Every business is unique, and you can structure it whichever way you want. Just bear in mind that every choice you make presents it own opportunities and challenges.
In this comprehensive guide we’re going to talk about structuring your fashion business. Our goal is to make you start thinking about the things you need to consider before you even hire a designer or place your first wholesale order, as well as to help you growth hack every stage of the process.
Startups face a seemingly insurmountable list of “to-do’s”. If you feel overwhelmed, keep in mind that some of the steps discussed here won’t apply to your business, or won’t move the needle in any significant way. You don’t need to do all of it.
The adage that 20 percent of effort equals 80 percent of outcome applies to every dimension of business. It’s called the Paretto principle. In other words, you need to find your 80/20, i.e. the top 20% that’s going to yield 80% of your results. The challenge is to know what’s going to move the needle for your clothing brand and what’s a waste of your time. If you feel lost, reach out to us – it’s our job to figure that out ( and save you a lot of time and money in the process).
LET’S STRIP IT DOWN TO BASICS
Elon Musk compares starting a business to “eating glass and staring into the abyss of death’, and (spoiler alert!), he’s on point here. Most people start out with completely unrealistic expectations of what level of effort is required and how long it takes to get a business off the ground. They are easily discouraged and give up way too soon. Meanwhile, Elon Musk is still hustling!
Launching a business can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life, as long as you do it right.
Let’s strip it down to basics.
There are only two aspects to building a successful direct-to-consumer clothing brand: product and sales funnel.
You can’t have one without the other, and both are equally important. You can have a marginally successful product with a leaky funnel, and you can sell a good amount of crappy product with a great funnel, but you’d only be scratching the surface of what’s possible.
If it’s that simple, why would you even bother building a BRAND?
The purpose of creating a brand is to make the consumer’s journey along the sales funnel as frictionless as possible. A successful brand is one that creates an emotional connection with your customer base. This helps you build trust, safeguard you from competition, and, let’s face it, allows you to charge a premium for your product. After all, fashion is ALL ABOUT perceived value.
A good sales funnel is, well… a FUNNEL, and branding is a MEGAPHONE. It helps you amplify your efforts.
In fact, branding is so important, we will touch on it briefly here and discuss it in greater detail in a separate post. Watch this space.
It’s important to note than when we talk about branding, we don’t mean “logos” and visual identity. In a nutshell, your brand is a promise to people about the way you will do business. A brand is what the outside world thinks of you.
Brand: visual, vocal, conceptual. How it looks, how it sounds, what it stands for.
Visual: Photography can truly capture the imagination—and wallets—of potential customers. Well-chosen photographs with a consistent theme make a big difference in how your brand is perceived. Just think about Nike and how powerfully their brand photography conveys their brand message.
Branding on a budget: start with a brand colour.
Find your brand voice = basic brand personality. Are you bold? Are you funny? Are you trustworthy?
turn your brand into a brand that means business
We can help you clarify and articulate what you’re trying to accomplish.
1. PRODUCT OFFERING
PROOF OF CONCEPT: IDEA VALIDATION PROCESS: Product viability/demand
Love is blind. Don’t fall in love with your own idea.
Purchasing inventory too early is the rookie mistake that killed many fashion startups. Idea validation is so important that we fat out refuse to work with anyone who intends to skip it and go straight into production.
Vision > research > MVP > validation > pivot(optional) or production
Validation needs to be quantified:
Validation is designed to give you you reasonable certainty your business will have a sustainable, growing, paying audience in a matter of days or weeks, rather than wasting months or years building a final product nobody will pay for. It’s as much a way of thinking, as it is a step-by-step process. The end result validation attempts to achieve is most often meeting a desired number of pre-orders or waiting list subscribers who’d purchase a basic proof of concept of your idea—a minimum viable product that solves the most simple form of the problem you’re attempting to address.
Validation isn’t a guarantee of success. It introduces more certainty.
You need to make small, calculated bets on your ideas in order to validate them.
Validation is absolutely essential for saving time and money, which will ultimately allow you to test as many of your ideas as possible.
Do not invest in inventory before you validated your idea.
Trying to sell a product nobody wants because you’ve got boxes of it in your garage instead of looking for winning products.
Newsflash: popular products are easier to sell.
Dead stock is called that for a reason. It kills businesses. You don’t want to be faced with the task of selling a product nobоdy wants.
Don’t create your product behind closed doors. Talk to people.
Start with an idea.
Do everything in your power to avoid spending money when you start a business. Build a lean solution that provides value to your customers and only spend money on the absolute essentials at the moment you need them.
Test the idea.
Social media, friends, forums, talk a coмsultant or someone with fashion industry experiencе.
Niche and your place within that niche.
