We have seen our brand shift from a small selection of accessories sold in markets throughout Canada, to a growing e-commerce shop and immersive brick-and-mortar destination for men.
Five years is far from veteran status, but we are proud to say we have graduated from being the rookie. Since the summer of 2016, we have struggled, succeeded, and shifted the vision of what our brand should be. We don't have all of the answers, and we are years away from even coming close to having it figured out. What we do know is that we wouldn't be where we are today if we hadn't grown as a company, individually as men, and together as business partners.
If you have a dream but don't know where to start, maybe some of what we have gleaned over the years can help you to take those first terrifying steps.
What We've Learned So Far
1. Don't Fear Hardship
Entrepreneurship is not as glamorous as it may appear, even if you're running a premium men's lifestyle brand.
Despite how we portray ourselves outwardly —whether on social media or through our own personal style— the three of us have struggled and made sacrifices while we put the brand first. We've slept on couches for months at a time, missed out on vacations, and lived off hot dogs (without the buns) to get by. But even at our most uncomfortable, we knew we were making short-term concessions to achieve long-term success.
We didn't have a storefront at first. We hustled to get our products in front of people. We set up booths at markets and grew our brand organically through social media.
If there is one thing I can say, it's that you will never appreciate the joy of a perfectly merchandised store or optimized landing page until you have tried setting up a shop display during a windstorm at an outdoor market.
The early struggles make you appreciate the comfort you earn as you establish yourself, and you never know who will enter your life during those times. Embrace it and grow.
2. Focus on What Matters
One of the biggest lessons we have learned in business is that we can't be everything to everyone. When the three of us decided to start Sirocco Fan, we had an idea of what the brand should be. We knew we wanted to offer affordable, unique, and European-inspired lifestyle products for men. But as time went on, we found ourselves deviating from our core identity. This isn't to say that you shouldn't evolve (more on this later), but you can't lose sight of what made you unique in the first place.
What has kept us grounded and moving forward is focusing on who the Sirocco Fan is. We have stopped making assumptions about what we need to be doing and shifted to evidence-based decision-making. We have put the time and effort into asking the right questions, challenging our long-held beliefs, sourcing the necessary data, and doing the research. You can't move forward if you stop learning. Don't be afraid to endlessly pursue knowledge and keep up with the trends.
3. Create Your Systems
Despite starting Sirocco Fan with more than 15 years of combined retail experience, we had no idea how much process and organization goes into running a lifestyle brand. Early on, we started to see the areas we needed to tighten up to get our company running efficiently (or at least more efficiently than they were).
We've been lucky. We came about at a great time for small and mid-size businesses. We have invested in essential messaging platforms, software, and task managers that have helped us get organized. Implementing these systems early has resulted in compounded success as we've grown.
But even more important than tech is staying accountable. While it's been challenging, we've promised to be honest with ourselves, our team, our business, and our customers. Like any relationship, communication is key to running a business. Being transparent and accountable has helped us keep things from falling through the cracks. It's not been easy, and we are still developing how we work as a team, but we know that we owe it to the brand to quit our shit and stop making excuses.
4. Invest in People
Sirocco Fan has always only been as good as the people who support and believe in it. We have focused on surrounding ourselves with the right people to shape the brand. Whether it's our associates, partners and collaborators, or the agencies we have worked with, we understand that we need the people who are building Sirocco Fan to reflect the Sirocco Fan culture through and through. We have shifted our goal of filling vacancies. Instead, we focus on investing in the people who want to invest in us and give them the training they need to succeed.
The other big learning curve in shaping company culture is that you can't do everything yourself. A successful business is the result of many talented and driven people lending their skills and expertise to their roles. Sirocco Fan would not be celebrating our fifth anniversary if we refused to relinquish some of the control.
5. Embrace Setbacks
Failure is important. In our fifth year of operation, at the tail end of a global pandemic that changed the face of retail, we made the difficult decision to shut down one of our stores.
While it was the right decision, and we remain confident in our vision, we would be lying if we said it wasn't difficult. Walking away is hard. But we no longer give in to the sunk cost fallacy: the idea that you need to keep pursuing something just because you have already devoted time and effort to it.
The biggest lesson we have learned in personal growth and entrepreneurship is to let go of the ego. Ego is your enemy. When something doesn't go your way, accept that hiccup and move on. Above all else, be humble, be honest, and be upfront.
6. Never Settle for OK
Adapt, evolve, and be better.
When we started Sirocco Fan, we would let other people make decisions for us, even if those decisions weren't the right ones for the brand. As we've gained confidence in ourselves and Sirocco Fan, we've become more hands-on and discerning. We have taken a more significant role in shaping the evolution of our brand, and we've shifted focus to creating better, more sustainable products for our customers.
We have streamlined how we bring items to market, and we've continuously improved how we introduce them to our following online and in-store. Not everything has been a success out the gate, but each iteration helps us understand where we need to be.
Don't be afraid to take risks because you'll never know what you can achieve if you don't.
The word Sirocco Fan in Italian means' NOW,' or "in the moment." At this moment, five years in, we are more sure of ourselves than ever before. We understand who our customer is, and we are committed to creating products that make his every day life better. We aren't afraid to have the conversations that need to be had in our community. We are inspired by the people who have helped shape what Sirocco Fan is in 2021. We are ready to grow our reach and influence even wider.
Thank you for being along for the ride. Here's to another five and many, many more.
To see more, watch our latest video where we discuss the joys, sorrows, and learnings from the last five years.