A massive thank you to Dhillan, founder of Ratchet Clothing, for sharing his inspiring startup journey with entrepreneurial students at Brunel University London last week!
Dhillan Bhardwaj started his brand, Ratchet Clothing, completely on his own at the tender age of 16 without any financial support from his family. He dreaded the thought of working for his family after finishing his education so he bravely broke out of the path that was set for him.
Although he “failed everything” in his GCSEs, Dhillan has had an entrepreneurial streak from a young age and his first venture was washing cars to save up money. His entrepreneurial streak sparked again in 2012 when he was inspired to start his brand. He made the difficult decision to quit his education to focus on developing ‘Ratchet’. The stakes were high – if he failed, he would have no choice but to work for his family.
He started by creating a Facebook page and within the first few weeks, he had received 7,000 likes without even showcasing any of his products yet. When he introduced his first item though, nobody bought it. However, he didn’t let this knock his confidence. Instead, Dhillan gave his t-shirts to popular people in town and asked them to wear his products in their pictures on social media and to share his Facebook page. He quickly raised the awareness of his brand with this cost-effective method! Dhillan swears by social media – use this valuable tool to your advantage.His next biggest achievement was trending on twitter worldwide in 14 minutes with his ‘Miley Virus’ design, inspired by Miley Cyrus. Miley’s backup dancer contacted him through twitter asking to visit his factory. She bought about 50 items and ended the visit by offering backstage tickets to Dhillan for Miley’s show. Dhillan gifted a top to Miley which she immediately wore and took pictures in. Dhillan describes this as ‘one of the craziest things that has happened’ to him.
Since then, his brand has opened up countless opportunities such as being invited to make TV appearances and to do a Tedx Talk on 17th February. He has met with a ton of influential people ranging from David Cameron to Rihanna!
Dhillan’s next milestone was the Ratchet Horror Story – his first ever fashion show. He was passionate about giving unconventional models the opportunity to shine through modelling his clothing. Dhillan’s aim was to spread a message of empowerment and acceptance. Despite his initial worries of nobody showing up to his fashion show, the event was a sell out.
Dhillan has also been on a school tour to inspire children that they can be successful even if they don’t do well in their academics. He was overwhelmed and touched by the enthusiasm the school kids greeted him with at his first school talk.
Ratchet Clothing has gone from strength to strength but Dhillan is ready for his next challenge. He is currently working on his second brand, ‘Dhillan B’, which features hand-made denim jackets. Dhillan explains that he’s grown as a person and the ‘Ratchet’ brand has given him the stepping stone to explore new designs and to develop a new brand for a different audience. Although he is grateful for how the ‘Ratchet’ brand has helped him get to where he is now, he doesn’t want to be restricted in his creativity and he believes that you should follow where your interests lead.
Dhillan describes his brand as a family and that when somebody buys an item from the ‘Ratchet’ brand, they feel like they are part of something and ultimately, people want to feel like they are part of a community. The thing that wins people’s hearts and loyalty is inclusion, not endorsement, and this is definitely a major factor in the success of the ‘Ratchet’ brand – fans of the brand are always able to reach and communicate with Dhillan through his social media and he’s “almost a 24 hour helpline for fans of the brand”. To be able to say that at 18 years old, he was helping someone who wanted to commit suicide and was having an eating disorder is one of the most rewarding part of having his brand.
“You always get that friend in school who’s bad at everything and I was that person. If I can do it, then any of you guys can literally do anything you want and I really hope that I’ve inspired you.” – Dhillan Bhardwaj
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