So, you have a great idea for a fashion line, and you want to start your own business. Many people have been where you are, thinking that they can wing it because their product is irresistible and unique, plus social media now gives you free marketing and promotion.
However, when you’re starting a business, it is crucial to pay heed to what others before you have gone through. Many designers have been in your position, and the challenges they faced starting their own clothing line can really help you avoid headaches of your own and increase the chances you’ll succeed.
To make things easier for you, here’s a detailed list of 10 mistakes to avoid when launching your own clothing company:
1. Trying to Start Out Too Big
You might like the idea of having a lot of variety in your line, but you run the risk of spreading yourself too thin and not doing anything particularly well. Start off with a few items and build a following.
Five to ten styles is a good number to start off with. Any more than than, and you might not have a clear idea of what the demand for your product truly is.
2. Not Having Enough Money
If you aren’t able to fulfill orders at the drop of a hat, you’ll give a bad impression of your business and potentially miss out on major orders. Make sure you have enough money to handle emergency situations and last-minute orders so that you can always deliver the products promptly to your customers.
3. Surrounding Yourself with the Wrong People
You might be tempted to bring friends and family into the business, because it would be fun to work with them, but, as much as you get along, your friends and family might not have the necessary skills or knowledge to take your business higher.
Instead, you’ll want to make sure you have positive people around you, ones whose skills and knowledge complement your own, so they can pick up in areas where you are lacking. However, your team should also share some common values and be able to trust each other in stressful situations. Fashion recruitment agencies can help you find the right people for your business.
4. Bad Marketing and Promotion
Marketing and branding compose a balancing act. You don’t want to spend too much money on them, but you need to spend enough to generate buzz and make sure customers are aware of your brand.
Yes, social media marketing is free, and you should plan to use every social outlet that is appropriate for your brand. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are great for keeping customers informed about your business, and for letting people know that you’re active and innovative, but social media takes a lot of time to build buzz – it could be 6 months to a year before you really have a solid social media following.
If you want to do it right, you’ll need to spend about 10 to 20 percent of your targeted gross revenue on marketing. This is only at the outset; this can drop to about 5 percent, once you’ve gotten really established.
Another major marketing mistake to avoid is thinking you need to do a fashion show. The glamour and excitement may be enticing, but these events can cost a ton of money – from hiring models, renting a location, getting a hair and makeup team, to lighting, etc. – and you probably won’t generate that much in sales because of it.
Instead, you’ll want to do trade shows. There, you’ll be able to generate leads and see what your competitors are doing, and in what direction the market is going.
Another alternative to runway shows is a launch party. You can sell your stuff there, and it won’t cost nearly as much as a fashion show.
However you promote your business, fashion staffing agencies can help you find the right people to plan and assist with your event.
5. Not Focusing on the Details
Creativity is important in the fashion business, but planning is equally if not more important. You might have a great idea for a fashion line, but, without focusing on the details of every aspect of your business, you might experience a lot of setbacks. Some ways you can home in on the details are:
- Make a business plan – Many designers and business owners stress how important this is. There are no set guidelines for creating a business plan, but there are lots of templates out there, so find one that works for you. You might not know where your business is going to end up, but you should plan like you do.
- Write down everything – Take plenty of notes on whatever you do. You are definitely going to want them later. If you’re thinking of a business name, for example, write down every thought that comes to mind. You might circle around to an idea you discarded earlier and find that now you like it.
- Keep track of the numbers – Have a checking and credit card account for your business, and keep track of every receipt and statement. That way, if something isn’t adding up, you’ll be able to pinpoint exactly what the problem is. Also, keep close track of everything you have in your inventory – not just your garments, but everything – even your office supplies.
- Don’t leave any stone unturned – Think about where you might experience headaches down the road and try to avoid them. For example, many designers fail to ensure they have the proper rights and licensing for the artwork or photography they use in their designs or on their website. Making sure all your ducks are in a row will help you avoid potential problems in the future.
6. Bad Relationships with Stores/Vendors
Your clothing company will depend a lot on the partners you team up with to make and sell your clothes. You will be dealing with factories, buyers, and other business owners who have their own timetables and agendas. You’ll want to make sure you’re navigating these relationships in a courteous way, but one where your needs are also met.
If you want to sell your stuff in stores, make sure you make appointments with buyers first, instead of just walking in. Buyers don’t like walk-ins, and they would much rather have you schedule an appointment first.
Make sure you are dealing with a reputable store, and read reviews of what other people say about them. A bad store might stiff you on the bill. You may also want to have an attorney write up the proper contracts when you establish a relationship with a store. The same goes with trade shows. If you are going to exhibit at a trade show, make sure you attend it first so you know what to expect.
On the production side, you’ll really want to do a lot of research on the factories and suppliers you’re working with. See what other people are saying about them. If the reviews are negative, move on.
7. Not Spending Money Wisely
Keeping track of your budget is a crucial part of any successful business, but things can really go wrong when you allocate your money in the wrong places.
Learn about taxes, and know what you can write off. You can save plenty of money by writing off gas, for example, or office supplies, etc.
A major part of your business is your website. It’s often the first place people will go when they’re trying to find out more about you, and it’s a place where a lot of money can be spent needlessly and without any benefit to you.
You don’t have to spend money on a fancy custom website. A lot of designers regret doing this, especially when there are so many good ways to make a website using just a template. There are a number of reasons template-based websites are a good idea:
- Website builders are easy to use and allow you to change your website on a dime – which is necessary because, as your business grows, your tastes will change, too.
- It’s easy to incorporate e-commerce when using a website builder.
- You’ll save money, instead of paying a web designer to build a site for you. That way, you’ll be able to put the money to use elsewhere.
Where you do want to spend a little money, however, is on a graphic designer to brand your business, so that it has its own identity – especially an easily recognizable logo. Hiring a professional photographer to shoot your clothes could help, too.
8. Bad Pricing
This is probably the number-one mistake that new entrepreneurs make in the fashion business: They price their items too low in the hopes that people will get hooked, thinking they can increase the prices later. However, this creates a number of problems.
First, it will be difficult to turn a profit. As a general rule, you should mark up your clothes between 2 to 2.5 times the cost of production to arrive at your wholesale price, and then another 2.5 times that to arrive at the retail price. This should allow you to make enough profit to keep your business afloat. Ultimately, there will be a number of unforeseen factors that go into your cost, like wasted fabric. It’s important to plan for this.
Do research on your competitors, and make a list of the pros and cons of their products, plus how much they cost. This should give you a pretty good idea of how to price yours.
Always price your product so that it allows you to make a profit. Other people are probably willing to pay more than you think. If you price low with the intention of raising your prices later on, you risk potentially having to find a whole new customer base.
The factory you’re working with might give you a projected completion date, but you should really give yourself a two-week cushion, because it is very likely they will fall behind schedule. This could be due to anything, from weather to the fact that you’re a new customer and you’re lower on their list of priorities. Always make sure to pad your schedule so that you can meet your deadlines realistically.
10. Not Staying Relevant/Creative/Knowledgeable
Get a lot of feedback from other people, and encourage them to be honest. Selling involves gauging other people’s reactions and basing your decisions on that. If people tell you they like your samples, that’s great, but what you really want to hear is, “When can I order one?” That’s when you’ll know that you have an item that could do well.
There’s a lot of expertise out there, and plenty of ways to access it. Get an education about the fashion industry, whether it’s through internships, reading books, taking college courses, or talking to industry veterans.
The experts at The Fashion Network have a deep knowledge of the fashion industry and what it takes to succeed. They can connect you to professionals who will help take your ideas and create a thriving business.