When it comes to starting your fashion business, you may find yourself in a place where you have to make some big decisions.
You may be asking yourself:
- What's the first step in establishing my business?
- How much will it cost to start my fashion business?
- How do I price my fashion business?
- How do I market my fashion business?
- ... so much more!
We walk you through all of the steps; from idea → starting → launching → growing → running your fashion business.
The purpose of this guide is to act as an outline for the steps you'll need to take to get your business running successfully!
💡 Introduction To Starting A Fashion Business
Is Starting A Fashion Business Right For You?
There are many factors to consider when starting a fashion business.
We put together the main pros and cons for you here:
Pros of starting a fashion business
You can put as much time into the business as you'd like. If you like the work and have some initial experience, you can start small and manage all aspects of the business on your own.
• Ability to start your business from home
It's not necessary to have a physical storefront or office space to get your business started. You can do everything from the comfort of your own home, at least in the beginning!
• Rewarding work
Starting a fashion business can be really rewarding work. After all, you are solving an immediate issue for your customer and you're working on something you truly care about.
With businesses and processes changing daily, there will always be demand for new features, products and services within your fashion business. Additionally, there are several different business models and pricing tiers you can implement that will allow you to reach all types of customers.
• Meaningful business connections
You never know who you will meet or get to work with for your fashion business. This could be the start of an incredible business opportunity!
• Quick build time
The average time it takes to build your product is quick - typically around 10 months. This will allow you to bring your product to market faster.
• Easy to encourage "impulse buy"
In the fashion business, you have a much higher chance of encouraging your customers to buy on impulse - you can easily alter the price, placement, packaging, and promotional value to influence the decision of your buyer.
Cons of starting a fashion business
• Crowded Space
Competition is high when it comes to your fashion business, so it's important that you spend a good amount of time analyzing the market and understanding where the demand lies.
• Finding The Right Supplier
Most businesses in this space go the supplier/manufacturer route, which isn't a bad thing! However, finding the right supplier can take a lot of time, energy and trial/error. If done properly, this process can save you months (if not years) of time and energy. More on this below in the "finding a supplier" section.
• Motivation of employees
If you plan to have a sales/content team on board, finding creative ways to motivate them can be a challenge. It's important that you're able to offer great incentives and a good work environment for your employees.
• High employee turnover
In the fashion business, employee turnover is often high, which can be quite costly and time consuming for your business. It's important to try and avoid this as much as possible by offering competitive pay, benefits, and a positive work environment.
- The Business of Fashion (13.7K Alexa Ranking)
- FIT NYC (62.3K Alexa Ranking)
- Access denied (146K Alexa Ranking)
- Wholesale Gift, Home, Rug and Apparel Markets (200K Alexa Ranking)
- Fremont College (359K Alexa Ranking)
- EPIPHANY LA - Revenue $12K/month
- Nimble Made - Revenue $5K/month
- Knee Deep Limited LLC - Revenue $3.6K/month
- Cotilda's Fashion Limited - Revenue $1.14K/month
- Creative Souls - Revenue $1K/month
- Betsy DeVille - Revenue $100/month
- antoniarasheva3614 - Revenue $100/month
Let's take a look at the search trends for fashion line over the last year:
How To Name Your Fashion Business
It's important to find a catchy name for your fashion business so that you can stand out in your space.
Here are some general tips to consider when naming your fashion business
- Avoid hard to spell names: you want something easy to remember and easy to spell for your customers
- Conduct a search to see if others in the space have the same name
- Try not to pick a name that limits growth opportunities for your business (ie. if you decide to expand into other product lines)
- As soon as you have an idea (or ideas) of a few names that you love, register the domain name(s) as soon as possible!
Why is naming your fashion business so important?
The name of your business will forever play a role in:
- Your customers first impression
- Your businesses identity
- The power behind the type of customer your brand attracts
- If you're memorable or not
It's important to verify that the domain name is available for your fashion business.
You can search domain availability here:
Find a domain starting at $0.88
powered by Namecheap
Although .com names are the most common and easiest to remember, there are other options if your .com domain name is not available. Depending on your audience, it may not matter as much as you think.
It's also important to thoroughly check if social media handles are available.
As soon as you resonate with a name (or names), secure the domain and SM handles as soon as possible to ensure they don't get taken.
Here's some inspiration for naming your fashion business:
- Bewitched Boutique check availability
- Naturalis Fabrics check availability
- Dream in Fabric check availability
- Rosy Cheeks Children’s Apparel check availability
- English Factory check availability
- Retronic Wear check availability
- Love of Fashion check availability
- Hendrix check availability
- Wearly check availability
- Sacred Stitch check availability
- Kent Street check availability
- Vintage Corner check availability
- dress.me check availability
- Ingenue check availability
- Porcelain Apparel check availability
- Sedation check availability
- Mango Stitch check availability
- LUXXE Suits check availability
- Pious check availability
- DimeInd check availability
- Rules of Conduct check availability
- Delany & Ives check availability
- Blueberry Bean check availability
- Delorus check availability
- Stockton check availability
- Odin Marie check availability
- Teen Tops check availability
- Chaperon check availability
- Foreign Falcon check availability
- Jelly Kelly check availability
- Dwell check availability
- Sheep laurel Apparel check availability
- Course Spot check availability
- Positive check availability
- Thames Trends check availability
- Joking Clothing check availability
- Mean Vesture Spot check availability
- Dresses Spot check availability
- Wear Pro check availability
- Style Trading Co check availability
- Western Wardrobe check availability
- Coarse check availability
- Civilian Costume check availability
- StraightforwardFashion check availability
- FemaleClothing check availability
- Friendly Fad check availability
- Clothing Place check availability
- Stems Trends check availability
- General check availability
- Piecemeal check availability
- Clear Slew Group check availability
- ComplementaryFashion check availability
- Engrossing Clothing check availability
- The Key check availability
- The Coarse check availability
- Significant check availability
- Positive Tendency Group check availability
- The Linear check availability
- The Technological check availability
- Athletic Attire check availability
- The Goodly check availability
- Adequate Wearing Apparel Spot check availability
- Manner Pro check availability
- Drift Co check availability
- Sleepwear Collective check availability
- The Western Wearing Apparel check availability
- The Significant Tendency check availability
- EverydayApparel check availability
- Exemplary check availability
- The Fine check availability
- The Mean Vesture check availability
- Fine check availability
- Systematic Mode Collective check availability
- The Regular Dress check availability
- Distraction Fashion check availability
- Like Clothing Spot check availability
- Thick check availability
- Athletic Academic Gown check availability
- Neurotic Slew Pro check availability
- Style Wear Trading Co check availability
- Soaking Clothing check availability
- The Leisurely check availability
- Seasonal Tendency check availability
- Step Dress check availability
- Occupational check availability
- The Bed Wearing Apparel check availability
- ComelyApparel check availability
- Traditional Clothing check availability
- Ordinary Sportswear check availability
- The Curious check availability
- ConsistentFashion check availability
- Evolutionary Slue Pro check availability
- OrderlyFashion check availability
- The Parallel Forge check availability
- ContemporaryTrends check availability
- Faction Fashion check availability
- The True Way check availability
- The Global check availability
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- Slue Pro check availability
- Magnificent check availability
- Consistent check availability
- Torn check availability
- Fine Wear Co check availability
- Soaked Sportswear check availability
- Distinctive Tog Collective check availability
- Favorable Slew Pro check availability
- The Past Curve check availability
- Appropriate Attire check availability
- Hems Trends check availability
- Underwear Trading Co check availability
- Glorious Garment check availability
- Term Temporal check availability
- Consistent Garments Collective check availability
- Slue Spot check availability
- Coordinated check availability
- Temporal Technologies check availability
- Panel Apparel check availability
- HandClothing check availability
- The Roman check availability
- The Term check availability
- Cheap Children check availability
- Cheap Claws check availability
- The Identical Forge check availability
- ExpensiveClothing check availability
- Fashionable Wear Place check availability
- Dependent Way check availability
- The Bright Sleepwear check availability
- Barrels Apparel check availability
- The Soiled check availability
- Garments Place check availability
- Cashing Fashion check availability
- LightClothing check availability
- The Traditional check availability
- Elegant Dress Trading Co check availability
- The Distinctive check availability
- Cut Place check availability
- Captain Fashion check availability
- Everyday check availability
- Modern check availability
- Desultory Style Group check availability
- Friendly Fash check availability
- Outer Tog Collective check availability
- GaudyApparel check availability
- Exposing Clothing check availability
- Garb Spot check availability
- Royal Garb Place check availability
- The Coarse Wearing Apparel check availability
- NecessaryApparel check availability
- Decomposing Clothing check availability
- Forge Group check availability
- Step check availability
- Friendly Fashion House check availability
- PiecemealFashion check availability
- The Hand check availability
- Curve Place check availability
- Characteristic Way Place check availability
- Wear Spot check availability
- Poaching Clothing check availability
- Warm Clothes Collective check availability
- The Predictable Style check availability
- The Elegant check availability
- Dresses Group check availability
- Technological Technological check availability
- Term Vogue Collective check availability
- Expensive check availability
- Wearing Apparel Collective check availability
- SplendidApparel check availability
- Clothing Co check availability
- Seemly Garb check availability
- ArbitraryFashion check availability
- The Style check availability
- Appropriate Armozeen check availability
- Similar Tendency Spot check availability
- Progressive Swerve Co check availability
- Glorious Dress Place check availability
- Hand check availability
- Recent Slew Group check availability
- GloriousApparel check availability
- The Coarse Wear check availability
- AdverseTrends check availability
- The Outdoor check availability
- Composing Clothing check availability
- Fashioned Fashion check availability
- The Arbitrary check availability
- Grapple Apparel check availability
- Mansion Fashion check availability
- Temporal Swerve Place check availability
- The Thick check availability
- The Timely Couture check availability
- Garb Place check availability
- Vogue Collective check availability
- Dragon Fashion check availability
- ScantyClothing check availability
- Dress Group check availability
- Term Technologies check availability
- Global Drift Collective check availability
- Flying squirrel Apparel check availability
- The Occupational check availability
- Everyday Clothes Group check availability
- Past check availability
- ColorfulClothing check availability
- NeuroticTrends check availability
- Curve Co check availability
- Intramural Apparel check availability
- The Key Slew check availability
- Companion Fashion check availability
- Goodly check availability
- SecularTrends check availability
- Dress Pro check availability
- CleanClothing check availability
- Underwear Spot check availability
- Regular Clothing check availability
- Usual Mode Place check availability
- Primitive Mode check availability
- Western Wearing Apparel Collective check availability
- Customary Wear check availability
- The Modern Swerve check availability
- The Neurotic Curve check availability
- Desultory check availability
- Outer Underwear Trading Co check availability
- The Comely check availability
- Typical check availability
- Better Apparel check availability
- Related check availability
- The Soft Wearing Apparel check availability
Gia Paddock, founder of Boutique Rye explains how they came up with the name of their business:
What took the longest was deciding on a name and our logo; I wanted it to be meaningful, and I cared so much about what people thought.
