So You Want to Be a Fashion Entrepreneur: What Do I Do First? – Guest Contributor Evelyn Bandoh
Welcome to the second post of “So You Want to Be a Fashion Entrepreneur”- an exclusive blog series for All Things Fashion DC that takes a closer look at the Entrepreneurial Mindset needed to create a successful business.
by ATFDC Guest Contributor Evelyn Bandoh, MPA, MST, RFC
For purposes of this post, let’s assume that you are starting from complete scratch. You have an acorn of an idea and you know that you want to launch a fashion business. In this instance- the very first thing(s) that you want to do is ask yourself some questions so that you can get clear about what exactly it is that you are doing. In the first post of this series- I offered up some insights to consider. In this next post, I am asking you to ask yourself some questions…and to answer the questions honestly.
These questions are based on my unique approach that I use with clients to help them find their Clear and Creative Genius- a “genius” that will ensure the creation of a business that will be successful for years to come. Grab a pen and some paper and participate. Don’t fret if your answers aren’t clear or don’t make sense. For questions that you are not clear about, know that this is a place that needs more development…and be grateful that you know what you don’t know.
- Can I describe my idea/business in 10 words or less? Brevity works because brevity means clarity. Clarity means crisp and focused marketing and crisp marketing means strong sales if you have a good product or service.
- Do I have what it takes to be an entrepreneur? This tends to be a yes or no answer. Even if you become an accidental entrepreneur- it’s either Yes or No. Don’t kid yourself. Be honest. Many of us like the idea of being our own boss because we don’t like the boss we currently have. Or, perhaps we fell into entrepreneurship but if we had our druthers we would run screaming to a desk. I suspect if folks really knew what it meant to “be the boss”, most folks would not be pressed to start a business.Don’t let the Startup Tales fool you with its romantic notions. It takes hard word, discipline, focus, faith and a lot of balls; however, it’s so worth it for those who are willing to pay the entrance fee. Put it this way- if you don’t like projects that have no boundaries or are very loosely defined and you have to define them, if you don’t like the soup to nuts approach and you are ok with not having a bi-weekly check for a little bit, you may want to consider a different approach to owning a business. Maybe you invest in a great idea, get a partner…or find a good career counselor who can help you find your path.
- Am I a visionary? Do you have a vision? Are you able to see both the forest and the trees? Can you envision and visualize your desired end result and impact?
- Am I passionate about what I do? This is important. Do you love this acorn of an idea down to the base of your being? Does your soul LONG to do this work? If so, you will persevere when things get rough. If not, think wisely about how much traction your business idea can get. This is where you have to identify if your business is a “soul purpose business” or “just a really good solution to a problem that I (and other people) have”.
- What are my unique gifts, talents and skill sets? Do I believe in them? What are you good at? What do you enjoy? How can you infuse this into your idea/business? It’s important to use your natural talents and skill sets to support your dream and goals. Don’t be the round hole trying to bash yourself into a square peg. If components of your business don’t align with what you are naturally good at- get some help or get a business partner.
- Do I have any knowledge or experience in the industry? No explanation needed. If the answer is no, please see #5 and read post #1.
- What is my risk profile (risk seeker, risk taker, risk averse)? How much risk do you like in life? Just because you may be risk averse doesn’t mean that you can’t be an entrepreneur. It may mean your approach to business is different. Perhaps you buy into a franchise or a keystone business. This doesn’t make you any less of an entrepreneur- it means that you are honoring who you are (and ultimately preserving your sanity).
- What is the state of my personal financial affairs (Cash, Credit, Collateral)? No explanation needed. I will say that no- there are no federal grants to start your business. And no, you will not get a business loan for your startup. And yes- it is expected that you have some financial skin in the game. You have to put your money where your mouth is and you have to be ready to take advantage of good opportunities when they present themselves. By the way- it’s always nice to have savings and a cushion to fall back on because it may be awhile until you can draw a decent paycheck from the business.
- Who is in my support/advisors network? Who is that team of people that you can reach out to for mentorship, guidance, advice, and eventually paid professional services when you get to that point? Develop these relationships now (if you have not done so already)- and your entrepreneurial journey will be that much easier.
- How does/will my idea/ business create value? People spend their money on products and services that have meaning, value and importance to them- however that may be defined. Just because you think it’s cute doesn’t mean that anyone else will. You don’t have to pander to an audience just to get sales, but you do need to create VALUE your ideal client and/or customer.
- What is my definition of success? How will I know that I am successful? Take a few minutes and think about this. Infuse this definition into your work and make it one of your guiding principles. This prevents you from operating in a bubble.
- What are the requirements to start my business? This is where you have to start doing some research on the different business registrations, licenses, Tax ID #rs, bank accounts and such that you will need to operate your business in a legal manner (if that’s what you want to do- which I assume this is the case).
After you answer these questions (honestly), the next thing you might want to do is go to the library or the book store and read as much as you can about starting a business. Take a web cruise and read industry blogs on the net. The Business of Fashion is a great place to start. Depending on what type of fashion business you are looking to start you might start up and bootstrap your business or you may have to be more deliberate by writing a business plan in order to seek the money you need to start. As a special treat for readers, if you post a summary of your answers in the comment section, I will respond by giving you targeted advice as to YOUR next steps.
Make sure to bookmark this page and visit it on a monthly basis. In the next post I’m tackling the money question and why it’s not the first thing that you want or need to think about as it relates to starting a fashion business.
Questions or thoughts? Drop a line in the comment section below or feel free to hit me up on Twitter: @evieb @f3fashionista