Creating a Business Plan For Your Fashion Brand

The term “business plan” is casually bandied about like a hot potato in the studios of emerging fashion designers. Everyone knows you need one, but still, so few emerging design businesses take the time upfront to properly plan for their success. Success is very rarely accidental. Sure, we all benefit from some good luck from time to time, but real success can only come through hard work and good planning. For this, a business plan is critical.

So, what is a business plan for?                                                                                            Many people think that the primary purpose is to secure funding – i.e. loans from banks or cash from investors. And while this is certainly one important objective, it is not the most important one.

The truth is, the business plan is, above all else, for you: the person or people who will drive the business forward. It is the document that lays out your vision and objectives. It is your roadmap for how you think it should evolve and grow to achieve this vision. It contains the budget and projections for how your business will manage is finances and fund growth. It is the document that helps you decide what to do, and just as importantly, what not to do. It is a living, breathing document that you should use to measure your progress, while still being willing to adapt it to reflect new insights, unexpected competitive threats, and changes in your business environment. In short, it is like your company bible – except that this is a bible you can adapt as you go along.

You can also think about the business plan as a tool for communication. Anyone who has set up a new business knows that when you are looking for investors, employees, suppliers, office space, banking services, professional advisors and everything else that you need, you have to tell people about your business and its aims. When you have spent the necessary time in crafting a business plan, you will be able to more clearly articulate what your business is all about. This makes you seem more professional and organized and will enable you to attract the people, support, and money that your business needs to succeed. Going through the business planning process will enable you to distill your business down into a short “elevator pitch” of concise points that together provide a good understanding of your business aims in a short period of time. When people understand your business, they will know better if it is something in which they would like to be involved.

Now, if that all makes sense, what then do you need to include in a business plan? Essentially, it should address all of the constituent parts of your business starting from the broadest vision of the business right down to the most minute operational issues of job descriptions and work plans. The first thing to do is create an outline for all of the topics that need to be covered, and then for each of those topics jot down all the ideas and thoughts you already have. If you don’t have a written plan already, then it’s likely that much of your business plan is in your head and so you need to start getting your current thoughts out on paper in a structured way so that you can then go and revisit each of the topics in more detail.

A sample outline of a business plan for a fashion business might look as follows:

1. Executive Summary – This is something you do at the end, once the rest of your plan is fleshed out, It will quickly become the so-called “elevator pitch” for your company when you need to describe it in a short interaction. It only needs to be a few paragraphs long.

2. Vision and objectives – This section describe the vision of your business — essentially, why you set it up. What specific market need are you trying to fill? Which customer are you targeting and why?

The more specific you can be about these issues, the more compelling your business plan will be. If the reader (or listener) can really understand the market need you have identified, then they will be much more likely to buy into your overall business plan.

Understanding everything about your customer’s lifestyle and preferences will make your job as designer and manager all the easier. You will not only know who you are designing for but also where they shop, what magazines they read and what influences their buying behaviour. All of this will feed into important decisions you make every day about how you design your collections, manage your business, and promote your brand.

3. Market and competitive landscape – This section describe the market you plan to operate in. What is the size of the market and how quickly is it growing? Who are the other players in this space?

To be clear, the market size you need to describe is not the size of the global market for clothing, but your estimate of the size of the specific market you have identified, in the geographies you are focusing on. Yes, this information can be hard to find, but you can take larger market size figures and estimate what share of the overall market your business is going after.

As for your competitors, the better you can describe and understand their products, their style and aesthetic, and their positioning and strategies, the better you will be able to shape your business to stand out from the pack.

In general, quickly growing markets of a good size with few competitors (or few strong competitors) are usually quite attractive. However, if you have identified a clear niche market that is currently -unfilled, then that can also be very compelling.

4. Implementation plan – This section clearly describes all of the resources you will need to make your business successful. How many staff will you need in which roles? What type and size of space will you need to design and sell your collection? What outside expertise may you require operating successfully?

