By Eric Bishyika, Founder of Something Worthy (SW) Clothing
Having set up and grown a fashion brand and small business, I can say first hand that the fashion industry is swelling with opportunities at the moment. However, it hasn't always been so straight forward. Fashion is a competitive and very complex industry. What's more, when setting up a business I couldn't just rely on my design skills anymore, I needed to build the skills of a CEO and learn how to manage people, finances and processes.
The running of my business has relied heavily on three core elements: having a clear brand positioning; utilising all the advice and support available to me; and managing demand and business growth carefully. In light of my experience, below are some of my top tips for people who are looking to set up a small business in the fashion industry:
1. Build your brand and stick to it
At the outset, carefully craft your business brand and ask yourself, 'how it will be unique'? A great design could ultimately lead to customer satisfaction and loyalty. Decide on your brand and stick closely to it - especially in the competitive, busy fashion industry, you need people to recognise your brand as soon as they see it.
2. Make use of the support that’s out there
I have been really lucky to benefit from some of the best support available for people looking to set up a small business. As well as attending the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy, I have been working with the Business Growth Hub who have provided me with a mentor, and I received financial backing for my idea from the Oldham Business Leadership Group. I couldn't have got my business to where it is today without the amazing support I've had, and the names I've listed above are just a couple of the many routes available. As a starting point, I'd recommend taking a look at the Business is GREAT Britain campaign, which provides information on the various forms of government support available to entrepreneurs, and also the British Fashion Council which has a whole section on business support. It can be daunting taking your first steps in such a demanding industry, but there's a lot of advice out there, and a lot of it is free.
3. Manage your growth step by step
Once sales start coming in and you're taking on more customers, it is important to recognise that, as a small business in a big industry, growth will be incremental. Now is the time to make sure you have the resources in place to deliver to a growing demand, sourcing enough material, expanding factory premises and sending samples out to potential brand ambassadors. It is impossible to become a big player overnight, and it is about taking the right steps to achieve one goal and then the next. My dream is to have shops all over the world. I know that it is an ongoing process of learning, taking on advice and adapting, and I look forward to seeing where I can take my business in the future.