Gingers taking over e-commerce

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Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. We are all out there, seeking for some relatable content, maybe something funny that would lighten up our day. Entrepreneurial companies like Ginger Problems catch my attention particularly because of how they attend a very specific group. For those of you who don’t know, Ginger Problems is an e-commerce website that sells clothes designed for redhead people, aka ginger, or ginger lovers. It is also a Twitter character (or personality?) with more than 160.000 followers, a Facebook page with more than 5.000 likes and an Instagram profile with more than 16.000 followers. I don’t have red hair, neither does my husband, but I do know an unusual number of Brazilian gingers (be noted: non-dyed) and I’ve seen some of what they go through. It is tough being a ginger when you have to deal with tropical weather, high temperatures and lots of sun, even during winter. Phrases like this, published on Ginger Problems Facebook account, make even more sense: “I’m a ginger and this crazy. But here’s my sunscreen, I use it daily”. Funny, perky, relatable: apparently, that is all it takes to launch your own business.

Here is my interview with Trevor Denton, the creator of it all, about how the business came to life:

quirksmag: How did the business idea come up?

Trevor Denton: I’ve always been an avid twitter user and when I saw what @WhiteGrlProblem was doing I thought, well surely there has to be a GingerProblems account. There wasn’t, so I decided to make one. It took off very quickly. A few celebrities started following and then it just kept snowballing from there. I was put in the position to constantly create content and become this internet comedian. I am no professional comedian, but I will say all you need is a sense of humor to have the ability to make people laugh. So GingerProblems is my attempt at being somewhat of a comedian to the ginger population.

qm: Were you surprised by the results?

TD: I was definitely surprised at what was happening when I started the twitter account. Once I was able to gain control and really understand it’s potential (starting the clothing line and branding the company), things kind of started happening the way I wanted them to. My vision was becoming reality.

qm: How did social media helped you captivate people and customers? Is there a secret?

TD: Humor. Everybody likes to laugh. Which reminds me of my favorite quote: “I hate laughing.” – Nobody ever. Social media works if you’re social. It works if you present something your audience can relate to.You just have to know your audience. Lucky for me I can tell by their hair color.

qm:When did you start selling clothes and why?

TD: When I started GingerProblems in November 2010, I sort of gave myself an ultimatum. I had around 1K followers. I told myself, once I hit 2K, I’ll come out with a shirt. If it does well, I’ll keep this going. If it bombs, then I’ll most likely put this twitter thing to rest and move on to something else. Needless to say, the shirts were selling out and I continued. I feel very fortunate to have fell into this niche market all by just wanting to start a twitter account for fun.

qm: Would you consider your business successful?

TD: I’d say it is successful. However, I will say that it is still young and is very much so still growing. I am still young too. I’ve learned a lot by starting GingerProblems. Lots of trial and error.

qm: How many shirts do you sell monthly?

TD: Our online sales are very consistant. We sell anywhere from 200-300 shirts a month.

qm: What were your initial expectations?

TD: My initial expectations for the company were to just be consistant and keep the customer happy. I’m a big fan of companies who include free stickers or cool artwork packs with orders being sent to their customers. So with every order, we include stickers or cards with different designs or coupon codes. I feel that its important to always give more. The customer is always expecting what they ordered, but when you go the extra mile and surprise them, it goes a long way. It’s all about gaining a trusting relationship, so they know whenever they order something from GingerProblems they can expect to get more. Always.

qm: What are the difficulties of having a small business nowadays? Is there something that makes it easier?

TD: Difficulties would have to be time and money. I think that is a common challenge for any business.I wish there were more hours in a day. You just have to be patient. Social media and smartphones make everything easier. I wouldn’t have been able to do this 10, maybe even 5 years ago.

qm: Would you consider yourself an entrepreneur? Why?

TD: Yes. I think anybody who has an idea, is passionate about it, and then goes out there and does it is an entrepreneur. I feel that I’ve built something that was once such a minor and innocent idea and now has become a living, breathing entity that is part of my everyday life.

qm: Any plans for the future?

TD: For the future, I’d like to see GingerProblems offer more than clothes. I want to be able to offer actual products people use and not just wear. I’d like to see us in stores across the globe. I want to make a bigger impact to the redhead community. No one’s done us justice yet.

On time: Many thanks to my sister, who sent me the picture! She bought one of Trevor’s shirts because her boyfriend has red hair and she thought it would be a cute way to say “I love you”. Plus, I must say: when I received the package for her, I opened to make sure everything was all right and I found a sticker and some postcards in the package. They were a very nice touch.
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An analysis of the Brazilian protests

I feel compelled to write about the Brazilian protests today, something that I was restraining myself to comment on the last few days mainly because I was astonished by the proportions the protests had taken and oddly surprised by the heterogeneous crowds that has taken the streets, and at the same time I was here in the US, a mere observer.

