How to start an activewear brand on a limited budget with Entrepreneur Toyin Omisore from Roam Loud

Joining me today is Toyin Omisore from Roam Loud.

Roam Loud is a premium brand of activewear and athleisure apparel. Toyin is a Liberian-Nigerian American, born and raised in Rhode Island and was inspired to create this brand for two reasons; wanting to unapologetically create a lifestyle where brown skin is at the forefront and not an afterthought. And for Cynthia Grey, her maternal grandmother and second source of inspiration who’s personality and legacy embodied the essence of roaming loud in the world.

In this ep we’re covering how she launched the business while working her 9-5 and investing all the money she could directly into the brand, the key moments of growth and the pros and cons to being part of popups.

Please note, this transcript has been copy pasted without the lovely touch of a human editor. Please expect some typos!

So I am Toyin and I am the wandering chief of Roam Loud. Roam Loud is an active wear an athleisure brand that I launched in March of 2020 and we have to uh core values.

00:04:55Edit One is that we encourage women to navigate the world boldly and our second value is that we truly are trying to create a lifestyle where brown skin is at the forefront and not just an afterthought, Amazing, so incredible. I want to go back to the very beginning, you know, pre March 2020 where does your entrepreneurial story actually start? What was the lightbulb moment? When did you think I'm going to build my own business? Um so I always like to let everyone know that This story, this journey started 10 years ago. Um I have always experimented in the entrepreneur world. Um I've had a lot of highs and lows, twists and turns and it didn't always hit the way it should have um which always led me to, you know, stop a business idea, you know, pivot to something else, But fast forward the 10 years of trial and error, I'm here. Uh and this was Probably, maybe I'll say a year before 2020, so 2019 is when I kind of had this itch again that I really want to start, you know, another business, but I didn't know what I wanted to do.

00:06:04 I just so happened to be working out again um and before, while I was going to the gym, I started feeling like, hey, you know, I want to know Activewear and so I got my hands on some new pieces and the first day back to the gym, putting on my new leggings and my sports bra. It just kind of ignited this feeling like I just felt confident, I was ready to take on the work out that I had ahead and it was in that moment I was in I think I was in the locker room after my workout session and then that's when that light bulb came on where I was like, this is what I want to do. Like I want this same feeling that I get inside, I want other women to experience that when they're going to the gym and that's when the idea started floating around in my mind, okay, I'm going to do Active Where, but I want to do Active where and at leisure because you know, we all have errands, we have a life to live, you know, and sometimes you want to wear something comfortable and that's how it like first started, totally comfy bit cute. It's funny that you say, you know, you were just in the gym and you have this kind of like profound moment, I think it's so weird that you have this thing that just comes into your head and all of a sudden you're like, oh my God, that's it.

00:07:16 And you have this fleeting thought that you can either actually continue to think about or you can move on from and forget about it, whatever, but it's this weird moment of being like, no, this is actually it and I'm going to pursue thinking and I'm going to start taking some small steps and some small actions to get the ball rolling. It's funny. Yeah, I think it is, I mean, you know, often times I think that as humans, we miss like those, those callings, those messages that we get. Um but I feel it for me when I have those ideas when I have that, you know, small, even if it's as tiny as a mustard seed, if it lays in my head and it compels me to think about it, you know, especially if that idea comes more than once or if if it does something to my spirit for me it's always been, I have to at least try at least try it out if it doesn't work, that's fine, but I can sleep better at night knowing that I at least tried, but then I just let it go and like, you know, I'm not built for this, you know? Yeah, I totally agree.

