It seemed like a great idea at the time. Conor McGregor had taken the world by storm with his ridiculous “Fuck You” emblazoned pinstriped suit and literally every fashion oriented media outlet in the world was covering it.
Who in their right mind would rock such a thing and without also having the ability to bring this masterpiece to life?
The next morning everyone in our office was buzzing. This FU suit was everywhere. And then it hit me — we should prove to the world that my company, Sourcify, can create FU products faster than anyone else.
Just to squeeze in a little self promotion, we pride ourselves on being able to make ecommerce manufacturing easy and this would be a ripe opportunity to showcase that ability. Alright, let’s get on with it.
Going viral with fabric
The real FU suit was worn at the first Mayweather v. McGregor press conference on July 11th. By the end of the night, this photo was viral:
Our first move wasn’t to think. Most entrepreneurs get caught in this what-if loophole. You ask yourself all these questions and by the end of your analysis, you’ve gotten too scared to take action.
Startups are capable of beating out larger corporations because of their ability to move fast. You shouldn’t have barriers and you sure as hell shouldn’t have to ask for your whole board’s approval before making a move.
We were doing this as a case study to prove our ability to manufacture all sorts of products so, if we were going to bring these suits to life, we needed to act fast. By July 13th, 2 days after the press conference, we had the domain FuckYouSuits.com with a WordPress website up and running. There’s wasn’t any time test development deployments and so we did everything directly on the real site, pushing it live as we went.
For most ecommerce sites we always use Shopify. The whole platform really makes setting up an ecommerce site easy right out of the box. With that said, we were nervous of getting in trouble with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and decided to go with Woocommerce (Shopify has a track record of taking down sites that don’t comply).
The next step was to get a digital marketing agency on board to spearhead the actual online advertisements and maybe even cover the ad spend if they wanted to develop a case study on their end as well.
After reaching out to a few agencies, all were willing to waive their retainer fees but we couldn’t find one willing to cover the ad spend.
But I didn’t give up and decided to post the opportunity in one of the most active digital marketing Facebook communities. Here’s the exact post from July 17th:
By the end of the night I had dozens of messages and talked to 3 agency heads potentially willing to lead the marketing side of this case study.
The next day we signed a contract with a few marketers based in San Francisco to split the profits 50-50 after we both covered our costs. They cover the ad spend and setup, we cover the inventory and logistics cost.
Now it was time to actually bring these products to life and sell them.
How to manufacturing wallets, ties, and suits in a week
We ended up deciding to produce ties and wallets in addition to these suits because why not? They’re easy cross sells and the margins are nuts.
The first step was to connect with the right factories who we’ve already pre-vetted through the Sourcify platform.
Usually people spend some time on the design but it was pretty easy for these products — all we did was put “Fuck You” pinstripes on each item and called it a day.
On the night of the 18th, we had factories confirmed for all of the products. Here’s what we paid for each sample:
- $100 for one suit sample
- $180 for another suit sample (we decided to test 2 suit factories)
- $80 for a wallet sample
- $0 for a tie sample (we have a great relationship with this factory)
All of the respective factories were paid that same night via PayPal.
One of the most frustrating parts of dealing with new entrepreneurs is often their inability to make decisions. If you want to create something new, you can’t wait. We paid these factories for the samples before we even sent them our final designs.
Some would probably say this is a naive move but, when you manufacture dozens of new products a week and pre-vet every factory that you work with, you have the freedom to move fast. We also couldn’t go into production without samples being made and wanted to update our website with real photos as soon as possible.
Details of manufacturing
The best way to manufacture products effectively is to create renderings of what you want those products to look like. Here are some we made and in Photoshop and sent off to the 3 separate factories, each one focused on a specific product category:
The hardest part of this whole manufacturing process was deciding the size to make the letters. Without an actual sample of the suit in our hands, it was hard to tell by the image what letter size to use. No one wants the “Fuck You” words to be super obvious so we just eyeballed it and went with our gut.
We also had to figure out the suit sizing, trim of the suit, and every last detail that you don’t want to know about that goes into producing a suit. It’s crazy what you learn about a product when you try to make it from scratch.
The suit sample arrived July 28th, exactly 10 days after we paid for a sample. Wallets and ties arrived on August 2nd.
Compare that to the 16 weeks the real suit company, David August, claims it takes and the whole thing sounds crazy.
Every ecommerce entrepreneur should shoot for at least an 80% gross margin. If you’re dropshipping or using some silly trick to not hold inventory then your margins sink.
We decided to do fulfillment in house since we have enough space in our office to hold some inventory.
That meant our gross margins were great:
- Tie cost: $1.10, Retail price: $59.95, Margin: 98.2%
- Wallet cost: $6.49 including gift box (a little expensive for wallets but we used a higher quality leather), Retail price: $49.99, Margin: 87.1%
- Suits: $30 for jacket and $15 for pants, Retail price: $259.99 for jacket and $799 for full suit, Margin: 88.5% for jacket and 94% for suit
Here’s when the marketing team went to work. With our site up and all the analytics in place, we started scaling the ad campaigns.
Targeting was pretty easy — layering certain interests like McGregor, the UFC, etc. with a certain income to make sure we were reaching the right people.
Not only was the engagement through the roof, but the click throughs on adwords we’re some of the highest we’ve ever seen. See below as an example for cold traffic from Google Adwords.
Conversions were also solid, yet whenever we tried to ramp up ad spend, we faced one major problem: Facebook and Adwords kept taking down our ads because the use of profanity.
Our domain had the word “fuck” in it and so did every item and product image.
This became an ongoing struggle and every time an ad set seemed to be ready to scale, it’d get taken down.
We tried everything — masking the domain, changing the name of our page from Fuck You Suits to F You Suits, and even blurring some of our own product images but dealing with this constant flow of takedowns was ridiculous. Part of us commends Facebook and Adwords for running such good platforms that would catch profane ads like ours but the store owners in us hated it.
After contacting both customer support centers, the Adwords team worked with us to approve ads while Facebook basically told us to fuck off (no pun intended).
By the end of the first week though, we clocked just over $23,000 in sales.
Not bad for a newborn ecommerce store.
The Notorious shows his face
When starting this joint ecommerce brand, both the teams knew we ran a risk of getting a cease and desist from the Conor McGregor himself. That letter came just after our first week of sales from his management group, Paradigm Sports Management.
According to them, we were selling unlicensed merchandise and infringing on Mr. McGregor’s rights. To be honest, they were totally right. We explicitly used the “Athlete” and possibly some of his images.
Here’s the initial letter they sent us:
Needless to say, everyone was a bit heartbroken our ecommerce baby now faced the threat of a lawsuit but, what could we do?
We decided on 2 options: partner up and ask for free tickets to the fight.
The guys at Paradigm Sports Management were actually pretty straight shooters, unlike most lawyers who throw the book at you (so we hear). McGregor couldn’t partner with us because of his current brand deals but, what they could do was hook us up with tickets to the fight!
We found 2 major lessons from this case study: 1) You can manufacture products effectively to beat trends and market them with insane conversion rates, and 2) What you can’t do is violate someone’s rights. That’s where we went a step too far.
In total, Sourcify spent about $1,181 on the project while our marketers spent $1,000.
And even though it got shut down, we’d do it all over again in a heartbeat for cool products to bring to life.
Heck, we even landed seats worth about $17,000 to this badass fight.