Looking back, my advice would be to quit thinking about other people. This is my business, and all that matters is if I am happy the name and logo.
A popular national brick & mortar women’s boutique that many may have heard of is called Francesca’s… How original, right? So we came up with Boutique Rye named after our son, Riley. We put "boutique" in front to be a little different.
Now came the logo… Oh man, was this a task. We hired a graphic designer that we went to high school with, and went back and forth with him for about a month and a half. I wanted something that really described my style which is kind of “boho chic” and decided on a dreamcatcher. The dreamcatcher is also what our son’s nursery was decorated in, so it truly felt like a family business.
How To Create A Slogan For Your Fashion Business:
Slogans are a critical piece of your marketing and advertising strategy.
The role of your slogan is to help your customer understand the benefits of your product/service - so it's important to find a catchy and effective slogan name.
Often times, your slogan can even be more important than the name of your brand.
Here are 6 tips for creating a catchy slogan for your fashion business:
1. Keep it short, simple and avoid difficult words
A great rule of thumb is that your slogan should be under 10 words. This will make it easy for your customer to understand and remember.
2. Tell what you do and focus on what makes you different
There are a few different ways you can incorporate what makes your business special in your slogan:
- Explain the target customer you are catering your services towards
- What problem do you solve?
- How do you make other people, clients, or your employer look good?
- Do you make people more successful? How?
3. Be consistent
Chances are, if you're coming up with a slogan, you may already have your business name, logo, mission, branding etc.
It's important to create a slogan that is consistent with all of the above.
4. Ensure the longevity of your slogan
Times are changing quickly, and so are businesses.
When coming up with your slogan, you may want to consider creating something that is timeless and won't just fade with new trends.
5. Consider your audience
When finding a catchy slogan name, you'll want to make sure that this resonates across your entire audience.
It's possible that your slogan could make complete sense to your audience in Europe, but may not resonate with your US audience.
6. Get feedback!
This is one of the easiest ways to know if your slogan will be perceived well, and a step that a lot of brands drop the ball on.
Ask friends, family, strangers, and most importantly, those that are considered to be in your target market.
Here's some inspiration for coming up with a slogan for your fashion business:
Work Hard, Changing Harder
From Unprotective To Evasive
Feel It - Clothing!
True Manner, Timely Manner
Play Apparel, Start Living.
For The Clothing You Don't Yet Know.
Fashion For All Time.
Home Of The Vesture
Economic Patterns, Current Sheer
Australians Wouldn't Give A Trends For Anything Else.
Free Fashion For All.
Trends For People Who Want More.
Rich Vestiaries Are What We Do
Apparels With Gift
Warm Wardrobe, Wet Garment
Proper Clothing, We Are Here
Social And Crucial
Aim Of The Wear
From Male Person To Feminine
Nothing Is Faster Than Clothing.
The Brick & Mortar Business Model
When deciding whether or not to start a fashion business, it's important to first decide what type of business model you want (brick and mortar, eCommerce, or both)!
Here are a few things to keep in mind when considering a Brick & Mortar store:
If you do plan to open a physical store, it's important that you find a spot in a high-traffic area. This is a great way to gain exposure for your business and also get new customers.
It's also important to consider the higher costs associated with operating a physical store (ie - employees, rent, utilities, etc) and the long days/hours associated with running a store.
The main benefit, however, is that customers love being able to see products in person. It's important to recognize that although some people enjoy shopping online, there will always be the shopper persona that likes to touch, feel, and see the product they're buying.
The eCommerce Business Model
One of the main benefits of operating online is that you are exposed to the entire world, versus just one local area. Rather than depending on foot traffic, you have all the tools at your disposal to create exposure for your store online.
Additionally, there are much lower costs to operate an online store - fewer employees, you can operate from your home, and you get to create your own schedules (yes, holidays included!)
Although you are operating online and have the ability to connect with people all over the world, it's important to consider that you will need to invest marketing money upfront in order to promote your store to the right audience.
Gia Paddock, founder of Boutique Rye explains the 3 reasons why she decided to build an online store:
I wanted to find something I loved but also allowed me to stay home at the same time. While I was working at this local boutique, I realized that there was a lot of sitting around during the day when other people were out working. Therefore, an online business seemed like the best route for a few reasons:
- We didn’t have the extra funds sitting around to pay sign a year or two-year lease at a brick & mortar location.
- I realized the opportunity to reach a wider audience online compared to the audience of this small local boutique. For us, it seemed like hitting two birds with one stone.
- And finally (maybe the most important of all), running it as an online-only business would allow me to stay at home with Riley!
🎬 How To Start A Fashion Business
Startup Costs For Your Fashion Business
If you are planning to start a fashion business, the costs are relatively low. This, of course, depends on if you decide to start the business with lean expenses or bringing in a large team and spending more money.
We’ve outlined two common scenarios for “pre-opening” costs of a fashion business and outline the costs you should expect for each:
- The estimated minimum starting cost = $1,492
- The estimated maximum starting cost = $51,069
|Startup Expenses: Average expenses incurred when starting a fashion business.||Min Startup Costs: You plan to execute on your own. You’re able to work from home with minimal costs.||Max Startup Costs: You have started with 1+ other team members.|
|Office Space Expenses|
|Rent: This refers to the office space you rent out for your business. To minimize costs, you may want to consider starting your business from home or renting an office in a coworking space.||$0||$2,000|
|Utility Costs (office space): This refers to the first month's utility bill for your office space. If you are not responsible for this bill, this would not apply to starting your fashion business.||$0||$150|
|Office Supplies: Although these may seem like minor costs, things like your desks, chairs, pens, paper, filing cabinets do add up. To avoid these adding up too much, try to be as lean as possible and go paperless!||$25||$1,000|
|WiFi: Whether you work from home or in an office space, WiFi is an expense that's tough to avoid. Although the cost is minimal in most cases, it should be appropriately budgeted for each month!||$10||$100|
|Total Office Space Expenses||$35 (min)||$3,250 (max)|
|Employee & Freelancer Expenses|
|Payroll: This number depends on if you decide to pay yourself a salary upfront and how many employees you have on payroll. At first, many founders take on all responsibilities until the business is up and running. You can always hire down the road when you understand where you need help. Keep in mind, if you do plan to pay yourself, the average salary founders make is $50K.||$0||$4,000|
|IT Support: You may find yourself needing IT support when starting your business. It may not be possible (or necessary) for you to hire someone full-time, but hiring on a freelancer platform such as Upwork is a great way to save money and resources.||$0||$500|
|Other Employee Expenses: Aside from payroll and benefits, there are other costs associated with hiring employees. This includes the cost to advertise the job, the time it takes to interview candidates, and any potential turnover that may result from hiring the wrong candidate.||$0||$1,000|
|Employee Reward Ideas: It's important to recognize and reward employees - whether they hit their goals or are doing an exceptional job. This doesn't have to cost you a lot - simply taking them out to lunch, giving them a gift card or offering a pay-check bonus are all ways to recognize your employee! Here are 65 ways to reward your employees.||$0||$500|
|Total Employee & Freelancer Expenses||$0 (min)||$6,000 (max)|
|Equipment & Supply Expenses|
|Technology Office Equipment: This includes (but is not limited to) physical items such as: laptops, cameras, monitors, microphones, speakers, headsets. Technology needs grow as your company evolves, so to minimize costs, try and only purchase what is needed for you to run your business at the time.||$500||$5,000|
|Cleaning Supplies: To get started, you may want to consider getting basic cleaning supplies. Note, that you may not need to buy all the cleaning tools and supplies at first. You can consider purchasing in bulk down the road.||$25||$500|
|Total Equipment & Supply Expenses||$525 (min)||$5,500 (max)|
|Website builder: The cost of your website will vary depending on which platform you choose. There are many website builders on the market, so it's important you choose the right one for your business and overall goals. To learn more about your options + how to build a great website, check out this article.||$15||$100|
|Web Designer: If you have the necessary skills to design your website, then it may not be necessary for you to hire someone. However, if you do decide to go that route, make sure you establish an understanding of upfront cost, design and what the ongoing costs will be to manage the site. Here is what to expect when hiring a web designer.||$0||$6,000|
|Register Your Domain: Once you decide the name of your business, you will need to make sure the URL is available and purchase the domain. You can check availability and register your domain here.||$12||$75|
|Email hosting: Email is a critical piece for running your business. Once you have your domain name, you will want to set up email accounts for each user on your team. The most common email hosts are GSuite (typically starting at $6+ per user, per month) or Microsoft Office (typically starting at $5+ per user, per month). The number of email accounts you set up will determine the monthly cost breakdown.||$5||$75|
|Server Hosting: To start a fashion business, you will need to set up and manage a server. The cost for this is typically billed monthly and depends on the platform you choose (typically ranging anywhere from $0-$50/mo).||$0||$50|
|Website chat function: If customer service is a big piece of your business, you will want to consider implementing a chat bot on your website. Typically, there are different tiers of pricing and some businesses even offer freemium services. To find what chat software is best for your business, check out this guide.||$0||$75|
|Total Website Costs||$32 (min)||$6,375 (max)|
|Business Formation Fees|
|Small Business Insurance: Depending on which state you live in and the business you're operating, the costs and requirements for small business insurance vary. You can learn more here.||$500||$2,000|
|Permit and License Fees: Depending on your industry, there are certain licenses and permits you may need in order to comply with state, local, and federal regulations. Here is an article that goes over all the permits and licenses you may need for your fashion business.||$50||$700|
|Trademarking: Filing trademark registration will protect your brand and prevent other businesses from copying your name or product. USPTO has several different types of trademarks, so the cost to apply can vary (typically anywhere from $400-$700).||$0||$700|
