Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Starting From Scratch - Part 1 - Ask yourself why?

Welcome to the first part (except for the introduction) of my blog series – Starting From Scratch. I am really looking forward to writing each of these parts, not only to share my experiences, but also making sure I am still on track with my original vision. For me the most important starting point is knowing why you want to embark on this journey.

Over the past two years I have encountered a huge amount of obstacles, and can honestly say running this business is the hardest thing I have ever had to do. It takes a lot of commitment, and more stressful than anything I have done before.

I have always known I wanted to do something creative with my life, over the years sewing turned out to be something I loved doing, and running my own label was the ultimate dream. It still is the ultimate dream, for reasons much longer than those I will write here. But that will be different for everyone, and I encourage you to write a list of reasons why you want to start your own business, as something you can refer back to, and as something that will empower you and carry you through the harder times.

Creating a successful clothing label is not something you can do a whim. You have to have a passion for the arts, you have to have creative flair, and you have to be a jack of all trades. You need to prepare yourself for an enormous amount of ‘un-fun’ jobs, and accept that the creative part is actually only a tiny percentage of what you will spend most time doing. Ask yourself if you think you can cope juggling graphic design, sewing, pattern-making, grading, budgets, marketing, advertising, running errands, emailing, packing and event management.

If one of your reasons is for fame and glory – don’t bother starting. There are much easier ways to achieve that.

I have had to make many sacrifices, mostly financially, in order to build my business. I imagine I will still be making financial sacrifices for years to come, as a small business fighting the big brands with more money and resources than they really need. There are many times I contemplate going shopping, wishing I could afford this or that, but knowing it would be much better spent on thread or fabric or something else business related. So if one of your reasons is to make lots of money – forget about it. Its going be years until you can pay yourself a wage, or live off your profits. Everything goes back into the business, and I still work part time to ensure I can pay rent every month.

Only once you have asked yourself why, and decided the struggle is worth it, will you be ready for the next step. 

This probably sounded like a negative place to start, but it is the reality that I really wish someone could have prepared me for when I began. Not to say I still wouldn't have done it, but I may have done some things a little differently. 

In spite of the very steep uphill battle ahead, this has also been one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. I am incredibly proud of everything I have accomplished over the past two years, and my passion is still driving me to keep pushing on. I also know now that I will never have to ask 'what if'. I had a steady full time design job before I started Hopeless, and I gave that up in the hope of creating something that was truly mine. Whatever happens in the future I will always know I gave this my all, and won't have the regret later in life of not taking this risk.

So my advice to those at the very beginning of any start-up business - 

1. Make sure you are doing it for the right reasons
2. Keep a part time or casual job to cover your living expenses
3. Make a commitment, and then never give up

I would love to hear from anyone who has started their own business, and what advice they might give to themselves if they could travel back in time right to the beginning.

Gaby xoxo

Picture by Jo Duck for Hopeless Lingerie


Alicia - Sea Of Ghosts said...

Perfectly written. I consider myself a 'starving artist' although I'm not literally starving, I take absolutely no wage from my business - investing all my profits back into my business - and am using my savings from my retail days to pay for my rent at the studio which I desperately needed.

I talk to people all the time who seem to have a very different idea of what working in a creative industry is about. The media glamorises what it means to be a designer and it makes the rest of us feel incredibly incompetent and inadequate for not being able to live up to these ideals.

High five for honesty and transparency.


Petaliferous said...

Nice post Gaby, it's refreshing to see real honesty in how hard it can be and how much effort actually goes into creating a 'dream business', I'm sure many of us online artisans can relate ;)

Fiona said...

Great start to your series - I'm really looking forward to it. It's reassuring to hear the same thoughts go through others' heads too (I also cringe every time I have to spend a dollar on something that's not fabric for my business!)

Thanks for taking the effort to write about this stuff :)

Rrose said...

I'm very excited to continue reading this series of posts. I operate as part of a gallery collective and have my own purists in art and it really is a 24 hour obsession.
It's wonderful to hear that nearly all creative entrepreneurs find themselves in that terrifying state of being, standing on the cusp of brilliance.

The Diva's Polish said...

Excellent 1st chapter. Well written and honest. I look forward to reading your series of posts. There's so much hardwork and dedication behind this. Most inspirational.

Lola Devlin said...

Lovely post Gaby! I have been following your blog for awhile now and that is mostly due to the fact that we live parallel lives! I am the owner of my own small lingerie business in san francisco, and I do it all myself as well...can't wait for the day I can pay someone to grade my patterns for me! Someday, I hope. Until then, we are both grunting and giggling for our corners of the world, maybe one of these days we should do a show together! Til then, xx.L

Gaby and Jane said...

Alicia - Thank you :) Honesty is so important to me, and your blog has been a huge inspiration to me on that front.

And everyone else - thank you and you are welcome! I know this exercise is as much of a benefit to me as (hopefully) to anyone who reads it.

Gaby xo

Gaby and Jane said...

Lola - So nice to meet you! i just had a peek at your blog and we most definitely are living parallel lives! How exciting! One of the best things about this business/life is the people you get to meet - even if only in blog comments haha :)

Gaby xo

Isa Maria said...

I love this series. I love your lingerie and it is great to be able to read a bit more about how you got started.

I'm a designer/illustrator and it has taken me years to follow my dream of starting my own business. I just opened up on Etsy selling children's art prints and paper goods whilst also doing custom design work. It is not easy. I have two small children but I am finally truly happy and following my dream. I wish more people would be honest about how hard it is! My Mum thinks I sit around drawing pictures all day when reality I'm trying to fit things in around the babies and working all night long sometimes with no sleep at all. It's worth it though because I love what I do.

annierama said...

your blog is so cool! I always like your inspiration mix!

Amber Blue Bird said...

Well written! Good luck on your journey, it may be difficult at times but you have to do what makes you happy

kyliewilliams said...

Great advice! I work in a full time design job and i absolutely HATE it. I sit on a cubicle for hours staring at the computer, designing things i hate and have no interest in. I am very envious, even of your long days and nights and limited funds!
good luck!

Laura said...

Great post! A topic I feel very close too. Trying to run my own business is the hardest thing I have ever done as well! I’m not very good at certain business things and I sometimes lack the confidence to get my bags out to the world. Self doubt is my biggest problem. I’m just no good at tooting my own horn, I wonder if I’ll ever be able to save for a house and on bad days if I’m wasting my time? But I love being in my studio creating, being my own boss, working hard for me not for someone else and the feeling when some one says “this is the best bag ever”.
I would take some business courses and try to get some mentors who are very wise to guide me if I could start again. But then again I’m still going to try and do those things. I think the establishing of a business is a very long process. Have you ever read the book “The boss of you” I really like this book and reread it all the time.
I look forward to the rest of your series!


Joanna-Luva Huva said...

Hi Gaby,

I can relate!

Good luck with it all!