Starting a Clothing Line – What Was I Thinking?
About 5 years ago I was feeling more than a little restless. I was 6 years out of college and had been in the same job for all of those. I enjoyed what I was doing, but I felt I wasn’t truly pursuing what I was passionate about. Two things were nagging at me in the back of my mind; I wanted to start my own business, and I wanted it to be fashion related.
I threw around a series of ideas with my soon to be business partner, and all of them kept coming back to “we should start our brand”. Sure, why wouldn’t a couple of wet-behind-the-ears 27-year-old with zero fashion industry experience start a brand? It’s the most natural thing, right? We didn’t take any business classes in college, but I’m pretty sure that “start a business in an arena you know nothing about” isn’t one of the keystone messages. The idea was purely ridiculous and nearly impossible. So naturally, we knew we would do it.
Headaches, Heartaches, and Exhilaration
If you’ve ever thought about challenging yourself with a nearly impossible goal, you know the nagging sensation that occurs when you try to ignore it. It will creep back into your mind time after time until you are forced to reckon with it. This isn’t limited to business ventures by any means. In day to day life, we challenge ourselves to try new experiences, make new friends, eat new food, lose more weight, or gain muscle; it’s a sort of “restless inner self”. Is that where you are now?
Make no mistakes about it, the fashion industry is incredibly ruthless and competitive. The deck is stacked against you. People are fickle, trends change monthly, and the sheer amount of money you need to compete is laughable.
Maybe you’re reading this and thinking “OK relax buddy, I just want to sell a few t-shirts and make a few extra bucks for beer money. I’m not looking to be the next William Rast or Billionaire Boys Club”. That’s cool, I say. You can have some fun and get some cool experiences that way.
Or, maybe you are like me. Maybe you have this nagging feeling that you can do something crazy, and if you don’t at least try, you’ll regret it for the rest of your life. You don’t want to be left wondering about what could have been had you just hustled a little more and taken a few more risks. You have to do this because that way when you look back in 20 years you can say with total belief in yourself that you gave this business venture you’re all and can walk away with a smile. That’s respectable.
No Education like it
Robert Kiyosaki, the author of the “Rich Dad Poor Dad” series teaches that there is no such thing as “win or lose”; there is only “win or learn”. This may sound to you like positive self-talk fluff, but believe me, there is nothing like losing some money or hours of hard work gone down the drain to teach you how to do it better the next time. We’ve made some $10,000 mistakes in our start-up (that could have been avoided with $500 or you’ll get to that later) that no classroom experience could have helped us avoid. Being a founder or co-founder of a business that is bootstrapping it forces you to wear many (I mean every) hat that a business owner wears. Where else in life do you gain this hands-on kind of experience? Accounting, shipping systems, order fulfillment, product sourcing, etc., you get to do it all.
I say this all not to dissuade you (if you are like me, it wouldn’t steam ahead no matter what), but to give you a little reality check. Clothing line start-up sites are littered with bitter commentary and blogging from ventures gone wrong. Go into this with the right head and modest expectations (you do have to dream a little) and you’ll walk away from a winner no matter what the outcome. Remember, “Win or Learn”, not “Win or lose”.