|Lawyer Fees: Although you may want to avoid attorney fees, it's important that your business (and you) are covered at all costs. This comes into play when creating founder agreements, setting up your business legal structure, and of course, any unforeseen circumstances that may happen when dealing with customers or other businesses.||$0||$1,500|
|Obtain a patent: Securing a patent can be a very valuable tool, but it's important that you are 100% sure this will be a smart business move for you, or if you may not be ready quite yet. A basic utility patent typically costs anywhere between $5,000 and $10,000 to file. Here is a great resource to walk you through the entire process.||$0||$10,000|
|Set up business: LLC & Corporations: The first step in setting up your business is deciding whether your business is an LLC, S Corp or C Corp. The cost for this depends on which state you form your business + which structure you decide on. We put together an article that goes over the 10 Steps To Setting Up A Business.||$50||$500|
|Total Business Formation Fees||$600 (min)||$15,400 (max)|
|Retail Business Expenses|
|Shop Decor: If you plan to operate a physical store, you may want to consider decorating the place with wall decor, furniture, plants etc.||$0||$5,000|
|Utilities (storefront business): This refers to the cost of monthly utilities for your storefront location, which is typically based on a per-square-footage rate.||$0||$1,000|
|Total Retail Business Expenses||$0 (min)||$6,000 (max)|
|Upfront Costs For Inventory: This includes all upfront inventory you will need in order to launch. Be sure to compare prices of wholesalers to ensure you're getting the best deal and margins remain high.||$300||$5,000|
|Total Inventory Expenses||$300 (min)||$5,000 (max)|
|Training & Education Expenses|
|Online Learning Sites: With a fashion business, you and your team may not know all the steps for starting and growing a business. There are plenty of resources out there to help you, such as online courses or learning platforms, but they aren't always free! Starter Story is a great resource for case studies, guides and courses for starting your business.||$0||$1,000|
|Total Training & Education Expenses||$0 (min)||$1,000 (max)|
|Travel: Often times, fashion business entrepreneurs travel. In addition to visiting suppliers and product manufacturers, you may need to travel to attend tradeshows and visit potential customers.||$0||$1,500|
|Total Other Expenses||$0 (min)||$1,500 (max)|
|Design Programs & Software: These programs might include the Adobe family of design tools: Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and others. This is typically a monthly subscription ranging from $10-$50/mo.||$0||$50|
|Email marketing tool: If you plan to grow your email list and email marketing efforts, you may want to consider investing in an email marketing platform (ie. Klaviyo, MailChimp). We put together a detailed guide on all of the email marketing tools out there + the pricing models for each one here||$0||$100|
|Accounting & Invoicing Software: When starting your fashion business, it's important to have an accounting system and process in place to manage financials, reporting, planning and tax preparation. Here are the 30 best accounting tools for small businesses.||$0||$50|
|CRM Software: CRM (customer relationship management) software is used to track your company’s interactions with clients and prospects. Although this is not a necessary tool to have for your fashion business, implementing this in the beginning may set your business up for success and save you a lot of time later on. For a full list of best CRMs to use for your business, check out the full list here.||$0||$250|
|Project Management Software: You may want to consider using a project management and collaboration tool to organize your day-to-day. This can also be very beneficial if you have a larger team and want to keep track of everyones tasks and productivity. For a full list of project management tools, check out this full list here.||$0||$25|
|Internal Communication Tool: If you plan to have multiple members on your team, you may want to consider an instant message tool such as Slack or Telegram. The cost is usually billed per month (approx $5/user/month) or there are freemium versions available on many platforms.||$0||$20|
|Social Media Management Tools: If you plan to do social media marketing for your fashion business, you should consider investing in a social media automation or publishing tool. This will save you time and allow you to track performance and engagement for your posts. Here is a list of 28 best social media tools for your small business.||$0||$50|
|Payroll Software: The main purpose of payroll software is to help you pay your team and track each of those payments (so that you don't have to do it manually). If you do not have any employees or have a very small team, payroll software may not be necessary at this stage. Here are the 11 best payroll tools for small businesses!||$0||$200|
|Online data storage: It's important to make sure the information for your fashion business is stored and protected should something happen to your computer or hard drive. The cost for this is affordable and depends on how much data you need to store. To learn more about the different options and pricing on the market, check out this article.||$0||$299|
|Total Software Expenses||$0 (min)||$1,044 (max)|
|Total Starting Costs||$1,492 (min)||$51,069 (max)|
Emily Casseday, founder of Blush Boutique Co describes how she was able to stay under $10K to get off the ground:
Because we were starting small, we didn’t have a lot of overhead. One of the biggest downfalls of starting a business is having too much to carry without a lot of income, which is why we decided to start in my basement instead of fully going brick and mortar.
We wanted to test the waters first to see if we had a viable business for our community. In order to finance the beginning of our shop, we used some savings and one credit card. Our goal was to never outspend what we made, so we started with a limit of $10,000 on the card and paid it off as we went. That first year, we didn’t take a paycheck so that we could completely get out of debt.
Raising Money For Your Fashion Business
Here are the most common ways to raise money for your fashion business:
What Skills Do I Need To Succeed For My Fashion Business?
With a fashion business, there are several essential skills and characteristics that are important to identify prior to starting your business.
Let’s look at these skills in more detail so you can identify what you need to succeed in your day-to-day business operations:
Advice For Starting A Fashion Business
We've interviewed thousands of successful founders at Starter Story and asked what advice they would give to entrepreneurs who are just getting started.
Here's the best advice we discovered for starting a fashion business:
Jocelyn Thompson, founder of EPIPHANY LA ($12K/month):
I had a check for $15K to start. I was too scared to take out another loan on top of my student loans and $15K seemed like so much money at the time. Now I look back at this, laugh, and wish I had trusted myself more.
Read the full interview ➜
Cotilda Makhumula-Nkhoma , founder of Cotilda's Fashion Limited ($1.14K/month):
Do your best to create a good honest relationship with your customers, staff as after all business is for people and takes time to build.
Read the full interview ➜
Garret "Buddy" Lamp, founder of Knee Deep Limited LLC ($3.6K/month):
There is no better way to increase your following and sales then by simply going out and meeting your target market. Go find events that your target market will be at, and go get your name out there face to face!
Read the full interview ➜
Betsy DeVille, founder of Betsy DeVille ($100/month):
When you open your order from me, I don’t want you to be satisfied, I want you to be absolutely delighted!
Read the full interview ➜
Tanya Zhang, founder of Nimble Made ($5K/month):
There are so many obstacles to overcome and take on on a daily basis and having the perseverance to get through them is, honestly, most of the battle.
Read the full interview ➜
Drew McNamara, founder of Creative Souls ($1K/month):
Don’t let others tell you that you can’t do something. You have to believe in yourself and really be willing to put in the work.
Read the full interview ➜
Write a Business Plan
Writing a business plan from the start is critical for the success of your fashion business.
Because this allows you to roadmap exactly what you do, what your overall structure will look like, and where you want to be in the future.
For many entrepreneurs, writing out the business plan helps validate their idea and decide whether or not they should move forward with starting the business.
You may want to consider expanding upon these sections in your business plan:
- Executive Summary: Brief outline of your product, the market, and growth opportunities
- Overviews and Objectives: Overview of your business, target customers, and what you need to run your business
- Products and Services: Specifics on the products and services your business will provide
- Market Opportunities: Analysis of customer demographics, buyer habits and if your product is in demand
- Marketing: Outline of your marketing plan and how you plan to differentiate yourself from other customers
- Competitive analysis: Analysis of your competition and the strengths and weaknesses therein
- Operations: Hierarchal structure of the company and what it will take to run the business on the day-to-day
- Leadership Team: Detailing roles and responsibilities of each manager based on their specific skill-set
- Financial Analysis Understanding of all expenses, operating budgets, and projections for the future.
Learn more about how to write a business plan here
Determine Which Business Bank Account You Need
There are hundreds of banks out there, and it can be overwhelming to find one that's right for your business.
Here are some factors you may want to consider:
- Location - Is your bank close enough that you can easily make deposits or get cash?
- Low Fees - Make sure to understand any and all fees associated with setting up and maintaining your bank account. Ask for a list - banks usually try to keep this hidden and in the fine print.
- Online Banking Services - Make sure you can easily navigate through your online portal and you have easy access to everything you need.
- Line of Credit - What do your options look like (even if you don't need this now, you may need this down the road).
- Every bank has something that differentiates them from the rest, so make sure whatever that is applied to your needs and values.
Check out this list of the 13 Best Banks for Small Business in 2020 and what makes them so unique.
Setting Up Your Fashion Business (Formation and Legal)
When it comes to setting up your business, you may find yourself in a place where you have to make some financial and legal decisions.
The first thing you'll want to decide on is whether you want to be an LLC, S-Corp, or C-Corp.
These three options are found to be the most common when starting a small business, and all serve to protect your personal assets and also provide you with certain tax benefits.
- LLC: All income and expenses from the business are reported on the LLC personal income tax return.
- S corp: Owners pay themselves salaries + receive dividends from profits.
- C Corp: C Corps are separately taxable entities that file a corporate tax return (Form 1120). No income tax is paid at the corporate level and any tax due is paid at the owners individual expense.
Depending on where you're conducting business, you'll also want to consider securing the proper permits, licenses and liability insurance.
Need to start an LLC? Create an LLC in minutes with ZenBusiness.
How Do I Pay Myself As A Small Business Owner?
Most entrepreneurs start a business to do something they love- but at the end of the day, you still have bills to pay (maybe now more than ever).
But it's important to strike the right balance - if you pay yourself too much, you could be putting your business at risk.
There are two common ways to pay yourself as a business owner:
1. Owner's Draw
Many entrepreneurs pay themselves through an owner's draw. This means that you are technically sean as "self-employed" through the eyes of the IRS and are not paid through regular wages.
