The term “MVP” is often tossed around with a trophy and a platonic slap on the caboose in the sporting world. But when it comes to the product and clothing world, your MVP is not your clothing company’s “most valuable player,” but is instead, your “minimum viable product.” So, what does that mean exactly?
There are tons of different ways to explain what a minimum viable product actually is:
- Techopedia: A minimum viable product (MVP) is a development technique in which a new product or website is developed with sufficient features to satisfy early adopters.
- Lean Stack: The prime directive of an MVP is first and foremost racing to deliver on customer value.
- Forbes: An MVP product is a product with only a basic set of features; enough to capture the attention of early adopters and make your solution unique.
If you’re still scratching your head after reading those definitions, let’s break it down. When it comes to pushing out a minimum viable product, your MVP is the most basic version of a new product. Once this MVP version is produced and in the hands of your audience, you will receive feedback that will allow you to take your MVP and enhance it to fulfill the needs of your consumers and satisfy the more advanced ideas your brain has been working on.
While minimum viable products are most predominantly associated with apps, products, or websites in the tech industry, you can also apply this idea of MVPs in a retail clothing company.
If you own a clothing brand, pushing out your MVP means starting simple. While you might have an elaborate design in your head that incorporates 13 vibrant colors and has designs on the front, back, and sleeves, starting with an MVP means creating something more minimal to start.
If you feel a twinge of disappointment because you think starting off with something basic is, well, basic, don’t worry. Although your first designs might not elicit the enthusiastic response you’d like, we promise starting with an MVP will save you time and money — and will give you more room to grow in the future.
Before we continue, let’s clarify something. Even though your minimum viable product might not be as lavish as you want it to be, this does not mean your MVP has to be substandard. It still has your name and company’s reputation attached to it, after all. The goal of the MVP is not to slap a half-baked idea onto a shirt and get it out the door. It’s simply to start small and work your way up from there.
Ways to push out your clothing company’s MVP
Start with your logo
Unless you’re Kanye West, people aren’t going to know who you and your clothing company are. Instead of spending hours crafting an original design or spending money paying designers to create artwork, remember your clothing brand’s MVP can be as modest as printing your logo on a T-shirt.
While it might not have a jaw-dropping “wow” factor, starting with something minimal makes your clothing easier to wear. Begin with a small print run with your company’s name or your logo to get people familiar with your brand, and up the ante after that.
Lower your goal
This sounds discouraging, doesn’t it? Everyone tells you to dream big and go after your goals no matter how far-fetched they might be. But sometimes, you need to be realistic regarding your timeline and budget.
As the owner of a new clothing company, I had a mountain of ideas for T-shirt designs. Initially, I started with hand-painted flannel shirts. My launch goal was to have 10 diverse shirts with 10 original sayings so each shirt was one-of-a-kind. While I managed to construct two or three solid sayings, I must have brainstormed for months trying to come up with seven or eight more phrases that weren’t trademarked or quite frankly, weren’t stupid.
After getting excruciatingly frustrated with myself, I lowered my goals. Instead of having 10 completely different sayings, I would focus on three phrases and paint those onto three different shirts each, making a total of nine shirts in my first collection. And once I allowed myself to push out a smaller MVP collection, it made everything significantly easier, and I had my store and my collection up and running in a month or two.
Decrease your quantity
If you’re screenprinting your shirts, lower the quantity of prints for your first run. Yes, you do get a lower per-shirt price if you print more T-shirts in one run, but in order to print more shirts, you also need to lay down more money.
You might love the new design you created, but unfortunately, you can’t fully predict how your consumers will react. This is why printing in small quantities will save you money (and a lot of heartache) in the long-run. If you print two to three shirts for each size and you sell out, awesome! You can re-order after that. If you don’t sell any shirts, at least you didn’t shell out too much money—and going forward, you know that design doesn’t resonate with your retail audience.
Stick to a simple color scheme
When you are pushing out your clothing brand’s MVP, minimize the amount of colors in your design (and consider using just one). The more colors you use, the more costly it will be to produce. If you opt to print your logo as your MVP, choose one ink color in your first run. My printing company doesn’t increase the price if I’m printing on three different colored shirts, but they do charge every time they need to change the color of ink. So, if you want options, choose one color ink, but multiple colored shirts.
Pro tip: Printing dark ink on a light-colored shirt can save you money because you only need one layer of ink. When you do the reverse, you might need to pay for an an extra layer so the dark shirt doesn’t show through.
Allow yourself to breathe
Pushing out your clothing company’s MVP doesn’t have to be limiting. In fact, if you are a perfectionist like me, starting with your minimum viable product can be liberating. It takes less time and money, and you can propel your idea from concept to physical product in a shorter amount of time. Once your MVP is printed and out in the world, get honest feedback from those around you, and use your new intel to improve your products for your retail audience in the future.