How These Three Brothers Started A $1.5K/Month Watch Brand
Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
I’m Marcus, Co-Director of Bruder Watches Ltd, the youngest of three brothers from Bristol, United Kingdom. We pride ourselves on offering high-quality, timeless watches that don’t break the bank. Our company is in its infancy but we have already seen a fantastic appetite for our new range of timepieces called "Fortis". The range consists of five watch styles each designed to look great whatever the occasion. Our company was born at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, so as you can imagine, logistically, it wasn’t without its challenges getting to where we are today.
Nevertheless, the appetite of our customer base has been encouraging, we have seen a steady increase in sales with our target audience is the modern-day gentleman aged between 18-50.
Success in 2021 for Bruder is about continuing to grow our brand and engage with our customer base. We will expect to break even around August from our initial start-up cost of around $17,000.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
‘Another beer please sir’ I said to the waiter, as my two brothers and I sat and enjoyed a meal in a pizzeria in the center of Bristol. For years we had talked about opening up a business but we had never managed to find the inspiration that we needed. Maybe it was the beers that helped but on that warm summer's evening, we finally realized the common ground we all had - watches.
We are not the only people with a young family and a full-time job that start a business up on the side. But the truth is that maintaining the motivation after a long day is more than half the battle.
The conversation continued long into the night and with the excitement, we all felt, it was then that we knew we had found the inspiration we needed to move forward. Although we are very close as siblings, our skill sets are worlds apart. Luke, my eldest brother is a web developer, Nathan, the middle brother is an architect and I am a Sales Account Manager.
We are fortunate that Luke's profession means we were able to develop the bruderwatches.com website in-house, with the very little financial impact on the business. It goes without saying that the efforts of my eldest brother on the website were arguably the reason we all committed to the start-up. Without his abilities, financially we probably wouldn’t have been able to commit to launching the business at the time, particularly as both me and Nathan have young families that continuously drain our bank balances.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
The three of us had no real experience in watch design and manufacturing, so it was a steep learning curve from the outset as to the complexities we would face as a new start-up. We proceeded to spend the next six months liaising with manufacturing partners to create the watch we envisioned, trialing different samples along the way before mutually agreeing on the design (which is not easy when you have three brothers with differentiating views).
We wanted to create a range of watches that offered a classy feel with minimalistic style features, all for a fair price to the consumer. To do this we reached out to our friends, families, work colleagues & a selection of random members of the public to offer insight on 3 designs we had come up with, with the idea of using the feedback to move forward with the manufacturing process.
What we quickly learned is that watch wearers have very different views on what makes a timepiece desirable. Some like a metal strap, some leather, some like a large face, others a small face, some like dark features, others light features. The list of possibilities is endless, which eventually led to us concluding that we should design the watch that we love & have faith that our future customers will love it too!
What we are passionate about at Bruder Watches is ensuring that the product we are selling is manufactured with quality in mind. We had some decisions to make with regards to the materials that our watches were going to be made from. We decided very early on that we wanted all of our range to be manufactured without the use of Nickel, this would ensure that our watches are hypoallergenic, something we were insistent upon from the beginning.
We also had to decide on the material we would use for our straps, we felt that a genuine leather strap would complement our face design and really provide us with the product we envisioned. Our manufacturing partner was outstanding from beginning to end, they really took on board our vision and worked alongside us to bring to life the design we envisioned, something we are all very proud of.
At this stage, we were already six months into our journey in launching Bruder Watches, yet it really did feel like we had so much more to do. Once our order had been placed and the manufacturing process had begun, the real work for the three of us started. It's fair to say that we underestimated the amount of work we had to do to get to the launch stage.
We spent the next three months on video calls in the evenings four to five times a week and whilst juggling our full-time employment commitments. In that time we were working on creating content for the website, sourcing branded environmentally friendly watch boxes, arranging courier services for deliveries, writing blog posts, etc. At the end of the three months, we actually got to the stage where we were waiting for the finished product to arrive so we could begin to capture marketing content to finalize the site and begin our social media campaign.
There was this very strange time when it felt like we went from 100km/h down to 20km/h as we waited for our shipment. At this stage we really accelerated our research phase into social media marketing, sifting through countless documents, videos, podcasts all to increase our knowledge and hopefully our chances of success.
Once the watches arrived, the pace ramped back up. Within a week we were in the studio with a local top-rated photographer getting product shots that would be utilized on the website and across our social media pages This was a budgeted cost but something which we overspent on once we realized the benefits the high-quality shots would have on our products marketability. Once we received the content back from the photographer, within another week the website was at a stage where we were ready to release it to the public.
Describe the process of launching the business.
The launch date for Bruder watches was a momentous day for my brothers and me. A lot of hard work had gone into the build-up to get to that stage and the zoom call at the end of the day took on the form of a celebration rather than anything productive. The ‘Launch’ day itself was a soft opening, we released the website to the public and announced our social media platforms to let our small following know that we were now open for business.
It had always been our intention to have a very soft launch, to begin with, mainly because we had so much to learn (and still do) in the advertising realm. We used the first two/three weeks as a chance to populate our social media pages with content, interact with our audience and build our following organically.
It was very evident immediately after launch how difficult it is to be seen by potential customers. To begin with, we were spending small amounts of money on Facebook & Instagram adverts. We averaged between £10 to £20 per day to test the appropriateness of our adverts.
Unsurprisingly we didn’t see a single sale for the first two weeks using this method but all the time we were learning more and more about what worked (or did not work in our case). Our first month saw five sales, one was a family member, the others we had no connection to. We were thrilled to receive 5-star ratings from all of those initial customers on service and product quality. Naturally, we were quick to advertise this feedback on our social media to reassure our ever-growing following.