At the point that you collect money from the draw, taxes typically are not taken out - so make sure you are prepared to pay these taxes once you file your individual return.
As an owner who takes a draw, you can legally take out as much as you want from your equity.
This type of compensation is suited for Sole props, LLCs, and partnerships. If you’re an S corp, you can pay yourself through both a salary and draw if you choose.
If you decide to pay yourself a salary, you will receive a set and recurring amount. This will be taxed by the federal government and the state you reside in.
The reality is that it can be really complicated to set your own salary, so we have some tips for you to consider:
- Take out a reasonable amount that allows you to live comfortably but also sets your business up for success
- Consider the number of hours you are working weekly + the type of duties you are performing.
- Set your salary based on your industry-standard, location, and profits (or projected profits)
- Look at your P&L statement: Deduct your own pay from that amount. This is important so you can first tackle important business expenses, and then pay yourself from the amount leftover.
- Pick a payroll schedule (and stick to it)! In the US, it's most common to pay yourself and employees twice a month.
To learn more about how to pay yourself and what is a reasonable amount, check out this article.
How To Price Your Fashion Line
One of the most challenging and critical pieces to starting your fashion business is determining how much to charge for your fashion line.
When businesses under-price their product, this can be extremely detrimental to their bottom line and reputation.
Often times, businesses under-price their products to drive demand and volume, but that last thing you want is for customers to view your product/service as "cheap." Additionally, this can have a big impact on the type of customer you attract, which can be difficult to recover from.
On the other hand, when businesses over-price, this tends to be just as damaging to the business.
When customers buy, it's likely that they will explore the internet and look at other competitors to ensure they're getting the best value + deal. This is why it's so important that you research your competition and understand where you land in the marketplace.
Here are some factors to consider when pricing your product:
Understand your customer
It's important that out of the gates, you identify the type of customer you want to attract and how much they're willing to pay for your service. One great way to do this is by surveying your customers. Here are some important items you'll want to takeaway:
- Customer demographic: Age, gender, location, etc.
- Buying habits of your customer: What they buy + when they buy
- Level of price sensitivity with your customer
All of these segments will help you identify the type of customer you're attracting and how to price your product accordingly.
Understand your costs
When pricing your fashion line, it's critical that you first identify all of your costs and consequently mark up your fashion line so you can factor in a profit.
The actual cost of your fashion line may include things like:
- The actual cost to make the product (ie. raw materials, supplies, manufacturer).
- Shipping + overhead fees
- Operating costs to run your business
You may want to consider creating a spreadsheet with every single expense involved in operating/owning your business. This will give you an idea as to what you need to generate in order to at the very least, break-even and will help you price your products to factor in a profit.
Create revenue goals
When determining the price of your fashion line, you'll want to create goals for revenue + how much profit you want your fashion business to make.
This process is simpler than you may think:
- Think about your breakeven cost (by completing the above step).
- Create a revenue goal based on your break-even cost
- Evaluate the # of items you plan to sell in a given period (make sure this is a realistic number)
- Divide your revenue goal by the number of items you plan to sell
This figure will help determine your estimated price per product in order to meet your revenue goals.
Evaluate your competition
The last piece in determining how to price your fashion line is by simply looking at your competition.
The best way to do this is by finding like-minded businesses that offer product(s) with similar perceived value. Then, you can compare prices of the different businesses and determine where your fashion line fits best in the marketplace.
All of these factors play an equal part in pricing your fashion line, so it's important you evaluate each one individually to come up with an accurate price that will help optimize your business from the start.
Understanding Your Costs
Example from Ishan, founder of Ugly Duckling
First objective: profitability
Our profitability is OK at this point but definitely not where it should be yet. To this day I have not paid myself a regular salary yet...and it’s been 4 years!
The problem is not the cost of goods which are well under 20% of sales, which is good by any standard. The problem is fulfillment costs. In 2018 we transitioned from our first fulfillment company to a much bigger company. We did this because we wanted to provide faster shipment speeds and a better quality of packaging. In hindsight, we chose a company which would have been more suitable for a larger company with bigger volumes. We ended up being tied in with some pretty large minimum monthly payments. So currently fulfillment costs are currently around 45% of sales...way too high.
We are now looking to transit to another fulfillment center. Our target is to get our fulfillment costs down to around 30% of sales which I believe from what I have researched, is possible.
Just to be clear, when I say fulfillment that includes transportation costs also - FedEx, USPS, etc. Not just storage, picking, and packing. I am pretty sure that it is possible to get fulfillment costs down even lower, and I suspect that some large pro sellers on amazon.com work with around 20-25% of sales.
So our target P+L for 2020 looks something like this:
- Cost of goods, including inbound freight and clearance - around 22% of sales.
- Fulfillment - around 30% of sales.
- Digital Advertising & Promotion - around 15% of sales.
- Other marketing and office costs, including salary costs - around 10% of sales.
- That would leave us around 23% of sales - enough to pay me a liveable salary and for the company to make a profit and finance future growth.
That's the first objective for 2020: to right-size the P+L so that we are profitable at our current sales level
Gross Margin Calculator: How to Calculate The Gross Margin For Your Fashion Line
Our calculator is designed to be simple and easy to use.
The goal is to help you set realistic expectations and understand what is considered a healthy gross margin for your fashion business.
Please input your figures below:
What Type Of Customers Will Buy Your Fashion Line
It's important to first establish who you will be selling to, whether it's to businesses or consumers.
Typically, in this industry, products are sold to B2C markets (business-to-consumer).
Let's take a look at what this means for your fashion business:
B2C (or business to consumer) is a transaction where businesses sell their products or services to the consumer directly.
In this market, consumer behavior is the primary driver for your business decisions - so it's important that you truly identify who your customer is, and what their buyer habits are when building your product/service.
B2C is that you are able to cast a very wide net when targeting your customers. Your product may interest a large number of consumers or a specific niche.
B2C is that consumers hold all the power - so if your website is not the most user friendly, or does not rank in the top search results on Google, chances are, your customer is going to shop elsewhere.
When building your fashion business, it's critical that you hone in on who your target audience is, and why they need your product over your competition.
Here are some items to consider when identifying your buyer persona:
Design A Prototype
Turning your idea into a reality can feel like a daunting task - but it's critical that you have an idea of what your product will look like (even if it's just a sketch) prior to finding a manufacturer.
Here are some common ways you can design your prototype:
- Draw Your Initial Design on Paper
- Form pieces of fabric together
- Consider Taking A Generic Product And Putting Your Own Brand On It
- Try Making the Product Yourself
- Consider Building A Prototype With A 3D Printer
To learn more about how to design and prototype a product, check out our latest guide here.
Drew McNamara, founder of Creative Souls dives deep into the process of designing and prototyping their product:
When Creative Souls was in its idea phase, we had artists hand paint on shoes that we purchased from Amazon. As soon as we were able to purchase our direct to garment printer, we started the search process to find shoes that were high quality and look awesome. Our first step was to find manufacturers of white canvas shoes on Alibaba. Over the course of six months, I ordered almost eight sample pairs of shoes. Ultimately, we found one pair of shoes that we loved and chose to order.
This manufacturer stated we had to order a minimum amount of 1,000 pairs. We were able to break down our order into two different styles. One style is a high top and the other being a low top style. Knowing that we could do both styles, we chose to do 500 pairs of low tops and 500 pairs of high tops. The manufacturer said that we could also do five sizes per style, so the decision was to order the five most popular women sizes in low tops and the five most popular men sizes in high tops. Fortunately, when we order shirts we get them from a website known as S&S Activewear, which has a warehouse near our company.
Our first order of 1,000 pairs of shoes was made in December 2018 and we received it in the middle of May 2019. Although I was nervous because you never truly know what you will receive, I was extremely happy with our first batch of shoes. Occasionally while I am pulling shoes to print, I will find a shoe that has threads missing or dents on the soles, which I am unable to use. Another concern I had was if the shoes would be true to size. The shoes fit true to size and I’ve had very few customers exchange them.
The thousand pairs of shoes in my garage!
All orders are completed in house by myself (Drew) using our direct to garment printer. The printer we use is called the Brother GTX-4. A new GTX-4 costs more than $25,000. Color ink cartridges (CMYK) and white ink cartridges can cost more than a few hundred dollars in total. Now that I own the printer, ink is definitely the most costly aspect of the business. An important part of the process is using a heat press as well. A high-quality heat press can cost close to $1,000 or higher. And lastly, we recently purchased a pretreatment machine which was a few thousand dollars. Pretreatment is a solution that is used to help white ink adhere to shirts that we print on. It is an essential part of when we print on shirts that are not the color white.
Over the course of a year, I went from knowing a bare minimum about the printing process to having extensive knowledge in this area. However, I find that I learn something new each and every day. In order for Creative Souls to get started, it cost about $45K. One option we had was to have another company print our shirts, but the goal of Creative Souls is to hire people with disabilities in all areas of the business. We want to provide opportunities for these individuals to complete the printing process. As of now, I complete the printing process, packaging, shipping, etc. but I am hopeful I will have help soon! Also, most printing companies do not do shoes, which is our main product. Therefore, we went with going the route of purchasing the printer and everything else necessary along with it. If you want to go through a printing company, you can start a shirt company for less than $5K.
The designs printed onto our shoes and apparel all come from our artists with disabilities. They create all their art on their own at home, a studio, or wherever they would like. Their designs can be created on a piece of paper, digitally, or any canvas. After the artists have completed their design, we ask them to send a high-quality photo or file in a PNG or JPEG format. As soon as we receive it, we determine if any part of the image needs to be transparent. If we feel that it does, we send it over to a designer on Fiverr which takes a day or two to get back to us. In order to print, we have to line up the shoes or shirts on a structure called a platen within the printer. The designs are uploaded onto a software application on my laptop where I align the design exactly where we want to print it. As soon as we press print, it takes approximately 1-2 minutes depending on how much ink is used for the print. We started with eight artists and about twenty different designs. Recently, we added more artists from agencies that work with people with disabilities and hope to add many more artists with amazing abilities!
Don’t let others tell you that you can’t do something. You have to believe in yourself and really be willing to put in the work.
