❌ Failed startup
✅ Successful startup

Ropero: Starting Big, Failing Bigger

Ropero was an e-commerce aiming to sell t-shirts in an unprepared market. Many expenses and little earnings.

Mexico
e-Commerce
Unprepared Market

Rafael Soto

March 16, 2018

Sponsor Failory and get your business & product in front of +20,000 CEOs, startup founders, entrepreneurs, developers and marketers every month.

Do you want to grow your business? With GenM you can get free marketing from an apprentice as part of their training. The student will work 40 hours per month creating content, increasing SEO rankings, carrying out advertisement campaigns...

Want to take ownership over the growth of your business, but don't know where to start? Get 1-on-1 advice from vetted growth experts about your business.

No more changing developers every time you start a new project. With our full range of development services, no project is too big, too complex, too mobile or too software for us to complete. We’re the only web-dev partner you’ll ever need.

A 5-minute read that's informative, witty and free? That's Morning Brew — the daily email that delivers the latest news from Wall Street to Silicon Valley.

Hello Rafael! What's your background, and what are you currently working on?

Hey! My name is Rafael Soto, I've been making weird stuff on the web since I was 15 (2001), I'm from Mexico and I have a master's degree in marketing. Five years ago I moved from my small city to Mexico City and founded Osom Marketing, a boutique digital marketing agency. Early on Osom's life I found what a mess the taxes are here —and I'm not even talking about accounting—, just preparing the information required by my accountant required up to 6 hours per month, which I thought it was crazy!

Long story short, being a hacker and loving automating things, I created a script that would download the invoice's files from my Gmail (which are XML files), and then created an Excel file, saving at least 3 hours. As I started talking to other business owners, both small and medium, I realized there was an opportunity, and since two years ago, I started Box Factura, and although it has been tough, we're growing and the customers are loving it!

It has been quite a journey after failing on a movie theatre guide/social network (so you could select the movie to watch and go to the nearest theatre, instead of selecting first the theatre and see if it's available), an images and videos website, and a t-shirt marketplace (Ropero).

What was Ropero about?

As I stated, Ropero (literally Wardrobe) was a t-shirt marketplace inspired by Threadless. I started it in 2005 when I was 20 and wanted to do some real business on the web. I had no business plan, no investment, just plain motivation and a few free hours every day.

How did you grow Ropero?

Mostly through my personal blog, which had quite some audience, but then through SEO, it started to bring some leads as well. Social media was not very big back in those days, so it was out of the picture.

Hire digital marketing interns. 40 hours for $49/month.

Learn More!

AD

From Wall Street to Silicon Valley...

Are you busy? Sure you are — that's why you need Morning Brew. It's a free daily email that gives a quick 5-minute rundown of the day's top business news. Join the 925,000+ people who start their day with Morning Brew!

👉 Learn More!

Reach +20,000 Startup Founders!

If you are looking to get your product in front of founders, CEOs, VPs, web and mobile developers, makers, consultants, marketers, bloggers, product managers, and many other thought leaders, then we can help you.

👉 Sponsorships

Which was the problem with Ropero? How did you realize?

Being solo and selling physical products can get very hard as you have to do all by yourself: from the tech side, the sales process and actually creating the product. Also, I had to invest on printing the t-shirts, which I didn't know if they would be sold, or in what quantity and sizes.

Also, Mexico wasn't ready for e-commerce. Still, to this day, I know for a fact that Amazon is struggling to reach the masses, as they often don't have credit cards, or don't trust buying via the Internet. Now imagine this scenario, but more than ten years ago!

What were the mistakes you made?

I think I started too big. I should have kept it small, printing fewer t-shirts even if I wasn't earning anything, or event at a loss. That would have helped me validate the need for a platform like Ropero.

Also, relying on a payment processor like PayPal was not a good idea, although there was literally no other option available. The main issue with PayPal is that you hand over the control and experience for the checkout to a third party, and it ends up plummeting the sales process.

