OT - Local Business Question

Submitted by Blazefire on August 16th, 2010 at 9:02 AM

Alright, so, I've had this idea in mind for a business I would like to start for a LONG time. I'm only in the very beginning planning stages right now, as in, I haven't even gotten out a book to start investigating HOW to do it yet, but none the less, I am getting pretty serious about undertaking the idea and making it a reality. I intend to start small, and draw on the popularity of local products to build the business initially until I can grow it, that way my initial investment wouldn't need to be huge and I could avoid taking out massive, potentially life destroying business loans, and instead build the business on profit alone, mostly.

I am loath to reveal the nature of my planned business, for obvious reasons, but I will say that I intend to have several lines of product, and my product is not beer or alcohol of any sort. In deference to my insane Michigan fanhood, I would like to title/package one of the product lines in homage to Michigan football, as well as naming other lines for other local landmarks. I believe this would help me grow initially till the quality of the product took hold.

My issue is this. Due to my location just north of Toledo, offering only a Michigan Football themed product line would cost me business, and in fact, might turn many customers against all of my other product lines as well. So my question is this:

Is it better to offer a Michigan line and, begrudgingly, offer a tOSU line, including the royalties that would require paying to Cowtown College? Or is it better to forgo a Michigan line, and never once associate myself even distantly with anything OSU.



August 16th, 2010 at 9:06 AM ^

If you're looking to start a new hobby, make what you want.

If you're looking to start a profitable business, deliver what your customers want.

I know that's broad and cliched but without knowing more about the business idea, that's the best advice I can give.


August 16th, 2010 at 9:14 AM ^

You need to answer your 2nd question first.

Will naming a prodcut line after UM and/or OSU help you make money?

If it will not help you make money, do not do it.

If naming a product line after UM / OSU will make you money, but naming just one school will hurt you, then use both names.

I.E.                    Bo Beer  /  Woody Beer.



August 16th, 2010 at 9:46 AM ^

It might feel wrong to cater to the needs of some Buckeyes, but if that's what it takes to make sure you make money, then do it. There's no reason for risking your livelihood out of spite for OSU fans. If you were starting a business in Ann Arbor, it might be detrimental to your sales to provide an OSU themed line, but in Toledo, that's probably not the case. Some market research would provide some insight into whether or not themed product lines would or wouldn't help.

Feat of Clay

August 16th, 2010 at 9:59 AM ^

My opinion?   There's your fandom, and there is your livelihood.  Don't let the former hurt the latter.  

If it's a good idea, and said good idea will be even more profitable if you can get Buckeyes or (let's not forget) Domers to hand their money over to you for it, then DO IT.

Then make your millions and donate to the U-M and absolve your guilty soul.


August 16th, 2010 at 11:08 AM ^

Co-sign on absolving your guilt. I don't know what your profit margins will be on said new product. But if you can donate money in an equal amount for all the royalties you would have to pay to osu to Michigan, I'm sure that the universe would be ok. Of course, only do so if this is financially doable.

Plus, there is no shame profiting off of buckeyes.


August 16th, 2010 at 10:21 AM ^

Run two product lines.  The tOSU branded one should be the crappy line of Chinese made products that is lead tainted and known to cause birth defects (because who the hell is going to notice in that population?).  The Michigan line should be the premier and well made product, ideally by American or Canadian workers.

If your warehouse burns down you can also get into a Sparty line of products.

Seriously though, tOSU products sell amazingly well in the Worst State Ever.  Go with them as your main.  As you expand you can run a Michigan line on the side, there is a decent population of Michigan fans in the Toledo area (the Blade has a Michigan beat writer for example), but they're a minority.  


August 16th, 2010 at 10:26 AM ^

I would not even make any Michigan/OSU products until you have grown. Stick with the local landmarks at the beginning, then add licensed products as you grow. If you think having a Michigan brand will alienate people in Ohio, don't even take that risk.


August 16th, 2010 at 10:33 AM ^

"Never bet on your favorite team." This holds especially true if you want to sell Michigan shit in the worst state ever. Just open a mayonnaise shop, you will be a millionaire within months. They eat that stuff by the spoonful in Ohio.


August 16th, 2010 at 1:39 PM ^

... I would just offer that products related to schools are hard to do well unless you have high volume, since they are often low margin.

The licensing part is tough (the schools don't approve everything) and they will certainly demand a significant fee for doing so (likely up front and volume based).  It's also hard to differentiate in the market (look at prior post on UM mailboxes).

Not knowing what your product is, can't say much more.

The question, to me, is: do you really have to align with UM/tOSU or can this thing make it on its own without a collegiate affiliation?


August 16th, 2010 at 1:50 PM ^

it shouldn't need it at all. It would in fact be something that normally wouldn't be licenced, and I would just be doing it for fun at that point. But shoot, I've seen everything from Michigan pasta to Michigan mulch, so I figure if I can get successful enough to go that route, why the heck not.


August 16th, 2010 at 1:55 PM ^

Do your first product run without any kind of third party branding then and get some demographics from the people who buy.  A zip code, maybe a little postcard they can mail back, an online survey, etc.  Figure out if you're selling more to people in MI or OH given that you're right on the border and consider branding based off those results.  

If you're strictly local to Toledo, go with something kind of generic to that region maybe in terms of name / inspiration for logo.  You can do a vanity run of Block M products later.