Estonian Clothing Brand Shares Secrets to Local Niche Market Success
Katheriin Liibert, an entrepreneur from Estonia, co-founded a clothing brand called #muhoov with her friend Mihkel Ambre in early 2018. Understanding the need to market her business, she started with word-of-mouth referrals and created a branded hashtag. Within less than a year, it became a huge hit in the local market: “We weren’t sure it was going to take off, but it kind of just did!”
#muhoov, an Estonian compound word, roughly translates to my backyard or my hood. The concept is simple yet effective—#muhoov sweatshirts help people show the world where they’re from. It can be a street of your childhood home or your favorite block, a local neighborhood, a small town or village, or a capital city.
Growing up at the height of a digital revolution
With a background in marketing and product management, Katheriin has always had an entrepreneurial spark. A social anthropologist by training, she also loves doing volunteer work in the name of economic empowerment: “Whether it’s through mentorship or events, there’s nothing more exciting than helping people reach their full potential.”
Having grown up at the dawn of her country becoming a digital society, she was inspired by the entrepreneurial success stories of her parents’ generation way before Estonia became known as e-Estonia.
“We have seen what can happen when entrepreneurship meets digital technology—from Skype to TransferWise and more,” she says, “so my generation is lucky to have seen how tech business can be scaled. There’s so much potential, yet no guarantee of success.”
The journey to success begins with the right choices
Reflecting back on the very beginning of her own entrepreneurial venture, Katheriin says, “A year and a half ago, we printed sweatshirts. It seemed too complicated to me as a side business because I had never heard of drop shipping.”
Eventually, Katheriin’s co-founder Mihkel came across Printful during his research. On choosing Printful as their print-on-demand service, she adds that a major benefit is not having to worry about fulfillment logistics.
Their next step was to pick an ecommerce platform that fell within their budget.
After having spent some time on research, they realized that WordPress and its WooCommerce plugin was the right choice—it’s budget-friendly (WooCommerce is free) and works with payment providers in Estonia.
“The setup was quite easy,” says Katheriin about connecting WooCommerce to Printful, “I love the dashboard and having such a good overview of what’s going on with orders.”
To learn more about how to get started with Printful & WooCommerce, watch this video!
“I also love the transparency of the costs,” says Katheriin, “the volume discounts and the friendly customer support that Printful has. When I write to them, I sometimes worry that maybe it’s a little too much, but they’re always so friendly and quick to reply. Even when they don’t answer right away, they make sure to follow up.”
Overall, Katheriin and Mihkel are both happy with the choices they’ve made so far for their ecommerce business: “We love that Printful is a one-stop-shop for ecommerce brands, letting entrepreneurs focus on what they do best—their business!”
Pro tip: Go with the ecommerce platform that falls within your budget and works best for your products!
Katheriin and Mihkel named their clothing brand #muhoov as a way to relate to the local market in their country.
“I think having something that’s not necessarily international, but has a (local) meaning to it and is a word that hasn’t been used anywhere else—it just has so many benefits,” says Katheriin, “so we started in Estonia.”
Quite early on, they also realized the value of using outside label printing for branding their sweatshirts: “People just love to use the hashtag and tag our products! Even though it’s an extra cost to have it on the back collar of every sweatshirt, it adds so much value.”
And indeed, #muhoov has been tagged on Instagram by more than 1K people showing their love for their neighborhood or hometown!
Pro tip: Reach your audience on a more personal level!
Working with influencers
When it comes to marketing strategies, Katheriin recommends getting in touch with local Instagram influencers to boost brand awareness: “If you’re trying out influencer marketing, make sure you also have a way to track sales. It can be a little tricky to work with influencers you don’t know on a personal level, so I would recommend giving them a discount promo code to see how many sales came through them.”
Katheriin mentions that it’s important to know the audience of the influencer and see how well their followers overlap with yours. In #muhoov’s case, she says that she reached out to a couple of friends she knew who also happened to be influencers.
Apart from working with influencers, Katheriin recommends doing regular social campaigns and monthly free giveaways.
The power of belonging
People have an inherent desire to belong. Katheriin believes that bringing communities of people together through a recognizable brand is a great way for them to express their sense of belonging. “It is something unique that hasn’t been done so much in retail,” she says.
Katheriin also thinks that what makes #muhoov special is the chance to customize the sweatshirt with a place name of your choice: “You can get something that’s so close to your heart, like the name of your farm or village. Whatever it is, there really are no limits as to what place name you can get printed!”
A shared sense of home identity
Part of #muhoov’s success was finding a niche that works well in the local market. Katheriin thinks it’s also worth testing “the borders” of the market—she dreams of expanding #muhoov. “When you get your first success, you start doing more,” she says.
Katheriin knows that helping people express their shared sense of home identity doesn’t have to be just local. Aware of her brand’s potential, she has made efforts to expand to other countries in Europe, starting with Estonia’s closest neighbor Latvia.
Pro tip: Spread brand recognition with a hashtag!
The future of #muhoov
Katheriin says that she chose Latvia as #muhoov’s next target market mainly because she has friends there: “It seemed logical to expand to where you have connections, where you know people who can tell you something about the market and help you out. So, about half a year later after the initial #muhoov launch, we also launched our Latvian ecommerce store.”
Pro tip: Don’t be afraid to use your own network!
Katheriin says the same thing goes for expanding to Spain: “We have a friend there and he loved the concept. He wanted to help us with it, so it seemed like a natural match.”
But their ultimate goal? That would be the US market. “We’re now focusing on adding new products in the coming months. Next year, we’ll focus more on expansion,” she says.
Have you also thought about expanding your business? If you’re looking for tips on how to tackle a new market, we’ve got you covered with a blog post on everything you need to know about selling internationally.
The secret to success?
When asked about what she prides herself on, she tells us that it’s her tenacity: “I may not be the best in everything I do, but I am determined to do my best in everything I do. Cheesy, but it’s true!”
And, finally, when asked about what is the secret to success, Katheriin replied, “Oh, I have to let you down here. I don’t think there is a secret to success. If you see an opportunity—work hard at it. And if the timing works out, you may be successful in your endeavor. It works maybe 1 out of 10 times. The real secret is that we don’t usually talk about the other 9 times.”
Feeling inspired to find your own niche but not sure how? Check out our blog post on how to find a niche market for your online store!
If you have already found your niche, what’s your secret for success? Share in the comments!