While shopping at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, my co-founder, Odini Gogo, and I had a fashion revelation. We were drawn to the bright patterns, intricate design and history of kilim rugs that were sold in a local shop. We knew instantly that there was something special to be made out of the one-of-a-kind material.
Odini and I are lawyers by trade, so we know a thing or two about how dull menswear can often be. Somber shades of blue, black and grey dominate courtrooms and law offices. The bright colors of the kilim rugs and the vibrancy of the market as a whole was such a stark contrast to our everyday surroundings. We wanted to channel this energy into something unique, that would truly capture the feeling of excitement and possibility you get when traveling to an unfamiliar location. We ditched our law careers and set out to create a product that would be both exotic and refined at the same time.
We chose a classic British loafer as the first prototype, and Res Ipsa was born. We love a good challenge, so we knew footwear would create an interesting opportunity. It's a daunting segment of the market, but we knew there was a great opportunity for us to stand out.
After spending months working with artisans in Turkey, we were ready to launch our first line of men's kilim loafers. Luckily, it proved to be a success.
Since that time, we've grown rapidly, added far more product lines, and have doubled our previous year revenue every year. We've had a lot of social media success as well as what we call anecdotal success – such as seeing people in airports carrying our bags, or fashionable men and women on the street wearing our shoes. The "spotted-in-the-wild" phenomenon used to be infrequent, but now it happens all the time and we're eternally grateful.
In an age where personalization is everything, I think we began our business at the right time. Because we only use century-old kilim rugs in our kilim products, Res Ipsa accessories are completely one-of-a-kind and cannot be reproduced – even by us. This generation loves to stand out, and importantly they really love to travel. Our initial concept and everything we do was inspired by our trips to the far-off corners of the world, and it was important that we convey that in our branding.
However, our journey hasn't always been smooth sailing. Creating a model to sell one-of-a-kind products has been one of the greatest challenges we've experienced. Very little (if anything) that consumers buy is truly unique, and retail websites are organized to sell commoditized fashion. We kept running into the issue of customers falling in love with a particular shoe, only to find they can never have it because it's the wrong size.
To help solve this problem, we studied our customer's research journey and adapted our site's information architecture to accommodate how customers find and behave on our site. We developed an organizational framework for our website so that people could see only those products in their size. This has worked for the time being however, there's still a lot more we can do to create a better user experience, and increase our visibility on the web.
As any small business owner probably knows, it's difficult to reach customers – if people don't know you exist, they won't buy from you. We tested all of the marketing tactics, from SEO for e-commerce (with the help of CanIRank.com) to influencer marketing, social media and PPC, before finding the right balance. It took quite a lot of trial-and-error, sleepless nights and wasted ad spend to get to where we are today, and it's still a work in progress.
Our company slogan is "Our brand is travel," so we tend to speak in corny travel metaphors. One that we live by is: 'our favorite destination is the next one.' Despite what's happening now, (whether that's good or bad), we are always excited about what's next. For now, everyone at Res Ipsa is focused on our not-so-distant future. We're currently developing international markets and expanding our product line, both of which are set to launch in the next few months.
There are a lot of exciting things in store for Res Ipsa, and we're excited to see where this journey takes us next.
About the author: Joshua Moore and his Res Ipsa co-founder Odini Gogo are former lawyers who decided the world needed fewer lawyers and more happiness. Today, Res Ipsa is the destination for premium handmade travel leisure goods. In their free time, Josh and Odni enjoy traveling around the world and sharing their adventures on Instagram.
Edited for brevity and clarity by Nicole Fallon.