Tucker took measures to completely revise the site’s focus from a B2B to B2C, business to consumer. Product reviews and live chat were enabled to build client trust. The company threw out the purchasing methodology that allowed distributors to send in purchase orders that had to be hand-entered into the computer system. “We put the accountability on the customer as far as getting the order right,” Tucker says.
As more items were added, Carefree Casuals took shape as a top provider of “lifestyle fashions, lifestyle values.”
Shoppers were finding the familiar quality brands they loved—such as Tommy Bahama and Lee Jeans—at incredible prices.
“One way we found early traction was getting on some comparative shopping sites,” Tucker says. When savvy buyers visited sites such as www.Shopzilla.com, they would see Carefree Casuals’ deals listed next to competitors’ higher prices.
“We buy a lot of the same garments at cost that department stores would buy,” Tucker says of his merchandise offerings. “We get a discount because we are a reseller.”
Unlike brick-and-mortar stores or manufacturers, however, Carefree Casuals doesn’t have to stock inventory or worry about keeping up with seasonality. They operate lean and pass the savings on to the customer. “We’re really a data maintenance business,” Tucker explains. About 3,000 items, for example, are on both www.CarefreeCasuals.com and www.KillerChef.com. As prices, colors, and sizes come and go, a mountain of data must be maintained. Tucker outsources the majority of this task to a firm in India because it’s cost-effective, allowing Killer Apparel to operate with just six employees and keep up the profit-margin.
“I’ve heard of so many companies over-hiring, and staff sunk them because they felt obligated to keep these people employed rather than maintain the health of the business,” Tucker says. “When you’re in startup mode, every dollar makes a difference.”
Shortly after making cash-cow www.CarefreeCasuals.com his own, Tucker launched the hospitality-clothing line www.KillerChef.com. The timing could hardly have been worse as the recession rolled through hotels and restaurants.
Still, Tucker is optimistic the website will eventually prosper, because he sees a shimmering unfulfilled need.
A single billion-dollar company “pretty much owns” the hospitality industry’s apparel market, he explains. “We’re looking to chew at their heels a little bit and offer something we don’t believe they offer: local service.”
So far, Killer Chef is having more success with independently owned hotels than with franchises tied into big contracts. Recent clients include the Airpark’s Xona Resorts and Thunderbird Suites.
Before the end of the year, Killer Apparel Group will unveil its third site www.TrueUniform.com, focused on hunting gear, the outdoors and work apparel. The company will continue to focus on the four key factors that make its business model work: 1) product reviews 2) offer brands that shoppers know 3) build trust with product recommendations, reliable sizing charts and clear descriptions, and 4) a fair return policy.
Sitting at the helm of his own business has restored Tucker’s passion for his work. He credits the Entrepreneur’s Organization in the Valley for giving him the guidance and inspiration to finally break the family ties.
To others with independent dreams, he says, “As long as you’re laser focused on what you’re passionate about and your target market, I think you’ll be successful in almost any market.”
Tucker’s BIZ Tips
What should business owners and would-be entrepreneurs keep in mind as they chase their dreams? Aaron Tucker, director of Killer Apparel Group, offers this advice.
• Cash is king. You can only go as far as your cash.
• You don’t necessarily have to defer your dreams; you just have to make sure you’re very focused. When I decided it was time to leave my other business, I didn’t even think about going to get a job from someone else. I was preprogrammed that I was taking www.CarefreeCasuals.com. I was laser focused and continue to be. You can run your dream business out of your house, and you can do it part-time, but be laser focused on it.
• Read Norm Brodsky’s book The Knack. There is no such thing as job security anymore; the only security is your own sense of self-worth and your knowledge about how to earn a living.
• Make sure you are watching your numbers regularly. You can’t manage what you can’t measure, so if you don’t have good numbers, you can run your company. Especially with an Internet business—there is a lot of analytics.
• While someone else is making cutbacks and trying to save themselves money, you have a great opportunity to get out there and compete.