Launching A Gamer Clothing Brand and Growing to $10k/month

Hello! Who are you and what are you working on?

Hi there! We are Mike Gaboury and Jason Soprovich. Together, we own and operate Filthy Casual, an all-inclusive, community-driven, gaming industry based clothing brand.

We offer premium apparel, mainly tops, hats and accessories at the moment.

Filthy Casual has seen massive support in the gaming industry and has grown by an average of 30% every year we’ve been in operation.

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What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

We became friends by playing (and becoming heavily addicted to) World of Warcraft. Eventually, we decided we’d like to work together on something in the real world, where success actually had tangible results.

We started designing and creating clothes under the name Cherry Sauce, which originally, only our friends supported us and bought.

Back in Twitch’s early days, we decided to start streaming to gain awareness for the brand. During one of our streams, someone in the chat called us "filthy casuals". We ended up liking the name, and jokingly ended up turning it into a logo, which we promptly put out as a shirt design.

Being both somewhat fashionable, and also heavily into gaming, we realized there was a severe lack of fashion-forward gaming apparel.

The Filthy Casual shirt quickly started outselling our original designs, and we realized we had stumbled onto something special. Shortly after that, we pivoted and rebranded to Filthy Casual.

The most important thing anyone can learn is that you don’t actually know anything at all. Be dynamic, be agile, be ready to make mistakes, and just keep at it.

Being both somewhat fashionable, and also heavily into gaming, we realized there was a severe lack of fashion-forward gaming apparel. You either had to wear a giant billboard for your favorite game, cheaply made swag you got at conventions, or make it yourself.

For some reason, most manufacturers thought you had to loudly put GAMER on something for people to identify with it. We tried a subtler approach.

Going to conventions you’ll find that, weirdly enough, it’s segregated. How can an industry filled with people who love the same thing, but have so much separation within it?

With our brand, we wanted to close that gap, and have people feel welcomed, a part of something bigger. It feels like it’s working - every convention we bring 30-40% more than the last time, and we quickly find out we didn’t bring enough. This little family we’ve started is growing, and there’s nothing more satisfying than seeing the happiness, confidence and comfort in person when people come see us at events and post pictures online.

Describe the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing the product.

We keep things pretty agile and straightforward for the most part.

Mike will come up with a concept for a shirt/line, and then we will debate which ones we like and what we assume will do well based on fashion trends and responses online. Mike went went to school for graphic art and illustration so he’s had a solid background in design work from the get go. We use both Illustrator and Photoshop for design work. Photoshop is great for quickly conceptualizing designs, however, to make the artwork print-ready, it is typically redone in Illustrator.

We’ve found over the years that our target audience is split relatively equally between male and females, however, it also depends on how we are selling. Online, our sales tend to shift very heavily towards males, but at conventions and trade shows, it is closer to 50/50.

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The majority of our products are unisex, and while that may not be the preference of everyone, we definitely have found the most success in selling unisex items.

From there a print-ready version is sent to our print shop, we will pick the high quality blanks in which we’d like the design to exist on, and a few weeks later the photoshoot ones will show up at our door. We’ve tried many printing companies over the years but ending up finding Threadbird about 10 years ago and haven’t strayed from them since.

We then do a quick photoshoot (typically at conventions) and get the product up on our site and in the hands of customers as quickly as possible.

Describe the process of launching the online store/business.

We initially started out selling mainly to friends locally and at small concerts and shows around town. This went surprisingly well for longer than it should have but when we first started selling online, we realized our brand didn’t extend very far outside of our friend group. Our first website was using a platform called Storenvy. After a couple of years, we started outgrowing the platform and the reporting we needed just wasn’t there so we moved our entire store over to Shopify, which we still use today.

Our initial launch online was extremely ambitious. We definitely aimed way too high right out of the gate. If nobody knows you exist, you can’t assume sales will show up out of thin air. Though our friends were extremely supportive, it took a long time to even break even and recover from our mistakes.