Brand: values, aesthetics and positioning. Subtract before you add. Efficiency. DISTILL THE IDEA TO ITS BARE ESSENCE
Think long-term. Be mindful of trends but don’t chase fads.
Blue-Ocean or red ocean?
Blue ocean strategy. Pioneer a new product category instead of trying to dominate an existing one.
INVENTORY /Cut & Sew / DROPSHIPPING /Print on demand / BOTH
fulfillment, warehousing etc
Shipping / International / Returns policy
Do you also plan on opening up your own shop (whether online, brick-and-mortar, or both), or do you only intend on selling wholesale to other stores?
This will obviously depend largely on your goals. Do you want to run and operate a physical storefront? Do you want to sell only online? Do you hope your clothing line will be carried in other boutiques?
Traffic/eyeballs > shop > product > add to cart button
Traffic/eyeballs > product page > checkout > POST-PURCHASE REL WITH CUSTOMER
- Traffic/eyeballs. MARKETING:
One of the most painful mistakes I see way too frequently is when entrepreneurs underestimate the importance of a robust marketing and sales strategy for their fledgling business.”
Make sure your marketing costs are taken into consideration when pricing your product
Paid advertising -PPC, facebook ads etc
End of season sales – whether or not you’re likely to have dead stock at the end of the season
Traffic: Social media, offline, SEO, Paid traffic, PR
The ultimate goal of a — is to attract more eyeballs and generate more leads.
Technology can no longer be treated as an add-on to business strategy
Social media – focus on no more than two accounts at a time.
Decide: global or local? Multicurrency or local currency?
Photos on models or product shots?
Highlight colour: what colour represents your brand
Product page: Positioning your product on a page. Product range. Etc
HACK THE PROCESS.
A fast-growing business will soon exceed the point where the founders can grow it alone. When you reach this point, strategic advisors can help you push through this growth hurdle and get to the next step. That’s because the right strategic advice will shortcut your learning curve and become a catalyst for growth.
We entrepreneurs are extremely prone to rationalize, “I can do it myself.” Then we spend six hours trying to extract a virus from our computer or fix a leaky faucet.
Sure, we may be competent to do that little job. And sure, sometimes you have to do everything when you start out. But now you’re doing a $10 or $20 per hour fix-the-faucet job and you’re not doing your No. 1 job,
The zenpunk way. Buzy = Lazy
The most productive people are a little lazy. If there are really only a few hours a day in which you do $1,000-an-hour work, does it really matter if you screw around for the rest of the day? Downtime gives you the mental space you need to think. You can’t be a great strategist when you’re hustling from morning ’til night. Feed your brain instead, so you’re sharp when you’re negotiating the next sales contract.
- How you choose to manage your time and decide which opportunities to pursue will greatly impact your success when starting a business. Outsource everything you can, so that you can focus on doing what only you can do in your business.
“Outsource tasks that stop you from doing what only you can do in your business.”
Leverage Your Skills and Outsource Your Weaknesses
The 80/20 principle:
All I’m going to suggest is that you start with a much simpler essence of your product over the course of a weekend, rather than wasting time building something for weeks… only to discover no one wants it.
On sticking to your vision:
Basic ecommerce funnel:
Traffic/eyeballs > shop > product > checkout
Assess your customer’s value.
Repeat until you’ve found a winner. Nobody likes this step. Nobody. Everyone is trying to wiggle out of it, find excuses, yada yada. If you are not prepared to validate your idea before investing your money, get the fuck out of here. Seriously. Just go.
Creating your MVP.
Keep it simple.
Good questions to ask:
What’s the minimum amount of effort you can put into this business to generate your first sale?
What’s the minimum amount of money you can invest to generate a sale?
What’s the minimum amount of money you can invest to start with?
Do not invest in inventory before you validated your idea.
There are two simple methods for rapidly validating whether people will buy your product or not:
brace yourself — it’s time to test whether people will actually spend money on your product. In other words, is it truly commercially viable?
This step is critical.
Worst case scenario to avoid:
No matter how successful your small business, no owner has all the answers.
A mentor can provide reassurance that you are doing the right things for your business
success in business is often about making incremental improvements across the board
Market research/SWOT analysis
What’s better than being a horse of a different color? Being a horse that flies or swims or hosts a swanky dinner party. Pioneer a new product category instead of trying to dominate an existing one.
DISTILL THE IDEA TO ITS BARE ESSENCE
“Start now, you don’t need funding. Watch out for when you want to do something big, but say you can’t until you raise money to fund the idea. It usually means you’re more in love with the idea of being big than with actually doing something useful.”
Print on demand:
Cut & Sew:
DESIGNS, TECH PACKS, PATTERN MAKING AND GRADING. SOURCING, SAMPLES, PRODUCTION