Here’s an email I received from a reader:
“What would you suggest to a local entrepreneur like me who lacks connections and financial means to get his clothing label off the ground given the fact that I have managed to create a brand that has been well-received by literally thousands of people from all over the world?
I know my label is unique and hundreds of other people seem to think so too; they like the name, the logo and the concept. And guess what? I have not even launched a collection yet! How many other cash-strapped clothing startup can do the same? It is few and far between. To create a good brand is by no means an easy feat. Mine has the potential to be a cult brand in the likes of Apple Computer and Harley Davidson. If only there are people who have the foresight to see the huge potential of my label. Yes, I know the usual way is to write a business plan and source for investments. I do not know how to write a professional one yet but even if I do get one done most likely the investors would want me to assemble a management team to complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses. The problem is that my limited network puts me at a disadvantage to find the relevant people who would want to join me. The other option is to hire employees but then I need money to do that.
It is a chicken-and-egg situation. I welcome your insightful suggestions.” – Nurhafiz, TheEducatedDropout
You may not realize it, but you’ve already answered most of your own questions! Here are some thoughts I have that may help you move your business along.
1. Branding – Having a nice logo, concept and name is a good start – having people who like it, even better. But in all honesty, no amount of branding will help you if you do not have a business case. There are examples of products that have great concept or branding but have made little impact on their markets whatsoever (quick, someone say Anything or Whatever). Creating a brand is not difficult – sustaining it over a period of time, however, is.
2. Business Plan – Your most critical step at this point. Be honest with yourself – Is not knowing how to write one simply an excuse? There are heaps of books in the library that teach you how to put one together. Businessweek has an article on how to write a winning business plan, and another similar one here. Writing a business plan helps crystallize your idea and helps you plan ahead. It also makes it easier for investors, partners and even potential employees to understand what your business is about. And remember – investors do not invest in great ideas. They invest in people who have great ideas and know how to execute on them.
3. Connections – It’s not too difficult to get connections. Like you said, you’ve already got hundreds of people who are interested in your clothing label – ask them! Surely they know someone who can help? Also, many investors – even if they do not invest in you – are most willing to share with you contacts that may help you along. Get their advice, even if you don’t get their money!
And network, network, network. Attend events that make sense with your brand and attract your target customers – companies that you can work with are likely to be present at such events as well.
4. Management Team – You’ll be surprised, but often the people that you need are just around you. Tap on people whom you can trust first, such as friends whom you know have the relevant skills to help you. At the start, all you need is a CEO-type (who can give directions and set goals), a CFO-type (who can manage numbers) and a CTO-type (in this case, someone who can design and create your collections). Sales and marketing functions are also important, but you can always double up on job roles first.
5. Getting help – You’ve already taken a step in the right direction by asking someone – me! – for help. There are always initiatives by various agencies and government bodies that can provide grants to help you along. How about trying DesignSingapore’s assistance scheme for design-related companies? I’m sure there are others as well.
I hope this advice helps!