What were your biggest disadvantages?

Being far from a big city was a major issue because shipments are expensive in Mexico. Working alone didn't help as well, especially if you are working or studying, this kind of things require at least half-time focus.

Your one-stop shop for everything dev-related.

Anything you need, our devs can build: complex e-commerce solutions, custom software or SaaS, beautiful WordPress websites… anything. We’ll fix, upgrade & customize your website, so you never have to worry about troubleshooting web stuff ever again.

Let’s get to work!

Grow your business. Get 1-on-1 calls with +100 mentors.

Learn More!

AD

If you had to start over, what would you do differently?

Think smaller, for sure! Finding a good market-fit early on would have helped a lot: not only on the sales and printing side but also on the business plan (which, of course, I didn't have).

What's your advice for someone who is just starting?

There are some things you can learn by reading, but there are others you have to experience by yourself, even if those don't end up where you wanted. Having failed to achieve the goals with Ropero, I found that selling physical products is hard (and perhaps, not for me?), so I'm now focusing on a SaaS model.

Also, when you're selling B2C, you'll have to sell a lot to break even, and it means convincing a lot of people for a product that maybe they don't think they need it. Meanwhile, on B2B you can earn a living with just a handful of clients, although their requirements are radically different.

From these, and many other experiences, I've learned a lot: what MVP really is, how to negotiate, the channels to market your product, finding good partners, why UX is important, and even how to build an e-commerce site!

So yeah, go ahead and start something. I bet you won't regret it.

Where can we go to learn more?

You can follow me on twitter on @rafael_soto_, read my blog whenever I feel like writing or just reaching me at rsoto@boxfactura.com.

✉️ Subscribe to our newsletter!

Invite us into your inbox and get immense learning and 80+ deals on tools to help you scale your startup (worth up to $50,000)!

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

👇 Other Interviews

NerdPilots: Growing an Agency to $25,000/Month While Running 4 other Businesses
By 
Kevin Pereira
  •  
March 24, 2019
United States
Agency
Up to 50K
Canary: Quitting a $130,000 Job to Build an App for Musicians
By 
Nick O'Hara
  •  
February 21, 2019
United States
App
Up to 50K
Beardbrand: Bootstrapped e-Commerce Making $100,000/Month
By 
Eric Bandholz
  •  
February 21, 2019
United States
e-Commerce
Below 150K
Building a £5,000/mo marketplace for letting agents
By 
Raj Dosanjh
  •  
July 8, 2020
United Kingdom
Marketplace
Up to 50K
Matboard and More: Digitizing a Startup & Making $170,000/Month
By 
Mehdi Kajbaf
  •  
February 21, 2019
United States
e-Commerce
Over 150K
Growing a SaaS to $40,000/year while freelancing
By 
Jen Yip
  •  
June 3, 2020
Canada
App
Up to 50K
Legaats: Why I Stopped Pursuing My 1st Startup Idea
By 
Deepak Chhugani
  •  
March 17, 2018
United States
Web Application
Monetizing Issues
No Passion
WorldOs: A Product Nobody Cared About
By 
Lucas Gonze
  •  
March 16, 2018
United States
Technology
No Need
Vivalatina: From Failure to Product-Market Fit Selling Online Jewelry
By 
Nicolas Tranchant
  •  
March 17, 2018
Mexico
e-Commerce
Bad Marketing
Mishra Motors: Huge Problem, Little Money
By 
Naveen Mishra
  •  
March 16, 2018
India
Transportation
Capital
Unprepared Market
Tandem: Failing to Build an App in the Digital Health Industry
By 
Will Sun
  •  
February 2, 2019
United States
App
No MVP Validation
Unprepared Market
Eloquis: Losing $20,000 with a Bootstrapped SaaS
By 
Rohit Nallapeta
  •  
March 17, 2018
United States
SaaS
Unprepared Market
No Need