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The Pre-Business Plan

Working in fashion is often not for the faint-hearted. But starting your own business, your own brand – as some would say – that’s a different ball game. In this article you will get to know about the research you need to do for a successful business plan aka pre business plan.


Starting a business requires tenacity, endurance and dedication. But setting up a fashion business requires one vital element: a ‘passion for fashion’.

The phrase is often used lightly, but when you decide to face the struggle of launching a business the ‘passion for fashion’ is the glue that holds everything together, and despite all the ups and downs it will make you get up in the morning and keep going.
In our first article of the Fashion Insiders Tool Kit Series, we highlight some of the essential elements that you need to address before you take the plunge.

Many young designers and recent graduates hurry – almost blindly – into setting up a business, attracted by the perceived glamour and fun associated with the fashion industry. For few, it may work out and lead them to successful careers. But sadly for the majority, it leads to disappointment and often, debt.


Here are some of the Top Tips for a successful Pre-Business Plan-

Be Realistic

Today, the fashion industry is bigger and more competitive and complex than ever. Talent and good ideas are no longer enough to ensure success.
With design estimated to take up less than 10% of your time, the bulk of the work is spread over sourcing materials and suppliers, chasing buyers and production, negotiating prices and orders, selling, marketing, navigating the world of social media, packing and shipping, managing interns and staff, bookkeeping and finance, and problem-solving. Daily!
Gone are the days when a designer was just that: a designer. Today, one must wear many hats equally well.
Having prior experience in the industry is essential and advisable. Just a couple of years of hands-on experience in the world of fashion and seeing what makes a company work can make a difference. Not to mention any contacts made along the way.

The Who, Why and Where

Assuming you are not put-off already and still reading this, answering the three Ws is the vital next stepinr a pre business plan.
When most future young designers are asked who they design for, they often answer ‘for myself and my friends’. This is wrong!
If you want your business to succeed and be able to grow and finance your life, family and dreams, then dressing and accessorising your friends will not generate nearly enough profit.

Who Are You Designing For?

Who is your IDEAL client or perfect customer? Ask yourself these questions to start with:
• What is her/his name, age and occupation?
• Where do they live and who with?
• Where do they shop and what other brands do they buy?
• Which magazines and books do they read?
• What are their hobbies, favourite websites and travel destinations?
You must visualise your ideal client – down to the last detail – and design with them in mind, because they will be the ones to buy your product at full price – and repeatedly hopefully.


Why are you designing? Why do you want to start a business? Why do you think anyone will buy your product?

These are more questions, you will definitely include in your business plan or pre-business plan.
The industry has never been so competitive and over saturated with brands and products. So, if you are to add to what already is out there, and fight for space on or off-line and take business from another brand, what would make your product stand out and make someone buy it?
It is imperative that you research the market you want to be in, your competition and your ideal clients.
You must figure out:
• If there are any gaps that you can fill.
• How you can compete – will you compete on price or quality?
• How can you make yourself or your product stand out?
• What is your unique selling point (USP) – this is vital and what will (hopefully) keep you in business?


Matthew Williamson reportedly wanted to have his collections in the best shop in every fashion capital city. He had a simple goal and a vision of where he wanted his business to head that was ambitious but most importantly achievable.
Deciding where you want to see your products, where they will sell, and where your ideal client can find them will be the underpinning to your business strategy and will dictate your pricing, marketing, and manufacturing.


A fundamental part of any business – and the one that can be the cause of most anxiety – is finance.
Without money, everything grinds to a halt. Especially when you are just starting up and have no credit and trading history – everyone wants money upfront.

You must ensure how your business will be financed from the outset. A lot of money is required to fund a fashion business, especially in the first three years, as very little income will be generated.

This is because it can take – at least – six months to a year to set up the business, source materials and manufacturing partners, be ready to launch and then showcase and sell the first collection.

On average, buyers watch a new designer for a few seasons (often three) before they place an order. So working out how the business will be financed is crucial.

There are various routes that can be taken – which will be covered in future articles – but a good starting point is friends and family as they are your most faithful supporters and cheerleaders.

Embrace finding freelance work or a part-time job, it may take some of your time away from building the business but it can provide a new perspective and valuable contacts, as well as income.

Next Time…

To Do List for Pre Business Plan

  • Be prepared to get stuck in: being a fashion designer doesn’t mean that every day will be filled with designing, fun, and glamour.
  • Ask yourself the following and dig deep to answer honestly:
  • Do I really want to run my own business and work 24/7?
  • Who will I design for? Who is my business aimed at? Who is my ideal client?
  • Why do I want to start a business? Why will my ideal client buy my products?
  • Where will I sell my products?
  • Research thoroughly: your target market, your materials and supplier chain.
  • Realise that being your own boss will not be easy.
  • Try to estimate how much money you will need to cover your living expenses and get your business off the ground.
  • Then plan how to raise those funds.


Now that you know how to do research for your Business Plan, aka, the Pre Business Plan. Here is the next article for you – Business plan for startup. Are you ready to create your own Business Plan? Not trying to scare you but it is better if you download that infographic, be thorough and then only go to the next step.

We are not going anywhere :)

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