

a little bit of everything