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.
Picture by Jo Duck for Hopeless Lingerie