Peculiar Steps: Volume 1

Peculiar Shoes Marching

I recently finished one of the funnest design experiences that I’ve had in life, which resulted in the creation of my newest product— “Peculiar Steps.” With these shoes, my painstaking attention to the subtle design details made the creation process last a total of five months…five wonderful, sleepless, caramel macchiato fueled months.

Geremology x Nike Air Force One

A year and a half ago, I had the opportunity to customize my favorite sneaker on the planet: the Nike Air Force One. In doing so, I had to make sure that the shoe wasn’t only attractive, but also easy to clean, created with quality materials and could be worn with a variety of outfits. It took me a total of about five hours to design this sneaker and I had a deep reasoning behind every color and material that I chose. The shoe was intended to be striking, but yet subdued without drawing a lot of attention, and I enjoyed designing it.

After this experience, I wanted complete freedom to design a shoe shoe out of anything that tickled my fancy—even play doe! I started my search for shoe companies that would allow me the freedom to be the artistic, control freak that I am, and after interviewing numerous companies I settled on a good match. Shortly after initiating the business relationship, we worked together on a daily basis for weeks in order to turn my concepts into reality, but in the process there were two main challenges that emerged:
1) Language: The company was located in China, which meant that there was a slight language barrier when discussing complex terms. As a result, I picked up a little bit of Mandarin Chinese and they learned A LOT of English. This language barrier caused some pretty hilarious telephone calls where I couldn’t stop myself from hysterically laughing in the middle of our conversations. 對不起!
2) Time: Due to the location, there was a 12 hour time difference between us. This caused me to spend long nighttime hours at a Starbucks that I grew fond of, which was 30 miles away from my house . This also meant that they had to work longer hours to accommodate my schedule.

Peculiar Steps : Volume 1

The result of our long hours of work resulted in this shoe that I call “Peculiar Steps: Volume 1.” As with the majority of my designs, this shoe features a high-contrast design of a white rubber sole and a black genuine leather upper. It is designed as a fashionable casual loafer that features a slight sheen to the leather and a bright white sole that is easy to clean with soap and water on a rag. These shoes have extra cushion on the inside so they’re comfortable to wear and it has the Peculiar PPL insignia on the insole.

Peculiar Steps : Volume 1

Since this is my first Peculiar shoe from scratch, I ordered a limited production run of 50 pairs of shoes. Of those 50 shoes, I will be donating a few of them to high-potential, Peculiar PPL who are in-need, and I will sell the remaining pairs on PeculiarPPL.com beginning Friday, April 13th. I call this shoe “Volume 1” because there will be additional footwear products in the future, in which I will use the lessons learned while creating this shoe to improve on the final product. In addition to creating a pair of shoes that I’m proud of, I am currently working with the manufacturing company in order to enhance their order fulfillment and quality assurance process. It feels good to have such a great impact with something that started as a seemingly impossible dream

I started this process thinking that it would be incredibly difficult and nearly impossible to create a shoe if I wasn’t a shoe industry professional, but after breaking the barriers between myself and a new industry, I am confident that I can do it again and again. This aligns perfectly with the vision of the Peculiar PPL brand, which is “To make High-Quality, Peculiar Goods for High-Quality, Peculiar PPL” Because of this, I will continue to match the best quality goods with a great customer experience in order to keep making steps (pun intended) towards a well-rounded product line of essential, Peculiar Goods for life!

Peculiar Steps

This shoe is the beginning of something great and I’m enjoying the journey!


Big Peculiar Updates

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.

Business Structure
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!

Shipping
Shipping Boxes
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.

Shipping Method
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.

Packaging
Product Packaging

Meat

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!

Peculiar PPL Shirts

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.

Surprises
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.

Products
T-Shirts
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.

Dress Shirts
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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!

Stationary
Peculiar PPL Notebooks

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.

Website
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.

Overall
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!


Work in Progress

Peculiar!

When designing t-shirts, it becomes nerve-wracking when you realize that your design will live forever on hundreds of t-shirts.


Overanalysis Leads to Paralysis

Every success that I’ve achieved has been fueled by many learning experiences and shortcomings. One of my most recent learning experiences was a company that I started building in June 2010 called Geremy’s Foods. The company started with a fleeting thought and started to manifest into a full-fledged company after I performed more research and realized a market need. When I noticed the company’s potential I charged full speed ahead!

Geremy's Foods

I immediately decided to dedicate all of my money and resources towards bringing this idea to reality. I started a search for the best packaging designer and I found an immensely talented person to work on the project. Then I commissioned the work of my favorite graphic designer to develop the company’s identity and business cards. I also had my assistant working around the clock researching supplies, materials, FDA guidelines, local and national laws and other relevant information. While this was in-progress, I simultaneously worked on a business plan, organized to get business licenses, ordered materials, researched everything about the food industry, keept an eye on potential competitors, sought people to join my team and looked for new products and line extensions to expand my existing product lineup. Eventually all of this analysis lead to paralysis when minor barriers seemed insurmountable to me. I’d analyzed so much that I talked myself out of going into business before launching the first product.

