Ever since establishing my brand, Peculiar PPL, in March it has been an absolute joy figuring out ways of taking it to the next level. The brand evolves daily as I take a granular look at every detail and analyze ways of improving it. Now that it has been almost eight months since launching the brand and six months since launching the first product, I would like to share a few of the changes that have taken place.
Initially when I started the business I structured it under one of my existing LLC’s, but after realizing that Peculiar PPL is much larger than just a clothing company, I had to make changes to prepare for the future growth. That’s why I have changed Peculiar PPL to be the product branding sector of the newly formed company called “Peculiar Enterprises, LLC.”
Ever since I was in fifth grade, I’ve had the vision of having one company that would make everything from automobiles to bread makers. In my 10 year old mind, I envisioned the company being named “G for Me, LLC” but the name sounded more and more juvenile as time progressed. Peculiar Enterprises seems better to me!
One of my goals from day one was to have the best, most efficient packaging and shipping systems ever. This was initially a huge struggle for me because I couldn’t seem to get things correct. Our initial shipments were packaged in corrugated boxes that left about 1/2 inch of “breathing space” on the sides and 3/4 between the product packaging and the top of the box. This caused about 20% of the shipments to look sloppy when they were delivered to the customer. In addition, each corrugated box weighed between 8 oz on its own, which led to a cost of $2.39 just to ship an empty box across the United States.
I changed the packaging to use a high-quality bubble mailer envelope, which was sturdier, more flexible and could keep the product packaging safe during shipping. These mailers cost pennies on the dollar to purchase and weigh less than one ounce when empty. This economical mailer allows us to include more surprises in each package without having to worry about a large increase in the cost of shipping, or potential damages to the product packaging.
Initially all orders were mailed via the post office which added a lot of ugly, randomly placed “PRIORITY DELIVERY” and “DELIVERY CONFIRMATION” stickers to the package. Also, since I drove to the post office to ship each package, this increased the cost per package when considering the cost of gas, cost of personal time and the lack of a discounts offered by the post office. I strongly disliked this method, mainly because of the roller coaster of emotions displayed by the post office lady (ranging from extremely happy to near-menacing), so I needed to find a better way.
I did a lot of research on shipping methods, tested out a few pre-packaged systems and eventually settled on creating my own shipping system. My new shipping system takes the orders from the PeculiarPPL website, selects the best method of shipment, pays for the shipment using a commercial presorted shipping rate, generates a tracking number, then prints out a label on a thermal label printer. I then scan the barcode on the package and drop it off in the mailbox. When the package is delivered to the customer, I get an alert on my iPhone, iPad and/or on my desktop. The system is not yet perfect and I’m still working on ways to make it even more automated, but it is a huge improvement over daily encounters with the post office lady who constantly asked “what kind of name is ‘PECULIAR?!?'”
Since I reduced the handling time and improved the cost of shipping materials and postage, I reduced the cost of shipping from $5 per package for a domestic shipment to $2.50 per package. There are some cases where the shipping cost to me will exceed $2.50, but I’m fine with this and I won’t pass the extra cost along to the customer. Also, I have reduced the cost shipping cost to $0.00 when the customer purchases 3 or more items.
No one likes paying high shipping costs, so I didn’t want this to ruin the entire Peculiar PPL experience.
From day one, we have had very peculiar product packaging. I’ve always wanted a unique product package because this has always been my favorite part of any shopping experience. After researching many different product packaging options, I settled on packaging each product like a slab of meat from the supermarket. Why a slab of meat? Because it’s Peculiar!