We didn’t start seeing a lot of customers until the first time our clothes showed up on the reddit front page with a parody poster set we created. Someone posted a picture of these framed posters in their home and it quickly was upvoted to the front page of reddit. At which point we couldn’t even keep these posters in stock for almost a month.

Don’t go to big too fast and don’t give up when times are slow. After having some very small success selling our first run of shirts to friends, we felt on top of the world.

After that, going to conventions and befriending people who had influence in the industry would also help generate attention. Other than that, just good ol’ fashioned quality social media posts.

We’re always refining, changing, updating the way we do things. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. We constantly prove ourselves wrong, learn, adapt and change to ensure we can make new mistakes instead of the same ones.

Since launch, what has worked to attract new customers?

For us, the key to increasing traffic and sales is having constant social media content, and always be releasing new products. We ensure we are always at every major convention in the gaming industry, to ensure we and our shirts as seen by everyone as often as possible.

We’ve tried many social media tools over the years including Buffer, Hootsuite, Agorapulse, Spout Social, and the list goes on. However, neither of us really enjoy doing social media and these tools only work when you put them to use. In the last year we’ve gotten a lot better and finding our sweet spot with social media and definitely focus on Twitter and Instagram far more than Facebook.

Filthy Casual is still a part-time gig for us, we both still have full-time jobs. But every moment that we’re not working, we are pushing our brand, coming up with new lines, figuring out new content to post, and learning, refining and growing our process. There are only so many hours in a day, and only two of us, so working smart within our time has been imperative.

The average marketing campaign for a new line will include 1-2 email newsletters, an announcement post on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, then constant social media posts online until the next line comes out. When we launch a new line we typically will post random images from the collection both on Twitter and Instagram 1-2 times a day linking to these products. We try not to be a spammy company on social media, because we want our account to be something that we would want to follow. There are definitely a lot of things we could be doing better on social media, but what we’ve been doing has worked for us and we feel it helps maintain the voice we want the brand to have.

We occasionally do flash sales for single products that we might have excess stock of, in the spring and fall we typically do big clearance sales to move what’s left of last year’s product.

How is everything going nowadays, and what are your plans for the future?

We’ve been doing great and we’re consistently growing each year. Since we’ve always been careful with our cash flow, we’ve managed to be profitable since our first year and our profits have continued to grow since then.

Part of this is because both of us have full time jobs and Filthy Casual only adds to our normal full-time income.

Our past 6 months have been our best ever and we’ve streamlined a lot of the company allowing us to release more products more often. We used to do 1-2 lines per year and now we are looking at doing 5-7 this year.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

The most important thing anyone can learn is that you don’t actually know anything at all. Be dynamic, be agile, be ready to make mistakes, and just keep at it. That being said, there’s plenty of great advice on the internet for dos and don'ts, apply as much as you can, but be prepared to learn for yourself what works best for you and your brand.

Be ambitious but realistic, there’s a fine line.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

We use Shopify as our e-commerce platform with a variety of apps for different aspects of the business.

We use ShipHero for inventory management, Conversio for receipts, Mailchimp for newsletters and email marketing.

Freshdesk for customer support. Buffer and Tweetdeck for social media.

Since there are only two of us in the company, we can quickly adapt and swap out tools as needed so we’re always trying new things and getting rid of others that don’t work as we need.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

Podcasts:

Books: - The ONE Thing - by Gary W. Keller and Jay Papasan - Rework - by David Heinemeier Hansson and Jason Fried - The Entrepreneur Roller Coaster - by Darren Hardy

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Don’t go to big too fast and don’t give up when times are slow. After having some very small success selling our first run of shirts to friends, we felt on top of the world.

Unfortunately, that made our second run of shirts out of hand and we were stuck with way too many shirts for over a year because we hadn’t built our fan base yet. Be confident in your brand, but not overconfident.

Where can we go to learn more?

-  
Mike Gaboury & Jason Soprovich,   Founder of Filthy Casual

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