5 things I’ve learnt in two years of business
Please close your mouths (I’m talking mainly to myself here), it’s the modern age and even archaeologists can survive the fashion industry for two whole years.
Although 2015 certainly took a lot out of me, I feel it gave me a much clearer understanding of my business and its direction. Indulge me again as I recall some of my favorite designs from the past year and shout platitudes from my two-years-in-a-business-that-started-in-12-days soapbox.
#1. Get Ready To Pivot
Although my method of entering the fashion industry precluded the possibility of over planning, I didn’t realize how much I’d discover en route. Although having a business plan is absolutely essential to running a business, it’s important to pay attention to what is happening around you and be prepared to change track at an instant’s notice to take advantage of new opportunities.
Your business plan is essential in assessing which opportunities to pursue and which to file under ‘one day when I’m big’, as each option must be judged according to the core principles of your business (i.e. what you’re wanting to get out of all this in the end).
Final word: If you judge the opportunity worth your while DROP EVERYTHING and grab it with both hands. If not, politely decline and keep focusing on what you believe in.
#2. Get Help
I’ve realized after innumerable frustrations in finding good tailors that in reality, even were one to clone one’s self, you would not increase productivity by 100%. Indeed, no-one can do it as well as you, but you’re looking for someone who’ll give you their best, and whose best is good enough for you.
Having some experience (both good and bad, as a boss and an employee) I think I can say that managing people with all their complexities is one hell of a task, and has no absolute formula. The secret is compassion and communication. Relationships take time, patience and courage.
#3. Master the Art of Costing
We all know the image of the evil capitalist who pays his workers less than what he earns by their labour, so that he can live the high life whilst wage-enslaving everyone else. What few realize is that this discrepancy in what you pay for a garment and what you charge is essential to the life of a business. The cost of each garment needs to cover labour, materials, maintenance of equipment, electricity bills, tea and coffee for the staff, buying new equipment and paying people when there’s no business. You still need to pay your staff when they make mistakes and have to fix them, you need to buy toilet paper and fork out a fortune on repairing a machine that an employee broke. All of this must be factored in to the cost of your merchandise, and there’s no easy formula.
The harder because consumer price resistance is a VERY real thing, and leaves you little room for error. I’ll reiterate point 3 from last year of getting on top of your finances. Know what things cost to make, what your running expenses are and what kind of buffer you need for unexpected costs.
#4. Reputation is Everything
I won’t get into what I know happens behind the seams of certain highly regarded (and highly costly) brands in South Africa. Lets just say that I’ve come to realize that the perception of quality can be more important than quality itself, your number one asset in business being your reputation. And you need to guard it like gold.
There’s also a very fine line between catering to a client’s needs and being a push over, and both reputations will spread like the plague to those who want you for either of these reasons. It’s important for your own sanity to base your reputation on good product, so that you can withstand what people will say of you, and important for your business to be perceived as quality because that’s what sells first before the actual garment.
#5. It’s an Absolute blast
Terrifying at times, financially nerve wrecking every second, but absolutely worth giving it your best shot for the one-in-a-million chance that it’ll actually work out and you’ll have contributed something of value to the world. I think the day-to-day running of any business can be a drag, and great ideas often get bogged down in the details.
But having a clear vision of how fabulous your goals are helps keep you ironing for hours on end, and lets you prioritize how you spend your time.
Thank you to everyone who’s made these past two years both possible and very enjoyable. I’ve had such fun getting to know you guys!
I look forward to all the fashionable things we’ll be making in 2016!
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