TIPS TO START A SUCCESSFUL APPAREL COMPANY
When I was 23, my friend and I started a brand without any experience, connections, or money. Today, we sell to thousands of stores around the world, four of own, operate a media platform and print magazine, and employ around 80 of our friends and family. We still own the company outright and we still have no idea what we’re doing.
- •Define "success"If it’s monetary, then you’re on a more complicated path. I’m not saying success won’t materialize, but your journey will be frustrated by a moving target. My idea of success is the opportunity to wake and create. To make something out of nothing everyday. In that sense, I’ve been successful since the start and I recognize it.
- •Know WHAT you do, but more importantly, WHY you do it.This is an idea that's been gaining traction in the business world (see Simon Sinek), but it's nothing novel. For eons, there has been literature dedicated to defining purpose in life and work. Everything moves so fast now, we easily lose sight of WHY we do what we do. Even worse, most companies blow up before they establish ethos or philosophy. The WHY is what keeps your staff engaged, what sets your tone, and curates your audience. Without it, it's the quickest way to derail a brand.
- •Think different.I'll fault social media for fostering an entrepreneurial culture that is unhealthily obsessed with inspiration. We've got more startups than ever, but less originality. Your Instagram feed and Pinterest aren't mood boards to be influenced by, they're bullseyes to rail against. They're a list of "Don'ts." If your predecessors did everything right, then why do we need you? Aim to contradict, change; at the least, add something new to the conversation.
- •Nothing lasts forever.Yves Saint-Laurent said it best: "Fashion fades, style is eternal." Please understand this is a business of ups and downs, volatile and fluky. One day you're on trend and firing, next you're on the wrong end of the stick and streetside. I've seen it happen too often. This job is maddening, unforgiving, and arbitrary. Those who thrive, embrace the challenge and find order in chaos. But most want off the rollercoaster.
- •Quality FTWYour product is the heart of your business. It holds your integrity, it reveals your passion, and its health determines how long you live. Especially in the Google age, the consumer knows the difference between a warp and a weft. You can have the noisiest marketing campaign in the industry, but unless your product is of reputed quality, your days are numbered.
- •Keep on keepin' onIt’s a marathon. Pace yourself. Keep your head down. Be aware of your competitors, but the minute you acknowledge them, is the moment you let them write your story. Every now and then, look back for the starting line and see how far you’ve come. Enjoy your surroundings, taste the strife: blood, sweat, and years. With time, realize it’s about the process. Because once you pass that finishline, it’s over.