An implementation plan, therefore, contains a detailed description of all of the operating requirements in your business including Design, Production, Sales, Marketing/PR, and Retail. You should have a detailed plan for each of these core steps including human resources, expertise, space, and timing. Thinking very clearly about the various roles and responsibilities that need to be filled will ensure that you find the right people to make things happen for you. In turn, attracting the right team will also make it easier to attract funding. Most investors invest in people and teams, not just ideas.

Without an implementation plan, your business plan can lack the concreteness and specificity required to convince people you can take your vision and make it a reality.

5. Financials – This section is absolutely critical to your plan as it will identify your projections for how the business will grow, in terms of both profits and revenues, and what financing you will need to make it happen.

An income statement uses carefully thought-out projections of how your business will grow at the top-line (i.e. sales and other revenues) and will also project the costs of delivering that growth, including the team and other resources you have identified in the implementation plan. This statement will then project profit, by taking projected revenues and subtracting projected costs.

However, the income statement does not tell you how much money you will need to raise as it does not reflect the timing of cash inflows and outflows. This is where the cash flow statement comes in.

The cash flow statement is one of the most important parts of your plan as it shows the peaks and troughs of your cash situation on a monthly basis and identifies what funding you will need to make it through the troughs. You can think of the cash flow statement as a monthly account of cash coming in and cash going out. The difference between these two figures is your funding need for that month – and you are better off knowing your funding needs in advance as opposed to finding out later when your bank account is empty and suppliers are asking for payment before they release your goods. This is particularly important in the fashion business where you incur many costs up front (designing, sampling, sales efforts) before any of your revenues even come in.

If you can, you should have a trained financial or accounting professional (a friend, family member or other contacts) to help you with this section. They will have the expertise to sense check your assumptions to ensure that they are sound and believable. It’s better to have their input before you take your plan out to investors who will inevitably ask you the same probing questions and who will be looking for concrete answers.

Next time: We would discuss finding the right investors and partners

Once you have a plan in place, you will then be ready to start soliciting financing.

To know more about managing the business angle of your fashion business, you can register with us.

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Setting up your own fashion business

Many young designers rush into setting up a business, attracted by the perceived glamour and fun that is associated with the fashion industry. There are wonderful success stories of designers like Ohimai Atafo (Mai Atafo) or Folake Coker (Tiffany Amber). The stories we hear less of are those that describe all of the failed companies and dashed hopes that are the cruel reality of this industry.

One of the most common questions designers’ fresh out of fashion school (as a bachelor’s degree or from a vocational school ) ask is: “Should I start my own business or should I go work for a big fashion house?”. The truth is, the right answer depends on you and your aims.

The first thing to think about is “Do I really want to run a business?”

Displaying your collection in a fashion display, completing designs for clients– what more is there to want from a career?

Here’s a reality check: it’s not as glamorous as it sounds. Running a fashion business means, steaming clothes over and over again, and pouring through receipts with an accountant will become part of your routine.

You will likely spend less than 10% of your time designing, while the rest of the time you will be managing production, dealing with suppliers who want their money (now!), managing your employees while hoping they don’t fall ill, and trying to eat and bathe in between. On top of all that, you have to worry about making enough money to declare some kind of dividend from the business for all your hard work. You will eat, live and breathe your business 24/7. If that doesn’t turn you off, then keep reading.

Starting any kind business requires tenacity, endurance, and dedication. Setting up a fashion business is all the more challenging because this is a hyper-competitive industry (who doesn’t want to be a fashion designer these days?) and a very complex one as well, even at the smallest of scales.

What other kinds of start-up businesses so quickly find themselves with customers and suppliers scattered around the world, requiring so much coordination and organization?

Managing to get all of your raw materials (fabrics, lace, Ankara, etc) to start your production and then sending it all out to clients in different corners of the world (each with their own customs procedures) in only 2 months can be a nightmare, even for those with great forward planning and troubleshooting skills.

