If you’re starting a fashion business, you’ve already been told by many concerned loved ones that it’s risky and tough and maybe even “you’re so creative, but you don’t really have the business gene.”
FACT: there is no “business gene.” Like anything else, some people may have a natural talent for it. Good for them! But you all still have to learn lots and work hard to make your business a success.
Whether you have an innate enthusiasm for entrepreneurship or a drive to turn your creative passion into a livelihood, you’re going to need resources, mentorship, and community. Here are four of my favourite online resources for fashion startups.
StartUp FASHION is run by Nicole Giordano, a former fashion and textile designer who decided that she would rather design businesses than clothes.
Giordano believes that “the only way to be truly successful in business is to build a business around the life you want, not the other way around.” Her blog has loads of helpful resources about running a fashion business – everything from sourcing materials to marketing to accounting to manufacturing.
If you’re looking for community, you can become a member (though there’s a waitlist!) to access monthly video hangouts with other members, a retailer database, and industry discounts.
StartUp FASHION also sells templates, ebooks, and video workshops if you want to dig into a specific topic at a really affordable price (mostly $15-25).
If you’re starting a sustainable fashion line, you have to look into Factory45. It is an online accelerator program that helps aspiring entrepreneurs launch clothing companies that are sustainably and ethically made in the USA.
Factory45’s owner, Shannon Whitehead Lohr, started her own sustainable fashion company in 2010. After a wildly successful launch – it was the highest-funded fashion project in Kickstarter history – Shannon found that she didn’t want to run a fashion business. But she had learned so much and she wanted to share her knowledge with others so they could find success faster and with fewer misspent dollars.
The Factory45 incubator program is self-paced and takes you through five topics: sourcing, brand identity, pre-production, ecommerce marketing, and preparing for launch. Plus you’ll get bi-weekly group calls, office hours with Shannon, personal consulting for six months, accountability partnership, and lifetime alumni access. Applications are open once per year – for 2017 it opens May 17th.
Annnnnd if you’re not ready to commit to the incubator, there’s lots to be learned about running a sustainable fashion business on the blog.
Syama Meagher has worked with the biggest luxury fashion brands in the world and she once doubled sales at Gucci. Now she wants to help you launch and grow your fashion business.
Her agency, Scaling Retail, has a freakin’ huge amount of free resources available in blog and video posts. Seriously, she’s not hoarding secrets: she’s giving away gold nuggets everywhere! And if you’re ready for a little more investment than free videos, Scaling Retail also has ebooks available.
But the gem is Syama’s Fashion Profit Plan course. It teaches: cash flow management, competition, building clientele, product pricing, wholesale, e-commerce, digital marketing, direct marketing and attaining a CEO mindset. You get weekly group coaching sessions and three personalized, one-on-one strategy calls, as well as a vault of resources including templates for your marketing and finances.
Maker’s Row is a different kind of online resource: it’s all about connecting designers with local (American) manufacturing! As with all of these resource hubs, they have a huge amount of information available for free on their blog, with their focus being on the really practical stuff especially surrounding getting the clothes made.
They also have five free e-courses on production, sourcing, making samples (apparel and jewelry), and quality control.
Their main purpose, though, is to help you find Made in the USA apparel factories. It’s probably no surprise that the American manufacturing industry is a lot smaller now than it was even twenty years ago, and they want to help you find that obscure type of elastic without having to ship it across an ocean.
Membership includes access to their network of over 10,000 manufacturers (including groups that narrow it down into, say, factories that accept small batches), easy communication directly with the factories, community meetups, and monthly one-on-one consultations with factories to guide you through the process of getting your product manufactured.
What about local groups?
If meeting up and learning in person is more your style, there are lots of local groups and accelerator/incubator programs (at least if you live in a big city). Here are a few fashion-specific ones I found in Canada and the US, but there are many other incubators that support a more general array of entrepreneurs. (Those can be great too! Ethical shoe makers Poppy Barley got their start with non-fashion-focused Startup Edmonton.)
Let me know if you have a local group I should add to the list!
Philadelphia Fashion Incubator
Chicago Fashion Incubator
Fashion Incubator San Francisco
Seattle Fashion Incubator