The basics of how to start a fashion business
Thinking about how to start a fashion business can be the most exciting thing in the world. Designing your dream line, the prestige of selling your collections in renowned stores, droves of customers buying your products, the glamour of seeing your favourite celebrity wearing your clothes, and the pots of money to be made, are surely very enticing.
However, the reality of how to start a fashion business will be something entirely different to your initial perceived idea.
MARKET POSITIONING & DIFFERENTIATION
Amongst the many things to consider is whether your idea has a place in the market.
If it does – then that’s great.
But if it is similar to many other things out there, you need to figure out how to separate it from the pack and make it distinctive.
It’s actually okay to be similar to something that already exists and is doing well, as that just proves its desirability. However, to find customers and perhaps, persuade your competitors’ customers to buy your product instead, it needs to have the basic attributes as well as unique bells and whistles too.
But, if your idea is brand new and unique, then how do you define your market position?
Finding your place in the market is down to a number of things and the decision is yours.
Is your product aimed at a consumer who appreciates fast fashion, or are they more interested in the mid or luxury sectors?
How expensive or cheap will your item be? This will be based on whether it’s a fast fashion item or more suited to the luxury sector, in which case price (within reason) is no object.
KNOWING YOUR IDEAL CUSTOMER
Before you begin the lengthy process of finding customers, you need to define your product or service from the customer’s point of view.
- What does your product do for your ideal customer?
- What problems does your product solve for your customer?
- What needs of your customer does your product satisfy?
- How does your product improve your customer’s life or work?
Defining and knowing your ideal customer will enable you to position your brand in the right place to attract the right people. This will determine your success in business.
So many entrepreneurs are unclear when it comes to who their ideal customer is.
They spend a lot of time looking for customers in the wrong places and trying to sell their product to people who are not their ideal customers.
The best way to find perfect customers and create new ones is by identifying your Unique Selling Point (USP) and communicating this key benefit to them.
Your ability to clearly define and focus in on the customers who can most rapidly buy your product or service will be essential to your business success.
If anyone has shown an interest in your products, then try to find similar people within their demographic.
Create an ideal customer avatar questionnaire, with a selection of intrusive questions.
Remember, you’re trying to find out the buying habits of your potential future fans. These are based on so many things such as where and how they shop, and how many times a month or year they purchase items. What type of industry do they work in, which blogs interest them? Finally, which websites do they visit the most, and what are their personal interests.
Before you even start to produce your items, setting up a social media presence through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and/or Pinterest would be a good idea, as it helps build momentum and “buzz.”
By creating interesting content that relates to your USP, you will start the slow process of finding people who like what you do.
THE BUSINESS OF HOW TO START A FASHION BUSINESS
Possessing some fashion business acumen is paramount to launching a new brand.
Before you launch, you will need a certain amount of finance to develop your product. If you have access to savings or can call on family members or friends for help to cover costs, start there.
Remember, document in writing any understanding you reach with your friends and family “investors” as to how and when you pay them back.
Alternatively, you could consider setting up a crowdfunding campaign. Crowdfunding platforms enable you to raise funds from ‘investors’ who see potential in your products. Check out this brilliant podcast about proven strategies for a successful crowdfunding campaign.
The entrepreneurial market is a real growth area and one that is gaining a foothold.
For this reason, there are many funding opportunities available. Other options for raising finances include grants and loans.
Grants are available through your local business enterprise office or try your local council, depending on where in the world you live.
For example, the Virgin Start-Up Loans scheme in the UK offers low-interest loans and national banks are reasonable with their financial packages.
The aforementioned options are viable but you will need to have a business plan to present when applying for funding. Without a plan, it will be harder to raise finance and to be taken seriously.
It doesn’t have to be a giant manuscript – just ensure that it has enough information that casts a light on your startup capital requirements, a profit and loss account, and a cash flow forecast.
Setting up a business account would be a canny move. Prior to setting this up, do some research on the type of business you would like to run. Will you be a sole trader, or will you be entering into a partnership? Perhaps you’d prefer to be a Limited Company with appointed directors who can help you run the company. All the information regarding this can be found on the UK Government small business website.
As in any business, it’s a good idea to determine your short, medium and long-term goals in regards to sales. This isn’t so easy to do, especially if your product is untested in the market. This information should ideally be included in your fashion business plan in the Sales Forecast section.
Making important decisions for the good of your business should be a top priority. As a startup, you may find yourself having to deal with all aspects of the business, and this can be overwhelming, to say the least. But many businesses go out of business simply because the people running them are unable to make a decision.
Running a business requires decision making constantly. Some decisions are big, others are small – but they all add up and lead to results that either move a business forward or kill it.
It is often the thought of the latter that paralyzes people and makes them unable to make, let alone execute even a small decision. It is important to remember, however, that decision are steps we take in order to progress.
A wrong decision is infinitely better than no decision.
It allows us to find out what is “wrong” and correct the course, learning valuable lessons along the way.
For those who suffer from indecision, it may be helpful to focus on the following three things and try to stick to them.
1. KNOW THE BASICS
By gathering regularly and keeping track of all the facts and details that impact your business, you won’t miss critical information at a later stage, that could make a difference to how you run your business.
For example, understanding how your competition is doing business is very important.
Finding ways to improve customer satisfaction is another example of knowing the facts about your company.
Knowing your costs and margins is vital as well as if you are meeting your sales goals or not.
Set up a set of targets to follow and by keeping a track of them monthly if not more often, you will know in which direction your business is going.
2. FOCUS ON THE RESULTS
What do you want to achieve with the business?
Once you’ve determined this, consider the possible outcomes.
Focus on the short-term and long-term goals and keep looking for ways to improve how your company does business. This will all contribute to accomplishing your business goals and mission statements.
3. ASK FOR HELP
It’s really important that if you feel overwhelmed, especially at the start, that you ask for help. Consider the opinions of others and ask friends and your peers for advice. Find a mentor who has “walked the road” you have set out for yourself and your business and ask for guidance.
Designing your collection and progressing its development are important decisions that you will need to make.
Are you able to add the necessary details to your original ideas? This is a requirement if you want them developed into a pattern and then a sample.
The changeable world of fashion is not an easy one and overnight success stories rarely happen. Building something worthwhile takes time and a lot of hard work and determination.
Regard this race as a marathon, not a sprint, and take things at a moderate pace.
If your business is founded on the right foundations and consequently run well, anything is possible.
Become a Fashion Insider
Join our community of fashion entrepreneurs, brands and manufacturers. Receive weekly newsletters full of inspiration, article alerts and tips on how to grow your business and create better products.