All of this is to say that one of the key drivers of success will be your entrepreneurial skills and your commitment to running a business. In order to be successful, you should think of yourself as a CEO first, fashion designer second. A CEO is a manager of people, finances, and processes. Therefore, you will have a great deal of responsibility and important business decisions will face you each and every day. The buck stops at you and the business should always be at the forefront of your mind, not just an afterthought.

Next, you should ask: “Do I already have or can I find the necessary skills, contacts, and funding to create a successful fashion company?”

Clearly, you won’t be able to do absolutely everything yourself. This is where you need to find other people who believe in you to join your team or provide support in some other way. Doing a self-assessment of your skills and abilities will tell you what gaps you will need to fill in order to make your business work.

You may assume that having completed a design degree, there are no skill gaps there. However, the design process in a business can often feel very different to that of the design process in school, where you don’t have to worry about things other than the product. Running fashion business means developing and following an organized creative process that works for you – and that other people can work as well.

One of the great things about designers who have previously worked in a large fashion house is that they have seen how other people organize themselves and can take lessons from there as they start. Having a clear design methodology is crucial to getting the best out of your abilities. If you don’t have this in place now, perhaps you may want to spend some time learning from someone else first.

Apart from mastering the design process, something that some of the smartest designers do next is to find a business partner they can trust, who brings different skills and connections to the table. Often it is a spouse, sibling or a friend who might take on this role. In this way, not only do you have someone to lean on in times of difficulty, you also have a division of roles, which allows you to focus on more on the creative aspects of the business.

You will also need to find people in the Industry who agree to support you and work with you. You’ll need a PR who will (at least initially) give you his or her services for almost nothing and a factory that will make your clothes in small quantities. You will also need accountants, lawyers, stylists, photographers, graphics designers, production managers and interns – hopefully, all at discounted prices. You, therefore, need to ask yourself if you already have a set of contacts which you can leverage to make your business work. If not, you need to get out there and meet people so you can start your business on the right foot, with the right team behind you.

Finally, for most designers who don’t have Bill Gates as a father or Uncle’s like Aliko Dangote, starting a business is also a question of finding money. There are many sources of funding, but each source will take time and effort before it bears its fruit. Having a network of people who may be able to introduce you to potential sources of funding is imperative to set up your business. You can have a brilliant business concept, a fantastic team, and all the energy in the world, but without funding in place from the start, it will be difficult to get up and running.

Lastly, you should ask yourself: “Do I have something unique to offer the market?”

If there is one crucial thing I recommend that you do before rushing off to start a business, it is to carefully craft your business concept. What is it about your business that will be unique? Why will people choose to buy your product over someone else’s? Is it the design, the price, the value or the dream that they are buying into?

You will need to think carefully about who you are designing for. It is cliché by now, but you need to ask yourself “Who are you designing for? And why?”.

Most of the time, this simple question is met with groans or blank stares or platitudes like “I can design for anyone” or “A very glamorous man or woman with lots of money”. This is not enough. You need to get into the mind of your customer and understand what motivates them. Where do they spend their time and for what occasions will you dress them? What makes them buy a garment? Understand their psychology, emotional needs and relationship with clothing. Visualize all the aspects of their lives and assess how your business can blend into making them even better.

Remember, your business concept needs to offer a clear proposition of value to your customer and if you can’t identify that yourself, seek help from Fashion Business School or subscribe to Incubation Programs.
To know more about managing the business angle of your fashion business, you can register with us.

 

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All You Need to Know About Fashion Acceleration Program

Starting a business is hard when you feel like you’re on your own. Fashion acceleration programs immerse designers and entrepreneurs in a community designed to equip and propel “on the rise” fashion businesses.

What is a Fashion Acceleration?
You might have heard of the term business incubator or accelerator. Similarly, a Fashion acceleration is a program that helps new and startup fashion companies to develop by providing services such as business training or workspace.

Many offer low-cost design studio space, business mentoring, educational seminars, and networking opportunities making it ideal for those who thrive in the community.

Fashion acceleration is not an alternative to fashion school. They primarily focus on business, not design.

What’s great about entrepreneurial and tech accelerators is, in the time span of somewhere between a few weeks and a few months, their goals are to help brands that are in the growth stage to get past that wall of not being certain of what to do next.