How To Find A Supplier For Your Fashion Business
Here are the steps to consider when finding a supplier/manufacturer:
Know your design
One very critical step to finding the right supplier is having an initial idea of what your design/product will look like.
Sketching is one of the most simple ways to get started in the design phase.
What's great about sketching is that you can practically do this anytime, anywhere - even on the back of a napkin.
To get started, all you need to do is pick up a pen and paper and start drawing - or if you are working on a virtual/software product this can be a diagram that outlines the user interface or experience.
Decide your supplier type
You'll want to identify the type of supplier you are looking for.
Here are some questions you may want to ask yourself prior to searching for a supplier
- Are you looking for a manufacturer to produce your product idea?
- Do you want to find a supplier that can simply purchase existing products for you?
- Do you want a drop-shipper to supply and fulfill orders?
- Do you want a domestic supplier or an overseas supplier? Read more about the pros and cons of each here
Where to start your search
Once you have an understanding of what type of manufacturer/supplier will be best to bring your idea to life, there are several areas you can start your search:
Manufacturing Your Product In House
It's also very common to manufacture your fashion line on your own - either from your home or in a commercial space.
In order to get the product right, you may want to consider experimenting with different designs and recipes until you find the perfect one.
Some founders choose to manufacture their product in-house so that they can control quality, manage costs, and easily handle production/logistics.
Down the road, you can always choose to outsource your fashion line.
Leslie Eisen, founder of AlmondClear discusses how to manufacture products in house
If you want to start a line of unique products, then you have two basic options: you can make them yourself, or you can find a manufacturer to work with that creates custom formulations for their clients.
I knew that I was trying to build a larger-scale business and that the home-made model wasn’t right for me, so I had to find the right manufacturing partner. It took a lot of research, phone calls, and emails before I found the laboratory that met my needs.
I wanted to create unique products (as opposed to private label), so I worked with the manufacturer’s chemist who specializes in skin care formulations. This process takes some time!
First, you have to tell the chemist what kind of product you’re looking for, the ingredients that you want to include or leave out, and what you want the final product to look like/feel like/smell like, etc.
Then, the manufacturer sends you the first sample, you try it out or give it to others to try, and then provide feedback for revisions. In my case, the first two products came together fairly easily because I only needed to make small changes to stock formulations.
There are many, many rules and regulations around cosmetics and skin care products. If you want to sell products that contain FDA regulated ingredients then you have to register and get a permit.
My products aren’t FDA regulated, so I didn’t have to go through this step, but I did have to be aware of the many guidelines and standards around labeling and safety warnings. Some people hire a lawyer to help them through this process, but my manufacturer was able to guide me through the regulatory process.
The entire process, from researching labs to work with to having the first finished products shipped out to me, took around six months.
Purchasing Inventory For Your Fashion Business
When first starting out, it's important to start small with your overhead to get a gauge for what people want.
Just remember - if you order a line of items that don't sell, it's nearly impossible to recoup the money lost.
Buying the right inventory takes research and planning in order to get it right.
- Identify your target audience: Identify the age, gender, annual income that you will be selling to. This is a defining factor in ordering the right inventory that will sell.
- Research your competition: Conduct market research and identify the different types of styles, price points, and materials being used. This will help you see what's trending and ways that you can improve/stay ahead of the competition.
- Create an inventory wishlist: Identify what you need for the launch of your business and create a budget that you will stay within. Remember, it's okay to start small.
- Find a supplier Make sure to first compare prices and analyze different options.
- Delivery timing: Schedule the inventory delivery to match with seasonality and trending buying seasons
Pro-tip: It's easy to become biased based on your own fashion preferences on what types of shoes/apparel to purchase. This is where a lot of fashion businesses go wrong. It's important to base purchase decisions on current buyer behavior, trends in the market, and specific to your niche.
Erin Hooley, founder of Bailey's Blossoms tells us how poor inventory projections led her to lose over $2M
When we first launched Peyton Bre we did so in a social or direct sales model.
Through poor inventory projections we were forced to change models but only after losing $2 million dollars.
It was a devastating time for us and one we were not sure we could survive.
I have since become very intentional about the way that we project our inventory needs and we continue to refine that quarterly and even monthly. We have created a KPI for the cost of goods sold to help us hold ourselves accountable.
Ultimately, the better we manage our inventory the less we have need to discount and the healthier our profit margin becomes.
This is, of course, a very high-level overview of the importance of inventory control.
To see the full breakdown on how to manage inventory, check out my guide over on my blog..
🚀 How To Launch Your Fashion Business
Build A Website
Building a website is imperative when launching your business, and with the right tools in place, this can be a simple task to check off the list (without having to hire someone).
- Pick a domain name that's easy to remember and easy to type
- Choose a Web Hosting Plan (ie. Shopify, Squarespace)
- Make sure you choose the right theme and design
- Implement the proper page structure (ie. about page, contact page, pricing etc)
To learn more about how to build a stellar website with little stress, we give you all the details on this step-by-step guide.
Once you have chosen the domain, web hosting, and platform, it's time to get started with the design phase.
Themes are a great way to produce the fundamental style and identity of your website - this includes everything from your font design to your blog post styles.
One of the best ways to get started is to simply explore the various themes (free or paid depending on what you're looking for) and test them on your site.
If web-design really isn't in the cards for you, you may want to consider outsourcing a web designer to help bring your vision and brand to life.
Get Press Coverage For Your Fashion Business:
The more buzz around your brand - the more the phones ring, the more traffic to your website, and the more customers as a result.
Here are a few ways you can get press for your business:
Press releases are a great way to share big announcements or news, but in order to get any traction, you'll need to find a way to make your press release stand out amongst others.
Try to convey a story that really matters, not just to you, but to the reporter and to their audience.
Here are some things to consider when submitting a press release:
- Craft a catchy subject (keep it short and sweet).
- Acknowledge the journalist's past work and interests - this is key!
- Include the main point of the story in the first paragraph, heck, even the first sentence. Reporters want to hear the juice first and foremost.
- Focus on the facts and try to limit the amount of jargon used.
- Pitch yourself! Help them put a face to the story.
- Make sure your topic is newsworthy. If it's not, find a way to!
- Try not to include any attachments of your release!
Email is one of the most effective and preferred way to send your press release, so as long as you keep your pitch brief, interesting and personalized (no cold emails), you should stand a chance!
Get Press Using HARO
HARO, otherwise known as "Help a Reporter Out" is an outlet for journalists to source upcoming stories and opportunities for media coverage.
The best part is, HARO is free to use! There are, of course, premium versions you can purchase, but the free version is still an accessible way to get press.
Once you set up an account, HARO essentially will email you based on stories (that are relevant to you) that need to be covered where you will then have a chance to essentially "bid on the story."
Here are some tips when crafting your pitch:
- Discuss your experience and expertise in the space. Make sure it's obvious why you're relevant to this story.
- Answer the question in 3-4 sentences. Try and be as direct as possible
- Offer to provide the reporter with more information and make sure to give them your contact info
Plan a Publicity Stunt
Planning a publicity stunt is an effective and quick way to raise awareness for your brand and gain some traction from the press.
If you're looking to plan a stunt, the objective should be to be bold and create something memorable
However, being bold has a fine line - it's important that you consider the timing of your stunt to ensure you don't come off insensitive or unethical. For example, timing may not be in your favor if you plan something during the general election, or in most recent cases, a global pandemic.
In order to measure the success of your stunt, it's important that you first determine your end goal, for example:
- Is the stunt aimed to raise money for your business or a particular organization?
- Is the stunt aimed to drive more traffic to your website?
- Is the stunt aimed to get more followers and engagement on Instagram?
Here are a few tips for creating a great publicity stunt:
- Research to ensure that there haven't been similar stunts done in the past by other businesses - this could easily turn off journalists and your audience.
- Make sure you can explain the stunt in one headline - this will help grab the media's attention. In other words, simplify!
- The stunt should be related to the product you are promoting. Even if the stunt is a success in terms of viewers, but it doesn't tie back to your original goal, then it's not useful.
- Keep the stunt visual with videos/images.
- Leverage the internet and social media platforms for your stunt by sharing your message across a variety of audiences. This will help with word of mouth and the overall success of your event.
To learn other strategies on how to get press, check out our full guide here.
Launch Strategies For Your Fashion Business
There are various different ways you can launch your fashion business successfully.
Here are a few different strategies to get customers excited about your fashion business.
- Build hype with a landing page: you can effectively do this through waiting lists, discounts, countdown timer etc
- Create a teaser video: even just a 30 second video is a great way to exposure for your fashion business, and possibly even go viral
- Reach out to influencers: The right influencer for your product has the ability to reach your audience with just one post, and because of their loyal following, this could lead to a big return for you.
- Get Press: Whether you plan a PR stunt or get exposure through a popular news outlet, this is a great way to attract initial customers
- Launch on popular sites: A great way to get buzz about your fashion business is to submit your launch to popular startup sites.
Here are a few popular sites to launch on:
Learn more about how to launch your business successfully ➜ here
Betsy DeVille, founder of Betsy DeVille dives deep into the process of launching the business:
Setting up an Etsy Shop is not terribly difficult. However, creating a cohesive brand and voice takes ongoing work. I looked to a catalog that I have always enjoyed, Signals. I like that there is a story with each piece and they feel meaningful and tribal. I wanted to replicate something like that. I also knew I would be keeping stock in my home so I avoided anything with sizes.
After the first scarf, I branched out into bracelets. I got blank metal bracelets and found a local laser engraver who could add a quote to it. I also had to learn how to add enamel to ensure the text could be easily read. In the beginning, I added this myself. The end state was beautiful but would not be profitable. But my real goal was testing whether there was an audience for this offering. Those early bracelet designs sold over weeks and months as I learned more about keywords, descriptions, product names, and the deep and ever-changing mysteries of search engine optimization!
Etsy brings a wide audience but that comes at a price. Etsy charges listing prices as well as a portion of profits. I feel like every year they add more fees and obfuscate your margins further. In my opinion, they also make ads harder than they need to be. They do not have a dashboard that gives a true picture of your cost of sale because they separate ads from sales. And, I have had more than one very expensive occasion where I had turned ads off but they somehow magically turned back on.