00:08:18 Lol that you say as small as a mustard seed, I'm gonna use that from now on. I love that. Okay, so you're in the gym, you have this moment, you start thinking what happens next, when is it kind of like I'm actually going to start taking that action and do something about this. Um so for me, because of the fact that I've built businesses before, the typical things that people do, like how to start a business, um how to register your business, those things I didn't have to think about because I already knew how to do it. I've been there. I've done that. This venture was different from anything in the past because it's a product based business. It's Activewear and I've never sold active wear and I didn't do products. And so I was kind of thinking, I had to google like where does one start? Like how do you actually make this happen? And it literally was from the basic question of how to start an active wear company. Um, and not only, you know, google page number one, but google page number 67. Activewear companies, manufacturers, all those little things of like what I should be looking for and how it works.

00:09:25 You know, there's tons of information on Youtube about active, where companies that are like, hey, you know, this is what we do, we've been doing it for a decade, this is how we do it. And at that point I was just learning and absorbing as much as I could and then, you know, once I did that and started realizing, okay to make this happen, I'm going to need a manufacturer is when then I started looking at where do all these manufacturers exist? What do price points look like? And then that's where like the building and the digging started happening. Oh my gosh, it's amazing. I love how you say, you know, you're on page six or seven, I don't think I've gone to page six or seven on google for a really long time, but I should dig those extra pages up. Yes, there's small gems expand my search. Yes, absolutely. When you were doing that google search, was there anything that stood out to you that, you know, you didn't really realize or that was unexpected? Um I mean, I didn't know what to expect to be honest with you. As I say, this was new territory, so everything was new to me.

00:10:29 I think I was just kind of like in a space where I was just open to seeing what happens. It was so new and I, there was so many things, I didn't know that it was hard to have any expectations. And so I kind of just went in, you know, and I was just like, I'm just going to learn this, I don't know what I'm supposed to be learning exactly, I don't know the dues and don't what I'm going to figure this out. Um and that's literally what it was, was just me, just figuring it out as I went, right? So when you look back at that early time of you trying to figure out the steps in hindsight, if you were telling someone who wants to build an Activewear brand or who wants to start in this kind of industry, what are the things that they need to do to get the brand off the ground. I would tell them that there's so many ways that you could do this, you could simply register your business and you can wholesale and you can buy active where that other brands have created and then just sell it. I mean there's a lot of successful companies that do that or just sell product and you know, someone else has made it, their, you know, their tags are still on it and that's fine.

00:11:33 I mean you could also, I would tell them you could also design your pieces, but that requires a lot more work. Um you know, you'll have to hire a tech pack designer. Um you have to have some type of concept in mind, you know, even if it's pictures or anything, something that you're able to communicate to the designer, this is what I want and then you'll have to also think about fabrics and that you're going that's a whole different world. If you're not familiar with, you know, fabrics and things like that were, you could private label and you can select blank pieces and brand those blank pieces. So there's a lot of avenues to choose from um and it's just what works for you and what works for your budget as well because product based businesses, they're not cheap. It's expensive, even if you're buying blank samples, you know, you can't just buy any blank sample and sell it, you want to sell something of quality. So I think it just really depends on your budget what you wanna do, you can always shift it, you can always start one direction, you know and then switch gears. So you have avenues, I'll say that much and it just depends on your budget and how you want to do it and which avenue were you taking?

00:12:36 What was the direction that you were wanting to build a brand from? So in a perfect world, I wanted to design all my pieces um and and start off that way, but going into an industry that I was unfamiliar with, I needed to know what I was in for first and so we are selling pieces that are pre made but the beauty with some of the manufacturers that I work with is that I'm able to take the pieces that are made and I'm able to add my touch or I'm able to change it, change materials. I can basically customize it to how I wanted. Um and so that's how I started off, but now I'm in a direction and I'm very, very excited because I think in like two months I'll have the entire collection, but I'm also designing my pieces as well. And so I hired a tech back designer, I told her what I was looking for, she put everything together. Then I have several manufacturers that I do work with and so I've been working with each of them too. This is what I'm looking for and so I have a few designs that are going to be coming out better exclusively.