If you’re in this stage of business, you probably know what I’m talking about. You’ve built something great, it’s working, but it’s a bit stagnant. You need help in areas like financial planning, advanced marketing techniques, and operations in order to hit some desired milestones like reaching a certain amount of revenue and hiring a team. The accelerators’ job is to help you with that.

That’s a lot of training in a short period of time but accelerators leverage their large mentor networks to provide guidance and direction, making it possible to cover a lot of different territory in a short period of time.

First, if done right, these programs would not be meant just for those designers who are following the traditional path to success but instead would recognize talent and business models of all kinds and provide guidance, direction, and resources based on the brand’s desired direction.

360 Creative Innovation Hub will be specializing their next set of training on Fashion Acceleration Program which is aimed at incubating emerging fashion designers to becoming the next high street Nigerian brands. Transform their fashion label into a sustainable business and brand.

To know more about the fashion acceleration program, kindly register here.

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Create the Right Logo For Your Fashion Brand

When was the last time you took a good look at your logo and made sure it was working for you? And I mean working as in “doing work.” Your logo isn’t just there to look pretty; it needs to attract the right customers and establish trust.

As a fashion business, this is even more important. Your customers are coming to you with an aesthetic top of mind. They are deciding whether or not your aesthetic is the one they will put on their bodies to reflect themselves to the world. They see your logo at the top of your website and quickly judge whether or not your brand reflects them – even before they have scrolled down to see your products.

But how can you even tell if your logo is doing a good job?

What makes a logo good?

Often when non-designers are making logos, their impulse is to over-design. Don’t fall into this trap! Nike’s logo is a simple swoosh. Club Monaco is just text. Heck, so is Anthropologie, Topshop, The Gap, and many more.

Memorable: A customer sees the label in one of your garments, continues wandering through the boutique, and picks up another piece of yours. Will they connect it to the first one they saw?
Timeless: It’s hard to avoid trends entirely – that’s what makes something look current! – but the trendier your logo is now, the faster it will look outdated. (e.g. the Lobster font recently experienced a heyday, and you’ve probably seen a lot of geometric animals around)

Versatile: Your logo needs to work in a variety of settings, from the side of pens to a black and white ad in your local paper to the sew-in tag on the back of your garments. And it needs to be just as effective in each of these settings.

Appropriate: Above all, your logo has to be appropriate for the audience you are trying to attract. Just like bright purple might not be appropriate for an outdoorsy brand, elaborate script fonts may not attract people to your minimalist clothing line.

Identify What Your Brand is About

What is your brand about? What’s your “thing?” What’s your niche? Are you a personal style blogger? A fashion news? Vintage? What are your values? Are you luxury or budget? Who is your market? Is it preppy or urban? Write down what your brand is about and keep this in mind for the next step.

Research Logos You Like

Make an inspiration board (real or virtual) of EVERY logo you have ever seen that you love. It could be the MTN logo, whatever, Chances are it could be something elegant and fashion related like Vogue’s logo, or Chanel, Louis Vuitton, whatever, collect every. logo. you. like.

Research Your Niche, What is The Visual Language?

Think about fashion magazine logos, how they all look similar, all caps, serifed fonts. Newspapers tend to use black-letter type like The Guardian. These themes are the subliminal message that the brands belong to a certain niche and have particular values.

Work in Black & White First, THEN Add Colour

Back in the day before digital where colour is ALWAYS an option, logos had to look good in black and white so if you needed to submit your logo to a print publication or use it for marketing material and you didn’t have a budget for color (more expensive) you had to have a logo that looked good in black and white. Nowadays, especially in digital, colour is always available, do you know anyone with a monitor that doesn’t have colour?

That said, it’s still a good idea to at least work in black and white. Why? You get an idea of the contrast, your logo isn’t dependent on color. And if you do happen to need it printed in black and white, it doesn’t lose impact.

