Some vital questions you need to ask yourself before starting a brand or launching a product are: Who is your target audience? What is your brand story? What are you aspiring to be? What do you want to have gained by the end of this session?
Shooting Techniques: Rule of thirds
The rule of thirds is a guideline which applies to the process of composing visual images such as designs, films, paintings, and photographs. The guideline proposes that an image should be imagined as divided into nine equal parts by two equally spaced horizontal lines and two equally spaced vertical lines, and that important compositional elements should be placed along their intersections. Proponents of the technique claim that aligning a subject with these points creates more tension, energy and interest in the composition than simply centering the subject.
Film Story Board
A six-board to show different scenes and how they’re connected.
– A strategic management and lean startup template for developing new or existing business model.
– It gives you the structure of a business plan without the overhead.
Business Model Main Drivers
– Focus; Is the stripping away of so many pages of a traditional business plan.
– Flexibility; It’s a lot easier to tweak the model and try new things.
– Transparency; much easier to understand.
The first set of questions one must ask themselves when starting a business or launching a product is the cliche and obvious one:
What is your product?
Who is it for?
How do I get it out?
These questions when answered in all honesty and clarity is the blueprint to knowing what you want to produce and for whom.
Fashion startups have a tendency of multi-tasking, this saves finance, but the idea of really building a brand is to know when to seek help. One man cannot do it alone. In a situation where you can’t afford to hire, then contract.
As a designer one must create a niche and the best way to do so is to identify you signature. A way of cutting, layering or perhaps, colour. Most top designers all have a signature, a mood that comes to mind when a designer’s name is mentioned. You need to find a way to marry your signature to the trend at any particular time.
The fashion industry is encompassed with glamour but beyond the red carpet, the five-minute runway shows and photo shoots is an industry that needs funds to run just like any other.
Taking a peak behind the curtain, one would see that a lot of fashion entrepreneurs sway towards the creative part of the industry and neglecting the business side of it – which is the most important if you want to have a sustainable business.
To educate the young fashion enthusiasts is Rufai Oseni; a broadcaster with over 15 years of experience, an author and an all-round business man.
“Entrepreneurship is moving from one venture to another, consistently failing but without losing your sense of enthusiasm,” Mr Oseni said. He emphasized on the importance of not being afraid to fail because failing when starting a business is almost a guarantee.
“Timing is everything.” Mr Oseni gave examples of some technology that would have been rejected if they actually came decades earlier. To break into your market, one must know when to do so.
On innovation, he gave a few sources where an entrepreneur can get one, with the primary focus being the customers. Watching trends, peer review and branding also being on the list.
After speaking extensively on the business side of fashion or any other business, he ended the session by giving a piece of advice: “business is a rational venture that needs an emotional fuel.”
When we think of design, we often focus on the creative side alone. This is no doubt important. But it’s also critical to consider market feedback that may influence how you present your product. Everything you create produces a reaction, positive or negative. And the most successful business people tirelessly look for these signals, embrace their genuine meaning, and then react. Structured cost analysis, collection planning and smart presentation are also essential.
Here are four things you can do to make your design process more effective — and profitable.
1. Pore over your sales results from each season
If you are already selling a product, you should have excellent access to every valuable sales data. Use it.
Read the reports generated by your store or website and ask your stockists for sales summaries. The information is generally available, you just have to ask for it.
Important metrics to focus on are: unit sales, total volume, sell through percent, net gross margin, net average retail price and returns. A quick note on the all-important sell-through, however. Sell-through is only a function of the success a product achieves related to how you or your buyers purchased it. So, while this is an important measure, it can exclude some important contextual information that should always be considered, as well.
A good buy from the same collection can significantly lift sell-throughs.
You should also spend time with your buyers and retail partners to add qualitative colour to the quantitative data you get from the reports. Ask them about specific styles. Why did they or didn’t they work? What might they do differently? What did you miss in your offering?
2. Talk to floor associates and check out the competition
Fashion is not a desk job. Get out there and see the state of the world for yourself. While buyers and company executives will give you good intelligence, the sales associates who work on the front lines can also be valuable in painting a vivid picture of how your product performs on the shop floor.
Initiate these relationships as often as possible and encourage the associates to speak candidly about what is and isn’t working, and what’s missing. As an added bonus, you may be pleasantly surprised by the attention your product gets on the floor once an associate is better acquainted with you.
You should also spend some time observing your peers (also known as competitors). Most customers have a finite amount of money to spend on fashion and it’s important to understand what other brands competing for that same share of wallet are doing and, in particular, which types of products seem to be performing the best.
3. Gather first-hand customer feedback
There is nothing quite as valuable as a direct interaction with your customer. Reports may tell you what consumers bought, but spending quality time with them or at least watching them shop will help you to understand how and why they make purchase decisions.
You’ll also get a better handle on what they chose not to buy. This is a particularly good way to identify styling issues, in addition, to fit and quality problems. The most tragic failures occur when a designer creates a beautiful product that’s poorly executed in terms of fit or quality. Without these elements, your hard work will be for nought.
So, if you are lucky enough to be selling product out of your own store, spend as much time as possible on the floor interacting with your customers. And if possible, when visiting your accounts, observe (or work!) the sales floor. Trunk shows are another great way to meet customers directly.
