My Best Mistake

Sheer Novice – Why My Second Start-up Required A Rethink: My Best Mistake

Why frilly knickers look different to men and women

By Michelle Hammond
Friday, 09 November 2012

my-best-mistake-chanel-costabir-90Starting up a second business might not sound as tricky as the first time around. After all, you’ve learnt from all the mistakes you made in your first business, right?


But what if your second business is simply too similar to your first? Chanel Costabir found herself in this situation when she launched her second online store, Sheer Novice.


Sheer Novice is specifically designed for men buying lingerie for women. It was built off the back of Costabir’s first online store, The Lingerie Boutique.


“With The Lingerie Boutique, a good proportion of our customers were men… Men and women have different kinds of questions. I was finding it hard to talk to them in the same space,” Costabir told StartupSmart.


“I saw an opportunity to do something a bit different. Currently, there aren’t any lingerie stores specifically targeted for men, so I saw an opportunity.”


While Costabir knew what she wanted to offer, she made the mistake of developing Sheer Novice the same way she developed The Lingerie Boutique – from a woman’s perspective.


“The idea was to make a men’s site and come from a men’s angle, and to make the site so men could relate to it. But I’m a woman, and women are very different to men,” she says.


“I spent a weekend creating a landing site so I could index on Google… I spent a weekend doing that and was all excited and went to speak to some people. I made sure I was speaking to men.”


“The feedback I was getting was, ‘Oh wow. There’s a lot of writing and information’. Men were getting confused and didn’t know where to go and what to do.”


“To have feedback that it’s not suitable or not conveying the message is kind of disheartening.”


Rather than give up, Costabir decided to spend some time away from the site in order to gather her thoughts.


“When I went back, I completely deconstructed everything and started to build it from the ground up,” she says.


“I thought, what is the most necessary information and how can I do this in a simple way?”


The website, which launched several months ago, now has a video explaining how Sheer Novice works. In addition, items are broken down into size, colour, style and brand.


So while Costabir was initially disheartened by the feedback she received, it highlighted an important point for her.


“With a business, you should be able to look at it and immediately identify what the point of difference is and what message they’re conveying,” she says.


“There wasn’t a distinctive difference between Sheer Novice and The Lingerie Boutique. Now, Sheer Novice is extremely simple… which is what it needs to be and what differentiates it.”


“With whatever your next venture is, make sure you have a point of difference because they are going to be competing… That’s something people need to consider.”


“It would be a bad thing if The Lingerie Boutique customers were buying off Sheer Novice because the whole idea is to keep your customer base and build customer loyalty.”


“Sheer Novice is aiming to target a different segment of the market [and should not] dilute customer loyalty.”


While it’s too early to tell how Sheer Novice is faring, The Lingerie Boutique has experienced revenue growth of 500% relative to this time last year, according to Costabir, who has big plans for both sites.


“With regard to the message going out, Sheer Novice is a lot more playful and lighthearted than The Lingerie Boutique. It has a very different story,” she says.


“Although the information is tailored in a way that is easily received by men, guys can find that information anywhere else.”


“The message I’m trying to get across is that I’m offering an edited version of the lingerie out there.”


“If a woman was to receive an item from Sheer Novice, she would be really pleased with it and, in turn, be happy with her partner.”

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