RESET YOUR EXPECTATIONS
You have a great idea and a vision of what you want to do with your brand. You are ready to kick off your project and get started with your apparel business. You probably have a picture in your mind how it will go, and it is for sure good to have a clear vision and goal. If you haven’t been in the game before, it is difficult to know what to expect. It is going to be the best journey of your life, but to make it less stressful, we suggest you take a look at your expectations. Disappointment usually comes from too high expectations. Right before you make your business plan, think through what your expectations are. Here are 5 areas where you may need to reset them.
It takes time
Developing a new product from scratch to perfection takes time in general, and it is particularly valid for apparel. Sure, if you had all the resources gathered in one place, it could move pretty fast, but that is not the case in reality. It is about setting the expectations right. The entire startup phase doesn’t necessarily need to take a long time. When it comes to the product development phase, it can be time-consuming. For example, you need to define the collection before you design it, you need to design it before making a tech pack, you need to have a tech pack before you can make the pattern, and so on. All these steps require first that you find someone actually to perform them and then account for the time needed to accomplish them. Since one is a prerequisite of the other, a delay in one step will delay your entire plan.
It’s a winding road
It is not uncommon that it takes 8 weeks to get your fabric order. Before the order, you need to decide on it and find the manufacturer. But all this is nothing to worry about. It is just part of the process, and it is better if you have the right expectations from the start so that you don’t get stressed along the way. Developing a new product takes time, and sometimes it is two steps forward and one backward. Things happen along the way, a fabric doesn’t work, your cooperation with a manufacturer goes south, or you notice that you have been infringing a patent. Typically, the work on a new collection starts 1 to 1,5 years before it reaches the customers. Just stay focused on what you want to achieve, don’t worry, don’t play the blame game, and make sure to enjoy the ride. If you don’t like problem-solving, then product development isn’t for you.
Product Development = Problem Solving
It is all about the people
It is also very much about people. Even if one person takes on several roles, there will be a group of working people to coordinate. People communicate in different ways, and it is up to you as the founder to make sure there is some sort of project management. Find people you like to work with and share your way of doing things and this part will be much easier. As always when there are many people involved in projects, there is a risk of interference in communication. If you find out along the way that the relationship doesn’t work with someone particular, save yourself energy and make adjustments accordingly.
When working with 3rd party suppliers like factories, it is essential to talk about your expectations with them. Get it in writing what you expect the factory to deliver, as well as what they should expect from you. Things will go wrong along the way, and if it does it is always your fault. Don’t blame others. It is up to you to double check, triple check, pick up the phone, send that email, check that things actually are done, etc. You are in charge.
Money, money, money
Ok, we’ll say it right away. Plan for no income for the first two years. Since the production cycle is relatively long, it will also take a while before you can start selling your products. And even longer before you sell enough to make a profit big enough to support your living. Depending on how skilled you are and how many lovely friends willing to work for free that you have, there are quite a few posts where you need to spend money up front. Stay on top of your budget and in control of your money management. If you have large orders and making a large production batch, it can cost you more than you have. In this case, you can look at a temporary loan to bridge the gap from the payment to the manufacturer, until the delivery to those who placed the orders. You can also negotiate for your customers to pay parts up front.
How large is your margin for each garment? Let’s say you have a product that retails for €40. The product cost 30 to make, and your is €10. How many do you need to sell to cover your costs? How many do you have to sell to make a living out of it and scale up your business? When you know how many sales you have to make, you know that the number of people you have to reach is much higher than that. And that takes us to the next topic.
Reaching the customer
Just because you open an online shop doesn’t mean the customers will start to pour in and buy your products. There is a lot of work needed in the marketing and sales side. Especially if your clothes are in a crowded segment. Even selling to retail stores can be cumbersome and requires hard sales work.
This isn’t meant to be discouraging and stops you from realizing your dream of starting an apparel brand. However, in our experience, it is more common than not, that people underestimate the work, time, and money needed to accomplish your goals. So mix up your dream scenario with a bit of reality and get started with your project.