How to start a (social) startup – CS183B – Part 3

Instead of looking at the second idea, BuyBack, on its own, I have decided to merge the ideas. If I just did BuyBack on its own with a T-shirt, I feel like it would be less practical. People may not need a T-shirt and they may just buy to support the campaign. Which is great, but I don’t want to create unnecessary waste.

What if I combined FutureBaby with the BuyBack business model? (that’s right the name has evolved, first to Superbaby now to FutureBaby because I feel like all the social and environmental consciousness is about thinking about the future, it’s about intergenerational equity)

Rather than try to explain it in a meta way, I thought I would just share a first draft of the marketing language we could use around the new concept. (I must urge people to remember I’m writing, editing and publishing these posts in about 80min so please forgive the lack of tightness. I figure better to share the ideas quick and dirty than to perfect and not share at all.)

I imagine writing something like this on a landing or kickstarter page:

Start spiel:

We are creating a super socially and environmentally conscious apparel store for baby clothes. It is also going to be simple, stylish and convenient. We don’t want to minimise impact, we want to make serious positive impact.

To begin with, we will sell one style of unisex clothing for babies 0 – 3 years old. The material will be organic and sustainable cotton. The most ethical and sustainable we can find. Then we are going to plant trees with some of our profits too.

You will be able to buy the clothes one-off or by subscription. We will push the subscription angle though. We think it provides more convenience and more of a partnership between you and us. We are in this for the long haul, together, with our kids, into the future.

The clothes will be manufactured somewhere socially irresponsible. What did you say!? That’s right, we are going to find a manufacturer that produces top quality sustainable baby clothes but treats its workers like dirt. What the!?! Then we are going to use the profits from selling the baby clothes to BUY BACK THE FACTORY! Yes, seriously. We will purchase the factory from the owner and gift the factory to the workers by turning it into a worker cooperative. We will provide management consultants if necessary to help with the transition and to also make the factory truly sustainable. By purchasing FutureBaby clothes, you can help lift workers out of poverty and poor working conditions and give them the opportunity to not only work for decent wages, but to own part of the company, and have a say in it’s future. We think that’s pretty epic. Interested in joining the ride and supporting us to make this happen?

Pre-order you baby clothes here or sign up a friend with baby as a present. What a wonderful baby shower or newborn gift? By the time the baby is 3, they will potentially have contributed to the liberation of thousands of workers in developing countries and planted thousands of trees that reduce tonnes of carbon dioxide.

To be clear this is an early stage social enterprise startup idea. We are from the school of lean startups and we are launching and learning here. See our roadmap for development here (to be developed). We have not yet found the ideal factory so we are starting with a factory we don’t even know as we will be using a reputable wholesaler of organic and sustainable baby clothes. This way we know the product quality is there from day one. If we make enough money with this beta product, we can search and find the best manufacturer to target. We need $XXX,XXX to get this off the ground. That’s XX,XXX onesie’s, can we do it? Pre order a subscription of clothes for your baby here.

End spiel.

This may seem like going a bit far without doing the hard research behind the product/service/manufacturing/logistics but I feel like I need to validate the assumptions that this is something that people actually want. That is the approach of the lean startup. Are we solving a real problem? I know we would be solving one for me. A comment on my blog on my last post from a lovely Mother I know suggests that something like this might appeal to her. I have a good feeling about it, but no hard evidence.

Time is our most precious resource and if I pour weeks/months of effort into hard research, I fear it will be too big an opportunity cost and I’ll risk not being able to provide for my family. If I can validate the idea by getting presales, I can be sure I can survive while bringing the concept and business to life.

It’s funny I never used to think like this, before having a kid I had all the time in the world. I knew my family was a safety net so I would be free to explore ideas deeper before need to monetise (e.g. Flashpoint Labs). Now, food, shelter, and clothes for my kid is a priority which comes with a monthly tab I need to cover.

So the next step, I think a business model canvas and budget are required to know how much we need to raise and how many presale onesies we need to sell.

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