Chicago Starters Learn Lessons, Look Good at Stock Manufacturing Co.

February 4, 2013

3:00 pm

The realization that a startup just isn’t working is a tough one.  Startup blogs far and wide claim that sticking to it and persevering through adversity are key ingredients to success.  And while that is certainly true, sometimes it just isn’t working.

That’s what Jim Snediker and Jason Morgan faced when they decided to step back from their first fashion-related venture, Left of Trend, a social-shopping site that offered short-term sales on cool, new apparel and accessories from lesser known designers.  Jim and Jason shut down Left of Trend to attack their new project, Stock Manufacturing Co., but not without first learning some invaluable lessons:

  1. Tech Counts.  Jim and Jason had a clear vision for what Left of Trend could become, but without technical skills they needed help designing and building the right platform.  Unfortunately, they learned that without a technical partner or cofounder, it’s nearly impossible to build a robust website on the cheap.
  2. Committed Users.  Jim and Jason knew that the essential ingredient to a successful social startup was user base.  Building it was more difficult than they imagined.  They found success employing a variety of methods but also learned what not to do, including one-off prizes or gimmicks that quickly increased followers and likes, but failed to hook seriously engaged users.
  3. Time to Pivot.  Jim and Jason poured their collective heart and soul into Left of Trend.  Eighteen months and a re-launch later, they both realized that it just wasn’t going to work.  Once they decided to pivot, they stayed in fashion and what followed became their current venture, Stock Manufacturing Co.

Stock Manufacturing Co. is the brainchild of two groups: Jim and Jason; and Areill Ives, Matt Morarity, and Tim Tierney.

The two groups met when Jim and Jason were investigating a new business model.  They were looking for Chicago companies with the ability and willingness to manufacture small runs of clothing.  Areill and his team had the physical plant and practical manufacturing experience.  Jim and Jason had the branding, sales, and marketing expertise.  It was a great match, and the two groups went from discussing a basic supplier relationship, to bonding over tacos and beer, to becoming cofounders.

The name of the company harkens back to the days of the Union Stockyards in Chicago when the city was the center of American meatpacking.  The name is especially appropriate since one focus of the company is to help establish Chicago as a fashion town.

Stock Manufacturing Co. will have two lines of business.  First, it will support up-and-coming fashion designers by featuring new designs on its website.  Users of the site will have the ability to participate in pre-sales of submitted designs, and if there is enough interest, Stock will work with the designer to manufacture and sell the design.   On the other side of its business, Stock will design and sell its own fashions direct from manufacturer.  Stock will market to those who are interested in buying stylish, high-quality fashions designed and constructed in Chicago.

The pivot is tough.  The walk-away is even tougher.  But Stock Manufacturing Co. is proving that starters can come out looking great on the other side.

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Clint Costa is an attorney and CPA with the Chicago law firm of Harrison & Held, LLP, working with startups, entrepreneurs, and privately held companies on all manner of official-sounding legal and tax matters. Reach Clint at [email protected] or (312) 803-7104.

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