This year there was an added headache with a recommended (and less expensive) new shipping option they offer through Pitney Bowes that does not play well with all package tracking. This tracking tidbit was not disclosed and there was no recourse (and no support ) from Etsy when a package I had shipped went missing and could not be located. The tracking number that was provided to me and the recipient was not the actual tracking number so the post office could not see their package anywhere in the system after it’s the first checkpoint. But I digress. Etsycomes with a sticker price, be prepared to pay the piper.
Create small goals and celebrate those achievements. If you are a sole proprietor, there won’t be anyone there to tell you, “good job!” So make sure you tell yourself.
I have experimented with Amazon as well. You can set up a brand page on Amazon after jumping through a few hoops. This YouTube video was really helpful.
All items for sale on Amazon require a UPC code. You can buy these in small batches online for varying prices. UPC codes changed in recent years and the older style of less expensive ones worked for me on Amazon. You can only use a UPC code once.
Amazon listings require a processing time that you will be measured by. This can be tough if you are using a print-on-demand service during a busy season like winter holidays. Amazon tracks your shipment for each sale and a clock starts ticking as soon as the order comes in to ensure it is shipped on time. They send reminder emails about items that have not yet shipped. I have sweated this on more than one occasion.
In order to be offered/qualify for a spot in the coveted Fulfilled by Amazon spot, you need to have shown sales volume and good service. I have not yet unlocked this achievement as I have not had a lot of Amazon sales yet. This spot will put your items as the featured result and will offer 2-day shipping from the warehouse. You can also work toward qualifying for Seller provided 2-day shipping.
Amazon also has Amazon Merch - a print on demand for t-shirts and a few other things. They have great pricing for sellers and a pretty easy interface. You can place your Merch items into your brand site so you have your whole offering in one place. Merch items will come up in search and have free shipping for Amazon Prime members but do not have 2-day shipping. Once your design is listed, you will get notifications that Amazon is sending you money or that you had no sales and your item was removed.
Amazon has a Handmade substore. Submission requires you to include photos of your home workshop and descriptions of how you make your items. I submitted my scarf but I was not accepted so I can’t comment on how that works as an alternative to Etsy. It will be interesting to watch it grow.
Product photos were also an area where I had to learn a lot. At first, I used more colorful textured backgrounds because I wanted to try to differentiate between the photos (what was I thinking??) Now, I typically use a bathroom with additional lighting and white background. Bathrooms typically have a glossier paint finish that can help bounce light around. Mirrors help too. The background I use the most is an old white satin bathrobe I got from my college boyfriend laid over a box and taped up on the mirror. I tried using my big Canon but I find I get good enough photos using my Pixel 3. I just invested in a halo light and am looking forward to retaking product photos.
White backgrounds are useful for a lot of reasons. They make color balancing easier. They are also useful because if you sell on Amazon, white backgrounds are required. You will also find that many of the print-on-demand services offer a mock-up with a white background. This helps the catalog look cohesive even if the items are coming from different places.
After some time on Etsy, I decided to also start a website. I stayed very lean and did not want to have monthly costs. Shopify had not yet gained the traction it has since and, in fact, my miserly, DIY ways have probably cost me some growth. I had an existing hosting arrangement with GoDaddy because my spouse has a website. I was able to use that arrangement and only had to invest in registering the domain and getting an SSL certificate. I use Wordpress and WooCommerce for my site. Wordpress offers free eCommerce themes and I do all my own design otherwise. I was a web developer in the early days of the internet (before I went into management) so I know enough to figure out what questions I need to ask if something is not working, but I am by no means an expert.
I would also note that I am leaving GoDaddy in the months to come. I have found that every tech support call turns into an upsell and they make it very difficult to add, say, SSL certificates, from outside.
I did not take out any loans or use a credit card to finance, I just went very, very slowly. I put $1000 into a separate bank account, filed the DBA, and opened a business credit, it gets paid off every month. Everything runs off of that card, and that bank account so it is easy to see where I am overall if I don’t assign value to the unsold stock. I test ideas, decide how I can determine whether something has been a success, and test more ideas. I still use this model today.
One area I have not tackled let alone mastered is inventory. For items that are not printed on-demand, I keep inventory in my home. Tracking that accurately across systems is hard and I have not found a good solution.
One of my first product photos with the bathrobe! - “If we believe absurdities, we shall commit atrocities.” Voltaire
Make Sure You Get The Package Design Right
The way you package your fashion business is often the first impression your customer has - so it's important to get it right.
You may want to ask yourself these questions:
If my product is on a shelf next to hundreds of other similar products:
- Will my fashion business stand out?
- Will the branding/packaging create a connection with my customer, and hence, lead them to buy?
There are hundreds of tools you can use to help with packaging and design:
- Canva - Allows non-designers to create beautiful Instagram/Pinterest posts, flyers, business cards, etc.
- Stickermule - High quality custom stickers you can include on or in your packaging.
- Noissue - Custom tissue paper and compostable mailers
- Rollo Label Printer - A great tool to print all shipping labels at home
Sheets & Giggles explains the motive behind their "Premium Unboxing Experience"
I had a particular vision for our packaging centered around one goal: because we were a DTC company and wouldn’t do physical retail in year 1, we needed to focus entirely on an incredible unboxing experience that made the product feel as premium as possible.
Outside: a white box, nice wax coating, logo front and center with no other copy, easy to open, nice and sturdy.
Inside: make people smile from the get-go, have a social call-to-action, include free extra surprises (a knapsack that wraps the sheets and an eye mask), put funny copy all over the place, and add a donation bag that people could use to donate their now-defunct cotton sheets (sheets & blankets are the #2-most-requested item at shelters behind socks).
🌱 How To Grow Your Fashion Business
Social Media Advertising
Social Media Advertising is one of the leading ways to get the word out when it comes to fashion business.
There are various different Social Media platforms available to you. Some may be more critical for your marketing efforts than others, however, it's important to have an understanding of what's out there and available to you.
Let's talk about a few of the main platforms and what makes them unique:
- Facebook Advertising - more than 2 billion monthly users. Facebook is the best for lead generation + capturing email addresses for e-commerce businesses.
- Instagram Advertising - approximately 500 million monthly users and has a higher audience engagement rate than any other platform. Instagram ads are best for linking to a product page or landing page and reaches the 18-29 age group most effectively.
- Twitter Advertising- Small businesses typically use twitter ads to drive brand awareness, but the platform is meant more for organic engagement (and is not as heavily used for paid advertising)
- Pinterest Advertising - 175 million monthly users and most effectively reaches the female audience. Pinterest is great for promoting products without "promoted". The promoted pins have a way of blending right in.
- LinkedIn Advertising - 227 million monthly users and is geared towards the B2B market and generates the highest quality leads. Great platform for recruiters, high-end products and services that will help businesses
It's important to first define your goal/objective so that you don't waste time and money into the wrong platform:
Here are some different questions to ask yourself as it relates to your goals:
- Do I want to simply drive brand awareness?
- Do I want to drive users to my website to gather information?
- Do I want to increase sales and get my customer to take action?
From there, choose the platform that targets your audience best and start experimenting!
Learn more about social media advertising ➜ here.
Emily Cassedy, founder of Blush Boutique Co explains how their Facebook strategy is the #1 way of attracting new customers:
Our biggest tool for attracting customers and then keeping repeat customers has been social media and word of mouth. We made sure our social media platforms were attractive, inviting, and not too in your face.
We set up an editorial type calendar for our Facebook posts that we still use to this day.
For example, every Tuesday we have a vote post where our followers can vote on an item that we will bring into the shop. Our customers and followers love this and chime when that piece that is voted on comes in, we already have a set amount of people that will come purchase it because they were able to be a deciding factor.
We also make sure to do a live Facebook video when we get new arrivals to show what came in that week. The supply and demand of a piece then draw in more customers, even if one of the new arrivals sells out, they are still coming in to see what else we have in the shop.
Founder Andy Hayes talks about mastering FB ads and the pixel:
The biggest bang for your buck will likely be mastering Facebook and it’s platform - which we all know is pay for play, so you’ll have to come up with a small amount of budget to start for marketing.
We’ve spent countless hours (and paid numerous coaches) before we cracked the code that works for us on Facebook, but it is working really well for us now.
Some of the most important things to know when it comes to FB Ads:
- Start with retargeting (that’s showing ads to people who already know you but did not purchase). Master this - and start building information on your Facebook Pixel - before you do anything else
- Once you have that down, try working with the 1% “Lookalike” audience to prospect for new customers. This may take awhile because your pixel audience is small, so try layering on interests - 1% Lookalike and your largest competitor, for example. Don’t use interest-only targeting until you master this.
- Great photography and videography is key, as is smart copy. Research what’s out there in your industry and constantly test - what works for one company may not work for other people.
- Make sure you have good offers. For example, we have a $5 trial for our subscription, which converts affordably - if we promoted our subscription with the standard $30 front charge, it wouldn’t be as cost-effective.
Grow Your Email List
The more engaged list of emails, the more engaged customers, which ultimately leads to more sales.
One of the best ways to start growing your list is by providing your customer with something free (or discounted) in return.
This could also be anything from:
- Fascinating case study
- Video series
- Free week of the product
- Discount on the product
Learn more about how to grow your email list and improve email marketing ➜ here.
Dylan Jacob, founder of Brumate states their email collection tactic that is proven to work:
We use Spin-a-Sale for this (you spin a wheel for a discount code in exchange for subscribing to our email list). This has been the best email-collecting tool we have found because the customer truly feels like they won a prize rather than just a coupon code.
Even if a customer doesn’t convert right away, if we have their email we have a 19% chance of converting them into a future customer whether that is through future promotions, new releases, or simply just sending an email at the right time for a purchase to finally make sense for them.
We also have a return customer rate of over 14%, so one out of every 6 people we convert will end up buying from us again with an average order value of over $60.00.
Add an exit-intent popup to your online store
A great way to double, or even triple, your email opt-in rate and to grow your list is to add an exit-intent popup to your site, and offering a discount or content upgrade for subscribers.
Here's an example of what that might look like:
One thing that I spent years NOT doing, that I now kick myself about, is adding an "exit intent pop-up" to our site, which lets people enter a sweepstakes to win a Xero Shoes gift certificate.
