After nearly two years of running ToFoodies, I wanted to shake things up.
ToFoodies is a food media brand that I founded, and you perhaps know it best on Instagram.
Owning an entity that is digital-only is a wild and beautiful thing. You can take it anywhere; work on it anywhere and unlike life in an office, you run the show. But eventually, ToFoodies felt like it needed something extra. Different platforms had been added, but it felt like the brand and audience were craving something tangible and I feared that we’d hit a plateau if we didn’t take a bit of a chance.
I started envisioning dinner meet-ups and covering the city in doughnut stickers (still on the table), but then it came to me: dad hats.
People love dad hats! They’re unisex, unfussy, wearable just like a regular baseball hat and yet magically, quite on trend.
Drawing inspiration from fashion blogs that had web shops and Toronto street style, I set out to make ToFoodies-branded merchandise for the very first time.
Drake has his comrades and signees model their OVO hats in lookbooks so for marketing, the thinking was, why not do it ourselves? Show some real people who love the ToFoodies brand, loving their hats. And when the hats came in, a ToFoodies photographer, Chris Bull and I put on our Sunday best (for frolicking) and walked around The Junction for our photo shoot.
Now we sell online and at OMG on the Park in Toronto. To get here, it took several weeks of working with a web designer, photographer, production houses, consultations with friends and more. Yet, it still is an ongoing, fulfilling project.
Here are the best lessons that I learned from the experience so far:
1. Have A Vision / Do Something Different
“There’s no such thing as a new idea” may be a famous saying and somewhat true, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try. If you want to put out a product, think about the current market and what gaps you can fill. No one has the point of view that you do, so use it and aim to do something different.
2. Work With Good People / Do Your Research
Maybe you have connections already, maybe you don’t. Either way, do your research and try to work with the best and/or get the best opinions you can. For making the dad hats, I enlisted a company that I had already used in a corporate capacity. This saved time and made the process so much easier, because I already had a positive relationship with an account manager there and knew she was a hustler. I also sat down with people like Sam Laliberte of Ezzy Lynn who let me pick her brain about all things hats. It is quite amazing what a phone call, email or sharing a plate of Bar Fancy nachos can do in the grand scheme of things.
3. Have A Launch Strategy
It is one thing to build a web shop or get something in a store; it’s another to start marketing your product. As you get close to launching, start developing a strategy on how you will get the word out there. Will you hire PR? Do your own PR? Find a partner and run some contests? Do something fun and free on your social media? All questions to consider.
4. Save Money Where You Can…
In any business, there are many unexpected costs that the average consumer doesn’t think about. For a web shop like this, necessary extras like shipping and packaging had to be considered. The less money you waste means the more affordable you can make your product or the more profit you can bank. For example, buying boxes directly from Canada Post can easily set you back five dollars or more per box depending on the size, which adds up. That might be convenient, but always try to source a few options so you can keep costs low in a way that makes sense.
5. But Don’t Skimp On The Important Things
Safeguard the quality of your product and customer experience. It would have been cheaper to just throw the hats in a padded envelope but… these are baseball hats. They have brims. Everyone knows that half the fun of a new hat is getting it crispy fresh and breaking it in yourself. So even though it’s more expensive to ship a box than a bubble wrap-padded envelope, I wasn’t about to compromise. To me, it’s worth it. Think about the full A-Z, and figure out what that means to your business.
6. Be Your Own Hype(wo)man
If you don’t talk about your business, no one else will. If you are not outwardly delighted by your product, why would anyone else support it? Do something that you’re really proud of and then shout it from the mountains. Rock it yourself, if possible! Talking about it in person and on social media could bring in partnerships that you never imagined or create a ripple effect online that will help grow your company. If you’re ready to launch, be ready to be noisy about it.
So, good luck with your biz and stay tuned! We’re cooking up many new exciting things with these #TOFdadhats and the web shop options will only grow from here…