Last week I had the opportunity to speak on a panel of entrepreneurs focused on inspiring women to be entrepreneurs. At the end there was a Q&A and I was asked (as I always am), “how did you start an apparel brand with no experience in the fashion industry?”
This particular attendee said she was asking because she had lots of ideas for businesses but didn’t know where to start. Starting, they say is the hardest part. But I completely disagree. Starting is the only part that’s actually easy.
1. “Google it.”
If i’m being completely honest that’s always my answer.
Think about it, there was a time when you basically had no other option but to head to a library and spend hours researching to figure out how to get an idea off the ground. But today, you can start a business from your phone while sitting in the audience of a boring panel. (See what I did there?)
The internet has literally all the answers you could ever need to get your business started. And the best part? Most of this information is totally free. You can listen to podcasts, take a skillshare class, connect with industry veterans, find the right books to read, I could go on and on... My Google searching brought me to organizations like Manufacture NY and Maker’s Row. Which provided me with the free knowledge I needed to start dipping my toes into the apparel industry. Which is where it all began for me.
2. Start Talking.
There are many reasons people don't share their ideas. Many say it’s because they are afraid someone will steal it. But let’s be honest, odds are someone has had a similar idea, and more often than not people don’t want to share because they’re afraid your idea sucks. I get that. I was there. But the fact remains that the majority of the significant progress I have made with Brunswick Park was because a real person sent me down a certain path. That means you actually have to get out there and talk about your idea.
And guess what? Some people will tell you it’s stupid. Or they’ll give you that look like “oh okay, that’s a nice idea” when you know exactly what they are really thinking. And that is totally OK. Anything that is remotely creative, unique, or innovative is going to be met with resistance. Think about every time Facebook updates their newsfeed. We all hate it because we aren’t comfortable with it - then, eventually, we all love it. (Because Mark Zuckerberg is a goddamn genius.)
3. Use the skills you have.
I had zero-experience in the apparel space (other than a brief stint at Nordstrom as a sales associate). So I knew that experience was not going to be a competitive advantage. So I started with what I knew I could do and that was write. Having spent 5 years in public relations, I was confident enough in my writing skills that it seemed like the logical place to start.
I started writing about my idea and how I was going to go about accomplishing it. I invited people to read about my journey through a weekly newsletter. This newsletter became a window into how one might start an apparel brand with zero experience. Turns out people were fascinated by it. I’m not sure if they wanted me to succeed or fail but the newsletter became my own personal barometer for progress. If i didn’t have anything to share that week was it because I didn’t accomplish anything the week before? If so, I had to reevaluate.
The newsletter also became a vehicle for two-way communication between an audience of people invested in the startup I was building (so essentially a focus group of future customers). I was able to ask them for their input on design, colors, pricing, content, you name it...
4. Start Doing.
When I decided to pursue Brunswick Park I immediately quit my job. I did this for a few reasons:
I realize this isn’t the case for everyone and there are many businesses that begin as side hustles. It is really up to you to decide when it’s time to submerge yourself in the deep end...but that’s a topic for another post...
So, if you’re reading this - you have access to Google. So what are you waiting for? Start now.
Need more convincing? Check out this post from Mark Suster: "What Makes an Entrepreneur? Four Letters: JFDI"