Each shirt is carefully folded, placed on a meat tray, wrapped with plastic meat-grade film, labeled with a “new-generation” version of the meat label (including information about the product, operating instructions, and “wear by” dates) and shipped to the customer. Initially each product included a barcode that was encoded with the words “Peculiar PPL” and didn’t really do much. Now, I have changed the barcode to be a QR code that is readable by smartphones, which either takes you to the Peculiar PPL website, the Peculiar PPL Facebook fan page, a unique webpage that includes a special offer for a future discount, or a webpage where you can get a free Peculiar PPL item. I did this because I loved “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” where there were randomly placed golden tickets in the packages of chocolate and I wanted to add a Peculiar twist to the concept.
Note: I have not (and will not) ever instruct the customer to scan these codes with their smartphone.
As I shipped the items to the customer, I began including random little surprises in the package. As of today, haven’t been any two packages with the same surprise(s) as another package. I will never publicly reveal the tiny surprises included with every order.
To date we have three designs printed on seven different shirts, ten designs ready to be printed and five designs in the works. The first t-shirt included a graphic of little Peculiar PPL building a door on the front and on the rear it prominently displays the sentence “When opportunity doesn’t come knocking, Peculiar PPL build a door.” After I wore this shirt around for a while I decided that I didn’t want the future shirts to be as self-explanatory and instead I wanted the shirt to initiate a dialogue rather than complete a monologue. Therefore, I made changes with the future designs.
I decided that each shirt will include a brief phrase on the back, like “Peculiar PPL Conquer Obstacles” or “Peculiar PPL Soar to New Heights” and it will include a quick illustration of this concept on the front. If people are still intrigued by this concept, they can ask the person wearing the shirt for further explanation and that person should be able to provide more guidance. I am working on including some form of literature or “concept aides” with orders to explain the thinking behind each design.
After creating the line of dress shirt designs, I have been wearing them regularly and am still in love with them. This has inspired me to create additional products as product line extensions. Unfortunately, these products that I have in mind aren’t easy or cheap to make, but I won’t give up until they’re a reality. More details on this later!
Ever since I was able to write my name at the age of two months old (I was a high-functioning baby…don’t ask), I wanted to create a stationary line. I’ve always wanted to make extremely high quality writing tools and accessories for the common folk who prefer not to pay $2,000 for a MontBlanc pen. Recently I started navigating into this arena by creating a line of notebooks. I have been beta testing a variety of additional stationary products and will have a more things available after they pass my rigorous testing standards.
The first Peculiar PPL website was created in a hurry because I wanted to meet my self-imposed launch deadline. On the week of the deadline, I locked myself in my lab between the hours of 7pm and 2am every day and learned a new programming language for the content management system called Joomla. Eventually I roughed together enough code to make the site functional, but I’ve hated it since the day after we launched. I didn’t hate it like how little kids hate broccoli…I hated it like how the United States hated Osama Bin Laden, and I avoided going to my own website just sso I wouldn’t have to look at it. Although the website appeared to be fine, I saw that it wasn’t nearly as great as it could have been, so I just started over.
I recoded the entire website over from scratch and didn’t launch it until I was satisfied with how it turned out. The first page of the site is intended to be a “window shopping” view of all of our products. The website visitor could simply look at the screen and see every product that we have for sale, along with a snippet of our first three blog entries without clicking anything. If they are still interested, they can click any product image to see more information and additional views of any product. If they are interested in purchasing the product, they can click “Purchase this Product” from the homepage and they are taken directly to the product that they just saw.
In addition, the website includes a lot more content for people who are Peculiar but do not wish to purchase anything. It includes videos, quotes, articles and Peculiar PPL brand updates. I am a lot more satisfied with the website now and it is constantly in development to add more features.
This has been an explanation of some of the major things that have been keeping me busy nowadays, hence the lack of significant journal entries over the last few months. Although I still have not started to do any significant marketing besides word of mouth to my friends, I have been contacted by individuals interested in selling the product in boutique stores. Peculiar PPL has been my hobby and I am having a lot of fun with it— I am just excited that I can bring people along with me on the ride. I get excited every time I see someone wearing a shirt that I designed and I am happy that my dream can be shared with others in a tangible way. Thank you!