Starting my online business Elite Skate Wear at the age of seventeen was not something I ever expected to turn into what it has become today–one of the leading figure skating dress companies in the sport. From starting out on eBay in high school, creating my own eCommerce website during college, and scaling to wholesale opportunities in stores, I figured it’s time to share a little insight on how I began to scale my business from the age of 17 to 22.
It’s going to happen, because I am going to make it happen.
There are three main concepts/lessons that I learned over the years that enabled me to scale Elite Skate Wear from a small eBay store to a continuously growing business.
- Never rely on or expect other people to accomplish something you need
- Understand the consumer thinking in the specific industry
- Don’t take no for an answer and do whatever it takes
The first concept was something I fully accepted and learned during mid-2017 when I was facing a lot of personal adversity and decided that it was time I take a big focus on scaling my business. At the time, I did not have a website yet (shocker, right?) and the reason being was because I was indeed, waiting for SOMEONE ELSE to create the website for me…FOR YEARS. And you know what? At the age of 20, I was thinking…why on earth am I going to keep waiting for someone else to create it when I should just figure it out by myself? Well guess what I did!?
I bought the domain on GoDaddy and played around with Shopify and SquareSpace with their free trials before settling on SquareSpace because I found their designs to be more adequate with my vision. I had the brand color(s) in mind and began to play around with the entire template and layout on my own before finding what I felt was best fit for the brand appearance (on a budget). I finally had the website go live within three weeks of creating it and this was at the time I was just starting my Junior year of college.
This change was a big step forward in the direction of building better online presence of the brand and allowing consumers (parents and skaters) to view Elite Skate Wear as a modern, trendy, go-to custom dress brand that they needed to experience. In addition to creating the website, I also created a Facebook and Instagram business page and utilized both as a hub for a personalized community in interacting with the brand.
This kinda ties into my second concept, which is about having really good understanding of the consumer thinking in the specific industry. Lucky for me, not only did I grow up as a competitive figure skater for over ten years with keen awareness of my parents’ thinking when it came to paying for the sport, but I coach figure skating multiple times a week, both group and private lessons, so this has allowed me to stay pretty heavily involved in the sport. I have been able to utilize this as an advantage to understand the style of dresses being worn today versus what I wore 5-8 years ago, along with average price points, and what younger skaters love. As a fellow millennial/early Gen Z kiddo, I totally understand that the teenagers skating today are on social media all the time and are also heavily influenced by what they see/read on these platforms. I utilized the Elite Skate Wear Instagram page as a way to connect with these young skaters worldwide (and skating parents) and for them to be able to see our overall brand image, from quotes, dress designs, skating tips, and more.
The last concept is probably the most important and a big key in opening the first door in allowing me to have wholesale partners (my dresses being sold in retail pro-shop stores) all throughout the US including California, Florida, Nebraska, New York, Delaware, and more!
In early 2018, I set out a goal to be in five stores by the end of the year. Yet, I did not have any experience with wholesale pricing, pricing sheets, and etc. So what did I fucking do? Research and figure it out…duh! My number one target was a pro-shop in Southern California, not only because of proximity to where I am based, but also, this rink, along with many other rink facilities in California, are the most prominent in the sport of figure skating…aka all the top (Team USA) skaters train around here and compete internationally…also meaning I’d be hitting a big part of the market just by getting my foot in the door at this particular store. As a side note: not all rinks have pro shops (shops that carry figure skating/hockey gear) and most regions are typically dominated by mainly 1-2 specific shops that skaters within the state or region travel to for all their skating needs/gear. So being in one store is really good if it’s the most prominent and high foot-traffic one.
So during this time, I was getting near the end of my Junior year. I recently turned twenty-one, yet, I was more focused on building this business than I was going out to drink every other night in college. I called the store to ask for the direct contact information of the store owner(s) who made decisions on which products they sold in the shop. An employee provided me with the email–so I emailed the owner. A week later…crickets. I email the owner again as a follow-up and another few weeks later…crickets. So this is where the go-getter, assertive, alpha part of my personality really kicks in–because…I do not give up easily.
It’s the first week of May 2018 at this point and finals are approaching and the school year is slowly coming to an end. I am trying to enjoy myself a bit and go out with friends. It’s a Saturday and I have plans to attend this fraternity day party (dayger as they call it) that Louis the Child was performing at. And then I decided–I’m skipping out on this frat shit and I’m going in store to try (I didn’t know if she would 100% be there) to meet with the store owner and introduce myself. I even brought a few of my dresses along to prepare to show her examples if I did meet her. Luckily enough, the store owner was indeed in store and I was able to speak to her face-to-face 🙂 the result of this interaction and initiative became my first wholesale store partnership.
I learned in this experience essentially that if the front door won’t open, try a different door. In this case, it clearly worked in my favor, but there are times where it won’t always work in the first attempt. But being in business requires an assertive personality and having the drive to go get it yourself…even if it means giving up a college fraternity party where your favorite artists are performing 😉
If you’re just a college kiddo like I was during the big pivot in my business, don’t sell yourself short. It’s easy to feel intimidated and “too young” or too “xyz”, but sometimes you just need to suck it up, dress the part, and find a way. If you want it as bad as you say you do, then you’ll show it.