That one idea has added over 100,000 subscribers to our email list, which is one of our most effective marketing channels.
Improve Your Email Marketing
Different types of emails
Here are the most common types of email campaigns you can send to your customers and their benefits:
- Welcome emails - the perfect way to provide information from the start with a clear CTA. Make sure to tell your customer everything they need to know about your product or service.
- Newsletters - a great way to give customers updates or send out your latest content
- Product launch emails - the quickest (and easiest) way to increase sales is by selling to current customers. Make sure they're the first on the list to know about your new product
- Promotional emails - promote discounts, deals coupons etc. Try and make this feel exclusive and for a limited time only
- Abandoned cart emails - give your customers a reason to complete their purchase!
Here's a great resource for finding curated email designs, for all types of email campaigns!
Abandonded Cart Flow
The abandoned cart workflow is one of the most effective strategies for turning your lead into a customer, and a powerful tool to have if you're an e-commerce business.
Think about all the times that you went on a shopping frenzy only to add items to your cart and then either forget or realize nows not the right time to pull the trigger.
Then, minutes later you receive an email saying "Hurry up! Your cart is waiting - and we want to provide you with 20% off your order."
Maybe that's the special touch (and discount) you needed to pull that trigger.
Implementing this workflow can automatically trigger this for your business every time a customer abandons their cart.
Here's a great example of an abandoned cart email from Brooklinen:
Things they do well:
- Showcase 5-star reviews from other customers
- Offer a small discount + free shipping
- Great design + clear call to actions!
Improve your SEO
SEO is not just about driving traffic to your site, it's about driving the RIGHT traffic to your site, and ultimately, converting leads into customers.
One of the most important aspects of SEO is understanding what your customers are searching for, otherwise known as "keyword research."
Here are some tools that can help you choose the right keywords for your fashion business.
- Google Ads Keyword Planner invaluable for discovering search trends.
- Google Search Console is very helpful once your website is up as it shows you what words/phrases are generating traffic.
- Ahrefs and SEMRush are paid tools that allow you to look at results of your competitor's website.
Publish Great Content
Finding keywords is an important piece of the puzzle, but Google also ranks your site based on the actual content you produce, as this is what your customers are reading and engaging with.
There are various different "forms" of content that you may want to consider diversifying on your sites, such as blog posts, articles, studies, and videos.
So let's discuss what google considers "good content:"
- Length - This will vary depending on the page, however, generally having a sufficient amount of content helps search engines recognize that your site is a good source for a specific topic
- Engagement - The longer people stay on your website to read your content, the higher Google will rank your website. It's important to have informative and "thick" content that keeps people reading
- Avoid Duplicating Content - Google will recognize this and may consider your content to have low value
- Ensure pages load quickly - This will also help with engagement and time spent on your website
- Shareability - Create content that people want to share, and is easy for them to share, especially to their social media accounts (ie. "click to tweet" is a great example of this).
Another element of creating good content is creating consistent content.
If (and hopefully you are) publishing content frequently, it's important to stick to a schedule - this helps build brand trust and easy user experience with your customers.
Planning out your content with a content calendar is key to staying consistent.
Here are a few great content calendar tools that can help you:
Backlinks are an important piece to SEO, as they allow for other websites to link to your content.
Search engines recognize that other sites are essentially "verifying" your content and essentially rank you higher because of this.
Of course, some links are more valuable than others and can affect your site in different ways.
For example, if a highly valuable and credible site like the New York Times links to a page on your website, this could be remarkable from an SEO perspective.
Aside from organically getting mentioned from other sites, there are other ways that you can increase and earn backlinks:
- Create infographics with relevant data that people want to share
- Promote your content on different sites/look into "guest blogging"
- Contact influencers/journalists/bloggers and ask them to mention you!
- Write testimonials for other sites in exchange for a backlink
- Leverage existing business relationships
Build A Blog
One of the most effective ways to build brand awareness and grow your business is through consistently blogging.
We've outlined some useful tips for you to consider when creating content:
Consistency and Quantity
Quality is important, but it should be the standard for any content you publish.
What’s more important is consistency and quantity.
Consistency is as simple as committing to publishing and sharing a certain number of posts per week. For me, that’s three per week right now.
This kind of commitment is key, because one day, a random post will blow up, and you will have never expected it.
The easiest mind trap is to think "I’m posting too much", and “I need to give my readers/audience/this platform a break”.
This is nonsense.
There is no such thing as oversaturation. Well, there is, but it is just someone else’s opinion.
For every person that tells you you are posting too much, there is another person that wants even more of your content.
You should ignore people’s opinions on how much you post.
Patience & Persistence
Keep posting, keep trying, and keep putting out good content on the regular. Your time will come, and when it does, it will change everything.
The only thing you have control over is your content.
You can’t control how people will react to it. You can’t control pageviews, likes, or shares.
So the only metric you should focus on is how much content you can put out in a week, month, etc.
Where to share your blog content
I know it sounds obvious, but the best places to share your content is on your mailing list. It is guaranteed traffic and it is a great way to get rapid feedback from your most loyal readers.
Send newsletters often. I have done once a week since starting, and I’m moving to twice a week soon.
Work on increasing your mailing list as well. Look into ways to increase your conversion rate to your mailing list. I added a flyout popup thing to my site and now I’m collecting ~30 emails per day.
An email newsletter is one of the most powerful assets you can have and it is worth its weight in gold.
Reddit is one of my favorite places to promote content.
It is a very scary place because you will often get banned or heckled, but it can really pay off.
Create social media accounts for your blog, the main ones I use:
Twitter Facebook Instagram LinkedIn
Set up Buffer and share all of your blog posts to all of your accounts. All of these little shares really do add up.
Automate this as much as possible. I automated all of my social media for Starter Story.
When I started out, I put together a spreadsheet of relevant Facebook groups for my niche, and I would post to these groups whenever I had a big story I wanted to share.
Build A Facebook Community
Building a community is a great way to grow your network and your business.
There are several different ways of building a community, one of the most effective (and simplest) ways is to build a Facebook group
Setting up the group page takes less than 10 minutes, and we've outlined ways the top 5 ways to create an engaging and successful group:
- Make the group exclusive. This may sound counter-intuitive, however, this ensures privacy and that the group will feel comfortable posting and engaging with members.
- Try to be warm and welcoming. A great way to do this is by having a "Member Monday" where you welcome new members and ask them to introduce themselves in the group
- Use polls/surveys. This is a great way to know your audience and see what people want more of in the group (more business tips, networking opportunities, etc).
- Include influential people & conduct AMA's (ask me anything). This is a great way to get members engaged
- Host an in-person (or virtual) event with members in the group. This will create stronger relationships and build a strong community.
Mike Doehla, founder of Stronger U, an online nutrition company noticed that his customers needed a little motivation and sense of community:
Most diets are lonely so we wanted to give support and a community.
I think many people fail diets because there is no one to talk to and no accountability.
You can by a book, or google a meal plan but who’s going to keep you on track? We will. The entire SU community.
We give our members access for life to our Facebook community filled with people around the world who are looking out for everyone’s success.
Most diets make up arbitrary rules and we thought they just didn’t make sense. Meal timing, Cutting carbs, butter in coffee, sugar being the devil? Ehh no need to overthink that stuff.
We’ll give you the science behind of what we do and show you what actually matters based on real research.
Luckily we have a PhD at our disposal to educate our staff and members so everyone is getting the most up to date information out there.
Consider Working With Instagram Influencers
Partnering with like-minded influencers (within your industry) is one of the most effective ways to grow your social media organically.
Industry influencers already have an established and loyal following. With one post, your product immediately establishes a connection with a brand new audience. It's that powerful.
When finding influencers to promote your product, do your research and make sure that their following will actually be interested in your product.
It's easy to be blinded by any influencer with a huge following, but if those followers don't resonate with your product, there may not be any value there... so make sure you do your research!
Evan Marshall, founder of Plain Jane discusses how "micro-influencers" have impacted his business:
Influencer marketing has been huge for us. Our approach is pretty simple. We give out samples of our products and ask people to post about us on social media aka a micro-influencer strategy.
We really like this approach because we get authentic stories and content. We cannot really control the messaging so the product has to speak for itself. We don’t really take product photos at all. Our customers take the photos and we ask to reuse them.
With any influencer strategy, you have to be very sure you’re targeting the right people and engaging with them. You can make sure you’re targeting the right influencers by looking through their posts and then looking through the profiles of their engaged followers.
It takes more time per influencer but the payoff is certainly worth it. Make sure their followers look like your existing customers.
It takes a ton of time and work to grow a social media following this way but it’s worth it. Other accounts have tried to grow themselves through botting or other manipulations. As a CBD company, we didn’t want to give Instagram any reason to shutdown our account so we’ve done everything through content and real engagement. It’s not magic to make this happen. You just have to post consistently and then reply or like every single comment you get. It takes months but it works
Consider Selling On Amazon
In addition to selling your products directly on your site, you may want to consider selling on Amazon to reach a wider audience and attract new customers.
Here are some pros and cons of selling on amazon:
- Easy and seamless process to get your product listed on Amazon
- There are roughly 100 million thoroughly committed prime customers, so you're bound to tap into new business
- Can help grow your business exponentially and reach new audiences
- You may encounter some "copycats" and counterfeit products
- Amazon owns the relationship with the customer (you lose control over product reviews + customer service)
- If you already have a low-markup, amazon may not wrth your while and you could end up losing money
- Commissions and listing fees are high - it's easy to lose control of your offering
Follow these instructions to get your product listed on Amazon or check out the video below on how to get started:
Cory Stout, founder of Woodies ($250K/mo) provides us with specifics on how to rank better on amazon:
Our main product is walnut wood sunglasses that I sell for $25 on Amazon and Woodies.com.
I dedicated myself to becoming an Amazon expert. I listened to all the podcasts and read all the blog posts I could find. Shoutout EcomCrew I took the basic fundamentals that are out there and I added a couple of my own twists.
Amazon brings me, 100 brand new customers, every day for very little acquisition cost. If I tried that on my own, it would take a TON of work and it wouldn’t be nearly as effective as Amazon, so I took the easy road on this one.
