3 Things You Have to Have when Starting a Creative Business
I actually achieved my dream once. ...briefly.
I launched my own clothing line in 2014 when I had the chance to show at LA fashion week during a design competition. I didn't win the competition and the brand didn't last more than a year.
After weeks of trying to figure out the best name, I came up with Airs x Graces. I wanted a name that would represent my aesthetic. As individual words, "air" is an impression of quality given off by someone while "grace" is a simple elegance; these words contrast each other but work together, like my designs. I also liked the phrase of "putting on airs and graces" where a person would portray them self in a higher position then they may have been. I wanted my clothes to give my customer a cocky confidence no matter what their current situation was.
Once I settled on a name, I started an e-commerce website, hand sewed my own inventory of product, purchased labels and packaging materials and started social media accounts. I even participated in a pop-up shop-like event in Beverly Hills. I worked through the night for months, doing everything I though I should've been doing and absolutely nothing showed for it. I didn't make a single sell anywhere.
This discouraged me for a bit. I felt like nobody wanted what I was selling and I questioned myself as a designer.
Eventually I crawled out of the self pity and started to do some research. I looked up marketing techniques, business strategies and fashion brands to see where I went wrong. The truth is, I went wrong in a lot of places and because of that, I shut Airs x Graces down. It took no time at all to realize that I wasn't ready to start anything at that moment. I had a lot to learn and I wanted to do it right... Right as possible... Better than what I did.
I definitely will start my clothing line again. That is the overall purpose of this blog. Will it have the same name? Probably not but what's in a name.
In the meantime, I'm gathering up all the knowledge I can for a much better launch than my previous attempt. I'm going to share with you a few tips if you're planning on starting your own line or creative business.
1. Business Plan
Business plans tend to be detailed, lengthy and involve a lot of problem solving before the problem happens. Writing a business plan always intimidated me a bit. It's a lot of work and thought to go into something that I will probably change down the line. It seemed like wasted energy to me.
But who said there's only one way to write a business plan?
All over the net, you see how having a business plan changed someone's business for the better. I figured it was time, but I still didn't want to spend hours on a possibly trash-able paper. I ended up doing a business plan that got straight to the point and so can you.
Starting out, what your rough business plan should include is:
- What is your business?
- Who is your customer?
- What are your short/long term goals?
- What are the steps to reach your short/long term goals?
- Where is funding coming from?
- How do you plan to use your funding?
When I started my own clothing line, I pretty much had all of this under control. I did a detailed profile of my customer and the funds were supplied by me and my monthly allowance. The part I was missing was to set goals for the brand. The purpose of my business was sell product but I didn't know how to do it or where to go. I had no plan in place for the necessity that could make or brake the business.
2. A Following
I started the business, site and social media accounts all at the same time. All my numbers started with 0 people and it only raised so much from there. I made the mistake of assuming that my product would be wanted right away and everyone would flock to it. That wasn't the case.
You need to find your customer and get their interest. Make them want to know your every move right when you're about to make it. Make them love you and what you're doing and want to support you.
3. To Be Concise.
Better yet, don't do too much. Starting out, you may be very ambitious and that's great...but not necessary. You should definitely work hard on what you want but you don't need to do everything in the beginning. There's no reason to when you're getting your feet planted. This applies to product as well as shows; stick to the goals in your business plan.
I was so eager to participate in the Beverly Hills pop up shop event when it came around. It was a little something that gave independent designers and artists a chance to sell their work a street over from Rodeo Dr. Kind of a big deal for a little leaguer. I ended up working late nights and spending about $400 on the event, only to receive absolutely nothing from those efforts.
I won't say that starting my clothing line when I did was a failure. It was simply a lesson. I'm sure when I do it again, I'll be better prepared. I'm even hopeful that I'll make a few sales as soon as it starts. There's already a better strategy in action.
Are you starting a clothing line or creative business? What have you learned from it so far? Leave a comment and let me know.