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3 Things to Consider Before Launching Your Fashion Startup

Fashion industry appears glamorous, gorgeous and uber-rich to the average person flipping the pages of Vogue, and this is the very same impression that a graduate fresh out of fashion school probably has as well.

But the realities in this highly competitive industry are totally different.

A young designer has to first decide whether she would want to start out on her own or work for an established fashion label. There are pros and cons associated with both the options, and it is also possible to progress into either of the roles as you grow in the industry.

Being a fashion entrepreneur is highly exciting, but is not everyone’s cup of tea.

I cannot say I have seen it all but here are a few tips for you to venture into the world of fashion designing right. I haven’t followed them all, but in hindsight it sure would have made a few stuff easier.

  • Be Sure of Your Financials

When you start your own business, you cease doing the job you know and are passionate about. A CEO has to manage and run the whole show. You will have to manage people, processes and profits. The buck stops at you and for all reasons you are ultimately responsible for how well your brand fares, and how much sales you pull in.

You need not be an accounts wizard, but you must sure know to make sense out of Excel spreadsheets. You have to ensure that you have enough money to keep the show running.

Designing is your first love but you need to be willing to move it into the backseat when you take the wheels of your fledgling company.

You need to have money to get your company on its feet and running. You must have a handful of contracts and a couple of clients in your kitty before you start production. Keeping a company afloat with no confirmed orders will be almost impossible, even if you have a rich family to support you.

Know the things that breathe life into your company- expense, revenue and inventory. Your survival depends on how well you manage them.

  • Are You a Great People Manager?

Tight and erratic deadlines can give you sleepless nights and put you on a caffeine-only diet. Managing production schedules, inventory and global manufacturing units requires all your time. But realize that you will not be able to do all this by yourself.

You must build a small, smart and highly capable team that can take a bit of your burden away. They should be able to supervise the day-to-day activities that need to function smoothly and do ensure that your team is accountable for efficiency and effectiveness.

A good CEO should empower his or her team, encourage independence and enterprise, reward great performance and allow open communication at all levels. If you enjoy mentoring and grooming teammates then a CEO’s role will be a great fit for you.

You will have to deal with suppliers, manufacturers, vendors and buyers. And you have to get them to agree to work for a small company at discounted rates which will definitely put all your people skills to test.

If you are not put off by the nitty-gritties of fashion business yet, then starting your own label could be the best decision.

  • Craft a World-Beating Business Plan

A business plan is how you see your business in your head. It is all about how you plan to go about with the daily functioning, managing revenue growth/shortfalls, dealing with competition and changing business environment, to the kind of hiring policies you will adopt, and the core values, principles and objectives your business will have.

In short, a business plan helps distill your business into a short ‘elevator pitch’ which packs in a punch, and gets your idea across to prospective investors, bankers, employees, customers or any stakeholder. A business plan simplifies your business and helps people understand what it is all about.

A business plan is a living and breathing set of core ideals that you would want your business to live by, but it’s not static or dogmatic. You can change and modify your business plan as you grow, meet unexpected challenges or your business goals evolve.

So once you have your heart set on starting out on your own, sit down and ‘plan’ your business plan.

Conclusion

Nearly 1 in 10 new businesses fail. But if you are well-planned and have the heart to take all failings and defeats in your stride, then there is no reason why you should not follow your dream. Any business is a risk, but it’s a risk worth its reward a thousand times over. So go ahead and plan to design!

Brian Zeng is the chief marketing officer of OwnOnly, an online menswear boutique that provides custom-tailored business and casual suits. You can connect with him on Twitter.

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