Ryan Craig is a student at San Diego State University and founder of The Red Cup Tour, a clothing and lifestyle company. He launched The Tour summer of 2012 and since then he has been featured in SDSU’s school newspaper and made appearances at several campus events. He gave me some insight into starting your own company while in college and some of the best advice he’s learned. Check out the tour at theredcuptour.com
What things did you have to pay for in order to start The Red Cup Tour?
“Business license, trademark, website, and merchandise. Things like licenses and trademarks are just administrative things that have to be paid for no matter what kind of business you’re starting.”
How do you get the word out about your company?
“As cheaply as possible, social media is one of the most important methods I use. I also went to small events at SDSU. Since it is a community driven product, word of mouth is the most powerful marketing tool.”
How will you grow the company?
“Once I had the initial idea for The Tour I needed to make the merchandise designs, test the designs out on the target population. Then from there I made shirts. In order to expand further I would focus on college populations. The best strategy to penetrate colleges would be to make merchandise specific to certain schools.”
What gave you the idea/inspiration?
“I saw an opportunity for a demographic and lifestyle that wasn’t being reached or monetized.”
What is the most important thing you have learned as an entrepreneur?
“The key to success is to fail faster.”
Victoria’s Secret has taken their brand beyond clothing by developing a mobile app called “Pink Nation.”
The app features picture editing tools, weather updates, exclusive offers and games. Victoria’s Secret is staying connected to their customers even after they leave the store, which is great business and PR.
The app is directed toward a specific age group since their Pink line is pretty specific. While almost all stores have an online component, a lot of stores don’t have a mobile app so I think this is pretty innovate for such a large-scale clothing store.
I’ve downloaded the app before and although it’s not something I use all the time, the picture filters are cool and it helps to stay updated on the latest deals. The interface is totally representative of Victoria’s Secret and consistent with the brand colors and online content.
With over 3 million downloads, Victoria’s Secret is clearly providing a service that people want and actually use.
After delving deeper into the world of the entrepreneurial journalism one concept that I often forget is that the goal is to make money.
It sounds silly because how could any business without money, but at the beginning of the semester I was just focusing on creating a useful app with cool features and an engaging interface. In reality if I ever wanted to really create this app I would have to determine the best approach to receive financing.
Options that I’ve learned about are things like crowdfunding, angel investors and venture capitalists. Before securing funding and proposing to investors I’ve learned that there are a series of important questions that investors are going to want to about the product.
On top of having a unique app, there has to be a story and a service that my app can provide that will attract investors’ attention. After figuring out the differences between angel investors and venture capitalists I think receiving funding from an angel investor would be the best for my startup.
An angel investor could just be an individual that has extra money to spend and is looking to sponsor a creative and experimental idea. My particular app would not require a large staff or complex coding, so the extra rules that come with support from VCs wouldn’t be necessary.
It is interesting to learn about the business side of entrepreneurial journalism and the process I would have to go through in order to receive funding if I created an app.
Creating good advertising is hard to do.
Very few companies use effective advertising, but the ads that catch my attention almost always have humor.
One of my favorite ads of all time is the “mayhem” guy for Allstate. They did a great job of creating a uniform ad campaign that extended from TV commercials to online. I really liked this ad when I saw the commercial so when online ads came up with the same mayhem guy I wasn’t annoyed.
Online ads that use video, but don’t pop up are effective because they attract my attention without invading my screen. Companies that I have seen use this type of advertising are movie previews and some insurance companies. To make memorable ads it’s important to have the right placement and be unique. Humor is a great way of getting people to pay attention to ads if it is done well.
Ads that follow you to across the web are creepy, but they work because you may have forgotten about a particular product you were searching for previously. When an ad pops up for the same boots you were just looking at it reminds you to return to that website even if you don’t click on the ad directly.
When I think of annoying ads I think of YouTube, Pandora and Yahoo.
YouTube uses the most intrusive ads in an attempt to get users’ attention. Before you can watch a video you are required to watch an ad and typically you can skip it after five seconds, but if you walk away from your computer or click on another window the ad will keep playing for minutes until you physically click the “skip” button.
I’ve noticed that Yahoo uses site intros as a form of advertising more than other news sites. What is annoying about these type of ads is that they usually have an audio component and tend to catch users off guard when unexpected sounds start playing if you are just trying to read an article. Then you have to scramble to find the minimize button to quit the ad. It becomes an annoying and sometimes scary experience if you have your volume up too loud!
Most people that use Pandora would agree that their ads are extremely annoying and ill-timed. Although Pandora offers a premium service that allows users to avoid all ads, the free version should feature less advertising and more music.
In this day and age it’s impossible to avoid all online advertising, but the more ads that are thrown at us the more we learn to dodge the information we don’t like and find sites that provide more content and less ads.
I want everything for free and I want it now.
When it comes to accessing digital media I avoid using any services that I would have to pay for. On a daily basis I use Facebook, Instagram, Yahoo News, Fox News and Spotify. I mostly rely on apps for news updates since it is easiest to check my phone in class and get a quick rundown of what is happening with my friends and what headlines are making the news.
If Facebook and Instagram started charging for their mobile apps I would pay to keep the service, but I would not pay for the news. I would rather find my news from other sources than be socially disconnected. There are so many ways to access the news so there is no need to pay for a service that you can get online, in print or from watching TV.
On the other hand I would develop a serious case of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) if I wasn’t able to check Instagram throughout the day. It is just as important to me to stay connected to my friends and know what is going on locally as it is to be aware of national headlines.
I don’t pay to access any digital content at this point. If I were to buy an app it would typically be something geared toward productivity or entertainment. One service that I don’t use, but have considered subscribing to is Netflix. It is relatively low cost, yet it offers a lot when it comes to selection. I almost always buy my songs from Itunes, but other than that there are no other apps or services on the market that I would be willing to pay for right now.
You can have the best product on the market, but if the name of your product doesn’t reflect the services you are offering the your dreams of becoming an entrepreneur may be over before they ever really began.
Entrepreneur.com has an article that provides helpful hints to naming a company. Depending on the image you are trying to create, the name of a product or company can be simple and descriptive or unique and creative.
Other important factors to consider when trying to name a startup are:
- Naming rights, making sure another company isn’t already using that name
- Test the potential name on a focus group or peers
- Avoid company names that are hard to pronounce
- Be descriptive, don’t make customers guess what kind of services your company offers
Examples of good company names are Google, Apple, Staples and Chase Liquid. While some of these names are short, sweet and to the point, before Google was Google the name was innovative and unique. Google has gone from a simple brand to a household name.
How often have you heard someone say, “Oh I’ll just go Google it?”
But for every Google there are product names that are just downright terrible.
Examples of bad company names are AirTran, CompUSA and BenGay. The first two clearly describe what the services are, but in the most boring way possible and BenGay, well it goes without explanation why that was a fail.