 

Keep it simple

If you don’t have the skills, keep it simple. If you do have the skills, why are you reading this? Kidding! Even simplicity takes skill… sometimes, even more, skill than a complex logo. Think about Nike, how simple that logo is. Or Chanel. Less is more!

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The Need For a Portfolio Design as a Fashion Designer

For a fashion designer or anyone that is involved in the creative industry, having a portfolio is a must– no questions asked. A portfolio reflects your creativity and showcases your work to the potential clients. It serves as a true example of what you are capable of and what abilities you have to offer.

It is just as important to have an online portfolio (on the internet) as well as an offline portfolio (printed folio). Having an offline portfolio is important when you have to physically meet your clients at their workplace, where it can be taken to meetings and interviews.

The best way to build a great fashion design portfolio is to focus on the content. It should showcase the designer’s creativity and unique style. Many things should be highlighted in the portfolio including sketching ability, knowledge of how to use color, textile understanding, design development, and problem-solving skills.

Sketched illustrations should be in the portfolio so the potential client knows the designer can accurately sketch his or her ideas. The sketches should be large, colored final copies of the design, if the initial sketches are available and there is room in the portfolio, include those as well. This shows the development of the design from start to finish.

Each collection should include fabric swatches that show what the designs should be made. Small squares are preferred, but make sure they are large enough to show any texture or pattern that may be a part of the fabric.

A good portfolio will enable you to make connections, position yourself in the market and find a job. Creating a strong, eye-catching portfolio demands creativity so that it best reflects the abilities, experience and the skills of the designer.

Before preparing your portfolio, the audience for which it is designed for should be kept in mind. It is best to design an adaptable portfolio, that can be modified to fit any situation. A fashion portfolio design should be to the point and easy to read/navigate through.

The best work should be kept as the first views because nobody has the time to look into the entire portfolio. The work thus showcased should be convincing and impressive, so that it appeals the potential client or the employer.

Fellow fashion designers and creatives, I hope that this has convinced you to start compiling and creating your own fashion portfolio design.

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6 Steps to becoming a better Fashion Designer in 2017


In the opinion of leading fashion designers, there are 6 things you must do to be a better Fashion Designer in the New Year.

  • Know The Trends
  • You can choose to go with the trends and create designs that are in tune, you can decide you want to bring back some styles from the past or create something completely out of the box!

    This journey as designer will be confusing and you won’t look like you know what you are doing if you don’t know and understand whats in or out and decide where you want to stand. You cant be an island in this business. A good way to do this is to come around a community of Fashion Designers to be in the know of what people of like (and unlike) minds are creating.

    Our Cosewing hub serves this purpose; where you can meet and work together with other Fashion Designers. Take a virtual tour at www.360creativehub.com

  • Get Familiar with Computer Aided Design
  • In 2017, if you don’t know how to use the computer to create and present your designs, you are certain to be limited this year.

    Your ability to present yourself as a serious minded professional is very important if you must become big this year.
    Computer Aided Design is a good thing to to add to your arsenal this year. There are a number of easy-to-use software you can get and learn; Fashion Cad, Optitex, Fashion Sketcher, Digital Fashion Pro and lots more

  • Don’t put fame first

The desire to be recognized and celebrated for your work is a fair one! We all want that. Besides who doesn’t want to style the biggest musician or actress in town.

But that is not where the work starts! Before ‘Celebrity Fashion Designer’ or whatever prefix you might ant to add to your name….comes the root word ‘Designer’. The journey starts with making actual clothes for actual people! So get busy, and make clothes, mastery of the art will get you noticed with time.

  • Know your Strength and do your Strength

A good path to relevance in the world of Fashion Designing is to identify what you are best at, and do more of that.

Are you better with Bridal clothing? Casuals or Corporate? Bespoke and so on. Take time to find your vibe and stick to it.

  • Know your customer

Fashion as we know it is an art, but the bottom-line remains that you are trying to run a business. And so the Customer becomes a major factor.

Know each Customer’s unique needs and what fashion means to them, understand the basic body types, make up styles and how to plan a wardrobe.

