We have these rules on the wall. Let’s call them The FRAHM Commandments. One of them says, Thou Shalt Not Do Events.
Rules are there to be broken (a bit).
FRAHM was built to be as simple as possible. Online only, no stockists, no shows - just me in my office, bashing away at my laptop. Mostly it works - really well. Simple is efficient, so I get to look after my kids, help the family unit and not get too (zzz) tired.
Simple is cheaper too. When you’re only buying 100 jackets at a time, it pays to do a few things really well, and to maximise your time getting gradually better and better at them. Events are exhausting - so I don't do them.
Then real life proves you wrong.
There’s a local event to us called The Frome Independent market. We take the kids as often as we can. We all love it. There’s fancy scotch eggs, music, people making beautiful things and the vibe is very Somerset. Its ace. You’d like it. Come visit.
Emmalou said I should apply and sell there. But - The Commandments. I was circumspect, but one rule of entrepreneurship is to experiment. You never know. Plus, I actually love doing events. Meeting people, seeing their reactions, getting their feedback, just chinwagging. I’m a social creature and I’m alone almost all week.
Events are scary though. It’s either a kick in the teeth and giant morale booster. Or, not much at all and you pack up, despondent.
So, on Sunday I got up early and drove off with a car full of stock, a rail, business cards and some images. Dead simple. I had my thermos of coffee, some sarnies and even my laptop and notebook to plan out the coming months and maybe write a blog. There was a big bottle of humbug sweets to break the ice and coax victims into my lair.
09:30 AM and already sold a jacket. Attempting calm.
It would be a relaxing day and maybe I’d sell a jacket. Maybe.
Yep, my sights were very low. If, IF I sold anything, it’d be good. They’re not cheap. How many impulse buys of a £300-£400 jacket could I expect? Maybe I was just inoculating myself against humiliation. I’ve stood eager-eyed at events as the will to stay awake ebbs away, ignored. It’s not fun, and it costs time (to work, or see my family), energy and often a lot of pocket money. I was, unusually for me, pessimistic. I nearly didn’t bother.
Umm, well, I was very very wrong. It was the best day for FRAHM - ever. Period. A day of joy.
I sold my first jacket as I set up. The pattern that would be repeated all day: a man in a nice jacket, often a Barbour or Belstaff, stops dead when he sees my stand. He feels the jacket and purrs, calling over his wife/partner/kids - “Check this out!!” Everyone crowds round. I explain why it’s different and special. What I did and why: “I can see that!”. In this instance his wife said “You’ve got to try it on”. It was sold before I’d unpacked. They are just passing. I was dumbfounded. I nearly cried (I was really tired and a bit peckish).
I had single examples of the Lightweight Worker’s and Waterproof City Coat, but a range of sizes in the Utility Field and Harrington Racer. “Wow, this is beautiful.” “You’ve got to get it”. “It’s so light!” “Look at the detailing!”
I am learning of course, or rather being forcibly reminded that whilst I’m good at ecommerce, it’s just not possible to mimic that feel for quality that handing something to someone offers. The wow moment, that comes with a package after a sale, here comes before the sale and seals the deal.
Home, unpacking, in a different jacket (see why in a sec), a bit shellshocked.
In the end I sold 15 jackets in 5 hours. For me, that is a huge deal. It paves the way for us to be profitable not loss-making - That’s life changing. I sold 5 more that evening, as customers bought second jackets online or decided to go for it. Nuts.
I sold a few more Field jackets than Harringtons. Even though it’s April, what is clear is the range of use the Field Jacket has - it’s much lighter than people expect. And the bonkers detailing of the snaps, zips, pockets, fleece linings etc really impresses. Plus, everyone really likes the association with Mind. It’s good to know you’re barking up the right tree.
I couldn’t keep up (my friend Andrew Denham couldn’t get to me to say hi and chat, so had to leave) and I was down to a smattering of sizes. So much so, that I literally went home without my jacket. An architect literally bought my own Utility Field Jacket off my back - I nearly gave him my car keys and the cash I’d taken that day!
It’s hard to understate the feeling this gave me. To turn up, having been cajoled, given it a go, and been run off my feet. To have wished I’d bought more stock. For FRAHM, it’s a Light Year leap forwards in understanding and morale.
I’m not short of confidence, but we all get tired and worn down. To see people almost skid to a halt and make a beeline for your stall. To have a laugh, chatting away, learning, understanding, then for them to say how much they love it and ten minutes later walk away with a £395 jacket. Man - that is why I do it.
I celebrate every sale online. It was hard not to bounce around my little tent without making a show of myself. Nobody likes a showoff.
People actually love this stuff. I need to get it into more hands. The jacket does the talking. We will do more events at Frome Independent. I’m not sure about where else - it’s still time away from home, expense, travel, risk, etc. But I’ll plan it anyway.
Meanwhile, online, shipping is free and simple. If you don’t like it, just pop it back. People don’t. Holding and wearing it is far better than what’s here online. I don’t over-promise.
Lastly, I’ve started having approaches from stockists. Another commandment that may be ripped from the stone now I know that when someone sees it and feels it, they want it.
The greatest fun for me of being an entrepreneur is demonstrated here:
1. You build something you put your heart and soul into and hope others like it too. When they do, it’s incredible.
2. A constant state of discovery, learning and iteration. I don’t have to accept okay. I can change what I like, when I like (time & money permitting). If it makes sense do it, change it. That is a luxury to most and I never forget it. I can’t bear adequate - here, my only limiters are resources.
It’s why we push through the fear and exhaustion. For days like this. Thank you.