Here's an article I wrote on how to rank better on amazon (30+ Tips):
- Beautiful images (minimum 5 images) especially lifestyle images I use UpgradedImages.com for product photography (hey Ken!)
- Keywords in your title (but it still needs to sound human)
- Competitive price (contributes to high conversion rate)
- NOT having 1-star reviews
- DON'T STOCKOUT: it's such a killer and if you DO stockout, definitely DON'T raise your price right before you do, if anything LOWER your price for the last 10-20 units before you stockout, each ASIN has a 'memory' for when you do get back in stock so that will help you regain ranking quickly
- DON'T VIOLATE AMAZON TOS: just don't
- Perform QC on your stock before you send it in (I sent in a wrong box once and I had to 'remove' over 3,000 pieces so I could sift through them and remove the 150 contaminated pieces 0/7 would not recommend
4/5: Pretty Friggin Important
- Minimum 10 5-star reviews (do this before you do anything below this)
- Well optimized PPC campaigns (could do a whole post on this, keep ACOS under 40%) here's a screenshot of some of my campaigns I use a combination of manual campaigns with exact phrases and high bids...and auto campaigns with a broad range of products and very low bids
- Turning on FeedbackGenius for auto review requests (it's not as good as it used to be, but it's still worth it)
- Get a trademark and get Brand Registry, this protects you from hijackers and other unscrupulous sellers
- Quick response to customer messages (under 12 hours) here are my stats my mom does all my customer service "Employee of the Year" status
- Drive outside traffic (amazon loves outside traffic because they don't have to spend so much to acquire customers) Facebook, Instagram, and Google Adwords are the usual suspects
- Use ocean shipping to save mucho $$$ on unit costs (use flexport)
Read more about amazon tips here.
🏃🏼♀️ How To Run Your Fashion Business
How To Retain Customers For Your Fashion Business
Retaining customers is one of the most effective ways to grow your fashion business.
Oftentimes, it's easy to find yourself focusing on generating new customers, vs retaining your current ones.
Look at it this way - you are 60-70% more likely to sell a new product to an existing customer than you are a new customer.
That's not to say that finding new customers and revenue streams is not important, however, the easiest (and most inexpensive) source of new revenue is right there in front of you.
Here are some ways you can retain customers for your fashion business:
- Responding to comments on social media
- Send discounts (or freebies) to loyal customers
- Provide valuable content, for free
- Write a hand written thank you note
- Provide awesome customer service and build relationships with customers
To find out more tips and tricks on retaining customers, check out this article ➜ here
Tanya Zhang, founder of Nimble Made dives deep into the process of attracting and retaining customers:
In the beginning, we kicked off the brand with a lot of grassroots marketing which is great when you’re on a budget since it’s mostly sweating equity. We were doing organic outreach via partnerships, influencers, blogs, joint events/pop-ups with communities that aligned with our mission of AAPI advancement. We saw a lot of great word of mouth referrals from these efforts but we realized the scale wasn’t as drastic as we’d like it to be.
From there, we really started to focus on our digital efforts namely SEO, Facebook / Instagram ads, organic social as well. Currently, our number one channel for traffic is through our blog posts on our website – one in particular which we’ve written “18 best dress shirts” and named ourselves as the #1 brand–this, I’ll have to give credit to our contractor who’s been working on our SEO efforts. He looks at what keywords my competitors rank for and researches ones that we can actually compete for. In the menswear space, we find topics like “how to style with jeans”, “best dress shirts for certain events”, “how to match x with y”, “casual wear vs formal wear”, etc very popular (check out the rest of our articles here) so we’re churning out 4-8 new articles every month to see which drive traffic and optimize from there.
We’ve been able to climb the ranks of organic search results through our SEO efforts, writing more blog content, optimizing on-page SEO, and getting backlinks. From there, our Facebook / Instagram ads retarget these readers and our emails help retain and nurture returning customers. Consistency is very important. We have a budget allocated for backlinks, blog content, ads so there’s new content, backlinks, ad creatives being generated and tested every 2 weeks. We also look at the data of these efforts to see how to reiterate and improve on them moving forward.
I’ve listened to a lot of startup podcasts featuring founders in the menswear who all say that press really helped them “make it” so I prioritized securing press as one of our first efforts. With no experience in PR, I learned everything from this blog article by Jaclyn Fu, founder of Pepper Bra.
She lays out in really great tactical steps how to get press when you’ve never done it before. This was the only guide I followed and it helped me secure a number of publications in our first year of business. As she mentions, there’s prep involved: putting together a PR kit, researching publications that have featured competitors, and then setting up the right cadence for pitching and keeping track of pitches so you can follow up. I secured a number of placements whose audiences were of the Asian American demographic, namely Cold Tea Collective, Mochi Magazine, etc, which helped spread the word of our brand and got the attention of larger outlets like Huffington Post. Local outlets were very receptive to my pitch–I secured a Times of San Diego feature since I went to university in San Diego. I also got an article on the front page of my local high school city newspaper.
I’m also in a number of Facebook groups created for entrepreneurs, Asian creatives, female founders, and more where reporters or journalists will post and look for stories. I landed MONEY Magazine by replying to a video editor who was looking for more AAPI narratives to feature. Press has worked very well since it’s free (most of the time) but it does take sweat equity, organization, and persistence.
Email marketing is the newest effort that we’re working on now so we’re testing various efforts to figure out the best strategy e.g. segmenting our users based on what we know of the customer –– like creating an email list of customers vs non-customers so we can create more targeted emails specific to that type of use –– and sending out campaigns one time a week and a/b test the subject line to see which performs better. We have an automated email flow that emails a customer who’s purchased a few months ago and gives them a hefty discount if they come back and purchase another shirt that has generated win back sales.
Diversify Your Product Line
Adding new products to your business is a great way to expand into new markets and grow your business.
It's important to note that adding new products and diversifying may not be in the cards for you right this moment, and that's okay. You can always consider it down the road.
Here are some reasons you may want to considering adding/diversifying your product
- Meeting the needs of your customers
- Establish yourself as a top provider in your industry and stay ahead of the game with competition
- Resistance to downturns/trends fading
- Create new revenue streams
Diversifying Product Example: Joah Love
The future for JOAH LOVE is bright! Customers have been telling us that they’ve been coveting their kids’ wardrobes for years, and this season, we’re going to make a collection just for them with the launch of a new line for adults.
It will include Mommy + Me and Daddy + Me collections, complementary clothing for parents and their kids.
We’re also in the early stages of exploring clothing options for children with special needs. There’s growing demand for sensory-sensitive apparel to help outfit these children and support their parents, and we’re excited to reenvision how our incredibly soft materials can help these families.
Word of Mouth
The most tried and true way to grow a fashion business is through word of mouth - some entrepreneurs would say it's more important than all social media.
Why you should focus on word of mouth:
- Consumers trust word of mouth above all other forms of marketing
- 92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising
- 64% of marketing executives indicated that they believe it is the most effective form of marketing
Learn more about word of mouth in our guide: 30 Ways Founders Grow Their Business ➜
As a brand, you want to deliver an experience that authentic, honest and transparent.
Don't make the mistake of giving your audience less credit than they deserve.
If you go around chasing every trend and only focused on yourself and money, you’re going to lose very quickly.
There have been many times where we have been tempted to do this but stayed true.
Sure we sacrificed sales, but we kept our integrity, played the long game and people saw and appreciated that, and really began emotionally investing in the brand.
If you can afford to hire someone to help support your fashion business, outsourcing is a great way to save you time and energy.
Most importantly, outsourcing can help you focus on the core growth of your business, versus spending your time on day to day tasks that other people can do just as well!
If you do plan to outsource your work, it's important to be hyper-familiar with the actual work involved.
Why is it important to be hyper-familiar with the work?
- So you can understand how long it takes
- So you understand the full process, edge cases, things that can go wrong.
- So you can explain it in detail to your employee.
- So you can make sure it actually works (for example - how do you know cold email works for your business if you’re not on the ground floor trying it out?)
- Understanding the tasks at a deep level will save you a lot of time and money.
Build a Referral Program
Word of mouth is one of the best ways to get the word out about your business and acquire new customers. Especially when you are starting out, it’s important to build a solid referral program to encourage existing customers to help you find new ones.
A great way to do that is by offering a reward (ie. credit on your service or cash) to customers that refer you to their friends and family.
A fantastic referral program will help with clout, credibility, and establishing yourself in the space.
Provide Great Customer Service
Providing exceptional care and creating relationships with clients is a great way to build your reputation and retain customers.
Whether you are an online business or a physical business, it's highly important to communicate with customers and make them feel like they are the priority.
Just remember: customer service represents your brand, values, vision and YOU as a person.
We put together the best resources on the internet to help you start your fashion business.
- Platform tools such as Shopify, WooCommerce, Amazon, Etsy, eBay, Google Shopping, Adobe Creative Cloud, Amazon Web Services or Google
- Email tools such as MailChimp, Klaviyo, Omnisend, Gmail, G Suite, Telegram or Viber
- Social media tools such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Hootsuite, Reddit, Medium or Tiktok
- Advertising tools such as Facebook Ads, Instagram Ads, Twitter Ads, Amazon Ads or Google ads
- Design tools such as Canva, pixlr, Adobe Suite, Sketch, Gimp, Affinity Designer, 99designs, Inkscape or Flipsnack
- Shipping tools such as ShipStation, USPS, FedEx, DHL or UPS
- Analytics tools such as Google Analytics
- Productivity tools such as Google Suite, Dropbox, Slack, Microsoft Office 365, Trello, Doodle, LibreOffice or Stickermule
- Payments tools such as Paypal, Shopify Payments, Stripe, Amazon Payments, Square, Apple Pay or Venmo
- Blog tools such as WordPress
- Accounting tools such as Quickbooks, Google Sheets or ADP
- Freelance tools such as Fiverr or Upwork
- Fulfillment tools such as Amazon FBA
- Education tools such as Coursera
- Crowdfunding tools such as Kickstarter
- Customer service tools such as Chatra
- Stock images tools such as Shutterstock or Pexels
- Affiliate tools such as GoAffPro
- Payroll tools such as QuickBooks
- Referral tools such as goaffrpo
- Wholesale tools such as Global Sources
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