  • Work with the right tools

Your manual sewing machine won’t take you where you want to be this year. You certainly need too get a good grasp of other modern equipment. Find out what professionals are using to achieve superior results; get as close as possible, as often as possible to those equipment.

A Number of facilities and Training schools afford you the opportunity to learn these very modern sewing machines, you can also offer free assistance or take up an internship with a fashion designer around you who has what you need. Alternatively, you can find a fashion center near you that offers space and equipment for fashion designers to use for their work.

A good example is 360 Creative Hub at Surulere, Lagos.  Our facility comes fully-equipped with state-of-the-art fashion gadgets you can rent for your use at very affordable rates.

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Big Opportunity for Upcoming Designers – The ‘Lagos Top 20’ Challenge

As a way to start the New Year,  Nigeria’s  1st Coworking Space for Fashion Designers introduces the #LagosTop20 Challenge to celebrate and reward creativity among local designers.

20 outstanding local designers will be chosen as the #LagosTop20 and will get
1. 1 Month FREE access to use our Premium Fashion Design Coworking Facility in Lagos
2. Featured on Leading Blogs in the country
3. 1 Month Social Media Marketing Campaign to jump start their outfits to new levels in 2017.

Get ready to be exposed beyond your imagination!

They are the most inspiring Upcoming Fashion Designers to watch out for in 2017.

To Enter
Simply Follow us on TwitterFacebook or Instagram and upload a Picture of your most inspiring work for 2016 using the hashtag #LagosTop20. If its good enough, you could be on the #LagosTop20!

At 360 Creative Hub, we are solving the problem of inadequate equipment and poor business accommodation for local fashion designers! Enter the challenge for an opportunity to start the new year with excellence!

Entries Close Saturday January 14, 2017

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360 Creative Hub_ The Fashion Designer’s Coworking Space

Fashion is arguably the next big deal in Nigeria and as such, has seen many entrepreneurs emerge than most special crafts in Nigeria. Their needs range from machinery to office space where they can work and create, to runways where they can flaunt their creativity.

Real Estate in Lagos can be a business killer hence the need to create a workspace for these bubbly entrepreneurs to express themselves, free from financial inhibition. Space where they can find specific materials for production and a chance at mentoring and professional advice. Space like 360Creative Hub.

360Creative Hub is the first fashion co-working space in Lagos. Situated in the heart of Surulere at NO 34 Ajao Road off Olufemi Street off Ogunlana drive Surulere, it is home to a dozen of fashion designers who need an affordable space with all the needed machinery that can make work easy and creativity grand.

“360Creative Hub is focused on promoting the development and consolidation of fashion companies” – Blessing Achu CEO Creative Hub

As in all co-working space, 360 Creative Hub gives fashion entrepreneurs, access to their own private space where they can dream and imagine designs with the co-factoring section where, they will find all the specific machine they need for production, creating and building their passion.

360Creative Hub is a creative and collaborative co-working space dedicated to the fashion industry. Our collective space provides a platform for brands and fashion-focused individuals to come together to work, collaborate, converse, and ultimately, achieve their dreams. We believe in coming together and building a dynamic, fashion-focused community where work and play, is the motto of the day.

When creating 360Creative Hub, our passion was to provide more than just a workspace, we wanted to foster a truly unique collective community where fashion entrepreneurs can grow healthy and wiser. We will be hosting programs and classes featuring the industry’s most experienced speakers, educators, and experts. Catering to the left and right side of the brain, to help strike the balance between creativity and business – Blessing Achu

The goal is to provide the equilibrium needed to grow a business and to create a world of fashion. 360Creative Space is unique because it provides graduates and emerging designers with not just a collaborative workspace but a vibrant network of fashion specialists (such as pattern makers, illustrators, and machinists) as well as fashion partners (such as advertising, marketing, graphic designers and accountants).

This complete end-to-end service at designers fingertips is a first-to-market fashion house ensuring designers are supported all the way, through the fashion ecosystem – including getting their collections to market.

Take a Tour of our Facility here

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