Today we interview Lachlan Kirkwood, an indie hacker shipping a fantastic clothing line displaying the best (and most fun!) aspects of maker culture.
Tell us a bit about yourself!
Hi, I’m Lachlan, I’m a digital marketer and no-code maker. I’ve spent most of the past four years working at a handful of tech startups and agencies.
In 2018, I started building my first side project outside of work. I didn’t know at the time, but this would soon send me down the path towards becoming a fully-fledged maker.
Since then, I’ve failed more times than I can remember, learned invaluable lessons along the way, and have become infatuated with the concept of build my own business.
In August of 2020, I founded Maker Threads - a clothing label designed for product makers. Using a collection of all my skills and experiences, I’m working hard to slowly growing the brand each month.
What was the inspiration behind MakerThreads?
I started Maker Threads as a way to solve my own problem. One day, I decided to clean out my entire wardrobe. I wanted to update my clothes with something that reflected my current taste.
As an overly passionate maker, I was eager to wear startup shirts throughout my day-to-day life. The only problem, however, is that startups shirts are notoriously hideous.
I mean, would you ever wear one of these out in public?
At this point, I thought to myself, why don’t I just make my own?
I aimed to create a minimalist collection of shirts that I could wear anywhere. Whether I’m working at home, going out to dinner, or meeting with friends - these shirts needed to be discrete enough to match the rest of my wardrobe.
Maker Threads is a clothing label designed by makers, for makers. It allows makers to openly express their passion every time they throw on their favorite tee.
How was the process of making Maker Threads?
At the beginning of 2020 I was working on a product in the recruitment landscape. When the reality of COVID kicked in, this project came to an abrupt stop.
Instead of building the product, I spent most of my time throughout shelter-in-place working on content marketing to build the sites SEO.
At the end of July, I was feeling burnt out and needed something else to work on. This was around the same time that I wanted to print my first collection of shirts.
I decided to give myself one week to work on the project and validate the idea. I was going to build the most simplistic version of an MVP, then determine if it could actually generate revenue.
In the space of 24 hours, I jumped into Canva and created some designs. I then register a free Teespring account, then built a white-labeled store on their platform. At this point, I was still using the branded Teespring domain to host the collection.
The next day, I shared the product on Product Hunt and generated my first four sales.
There it was. validation. $147 in revenue.
After validating the product, I allocated the time to properly rebuild the store.
How much revenue are you generating from MakerThreads?
I launched Maker Threads towards the end of August, and have since generated $1k in total revenue. It’s important to remember that Maker Threads isn’t a SaaS product, so the margins on physical products aren’t as generous as software.
How do you source the shirts? What is your “physical product” stack?
Although I sell physical products, the process for sourcing stock is very much streamlined through digital platforms.
I’ll start by creating the initial shirt designs in Canva. Once these are ready, I’ll then upload these designs to Printful who prints these on-demand. Printful handles all of my inventory, packaging and shipping from their end.
As I print on-demand, I try and be as transparent with my customers as possible about the process. Although it certainly has its benefits, there’s also some downsides to this approach - such as slower shipping timelines throughout busy periods.
On the engineering end, what is your digital stack?
The current version of the store is built on Shopify. As a no-code maker, I was tempted to build my own custom ecomm store with Bubble or Webflow, but knew that Shopify had everything I needed to quickly build something functional.
You're also running a marketing company, ClickThrough. What's it all about?
ClickThrough has been through several iterations on my hunt to finding product/market fit. I started with the ambitions of building the Dribbble for digital marketers, but quickly found it wasn’t gaining the traction I needed, nor did it generate revenue.
As I was determined to build a product in the digital marketing landscape, I then found a problem of my own that I wanted to solve. One of the main reasons I no longer work for a company is because I’ve never found a marketing team that I culturally aligned with.
In its current version, ClickThrough is the Key Values for digital marketers. It helps connect passionate digital marketers with marketing teams that share their values.
At the beginning of the year, I was starting to successfully validate the idea, but unfortunately COVID changed its course.
It’s only been in the past few weeks that I’ve started to pick up the product and continue working on the solution.
How is the tech scene in Australia when compared to other parts of the world?
Australia’s tech scene is quite small in comparison to countries like the US or UK. In my city, Brisbane, makers are few and far between, which is why I try to actively connect with makers from across the world. Communities like Makerlog are essential to meeting like-minded people who share my passion.
What were some of the biggest challenges that you've faced as a maker?
Grasping the concept of failure has been a gargantuan challenge for me. I always knew being a maker wasn’t going to be easy, but no one quite explained just how difficult it would be.
When you can accept the reality of failure, you’ll learn to comfortably prepare for realistic scenarios. By spotting these common trends, you can triage these in advance.
Becoming comfortable with failure is also essential for long-term success. The only time you’ll truly fail is when you stop trying.
How was the Makerlog x Maker Threads collab conceived?
I’ve followed the journey of Sergio & Makerlog for years and have always admired the community. I absolutely love the cultural nuances across Makerlog and the positive reinforcement to keep shipping.
As with all my best network relationships, it started with a simple Twitter DM. I got in contact with Sergio and we made the time to catch up. We both saw the opportunity to build something unique and share value across each others audience.
What aspect of Makerlog inspired you the most when designing the Makerlog x Maker Threads collection?
With so many unique aspects to the community, there was no shortage of design inspiration. My main objective was to encapsulate the core features and lexicons frequently used on the platform. Whether it be maker streaks, Sergio tweeting to ‘ship that shit’, or even the infamous tick - there was plenty to work with.
What are your general objectives (roadmap-ish) for MakerThreads in the future?
My goal for Maker Threads is to create a complete clothing line for makers - from head to toe. Socks, hoodies and caps are all on my roadmap, although I’m planning to build this in good time once I’ve gained more traction on the core product.
I’m also working hard to cultivate an audience of makers through engaging content. My Makers Weekly vlog helps me celebrate the incredible makers across the landscape.
Super random question, but as a tradition, we ask makers to share the music genre or playlist that motivates them.
These days, I mainly listen to podcasts more than anything. If I’m listening to music, I can’t go past anything from the 80’s - it was the best era of music. Dire Straits, CCR, Queen, and Bruce Springsteen are a few favorites.
Closing question: What advice would you give to other makers out there?
Persistence. Persistence. Persistence.
No matter how many times you fail, take the time to analyze your mistakes, then reflect on what you can do better. The more you try, the more luck you’ll create for yourself.