Let me explain where I started:
What I was aiming for
Dave suggested to me that I might want to look at Tim Ferris-style Muse-businesses – lifestyle businesses that might at some point generate passive income. Not startups. By listening through some of the examples, I figured that finding a niche that you could get someone else to do all the fulfilment for was the aim.
I saw some people chatting on twitter about how to get their down sleeping bags cleaned. They linked to a poorly written page on a cleaning company website that explained you could post them your sleeping bag, with a cheque and your contact details, and they’d send it back. It seemed that unless you knew about this page, there’d be no way you’d find it.
Down (feather) sleeping bags are quite delicate, and so cleaning them seems a faff, you have ~5 options:
- Don’t clean
- Hand wash in the bath
- Machine wash (perhaps using a special product
- Dry clean
- Get professionally cleaned by specialists
Some people recommend different things. Most of the labels on the sleeping bags tell you not to do anything. I’ve washed mine in the washing machine before, but drying it was a pain. It’s not easy.
Synthetic sleeping bags are somewhat easier, more robust, often cheaper, and people seem more comfortable washing them as normal.
Minimum viable research
I posed this question to my twitter followers:
How much did you pay for your sleeping bag?
- 30% paid over £100
- whilst 21% paid over £150.
My guess was that the owners of the more costly sleeping bags (often down ones) would want to look after them better.
Minimum viable landing page
I used a template to put together a quick landing page, did some bootstrap+mailchimp hack to get a popup saying “we’re not quite ready” if anyone tried to order, hooked in the analytics, and at last minute, removed most of the references to me from the page.
How do you wash your sleeping bag? Anyone got experience using anything like this?
I was lucky to get an interesting stream of advice explaining how people currently did it:
- suggesting I bought a down wash thing, and took it to a laundry
- they always dry cleaned
- they washing machine/laundry
- “If the label says not to machine wash, you can probably ignore it”
- many synthetic sleeping bag owners put their in the washing machine
- “I wash my down bag on a cool, gentle wash with a down wash that I got from Cotswold. Then tumble dry it on a low heat for multiple hours with a couple of tennis balls to keep it fluffed up”
- “How much do you lot piss and vom in your bags!? I’ve never washed mine. Just air it out in the sunshine.”
- “I washed my down bag once. Never again – it took forever to wash, even longer to dry, then sat for hours teasing the down clumps apart. After the bottle of special down soap, long cycle on the machine, and hours of tumble drying down the laundry, fifty quid isn’t far off the cost of diy. Avoid having to do this too often by always using a bag liner.”
- “I recommend
I send our down bags to them every year to get professionally cleaned. It costs £35 I think per bag plus £10 postage. They are in and when I searched a few years ago for professional cleaners of outdoor stuff they were the only ones mentioned in the UK. They can also make repairs and add feathers. Wouldn’t dream of putting my £300 down bag through a normal washing machine!”
The last two replies give a kind of hope – there’s one person saying that they’d pay for it, and another person saying that they have in the past. These are reassuring responses.
In a sense, replies like this:
£50! What's wrong with going to launderette?! https://t.co/a69CTY3JDF
— Lisa Chan Brown 麗莎 (@yattyimages) October 13, 2016
aren’t a problem at all – they demonstrate people who aren’t in the target segment, who struggle to imagine what it’d be like to be in the target segment. If you don’t have a £300 sleeping bag, it’s fairly difficult to imagine there are people who do.
Having said all that, I think this may be the end of the road for this idea. I’m going to keep the site live, and I’ll keep an eye on the stats, but I have some worries about it that put me off investing further in it at this point:
- The revenue/markup is too low
- and the market is too small.
The revenue stream that I can imagine is very weak. The operating profit I can visualise, is quite meagre, and I can’t think of a way to streamline that without being a laundry.
The market seems smaller than I’d hoped for, and to need the product even less than I predicted. As in, even people who would use it, would seek to avoid using it as much as possible. It makes loads of sense, I just failed to predict that clearly.
Not one person who has visited the site has clicked the buy buttons, or signed up to the mailing list.
- 0% conversion.
- This is a good thing. I have learnt all this before investing greater time & energy
- I perhaps could have got similar learning by posting a competitor website to facebook and asking the same question
- testing in my facebook friends is probably not good enough
- I’ve learnt a lot about building landing pages, and this is perhaps one of the best things. I’m going to use those skills for my next thing.
Stay tuned, I’ll share more thoughts and learnings soon!