Starting your own business can be insanely challenging. Starting your own fashion business? On another level. Between making connections, funding your vision and, oh yeah, actually designing, it may seem impossible that you could ever be the next Alexander Wang or Stella McCartney. And despite all the talented designers out there, there’s still a tragic number of struggling artists trying to make their mark on the industry.
That's where Nicole Giordano comes in. The founder of StartUp FASHION was inspired by her own journey as an emerging designer: "It was really difficult to get the help I needed," Giordano told me. "I was looking for a support system of people who understood what I was going through and couldn’t find it."
So she created it. StartUp FASHION is now a global community 30,000 strong comprised of emerging and independent designers in apparel, accessories and jewelry. Last week, they hosted a "How to Fund Your Fashion Business" event in NYC which outlined several truly viable, realistic funding model options for designers. For those of us that didn't attend, I caught up with Nicole to get the highlights, plus learn more about why in fashion, only the strong survive.
Julie Bensman: What are the three biggest take-aways from last week's event?
Nicole Giordano: It’s important to understand which stage of business you’re in before deciding which funding platforms are the best fit. For instance, the platform Pave.com is great for when your idea is just beginning to hatch, while Luevo.com is best once your collection is designed, and you've worked out your sampling and production plans upon successful funding.
Having a strong and supportive network in place before you start your funding quest is imperative for success. Are you building relationships with bloggers, editors and interested customers before you’re reaching out to them for support? You should be.
JB: Do you think it's important to be located in NYC for a fashion business to be successful?
NG: Sure, there are many benefits to being in a city so closely tied with the business of fashion: opportunities, networking, the energy…all these things are exciting and a real asset. But I don’t think being here is imperative for success. In fact, when it comes to marketing and public relations, it’s often more beneficial to be in a less-saturated place because your story might get noticed more easily.
JB: How important is social media with regards to marketing yourself/your business?
NG: Very. The benefit of social media is not only marketing your business but also discovering the lifestyle of your target market. Social media acts as an amazing vehicle for market research and, though it’s not actually free (as some may say), it's a more realistic expense for emerging fashion businesses than other marketing and research tools.
JB: Which new types of fashion businesses do you see becoming more and more successful?
NG: Those that stand for something (i.e. something more than "I love fashion!") and those designers who understand that success is relative. Why are you doing what you do? How are you helping to make the world a better place? This is your story and a great story is necessary for any business to succeed.
When it comes to success being relative, those designers who take time to stop and think about what they truly want are the successful ones. Being on the cover of Vogue and running a multi-million dollar business would be amazing. But so would running a business out of your home studio, spending every day doing exactly what you love, surrounded by the people who inspire you most, while making good money that pays the bills and allows you to do the things you enjoy. As a business owner, you get to decide what you want and create the path to get there.
JB: What's the best piece of business advice you've ever received?
NG: “If you’re not embarrassed by the first thing you put out there, you waited too long to start.” I can’t remember who said it but it was somebody smart.