Fashion Business Owners Musings: Let’s Address Being Broke

startup fashion business owner musings

A friend of mine is launching a new project in the fashion space and she sent me this email the other day:

As I try to launch my new project there are huge outlays of funds required that are terribly scary and living expenses in general are high and it occurred to me… that I haven’t truly known what it’s like to be broke in over a decade and I worry about where that would leave me and what that looks like and how I would dig myself out of being broke (mentally, emotionally, and bank account balance).  I don’t have a familial backstop and I’m betting I’m not alone in this. My question is…

This email stopped me in my tracks. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t ever written about this on the blog before. Considering that I spent the better part of my twenties as a broke fashion entrepreneur working like crazy to get things going.

The first thing I thought when I read my friend’s email was, “Yep, been there.”  So many of us have.

It’s a terrifying feeling. You’re completely vulnerable. When you’re in a situation that makes you concerned whether or not you are able to support yourself or your family, it will keep you up at night. Believe me.

There are going to be those days when nothing is going as planned or when you have a major setback; these are the days you’re going to feel hopeless. I don’t want to sugar coat it. You will ask yourself,

What the hell am I doing?

Am I crazy?

What made me think I could do this?

Now what? I’ve poured everything into this and I don’t know where to turn.

Money, or lack of it, does this to us. It puts us in a place where we feel hopeless and helpless. It makes us shake with fear about our futures, about our decisions, and about our abilities to move forward in life and reach those milestones we’ve put in place for ourselves.

And while I don’t have a magic answer as to how to get rid of the icy cold fear and electric nerves associated with money, I can share the things that I did to help me through those scary times.

Worst Case Scenario

First I made myself think of the worst case scenario. I asked myself,

“If this doesn’t work, what does that mean?”

For me, since I didn’t have children or any other dependents, I was able to answer this with a simple, “I’ll get a job.” I thought to myself…I have an education, I have a lot of experience, I live in a place where there is a lot of opportunity. I’ll be fine.

If you can sit down and answer honestly what you worst case scenario is and then, have a loose plan around how you’ll deal with that, it starts to calm you down a little. It helps you to see and accept what your life will be in the short term if you decide to stop working on your business. For me, that really helped.

Make a List of Fallbacks

I’m not talking about fallbacks for your business. I’m talking about the things that you don’t want to do but realize you can do if you absolutely have to, while you’re working on your business. For me that was bartending. I had so many years of experience doing this throughout my twenties that I knew, if things got bad, I could pick up some shifts somewhere to get some cash flow. And I was completely prepared to do that if it meant I could keep working on my business.

So things like getting a second job or a part time job while you’re working on your business, declining invitations to go out with friends, or the more extreme — moving in with friends/family or getting a roommate to reduce your living expenses while you’re working on your business. Even something like renting out a bedroom in your house through airbnb can make a big difference in bank account and mindset.

Give Yourself Permission to Not Know

Something big that took me a while to get through my head is that it’s ok to have it not all figured out. There is so much that can and will happen in the first years of building your business that it’s impossible to figure out exactly where you’ll be and what you’ll do. You need to be OK with that. You need to remind yourself regularly that this whole thing is a process and, at the risk of sounding all frou-frou, it’s a journey.

Part of the fun of what you’re embarking on is the mystery and the surprises; try to remind yourself of the fact every single day.

Remember You’re Not Alone

I mean this in the sense of having friends and family who even though they may not understand exactly what you’re going through, they love you. Talk to them. Don’t be scared to discuss what you’re going through and what you’re worrying about. Sometimes just saying things out loud can help to quiet the commotion in your head.

Also, working with someone on a financial plan can be an incredible help. It doesn’t need to be super involved but knowing your financial situation, not being scared to look at your bank statements (you know the whole “if I don’t look at it, it’s not real” mindset), and proper financial planning will inject some confidence back into your day to day.

I would also suggest looking for a group of fellow business owners to lean on when you need someone who does understand what you’re going through. The support or friends and family is great but there’s nothing like the support of someone who is going or has gone through exactly the same things you’re dealing with.

Change Your Mindset

Listen, I know what fear and anxiety about money does to us. At it’s ___ it causes lack of sleep and constant worry, at its most extreme, it causes depression or physical harm.  It can make you feel vulnerable, terrified, confused, without confidence, and like a fraud. Working hard to change your mindset can really help.

Tell yourself every single day that you will succeed. Tell yourself that you will make money. Program yourself to believe that whatever success you’re going after will come. It make take time but you’re prepared to handle what comes your way and you’re ready to take action every single day to get closer to your dream.  It’s amazing what you can achieve if you stay dedicated and truly believe in yourself.

You’re not alone in this, OK? Remember that.

Lots of love and encouragement,

Nicole Giordano

Nicole is the founder of StartUp FASHION, an online resource and community supporting for independent designers around the world with building their businesses. A deep love for the craft of fashion paired with an adamant belief that success is defined by the individual, led her to found StartUp FASHION, where she helps independent designers and makers screw the traditional fashion business rules, create their own paths, and build businesses they truly love. More than anything else, she’s in the business of encouragement and works every day to remind makers and designers that they have something special to offer the world and that they can, in fact, do this thing!