For many, starting a business or brand sounds like a dream come true. There’s no boss to report to, and you make your own rules. Becoming an entrepreneur may seem like the ideal career path, but that dream can slip away, without a solid foundation. If done right, the brand has the potential to become a multi-million-dollar company. Done incorrectly it could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and years of heartache.
For those new to the fashion industry, Stars Design Group CEO/President, Bret Schnitker, says “It’s really important to align yourself with experience when you’re going out and starting a brand.” Experts can critique a business plan, share insights from learned mistakes, provide guidance on financing, and help to navigate the complicated world of manufacturing. Before jumping in, here are some general guidelines to get you on your way. If you prefer more in-depth knowledge, check out Season 1 Episode 10 of our Clothing Coulture podcast.
The Tactical Tool
The fashion world has become saturated with new brands, boutiques, and online stores that sell similar, if not the same items. With so much competition, a strong business plan is a tactical tool that keeps the business on track. A thought-through business plan defines both the company and its products/services in great detail. It also includes research that supports an explanation of how the business fills an important gap in the market with defining characteristics. When creating this blueprint it is also very important to include intangible and financial goals, as well as define realistic operating costs with contingencies for unexpected expenses. Dedicated preparation of this document will provide a realistic look at all that is required to be successful.
Back to Basics
After establishing the business plan, it’s important to lean into the basics of both the business and the products. Assortment planning is essential to the success of any apparel brand, as this process maps out the specific types and amounts of items that will be sold. A good strategy is to have a consistent supply of core basics, which remain in style and can be sold year-round to bring in consistent revenue, reducing the investment risk. Once the basics have been determined, identify fashion pieces for each season. These garments bring room for design creativity and provide distinguishing characteristics that set the brand apart from the competition. Fashion pieces can be sold at a higher price point; ordering in limited quantities will increase demand and if there is a need for markdowns, a profit can still be maintained.
Do not underestimate the investment of time, money, and sweat equity it will take to launch a profitable brand. The first three years will take an immense amount of effort, dedication, and money, and in many cases it will take five years for a business to become profitable. Be prepared for the long haul and be patient. No one ever gets there overnight, even the people you think experienced overnight success spent years doing the work leading up to what you see now. The reality of being an entrepreneur is that it takes time, calculated risks, and patience.
Customers must know the business exists to purchase products, which makes marketing an essential component of any business. With the changing nature of social media, online algorithms, and intense competition, brands cannot solely rely on organic traffic. There will be a need to advertise, and it is imperative to calculate realistic customer acquisition costs into the business plan and budget.
While organic traffic won’t sustain a business, it is important to have a social media presence to showcase your products and brand personality. This is a great way to connect with customers and build brand loyalty. In addition to social media, a content strategy is another key element in supporting online relevance.
It is essential to remember each piece of content serves a purpose and should be supported by formalized brand guidelines. These guidelines are established when mapping out your brand strategy. When defining the strategy, ask these fundamental questions.
What makes the brand unique?
Who is the target audience?
How will the brand stay authentic?
What are the values of the brand?
How does the brand look, feel, and sound?
Consumers look for authenticity when purchasing, and their shopping experience will determine if they return. Referring to these questions and using them as a guide can help brands stay true to their core mission, which provides consistency to the consumer, and helps build connection with the right audience.
Enjoy the Ride!
Patience. Dedication. Time. Investment. These are the fundamental truths every entrepreneur should embrace. Building a brand is a long journey with plenty of bumps in the road, but staying true to your vision, and seeing it through will overshadow the hurdles.
Saba Desta is an experienced content curator with a demonstrated history of working in the apparel and fashion industry. With a background in Digital Media Production & Digital Journalism, her passion for creating has landed her a full-time position at Stars Design Group as the Marketing Specialist & Content Curator.
Denise Naughton is an Emmy award-winning producer and journalist who has worked in all sides of media. At Stars Design Group, Denise uses her journalism and production expertise in support of all media and communication outreach.