If you’re thinking about starting a fashion business, we’re excited for you!
Getting your business off the ground can be a wonderful opportunity to turn your passion into a full-time career.
Keep in mind that entrepreneurship is a steep road and it’s full of unexpected challenges.
In this post, we’ve summed up 15 things to think about as you are making up your mind on starting a business in fashion!
With no further ado, let’s dive into our list!
#1 It’s capital intensive
The first thing to consider is that starting a business in fashion can be capital intensive. We may have been told about two tech geniuses building a million-dollar app in a garage, but unfortunately, that model does not apply well to fashion. Researching, designing, prototyping, producing, marketing, and distributing a collection is very expensive, and it’s important to take into account that the capital required to launch your business can be significant.
#2 You need to know both business and design
You may come from a business background or a design background, but chances are, you need to understand both sides of the business if you want to succeed in this industry. If your expertise is limited to only one of the two skillsets, don’t worry, an open mind will allow you to learn along the way. If you can find a business partner or co-founder that can complement your skills, that’s something to take into consideration, as it can set you up to handle challenges from both ends of the industry.
#3 You need to have a strong network before you begin
Business is about relationships and networks. As you grow your business, you’ll get to meet a lot of people and find many professional opportunities to create synergies. At the same time, however, creating a community of like-minded entrepreneurs is a time investment that can distract you from other priorities. This is why you should try to build up your connections before getting started, or at least have some go-to-people to rely upon before “the storm hits”.
#4 The collection cycle it’s fast. Start with iconic garments
One of the dominant trends in fashion is the reduced lifecycle of a collection. As your business can initially rely on a limited output, it can be a good idea not to focus excessively on seasonal collections, but maybe start with more iconic trans-seasonal pieces that can help you stay relevant in the market for a longer amount of time, as you build your brand and attract customer interests.
#5 You can do a lot of work on your own
At the beginning of a business, there are a lot of decisions to make, and most of them may feel like your success will depend on each. It’s likely however that you will have time to change your mind and go back to those decisions as soon as you understand if you’ve made mistakes. The challenge is that the more people are involved in making those decisions, the longer it will take to make them. This is why being alone, or in a small team, will be an opportunity to be faster and more responsive to market demands.
#6 You need staff sooner than you think
As we just said, being alone can be great to get your idea in the real world, but you need to also consider that starting a business is not about glorifying the entrepreneur, but attracting talent and building a team. In this sense, it’s important to take into account that the way you approach work needs to follow processes and structures that can allow you to delegate. Until you start delegating, you won’t be able to actually manage a business, but you’ll only be working for yourself.
#7 Building a business is much more about building an audience than a product
Both products and customers are essential elements to the business equation. Understanding what comes first is a little bit like the chicken and the egg question. Do you build a product and then attract customers? Do you create an audience and then sell them something? The decision on what to focus on first is personal to the entrepreneur. At the same time what we usually suggest is that a product can be sold once, but a community can be helped (and monetized) in many more ways. This is why, even if product development is a priority, creating a community, or audience around your business, is also a necessity.
#8 When you find something that works, stick to that
There are hundreds of business models, products, or value propositions you could use to grow your business. So many in fact, that it’s hard to understand what to focus on. It’s important to have money to invest and try out different things so that you can see what types of activities yield the highest returns. Considering how complex starting a business can be, it’s a good idea to try and stick to what works, to help you simplify operations and learn why certain campaigns do better. By following the most effective strategies, in time, you’ll be better able to hone your business model and create an efficient organization.
#9 Sustainability is not an option, it’s a must
Any business you decide to start needs to be sustainable, in terms of human and environmental policies. New generations of customers demand sustainability and transparency from the brand they buy and that is not going to change. A brand is not only chosen for the designs and social appeal but more than anything for its ability to embody values that customers resonate with. As a result, it’s important to focus on sustainable and transparency practices early on, to create a brand that is aware of the challenges the industry simply needs to overcome.
#10 You can stay lean for years
Considering the challenges of starting a business and the cost that comes with developing and marketing a collection, it’s important to stay lean and realize that the “entrepreneur lifestyle” is actually what you make of it. You don’t need huge office spaces, you don’t need expensive perks. Take your time to make smart investments and always think about the way in which your investments will actually impact the value your customers get. Do your customers care about the car you drive? Does it increase the value of your brand? That might be the case, but it’s always important to spend money on what your customers value the most.
#11 Accessing funding has a high opportunity cost
As you start a business, it may be necessary to find money to grow your organization. It’s important to take into account, however, that looking for funding has an opportunity cost. What this means is that looking for money will require you to spend time and money to meet with investors, apply to grants, give pitches and presentations. That time is taken from the time you would spend actually working on your business. In this sense, whenever you have an opportunity to attract funding, take into account the cost of that opportunity.
#12 Crowdfunding is a full-time job on its own
One of the options available to entrepreneurs who are trying to collect funding while validating the product is crowdfunding. We’ve discussed crowdfunding in many articles of our blog, but for our purposes, it’s enough to mention that crowdfunding is a full-time job. As we were discussing in our previous piece of advice, every funding opportunity has an opportunity cost, but in the case of crowdfunding, it’s important to take into account that it is a full-time occupation that actually starts on average 6 months before the actual funding stage. At the same time, it’s important to take into account that a successful crowdfunding campaign can help you raise money, validate your product and build an audience.
#13 Having a part-time job helps manage stress
Managing money is actually one of the biggest challenges of starting a business. Your money is often compared to a runway, or the time available for your business to take off. If you are relying on your business to make money, so that you can pay for your own expenses, that adds to the stress of getting the business off the ground and can lead to high degrees of pressure. Having a part-time job that keeps you afloat is a great way to lower your stress and be patient until your business is finally able to bloom.
#14 There is no big win
When you start a business, there is no “big win” scenario. Every opportunity opens new challenges, every failure opens new opportunities. It’s important to know that your business growth will be likely to be steady and paced, with no overnight success. It’s a matter of patience and hard work.
#15 Persistence is the source of success
There is no element that can guarantee your success. Your talent, connection, funding, expertise can help, but ultimately the one thing that increases your chances is simply persistence. If you are able to resiliently persist and keep doing what you are doing for long enough, you will increase your chances of success.
Great! Now that we’ve touched upon all our advice, it’s time to draw a few conclusive remarks.
There you have it! In this post, we’ve listed 15 things we wish we knew before starting a business in fashion. Each experience is unique, but sharing experiences can be a helpful way to expand our awareness of the challenges that come with setting up a fashion brand.
If you’d like to read more on the topic, here’s an article that can help you learn more about fashion entrepreneurship: The Fashion Business Manual: An Illustrated Guide to Building a Fashion Brand.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Fashion Industry, don’t hesitate to take a look at our course “The Fashion Industry: Explained”. Our in-depth class covers a wide range of topics spanning from understanding fashion customers and markets to developing immersive retail experiences for your customers. Here’s a link to the course, if you use the discount code BLOG20 you can access a 20% discount. Enjoy!
Moreover, don’t hesitate to check out our blog, where we’re having a wealth of material on fashion entrepreneurship and lean business development.