Starting your fashion brand means starting a business! Hold on, don’t laugh, it might sound obvious to you but many designers out there are not fully aware of that aspect.
Many people (especially those who have never owned a business) tend to glamorize the idea of being your own boss, setting your own hours, your own rates, your own rules, choosing who to work with, not to mention receiving all the credit and rewards for your talent with hopes of being famous and other unrealistic ideas. These alluring benefits are often the drive for many designers to make the leap to start their own business without closely examining the other logistics.
Most of my family is small business owners; my uncle, my cousins, my mom, my brother, even my father late in life had his own business after years of being an employee. Growing up I had exposure to this roll and with it the NOT so fun parts of owning and running a small business became clear such as: maintaining cash flow, chasing customers for payments while stressing about paying your bills and employees on time, managing a team, responding to customers (whether you are in the mood or not), being in your business 24/7 whether you are physically there or not, day or night, healthy or sick. It’s a commitment much like having a child, lots of responsibilities and no time-off even while on vacation.
Obviously knowing all that didn't stop me from going into business J, therefore I am not looking to scare you or proposing that you should NOT start your own business. I am simply encouraging you to ask yourself, “ WHY?” before going in.
Why do you want to start a fashion business?
I moved to New York in the first place because starting my own fashion brand had been my life dream since I was a teenager. For over 15 years I worked my way to get to that point and when I eventually had my own line I realized that it wasn't what I had thought; it was not as fun and glamorized as I pictured it and simply not for me. In retrospective I wish I would have asked, “WHY?” before going in.
Judging from both my own experience and the many businesses I've worked with, if your answer does not include a true passion, clear product vision and/or business mission, than you might want to rethink this before jumping in. Taking time to look into everything that’s involved or going back to the drawing board and redefining your reasons will help you focus. Think about what a good day will look and feel like and then think of the same for a bad day. Can you handle it and is it worth it? Maybe you just need to find a partner to run the business part of your brand?
See, what keeps me going in days where I need to face all these above business challenges and responsibilities is the fact that I LOVE WHAT I DO and the joy of seeing the impact our company makes in designers lives and businesses is bigger than those challenges! I enjoy hearing about your new ideas and helping designers like you succeed and I am intrigued working with our customers and with my team! It feels good to wake up every morning and focus on new business ideas for our company and for our designers and I feel lucky that I get to make a living doing something that I love and am passionate about!
This is what I want for you!
So, to start write a business plan. This will help you define your business vision and mission, and set mile-stones to achieve your business goals. It will also help you evaluate your true strengths and weaknesses and narrow in on the parts of the business you look forward to and might wave a red flag towards the areas you need to work on further.