Working for yourself sounds great, but entrepreneurship is no easy business. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, about 1 in 12 small businesses close every year. While the reasons for most of the closures have shifted from the sales-driven to the personal, beginning your own fashion brand will always pose a certain risk. However, with risk comes reward, and if you’ve always dreamed of designing your own collection and starting a clothing line, you should plan for success by knowing and avoiding the most common mistakes that fashion entrepreneurs make.
Mistake 1: Not Knowing Your Target Customer
Who are you selling to? Are you designing clothes for women, men, or everyone? Is your line going to be size-inclusive or targeted at a specific body type or activity?
Before designing your clothes, your marketing plan, or opening your store, it’s critical to decide who your target customer is and how they shop. That way, you’ll not only be able to deliver them the best products, but you’ll also be able to market those products to them in the leanest and most direct way possible.
Mistake 2: Not Having New or Unique Products
Private label is on the rise. Amazon has it, Target has it, and now, even Kroger has it. If your clothing store or online store isn’t offering customers something they can only get from you, they will shop around and buy your products wherever they’re cheapest.
Competing against established retail giants in race to the bottom pricing is a big mistake and could ultimately close your business. While sourcing some of your store’s merchandise from wholesalers does have its benefits, you’ll want to make sure you offer at least a couple of completely unique private label products to help draw customers in the door and up to check out.
Mistake 3: Not Pricing Your Merchandise Correctly
The goal of your business is to deliver quality products to customers – but it’s also to ultimately make money. Having a diverse sourcing strategy for your products can ensure that you don’t get pigeonholed into a dependent relationship with any single wholesaler or clothing manufacturer. Otherwise, if your single source of products raises their prices, you either have to increase what you charge customers, decrease your profit margin, or find and vet a completely new product source.
When starting out, make sure that you source products diversely, and that the prices you set for products will accommodate your shipping costs, marketing materials, clothing displays, shop overhead, and take home profits.
Mistake 4: Skipping Marketing
How will your customers find out about your business? Will you advertise online? Use social media? Have a physical presence with signage?
These are all great ideas, but you need to evaluate the best marketing mix for your business. This should take into consideration your target customer, your budget, and your long-term growth. Marketing is all about growth, so if you don’t work and plan to grow, it’s very unlikely that you actually will.
Mistake 5: Nonexistent or Short-sighted Hiring
Both small and large businesses have a million moving parts. It’s unlikely that any one business owner will be a savant on each and every one of them. Hiring help for your fashion startup is a critical move in building your business, and one that will allow you to focus on what you do best: designing your clothing collection. Otherwise, you risk stretching yourself too thin and your whole brand will suffer.
Make sure each individual you bring on board has proven expertise in the position for which you’re hiring them. This same rule of thumb also goes for any vendors or influencers with whom you’re considering working. Ask yourselves if they have proven themselves with past clients and employers or if they’re simply a self-branded “guru”.
Doing the Right Thing
Building a sustainable business isn’t just about the what-not-to-do’s. In fact, there are a lot of great resources out there to help you know what to do when building your fashion brand and how to do it well. If you’re struggling with some aspect of managing your business’ marketing or management, there are cool resources like Skillshare that offer bite-sized, online classes. If you’re looking for ways to start your own fashion brand without breaking the bank, there’s a lot of free and low-cost apps that can help you along the way. Plus, if you’re struggling with patternmaking or creating a tech pack, there’s often local resources or community colleges that offer courses on how to build a fashion business.
Wherever your fashion brand is at in its development right now, we’re excited for you to take the leap to turn your dreams into your livelihood!