After I ceased all work on Geremy’s Foods, I had a lot of free time on my hands so I started reading and came upon some important, relevant quotes from thought leaders:

  • “Well done is better than well said” –Benjamin Franklin
  • “Be miserable or motivate yourself. Whatever has to be done, it’s always your choice” –Wayne Dyer
  • “Ninety-nine percent of failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.” –George W. Carver
  • “Sometimes the window of opportunity is only available briefly. Waiting is not a decision” –John C. Maxwell
  • “Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.” –Winston Churchill
  • “You don’t have to be great to start, but you must start to be great” –Zig Ziglar

Geremy's Foods

I took this knowledge and became motivated to use the lessons that I learned to start again. I used a lot of my learnings from Geremy’s Foods to start Peculiar PPL and am very pleased with the outcome. Even better, I haven’t even started 1% of what will be achieved with this company. I am having fun learning and it is all thanks to my temporarily dead project, Geremy’s Foods, and the thousands of dollars that I spent to learn these valuable lessons!


Peculiar Bands

I now have a colorful medley of these rubberbands on steroids in my possession. One free band has been included with each Peculiar PPL T-Shirt order that has been shipped thus far. When Peculiar PPL moves into its own corporate headquarters in New York City a few years from now, these pictures will be hanging in the lobby:

IMG_9546

IMG_9550


More Shirts on the Way Out!

More Shirts on the Way Out!

Running PeculiarPPL.com is quite the surreal experience. I began shipping the t-shirt orders yesterday and since then I have been preparing additional shipments to go out. I would like to thank everyone who purchased a shirt thus far and everyone who silently supports the brand. This all started with a fleeting thought and it is very fun to see it manifest into actual products. I feel obligated to make this a special, peculiar experience for all customers, so I put a little extra effort into each package. This will be a very exciting journey!

** Special thanks to my family for tolerating the tons of shipping boxes that are currently infesting my space! **


A Peculiar Update!

Since the launch of the PeculiarPPL.com website on March 19th, I’ve been fervently working to build the best possible clothing brand. I did not have any prior experience with building an e-commerce site or a clothing company, so I had to do a tremendous amount of research to bring myself up-to-speed! This meant that I’ve had long days and short nights, but when I reflect on the progress that has been achieved, it’s all worth it!

Here is a sampling the milestones accomplished thus far:

  • Tested and finalized our unique t-shirt packaging
  • Designed individual t-shirt hangtags
  • Tested the quality and resilience of different t-shirts and made a final product selection
  • Registered the company with the Federal Trade Commission
  • Finalized the pipeline of product designs for the next three months
  • Registered a company mailing address for shipping/receiving of goods
  • Selected a high-quality screen printing shop and submitted the first t-shirt order
  • Started social networking initiatives on Twitter, Facebook and Flickr (updates coming soon)
  • Ordered custom wristbands to be included with every t-shirt order
  • Exceeded pre-order estimates with no formal marketing initiative

In building this brand, I wanted to make sure that I didn’t sacrifice quality in the interest of boosting profits, so when there’s a question of quality vs cost, quality always wins. For instance, the final t-shirt I selected was the most expensive option out of the 20 types considered because it was significantly better than the competition. In addition, I didn’t limit the number of colors in the design in an attempt to reduce screen printing costs. This meant that the profit margin was reduced, but I care more about building a high-quality brand rather than settling for average or “good enough”.

As of today, I am very happy with the result of the first month of Peculiar PPL. I will be shipping the shirts beginning next week and I’ve got many new ideas that I can’t wait to implement. The blog, Twitter and Facebook will be updated soon with ongoing status updates of new developments. In the meantime, feel free to buy a shirt and be Peculiar!


Be Remarkable!

I came across this Ted.com talk where Seth Goldin highlighted some very important points about the importance of being remarkable. This is a great explanation of what I am doing with PeculiarPPL.com ! Be remarkable!


Yearn to Learn!

When I graduated from college I believed that I learned everything that needed to be learned in the business field. I had a business management degree, an amazing job in a management role and a bright future ahead of me, so I felt that I won in the game of life. Beyond this, I felt that I was an absolute genius and that people could get smarter through osmosis if they only stood next to me. I was so motivated that I wanted to teach everyone everything that I knew and I believed that I was incredibly qualified to do so. This feeling was further reinforced by the fact that I began to receive offers to speak to college students on topics ranging from entrepreneurship to “life after graduation”. I was on top of the world and it was great, but then I had a shockingly humbling experience when I realized that I had not even tapped into .01% of knowledge that’s available in this world! Shucks!

When I stepped out of learning mode and transitioned into teaching mode, I severely limited my future potential by refusing to grow beyond being a naive “bright-eyed, bushy-tailed” college undergrad. After coming to this realization, I sought to immediately fix things by going back learning mode. This was a very tough challenge for the self-proclaimed genius. Eventually, I learned that instead of instructing people what they should do, I should share my learning experiences so that we can all learn together. I’ve started reading books from great authors like John Maxwell so that I could expand the capacity of knowledge contained in my abnormally large brain which is in my abnormally large head. I decided to learn at least one new thing each week so that I could always be intellectually stimulated by something new. All of these things were for the sole purpose of fixing the serious illness that plagued me for years– KnowItAll!

Instead of forcefully teaching others from the Gerey Textbook of rights and wrongs, I’ve learned that often times people would benefit from “collaborative learning,” where everyone learns from each other’s successes and failures. In doing so, people will make a lot less mistakes and accomplish far greater things in this world. I will be further reinforcing this initiative by using Geremology.com as a vehicle to communicate my learnings so we can all be geniuses. To the humble viewer of this website, feel free to always use the commenting function to share your own thoughts and viewpoints so we all can learn together (which was exhibited in this entry). Let’s all learn together so we can use failures and successes to refine us, not define us!