So now you’ve done all the hard work of deciding you want to start a business, having a product idea, doing some preliminary research and refining said product idea a la this blog post, and you’re ready to make the leap into starting a business.
The first thing to do is make a list and a plan. Having an idea is great, but the thing that separates you from any other person who wants to start a business is taking action on your ideas. It’s a shame, but there are a lot of great ideas out there which never really see the light of day, simply because they were not acted upon, or someone else got there first, etc etc.
A lot of us have grown up in a generation where in some ways we feel like we have nothing to add and everything has been done already, which just isn’t true. You can put your own unique spin on anything, and make it yours. It’s easier than ever before to do this with social media etc.
The second point to make here is that your business idea, whatever it is, will not be what you imagine it to be right now. Your first idea will be totally different to what you end up with a year down the road, trust us. So be okay with that.
So first things first: start with a giant creative brainstorming session. Lights, mood boards, brand ideas, future ideas and visions, you name it, put it down, and get the creative juices flowing. Figure out things you would want your future company to be and do and stand for. Write your company mission statement as if it already existed. Most of all, be clear about the why. Why are you doing this, and what do you want to bring to the world.
Be sure here that you include ideas about your consumer, your market, your ideal product, your selling avenues (e-commerce, wholesale, retail), and generally cover the whole broad spectrum about how you want everything to look. Maybe ask a friend or parent to help you, and get them to ask you absolutely everything. You’re trying to flesh out as fully as possible what you want your business to be like, and not get too bogged down in the details. This is your business according to your perfect word.
Oh but… remember, it will change over time. Right now you have to be sure about what you want, but in the future certain realities will mean you’ll have to be flexible with your business model
Creative brainstorming is pretty fun, but as a caveat I would shy away from making logos or anything at this stage. There are a lot of boring technical things that might change the game a little further down the road. For example, if one of your company goals is to create 100% sustainable and recyclable goods, and you design all your branding around that, and then discover that you can’t actually create the product- that’s a bit of an issue.
Have fun creating exactly what you want, and definitely pull together creative imagery and logo ideas and business names etc, but don’t start spending a lot of money before your final product is set in stone. You’ve been warned.
Your next step is to get on with the actual tangible brainstorming part. This is to do the fun work of budgeting yourself and drawing up a timeline and an exit. How much capital do you have to set aside for this? What are you prepared to commit where? What will you do if things go badly? What are the actionable steps you need to take to go from 0 to 1 on this.
This part is really important as everything always costs more than you think, takes more time than you think, and problems pop up where you least expect them. We’d advise setting aside a budget, and then set aside about 1/3 of that budget as a retainer in case everything goes wrong. This is conservative, but it’s necessary. Particularly in fashion businesses which are relatively subjective, capital raising from outside investors can be difficult. Unless you are redefining the fashion landscape with a tech related idea, it’s likely for the first few years you won’t get much outside help.
The second is to be conservative with your estimates on time. It’s better to put down a longer amount of time and beat your goals, then become frustrated and stressed when things take longer than you think. Especially if you are dealing with product creation in a country like China, Vietnam or Morocco, it will take longer than you think.
Lastly, what will you do if this fails. Remember, about 1/10 new businesses fail. Failure is not necessarily a bad thing, it can be a very good learning experience especially if you want to keep in the art of starting and building businesses. Equally, what will you do if this does well? Will you sell the business? Would you want to partner with another team or bring things to another country? What do you want at the end if all went perfectly?
So make sure you have your budget, timeline, and exit prepared. It’s only prudent.
Now I’m guessing you have a ton of information, and you’re starting to feel a bit stuck. On the one hand you’re probably feeling amazing about your future company that you haven’t created yet but looks great in your head, and on the other hand you’re probably terrified as the cold reality of budgeting and timelines hit you, and you realise quite how much you have to get done to get there.
Have no fear. This is where most people stop. What you have to do now is break everything down into actionable steps, and be sure to give yourself some leeway. Just like studying for exams or working on a big project, break everything down into the goals you’d need to hit and make sure you are committed to making this happen, rain or shine.
By now you should have a LOT to move with. You should have an idea of your product you’d like to sell, the platform you’d like to use (web or store, shopify or opencart, etc), and you can start reaching out to people and putting these ideas into action. Finding factories, web developers, doing it yourself, whatever, takes a lot of time. So ping off a few emails and see what happens.
Oh, and just to be extra boring, you might want to incorporate your company, and open a bank account. Those things help.
The last thing we’d like to say, is this post is really all about taking action (if you haven’t gotten that yet). The hardest part of starting a business is really to begin. And not to begin by having an idea, to actually take the steps to make that idea a reality. It can be exhausting and tiring to push forward and create something where nothing used to be, but once you create enough momentum your business will take on a life of it’s own.
If you take 1 or 2 steps to starting your business each day, soon enough you’ll have something you can really work with. Make sure to keep your list out and check off one or two business items each day so you can see progress. There is no finish line so it is important to make sure you keep moving forward.
Thanks for reading today! We hope you found this post useful. As we’ve mentioned, we’re continuing to get more into the nitty gritty small details. For great resources, check out our friend Vicky’s site, and there is plenty of other information online as to how to start a business. We hope you enjoyed our personal take on the whole process, and that it resonates and helps some of you on your journey. x