Five things I learned in my first year of business
After whipping this business to life in just 12 days, I’m very proud to say that I have now officially survived the first year…just! Please indulge me as I bring back some of my favorite garments, and divulge some life lessons learned along the way.
#1: Get Ready for Business Advice
It’s become a running joke between my uncle (the envisioning department) and I that a shockingly large portion of my friends, family, and random acquaintances have suddenly become deeply interested in the fashion industry, and in teaming up with me in business. From off-handed ‘oh you should really think about this amazingly impractical idea’ to more forceful ‘well I’ll design the next collection and you can handle its production’, it’s been interesting to me how interested in my life some people have suddenly become.
Just a year ago I was a real live archaeologist befriending the illegal occupants of an abandoned leper colony and people were all ‘meh’. Today I battle to pay my cellphone account and people are clamoring to jump on the bandwagon. What a world!
Although I used to get annoyed at people dropping me their two cents, I’ve found that listening to poorly thought out ideas by people who’ve only ever dreamed of doing what your doing can be refreshing, as well as inspiring. Try to realize that most people are really just excited for you to finally do what you’ve been passionate about for so long, and aren’t (for the most part) just trying to elbow in on your glam. Remember that the 8.00-17.00 (lets be honest, 6.30 – 19.00) sucked because of the closed mindedness of the middle management, and that new random ideas are exactly what live is all about!
#2: Motivation is Hard
I’ve always been a hard worker and love to be busy, especially with my hands. Before my stint with Tuks I worked 4 part-time jobs while studying full time, and loved every second of it. At Tuks I worked about double the hours I got paid, and LOVED it. Yet suddenly when sewing (my favorite thing to do in all the world) all day I found myself spiraling quickly into a depression. I guess I never realized just how much of my work ethic was simply being caught by the tide of the hard working and incredibly interesting people I was always working with. Not to mention the fact that I actually had deadlines, work hours, and people to socialize with in between.
When I caught myself watching a You Tube clip of Oprah talking about motivation I knew I needed to turn my life around, and landed an internship with couture designer Thomas Thomson. And I’ll be honest my mood has totally changed since working with him. The mere fact that I’m accountable to someone, that I have to be somewhere at a certain time, and that I get out of the basement every now and then has worked wonders for my emotions!
I advise anyone starting a business to have something part-time on the side to keep them in a semi-rigid framework lest they drift irretrievably over the edge of the bad side of unemployment.
#3: Get on top of your Finances
It’s hard for creative people to be organised about anything, and finances are something I’ve never been fantastic at. Add to this the strangling addiction to a regular dose of salary every month that keeps people at the J.O.B. And it certainly is a massive and terrifying adjustment to realize there’s no such thing as ‘holding out to the end of the month’.
I’ve managed to get by by being absolutely certain of my expenses, exactly what my phone and health insurance cost and when exactly my debit orders go off my account. Being aware of what money comes in and goes out when, really helps to stay on top of things.
I’ll also advise anyone starting a business to get their registration and banking sorted before absolutely anything else. If (like me) you’re wanting to coast along for a bit to assess the viability of the business, then for heaven’s sake at least open a separate bank account. Honestly had I known how much simpler my finances would become once I did this small thing I would have done it on the 1st of January 2014!
#4: Don’t Undersell Yourself
It is extremely tempting to accept whatever people are wiling to pay for the mere sake of having business. But at the end of the day you need to be honest about how much it costs you to produce something, and how much you’re willing to accept for your skills.
I think fashion is particularly challenging as you’re competing against what the (uneducated) consumer is accustomed to paying for mass produced products. I’ve found it beneficial to ensure that clients know the difference between what they’re getting from me, and what they could buy off the peg. As well making it clear just how much effort and skill goes into bespoke clothing versus factory productions.
At the end of the day though, whatever business you’re starting, you’re aiming to provide something new and interesting in this world. If people aren’t willing to cough up the cash for innovation, then they can just sod right off and spend their money on being boring!!
#5: Throw Caution to the Wind
Getting yourself off the salary drug and venturing out into the unknown is certainly the most terrifying thing imaginable. But think of it in this way;
First, by taking this step you’ve already shown you have more balls than 99% of the population, so you’re at least 99% more likely to succeed than anyone else. And second, having more balls than 99% of the population basically guarantees you a job if you do fail.
Really life is too short to sit in an office, work for fools and be yelled at by deranged secretaries, if it’s all a complete f*ck up at least you had some fun along the way 😉
Thank you so much to everyone who helped me survive 2014. It certainly was the most challenging, yet exciting year of my life. I wish you all a prosperous (and fashionable) 2015!.
ps. Those who wear saccaggi are more likely to win at life…just saying 😉