by Yahaya Yahaya on Sep 09, 2023
The Accidental Entrepreneur
This is not a grass-to-grace story or a started from the bottom now we are here epistle, in fact, my McRabbit story is an honest and brief account of my mistakes, lessons and experiences as an entrepreneur of 13 years growing a business opportunity I stumbled upon. Since 2010, I have had to learn, relearn, unlearn, and have continued learning working with some of the best people to whom I owe my sincere gratitude for holding my hand all through my accidental entrepreneurship journey at McRabbit.
McRabbit was inspired by the famous Rabbits roaming free on the green fields of my University of East Anglia (UEA). The University fields was home to thousands of Rabbits and one of the world’s longest behavioural study of Rabbits. We sought to capture this through the creation of a casual wear line propelled by the animated McRabbit character of a standing Rabbit. We printed the McRabbit character on t-shirts that always caught everyone’s attention particularly students in UEA, and soon enough, McRabbit became popular amongst students at the University campus and demand for orders for McRabbit t-shirts started to increase.
In 2010, we were buying wholesale t-shirts and printing the McRabbit character on them at a local business (Ink & Stitch) in Norwich City Centre, UK and soon enough, even our local printer had to increase their capacity to better serve the growing demands of the McRabbit t-shirts driven by its rising popularity in student campuses. At that time, I had no long-term plans for the business, no experience, no accounting records and as long as I was concerned, I was a smart middle man, and all I needed to do was to keep the local printing business secret, so other students don’t go and start printing “Shirts with Rabbit logos” to compete with me. I had no idea that I was building any brand. I thought I was selling printed shirts, bought from the local store at the City Centre.
McRabbit soon became popular amongst students in United Kingdom, Nigeria and United States of America and demand continued to rise. The brand popularity swelled and it was becoming apparent that we needed to produce larger volumes and also create new product lines.
In 2011, McRabbit produced a multi-racial photoshoot of the new polo shirts with student models at the University of Warwick. Social media was still emerging, but our photoshoot went viral and was popular amongst students who were happy to see other regular students pose as models and shared the pictures on Facebook and BlackBerry messenger at the time.
After this, our marketing and sales efforts was mostly physical and we relied on a network of campus representatives/coordinators (working with organised student sales boys and girls) to create awareness for the brand and also to sell and deliver to the final consumer, collect cash (electronic banking was at infancy) and get remunerated with a charge as sales commission. This model was very popular amongst students who considered McRabbit a cool brand, and also served as an opportunity for students to make some extra cash from sales commissions.
True to our vision and plans, McRabbit became popular amongst students between 2011-2014, but over 70% of the sales revenues was unaccounted for. Our passionate, and young team were focused on “hype” for the brand, and had distributed volumes of McRabbit products to undocumented sales representatives and recoveries of sales proceeds failed woefully and we recorded huge losses. McRabbit became even more popular, but we could not figure out how to make the business profitable. I moved on to other things and I really thought it was the end of the story, after all, at all at all, I made some money while it lasted.
I moved on to start a law career and I was enjoying my legal practice, but was constantly confronted by customers who knew the brand and also me personally calling my phone randomly to demand explanations about the brand and others accusing me even at public places of killing a promising brand that they all loved. Some of my closest friends and families are chronic accusers. I have to admit, I felt pressured to sometime educate some customers and personal friends of other amazing things I was doing, some commended my new endeavours, but mostly unimpressed.
I realised that McRabbit was born, and its future cannot be determined with my limited ideas only and, I sought the help of people with better experiences and insights than me, who offered valuable counsel which led me to commence extensive research to reposition the brand as an e-commerce Underwear brand focused on contributing positively to the daily experiences of our consumers by providing them with quality and comfortable Underwear for their everyday use.
I have come to learn that as an aspiring entrepreneur, you don’t always have all the answers, you never will, and nobody does. You may have started the company, but your ideas of the business may not always be the best for the company, always be open to new ideas, and recognise superior ideas with humility and be flexible enough to accommodate new personalities, characters and interest. Your leadership qualities sometimes may help you reach your goals quicker.
Real entrepreneurship is the understanding that you don’t have to be the smartest in the room, and that there is real power in strategic collaboration. Your job is to provide effective leadership and an environment that attracts, retains and motivates the best people. That is what Oyinbo people call “team work”.
McRabbit GBP (£) Store is live and open in the UK in October 2023 on www.mcrabbit.com