9 Mistakes Fashion Startups Make & How To Avoid Them
So, you have a great product idea. You can clearly see it in your head, you can feel how your brand is going to be, and now you are eager to start your own fashion business.
From working with hundreds and hundreds of apparel startups we see some common mistakes, that can easily be avoided before you start.
Starting a clothing line doesn’t have to be that complicated. Today we would argue is the best time to launch your brand and business. With all the tech tools available, crowdfunding platforms, and free social media you also have the option to launch without spending a fortune upfront.
Many entrepreneurs have launched successful apparel brands. Why not learn from their success, so you can launch faster and avoid expensive mistakes. Birthing a clothing line will take some time and effort, and if you really want it to fly, it will take some serious strategizing and planning before launching.
So skip the headaches and the stress and read about 9 common mistakes and increase your chances of succeeding from the start.
Now let’s dive in:
1. Have NO action plan
Now with the internet and Google, it’s easy to just “get going” without actually making a solid plan. A common question we hear is: Do I really need to write a business plan? Can’t I just adjust along the way? Well, you can. But it will eventually take you longer and you will most probably spend money on putting products into production that might be wrong for the market, or your target customer.
To have a clear understanding of what needs to be done, you need to know all the parts involved in starting and running an apparel brand so you can make a solid plan. A ship without a course will end up nowhere and everywhere.
2. Have unrealistic expectations
A common misconception today is that it’s pretty easy to start a clothing brand. Just put up a website, buy some products on Alibaba and you’ll make tons of money.
Well, sorry to break it to you, it’s not really that easy. It might be fairly easy to launch, to get your website and webshop up, get your products made, but 90% of new startups fail in between 2-5 years. You want to be that 10% that continues, and grows and actually makes money.
Many entrepreneurs are very unprepared and have no idea about design, production, marketing, sales, business in general, and how to make a profit. They don’t realize how much money and work it’s gonna take to launch, run, and grow an apparel brand. They just dive right in.
To continue year after year, to solve tons of problems along the way takes grit, determination, and perseverance.
And trust us, you will encounter problems when you are dealing with product development. There are so many moving parts, there’s constantly something going wrong.
You don’t want to get in over your head from the start. But when you have the right expectations, are well prepared mentally and you have committed, you will be able to tackle anything.
3. Haven’t defined the target customer
“Why would I want to sell to a small group of people, wouldn’t it be better if I can sell to everybody?” The answer is NO.
With so many strong existing brands you want to stick out. You want to offer something unique to a specific target customer. A customer that you have attracted by communicating your values, your mission, vision, and design aesthetics. When you have defined who this target customer is (it can be you, it can be a real or fictive person) you will speak their language, you will design for their taste and you will have a higher chance of successfully selling your products to this group of people.
Figuring out your target customer is KEY.
4. Haven’t found your unique point of view
What unique point of view and unique offer are you bringing to the market? What unique products will you create that don’t already exist out there? What is your special product offer, or way of running your business, that only YOU can offer?
There are so many brands out there with fantastic products, why should the customers buy yours, instead of theirs?
In today’s crowded market if you don’t offer a different point of view, something that truly stands out, you will have a hard time getting your brand off the ground.
5. Try to do too much, too soon
We see many entrepreneurs wanting to launch with a full collection. That’s OK and a great idea if you have a lot of money and a big team from the start. If you don’t, then it’s not a good idea.
Think about all that goes into creating a product; ONE product – designing it, making the tech packs, finding the right materials, finding a skilled manufacturer, nailing the fit (creating several prototypes, testing, commenting the samples, improving, making yet another sample), then comes marketing, and of course, you also need to sell it… it’s a LOT.
But if you focus your time, energy, and money on creating a few great products that your customers will want to buy, that’s a better start. When you are up and running and you’ve got your secure spot in the market, you can expand from there.
What you DON’T want is making tons of products and having them sitting on a shelf in your warehouse cause you cant sell them. Or even worse – you have to put them on sale to get rid of them… That’s NOT a great strategy!
6. Underestimating the value of a skilled designer & product developer
As you know, we also run a design and product development agency for 12 years.
Great, well thought out design and product development are paramount for your business. Your products ARE your business.
So many entrepreneurs think that just because they have a personal point of view and a “good taste” they can also design. You can probably style, but designing products is another ball game. You see, it’s not that simple.
If you are not a designer and if you don’t have product development as one of your skills, you need to outsource this to a trained designer. A skilled designer will be able to help you create that unique product that you want, based on your brief and vision.
Launching with poor products can mean death to your clothing brand dream.
7. Not focusing on the business side of things
Because of the nature of this business, you will have to spend money, before you make them back and way before you can make a profit.
Some brands lose money many years in a row before they see black numbers on their balance sheet.
You might be thinking, damn…numbers aren’t my thing, can’t I just create my magical products and it’s gonna sort itself out?
If you are one of those people, that don’t like numbers and are afraid of learning that side of the business we urge you to learn the basics. We know how scary and uncomfortable it is because we were those people too, so we totally feel you on this one!
Understanding the financial side of your business is crucial for your business’ existence. Because if you don’t know your numbers, you don’t know your business.
8. Spending money on the wrong things
A while ago we had a one-on-one coaching client that wanted advice on her startup. She was just about to launch her brand but she’d run out of money. And this before ordering her bulk production. She was now a bit desperate about what to do and what options we could recommend.
When we dug deeper, we’d learned that she had spent the majority of her money on things she actually didn’t really need. On a fancy expensive website, on a new Mac computer, on a studio space, on extensive travel and the list goes on.
The point is, put your money where it matters – in creating the most amazing product possible.
And until you have a proven Product-Market Fit, be scrappy with your dollars.
When you are actually making a profit, then you can spend it – not before.
9. Waiting with the marketing till after the launch
This mistake is extremely common and very hurtful for so many fantastic brands.
Starting with your marketing early is how you build up anticipation. Talking about your brand’s vision, mission, goals, will get your future customers excited about your coming products. They will be on board with your brand, and they will be ready to buy your products when you launch.
Because the market is so full of brands, customers need to build up that know, like and trust factor before they spend their hard-earned money on your goods. And to get to the know, like and trust stage, you need to have clearly and consistently communicated your beliefs, values, mission, and lifestyle so they can feel “in” on your brand.
If you wait to build a tribe till after the launch, when your products hit the market, you will have 0 customers that want to buy your products…. Not a good strategy!
Those were the 9 common mistakes we see startups make.
Hope they help you on your journey.
Launching a clothing brand will be the most exciting thing, it will be the ride of your life. By being prepared, you will be able to enjoy the ride a bit more:)