23 July, 2020
What you need to know for Startup Success
Many people dream of building a successful fashion label. I created House of Zardoze, a luxury fashion label based in Mumbai from nothing. In just over two years the brand was recognised by stylists and celebrities alike. We were turning a profit and the company was self sustaining. This is every entrepreneur's dream. The story takes a turn which I look forward to sharing another day.
Today I will share 5 lessons you need to know for your start up success.
Know your brand.
It’s crucial as a company owner to make time to define company goals. Have a vision for the brand, every step you take needs to go toward that vision.
I adore research boards for getting clear on company goals and targets. Before I started anything, like a collection or project I brainstormed:
What is the market need I am catering to? How will I sell it? How do I want to portray it? Once you have brainstormed these ideas, then you can plan each detail accordingly.
By getting clear on these details you streamline the process and the forward planning becomes easy. Ideally, I planned everything 3 months in advance as my collection had 50 pieces or so, bigger brands plan at least 6 months to a year in advance. Other business types may plan with much greater lead time so take into account the specifics of your business.
Mindful money - Where is your money going?
All good businesses are serving a passion, purpose or need. While purpose is the heart of your business, it also needs a body to survive. Your budget is your body.
Having a plan for how and where to spend your capital in the beginning is crucial. Know where your money is going, and what you are spending on. Finding an accountant you can trust is vital, asking people who have done something similar before for advice on people to help you or resources that worked for their business is key. Follow the advice that you feel works for you and make it your own.
The best product in the world is useless inside closed walls, so spread the word aka, Marketing. This is the one thing that you should be investing in, even if you are on a shoestring budget.
Focus on planning marketing channels for your product. Online shopping channels, target exhibitions that cater to your brands demographics, collaborations with brands that align with your vision, PR opportunities in the media. Every brand and product will align differently, so plan accordingly. Search for a good Marketing and PR firm as it will help set a good brand image. Finally be inspired by brands that you love and try to mimic their marketing until you get a hang of things and make it your own.
Build a strong team.
Having a Startup usually means you will be doing a lot of the work yourself. This company is your baby and you want to make sure everything is perfect and you want to save money.
I realised 1 year into my company that I was filling my days with things that could easily have been delegated. I was obsessed with doing everything myself but the brand suffered for it. I corrected my errors by hiring a manager who handled the daily functioning of the company. Plus a wonderful design team so the ideas created, they brought it to life. This had a learning curve too as everyone on the team needed to be trained to ensure the unique touch of the brand.
Create systems to let your team know exactly what they are supposed to be doing. The golden rule is Follow Up. You are still the person responsible for ensuring deadlines are met and quality is maintained, so support your team for them to succeed. Your team's happiness and success is a direct reflection of your leadership.
Get down with the details.
I’m that boss who liked to do everything herself. For my 1st photo shoot I prepped garments, styled hair and make up and I was ready to do the shoot when I realised I might go crazy so asked a friend to do the shoot as a favour. The positive from being so hands on in that shoot was I then understood every small detail needed for future shoots. This allowed me to collaborate effectively with makeup artists, photographers and know how to ask for exactly what I needed.
This is relevant in all areas of your business. Do you know what emails are being sent out on your behalf? What is your accountant doing with your finances? Where are your suppliers getting their products?
Once you know the small details you have more control, and less chance of getting caught in an unexpected situation.
Take time out.
This is easier said than done. You will find yourself so busy you won’t have time for friends. A quote from one of my favourite movies The Devil Wears Prada:
Andrea: ‘My personal life is falling apart.’
Nigel: ‘That's what happens when you start doing well at work. Let me know when your entire life goes up in smoke, then it's time for a promotion.’
I’ve experienced this firsthand. You live, breathe and eat the brand. It’s not like you don’t want to socialise. It’s just that there is always that 1 design, 1 quality check, 1 meeting , or order. The list is endless and it will keep you awake at night. But the most important thing to avoid burning out is to schedule time for yourself. Block out hours on the weekend to connect with friends or family. Make time to do things for fun, maybe it's an hour on a tuesday at 12 for painting? This is the time to fill your tank so you can be more productive when you step back into business mode.
I wish I had known all of these when I first started out. Know your brand, this is your guidepost in all decisions you make. Be mindful of money, a business has to be profitable to survive. Surround yourself with a strong team, this is your support network. Know the dirty little details, then you can make smart choices. Take time out, your business and your people need you. So don’t let yourself burn out.