00:13:39 You will be able to find it at Rome Love. Um, so I was balancing both at the same time. That's so exciting. Congratulations. Can't wait to see. Thank you. How do you find a tech pack designer and what do you need to look for when you're going down that hiring process? I feel like my tech pack designer found me through instagram, um, which is surprising. And so that's why it's kind of hard for me to say because I think she followed me and I wasn't even thinking about it at the time, you know, I knew something that I was going to need, but it just At that moment in time when she followed me, I just wasn't really thinking about it. Um, but I looked at her work and it was amazing. It was um, she was doing a lot of 3D designs and I didn't reach out because once again, I knew that the time wasn't now. And so I think it was probably six months after I was just watching her work, seeing, you know, the people that she had worked with and then I finally said like, okay, let me reach out to this woman and and and see where we can go from there. Um, and then that's how the relationship grew, but that is probably one lane that I feel like it's tricky for me too give advice on because I feel like I didn't even do enough research, you know, this one woman reached out to me, I loved how her work look and I liked how detailed it was and so I went with that, but I will say um I know that a lot of people go on fiber to get work done.

00:15:02 I did go to fiber at one point um to find a tech pack designer and the work just, it didn't cut it for me. Um when I saw her visuals and then when I saw some of the people on fiber that I could have reached out to, I was just like they don't even seem to compare. And so I guess in some ways I, I compared, I compared her work and I compared it to other designers and then her resume and who she's worked with as well for me was like, okay if this big company is hiring her, you know, clearly she possesses the skill set, you know, that would be fitting for me. Um so that's how that worked out. I think it's funny how in business oftentimes there are just so many moments of serendipity that lead you down this direction on this path and like you said, you met her and you didn't really need to go out and look for a million other options and research and all this kind of thing. You are able to trust your intuition and be like, you know what, this is the vibe, This is the vibe for me, I'm going to go with her. I've actually had so many of those experiences myself where it's been like the first one that came along was the best.

00:16:06 Like, I don't need to waste time keeping on going like for right now, this is great. Yeah, I mean, if it feels right, you know, I feel like it's it's important to trust that, you know, and move forward and what I'm learning is it doesn't always work out. Um and that's okay. You will figure it out that moment or that incident or experience that doesn't work out the way you want it to trust and believe that there is something that you're going to be able to take away from that and say like, okay, we're not doing that again, or okay, I'm going to do something else, you know what I mean? So, I think it's just yeah, it's a it's a learning experience. Yeah, absolutely. Something you touched on before that I want to go into a little bit deeper around budget and capital that's needed to get started. Are you able to share how much it cost you to get started in terms of developing the original kind of samples and making them your own and putting in your first order and getting the website and everything up and running and how you are able to finance the brand. Yeah, Okay, so I don't have, like, exact number. So I'm going to try to give ballparks.

00:17:10 Um, so I always like to preface this, but that I do work full time. I am, I am leaving my job at the end of june so I'm super excited but I did have a job to fall back on. I am not the entrepreneur that is able to jump and say like, hey, you know, let's see what happens. Um, so initially a lot of the things that I purchased were through my own paycheck. It was all self funded. Um, so initially if we're speaking about product, I spent a lot of money on samples from the manufacturers that I worked with, I was purchasing a lot of things that they already had. I would say I purchased maybe close to $900 worth of product and I worked out in it. I had family workout in it, you know, friends and I was just, hey, give me feedback. What are your thoughts on this? What are your thoughts on that? Um, and then they would let me know like, hey, you know, didn't love this. Didn't love that. Then I took notes of all of that. I like to always mention that there's so many samples that never make it to Rome Loud Web page. Um, because if we don't feel like it works for us, then most likely it's not going to work for the people buying our product.

00:18:19 So initial samples were about 900 now, present day the samples that I'm making are about and this is overseas also. So let me include that as well purchasing overseas. Meaning I live in the United States and I'm purchasing from Peru china Colombia brazil. My samples are ranging from 150 to $200 per cent. Now when I, if I'm purchasing in the United States, that number jumps drastically. I think um I was quoted about $800 for a sample, 800 to 8