It all began with the a protest called by the popular movement Passe Livre in São Paulo, concerned with the bus fare raise on R$ 0,20 or $0,09 cents of dollar, and the imminent possibility that trains and subways fares might be raised too. Some articles argued that poor people would have to struggle to make ends meet, and probably would end up skipping meals in order to be able to go to work. What some people don’t understand is: São Paulo is a big, crowded, unplanned city with serious traffic issues. It can take hours to drive 6 miles during peak times, even more time if you are on a bus. One day a week, depending on which is the last number on your license plate, your car is not allowed on the streets from 7am to 10am and  5pm to 8pm, and that still doesn’t help much.

The movement was trying to problematize the raise of the fare considering, also, the quality of the service provided. Public transportation in São Paulo is one of the most expensive in the world and yet the population sees nothing but crowded, uncomfortable, slow, and almost inefficient buses, trains and subways. In  2010, 37 million people didn’t had access to public transportation because they couldn’t afford it, according to the movement this figures would only go higher.

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What happened after the first, second and third protests were, to say the very least, unexpected. Police brutality against the protesters, the population, photographers and journalists, even the one’s covering the event, started to change the public reaction. While mainstream media was talking about protesters as bums, vandals and criminals, public opinion began to shift. Photos, videos, comments shared on facebook brought new light into the discussion, people started debating online what was happening in the protests. When mainstream journalists were arrested for carrying vinegar on their backpacks, something they would use to diminish effects of the gas bombs police was throwing on the protesters, and even shot with rubber bullets, my timeline filled with more and more videos. Now, mainstream media was shifting too, aligning themselves with protesters.

The first and second protests were brutal, but the third one started everything. After June 11th, every person I know, not only the journalists, were talking about bus fare, protests and police violence. Everybody expressed a deep dissatisfaction towards the government and how it handled the protests, and the catch phrase “it is not about 20 cents” started to spread. It involved civil rights, a bigger cause, and its relation to people’s mobility all over the city. I started to read about other cities and what they were also doing. Some of sort of organization came arose from social networks, and we could see it online, live. Belo Horizonte, Porto Alegre, Rio de Janeiro, Brasília, Fortaleza, and many others places were having protests too. Hackers started to get into governmental websites and spread the word on the protests.

In São Paulo, people started saying they would show up at the next protest, on a thursday, and even more people took the streets yesterday night. Even conservatives were calling people to participate, because “it is not about 20 cents”, it was about corruption, all the resources invested in the World Cup that we would never get back, the stadiums that we built and we would never use again after 2014, the politicians salaries and its discrepancy in relation to a normal citizen’s paycheck. It became a protest about education, health, public transportation and more.

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The fairest account I’ve seen said 250 thousand gathered all over the city, although some biased newspapers said it were only 60 thousand and the police claims it were 30 . I saw beautiful pictures and displays of communion, kindness and strength. I saw signs of hope, flashes of dreams and utopias. It was bigger, louder and more colorful than anything I have ever seen or imagined to see in Brazil. And, I must say, I saw it online, from the US. I tried to accompany the march and keep up with everything that was happening in every city of Brazil, but it was an insane task. I saw Rio’s congregation of 100 thousand ending in much more violence than the protests in São Paulo. It was historic, and you could see how excited people were online. It was so new, such a strong statement: the giant awakens.

Yesterday night, after coming home, a few protesters started to express their deep concern with what could happen. A pandora box appeared to be opened, and different sectors were using the protest to discuss their own agendas. A petition for the impeachment of Dilma Roussef, Brazilian president, started to appear on my timeline, something that wasn’t even part of the original cause. People that marched on the protest organized by the Passe Livre was now claiming the movement didn’t represent them, especially after some of its representatives were interviewed in public tv saying that they were fighting for 20 cents, but their main cause was always free public transportation, a decent service provided by the government. The lack of organization was palpable. Dissonant voices appeared everywhere, and politicly active journalists are now concerned with how the conservative majority will spin it around to yet another regression.

Now that we have learned we can take the streets and make ourselves be heard, let’s use our voices for the right causes. It is time to be coherent and protest for the causes you believe in, being aware which flags are walking with you and which organizations are organizing the protest you choose to be in. Don’t give politicians, newspapers and media stations the opportunity to dismantle or discredit a fight for a good cause such as the bus fare and public transportation just because we need to fight for other things as well. Social transformation won’t come in a day, after one pacific protest. Many more protests will come, hopefully.

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