If you have a mailing list, you can consider reaching out directly to your customers for feedback. Posting a feedback link on your website or via social media is another quick and easy way to get more structured thoughts from your customers. You may be surprised how happy your fans will be to help you out. Sending a personal thank you note or offering a discount on the next purchase are both nice touches and good incentives for your customers to make future purchases.
4. Consider costs carefully
Make sure that you are designing and developing a product that can reasonably be produced. While that may sound like an obvious point, many talented designers create beautiful concepts that prove to be too expensive or complicated to produce at scale.
Be sure that every detail of the product is truly creating value for a customer. With a retail markup, on average, of 6 times production cost, every naira you are adding to the cost of producing a garment will add around N600 to the final retail price.
Your products should have clear cost targets, derived from working backwards from final retail pricing. Make sure to build in a realistic margin for yourself that considers not only the pure costs of production but also other monies that you will have to spend in order to get the product into a selling environment. This includes things like duties, freight, fees, comissions, warehousing, sampling and development costs.
Keep in mind that samples are often one of the single biggest line items in the design process and can swing a seemingly profitable collection into the red.
In an earlier post, we discussed Financing your Fashion Brand, in your fashion business by utilizing three different sources equity, debt and other income. Now that you’ve done it. The question is, now what to do with your funding? And, how do you make it last?
It’s likely that you will have had to agree to fund allocation to some extent with your investors prior to securing the funds, but it will be important to re-visit and re-confirm this now that you are past the negotiation stage. In reality, you will make spending decisions every single day, however small.
We will discuss the allocation of your capital, or more simply, how and where to spend your money.
The easiest way to think about allocating capital is by using a series of principles. Allocating money is about tradeoffs, and making those tradeoffs means choosing between spending on things that might seem equally important, on the surface.
For example, every fashion business will have to choose how much money to spend on building and shaping a collection and how much to spend on actually selling the collection. How do you make these decisions?
By using the principles below combined with the priorities for your own business. The ultimate decisions may differ from business to business.
So here they are, the 5 principles of allocating money in an early-stage fashion business:
Key Principle 1 – Carefully manage product development costs
While fashion is a product business that often comes with exacting standards, it is still important to carefully manage your product development costs. Creating large, unfocused sample collections with very expensive fabrics can be a death knell for a young fashion company. Not only will you have spent a fortune on developing a set of samples, you may have also created a collection that could never sell at retail because it would be far too expensive. Always use a collection plan to specifically identify the size, structure and price points for your collection, and select your fabrics with this in mind. This way, you won’t need to buy a bit of everything and sort things out once you are back in your studio, wasting money and time all the while.
Key principle 2 – Advertising is a cash sink
As a young designer, you probably don’t need to spend money on advertising, and the expensive photo shoots and super slick branding that come along with it. You can still craft a very strong profile by building relationships with editors, journalists, photographers and fashion insiders who take an interest in you and your work and may help you for free. Those relationships will not only generate valuable editorial, their impact will also be felt longer than even the best-placed one-page ad in Bellanaija.
As a young designer, you have a new and interesting story to tell and people will want to tell it too — you don’t have to pay them for this privilege. Supplement this with a professional looking website that is in tune with your creative vision and a clear brand identity that speaks to who you are creatively.
Key principle 3 – Focus on growing sales
As a growing company, you will likely be best off allocating your capital to people and assets that help increase your revenues. While you must invest time and resources into your product, brand image and identity, it is crucial that you are able to then leverage this raw potential to sell. Even if you have a strong collection and a growing brand profile, this will mean nothing if you don’t have a professional sales organisation to support it.
One of the first people you should consider hiring is someone who can help you with sales. Also, investing in an e-commerce portion of your website (or through a partnership) helps you to increase both sales and profits, as you begin to capture the full-retail margin.
Key Principle 4 – Don’t forget about working capital
Not all of your funding should be invested in fixed assets like sewing machines, office furniture and computers. You will also need funding to make sure you can counterbalance the difference between the cash coming into your business (e.g. from sales, sponsorship and consultancy) and the cash going out of your business (e.g. for fabrics, rent and salaries) In a growing fashion business, the amount of working capital tends to grow quickly as payments for clothes delivered to stores are often not received until well after the designer has made significant investments in everything it takes to bring that collection into a store – a large part of this is a variable cost of fabrics and productions costs that will increase with time as your business grows.
Key principle 5 – Use a budget
It is absolutely essential that once you have thought these issues through, you create a budget to track your spending against your plan. Without this roadmap of sorts, you could lose control of spending and suddenly find yourself without enough money to keep your business afloat. You should track your budget, at the very least, on a monthly basis, which means investing in a good bookkeeper to help you regularly track your accounts.
Next time: Value Chain – Design and Development
The design and development process is often a very personal one that differs from designer to designer. It is important to keep this process free and unrestrained to unleash the best ideas, but there are also things designers can do to stay on track and manage their time (and their team’s time) efficiently. For fashion business people, in particular, understanding your designer’s creative process is a crucial part of a successful creative-business partnership, and so designers must also be able to explain to others how you work, in order that they can work with you.
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.
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!