I started my brand with no money while living in my parents house. I was 24 years old, reacquainting myself with my childhood bedroom, and unsure of what to do with my life. I had no money and no prospects.
Little did I know, these are the perfect circumstances to start your own business! You get scrappy, you’ve got no choice but to begin a lean startup. There are no resources and no dollars to fund PR, buy inventory, or hire a web designer. This is where you learn how to get shit done yourself.
Before you is my 10 step quick-get rich slowly-lean startup guide to creating a clothing brand:
- Make the clothes yourself. When I first got into clothing design in 2009, I bought a few wholesale blanks and dyed and screen printed them myself. I found I wasn’t great at sewing, but I could screen print. That was enough to set my clothes apart from others.
- Photograph the clothes on yourself and friends with your own camera. Even an iPhone will do these days.
- Set up an Etsy shop and a website on Shopify. Things have changed tremendously since 2009 in terms of ecommerce, and it’s easier than ever to build your own website.
- Don’t quit your day job. I waitressed for two years until my business made any money.
- Find employees through Craigslist that can do what you can’t. Being a clothing brand and not being able to sew really held me back. I hired the first seamstress I interviewed in Los Angeles and she’s been with me for 6 years. She’s amazing at sewing, I stink.
- Do made to order clothing. Don’t stock inventory unless you’re absolutely killing it sales wise. I would have gone out of business 10X if I took out loans or got an investor to buy inventory. You don’t know what styles customers will resonate with, and you don’t want to be stuck with a ton of clothes you can’t sell, on top of your debt.
- Network. It sounds harder than it is. But to find my sewing factories I had to get in the loop. I found my dye house through my fabric supplier, and sewing factory through my production manager that was introduced to me through my dye house! People want to help you if you’re nice and respectful.
- Don’t count on social media to get you business. This might be a little controversial... but I’ve found a massive downtrend in engagement on all social media channels as a brand trying to sell product. Much of my brand’s foundation is founded upon early FB and instagram days, but it doesn’t work the way it used to. Users are over saturated with ads and too many brands. Of course have a presence on social media, but don’t expect it to be a major contributor to your sales.
- Do your own PR. Read Guerrilla PR 2.0. Build some news and awareness around your business by reaching out to media outlets. Create your own useful content on a blog and try to guest write on other channels.
- Blame out! I heard this phrase from marketing expert Dorie Clark. When you’re getting rejected from retailers or not getting the sales you want, do not blame in. Don’t doubt yourself if you have the vision and the drive. If you start to not believe in your work everything will fall apart. Just look at the people that don’t want what you make to be either crazy or have bad taste. Just kidding... kinda ;)