In a bid to continue the momentum, we followed up with a free giveaway of a watch to a lucky winner. The competition was simple, like our page, tag your friends and you will have a chance to win. This was a simple, yet very effective way to increase the traffic on our page and generated a lot of natural interaction. We saw a further two sales come in off the back of this after receiving private messages on our Facebook page. Small wins maybe, but our confidence was growing all the time!
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Since launch, we have been seeking ways to increase our following and brand awareness. We regularly create blog posts which we then advertise across our social media pages - this helps us to gain visitors to our website. The content we create is generally watch-related and offers readers a short, sharp window into the thoughts and feelings of the Bruder directors. Recent examples include ‘James Bond and his watches’ and ‘The world's most famous athletes and their watches’. It is amazing the effect that Sean Connery and Lebron James can have on landing page views. The main purpose of our blog is to provide engaging content and help ensure we stay relevant. However, it also adds value for customers and is something that is fun to do.
We have spent some of our advertising budgets on securing positions in national magazines. We have partnered with Top Gear magazine, one of the most popular magazines in the UK, with an extensive reach to cash and time-rich individuals. This was one of the reasons we saw it being advantageous but we also recognized Top Gear as aligning with our brand and style. We included a discount code for readers within the magazine copy. This allowed us to track the success of the promotion within print media (which is again entirely new to all of us).
We have attracted a lot of attention via our website from companies looking to sell advertising. Of course, we give each inquiry the attention it deserves but with a small budget we have to be careful where we allocate it. We spent some time contacting media outlets, fashion websites, and ‘influencers’ in the hope of reaching our intended audience of 18-50-year-old males. We continue to do so but also firmly believe that the best advertisement comes from our existing customers. We always ask them to give us a ‘shout out’ or spread the word to their friends and family. Nothing quite like word-of-mouth promotion!
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
It's going ok, of course, we all want more sales, more throughput, more profit. The reality for us is we are very much in our infancy and we have a long way to go before we can class Bruder as an established business. With a modest £12k self-funded start-up budget and 200 watches to sell, we have seen gentle progression.
Our average cost of advertising per sale is currently £44. With distribution costs of £7 per unit and a profit value of anywhere between £66-80 per unit, you can see that there is work to be done. We have a small social media following of around 1k people, meaning we rely heavily on social media advertising to gain traction.
The operation is very simple at present, our ‘warehouse’ is a spare bedroom in my 3 bedroom house, our courier provider is a 5-minute walk from me and our accountant is my brother's wife. Fortunately, there has been no need for an HR representative yet, as siblings we would rather just fight it out if there was an issue. In the end, we would do what Luke says anyway, respect for the elders!
The reality is at the moment there is no need for us to overcomplicate how we operate, we are all still working full time in our day jobs & running Bruder on evenings and weekends. What this means is that any growth has to be sustainable for all of us - but don't mistake that for not being ambitious. The medium-term goal for Bruder Watches is for it to become full-time employment for all of us in the next two or three years
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Honestly, the hardest thing about starting a business is making the time. That's not new news, we are not the only people with a young family and a full-time job that start a business up on the side. But the truth is that maintaining the motivation after a long day is more than half the battle. The most helpful thing we have found between the three of us was to set deadlines and make sure we were sticking to them, this was the basic grounding we needed.
We have loved every minute of starting Bruder Watches so far and as siblings, it has brought us closer together.
The other thing which we have found vital so far is research. There is so much content out there on the internet nowadays that it can sometimes feel like a minefield but we spend a lot of time seeking out relevant research, reading articles & reviewing competitors all to aid our understanding of what it takes to be successful. We will then make sure that whenever we are making any decisions to do with the business, we discuss it with each other to gain as much of a different perspective as we can. The fact that we are all so different as individuals mean we have the luxury of having a rounded view of the world. This is why I would encourage anybody who plans on opening a business to choose any partners carefully!
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Our website is entirely built by Luke from scratch on a WordPress back end. It uses Stripe and PayPal as payment gateways and includes Apple Pay / Google Pay etc. A custom build has allowed us to avoid the ongoing costs of using an established eCommerce platform and also means we can keep the site light and have full control over functionality. The system is simple and structured and allows all three of us to be able to manage the store effectively.
I am told that Stripe is a very developer-friendly platform and much easier to work with than PayPal.
Like the rest of the world, we spend a lot of time using Facebook and Instagram to advertise, with tracking in place on the site (behind a cookie notice in the UK!) which allows us to measure the success of any campaigns we run as well as monitor organic traffic. We have added custom event tracking for actions such as - “Add To Cart”, “Initiate Checkout” etc.
We used Zoho to set up email accounts - it is very similar to Google’s offering but free.
Other tools we use include Dropbox, Trello, and Photoshop.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Most recently I have been reading books written by Ant Middleton, who is an ex-SBS (Special Boat Service) soldier who writes of his experiences and how his attitude has shaped his life. His most recent book is called Zero Negativity is a good indicator of the message he is trying to deliver. It doesn’t offer business intelligence or valuable information on growing a watch empire but what it does do as you read it is helping to strengthen your mindset. Look him up if you get the chance.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
We are certainly not in a position where we can give out business advice just yet but what I would say is if you want to do something and your situation allows then get out there and do it! Life is too short to not give it a go. We have loved every minute of starting Bruder Watches so far and as siblings, it has brought us closer together.
Certainly don’t underestimate the time and effort you need to put into whatever you choose to do. If you only give a little bit of effort, you can only expect little results. So whatever you do, give it your all and reap the rewards later!
Where can we go to learn more?
Bruder Watches has provided an update on their business!
21 days ago, we followed up with Bruder Watches to see how they've been doing since we published this article.
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