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Fashion Business Advice

Fashion Business Owner Musings: There’s Nothing Wrong with Slow Growth

Dear Designers,

There’s a stigma attached to slow growth. It’s like, if we’re not all building businesses at lightning speed then they don’t really count as being businesses. “You’ve been working on your clothing line for how many years?!” I think we’ve all heard some version of that question at some point.

Though I spent years feeling “less than” because my business hadn’t reached the level I so badly wanted it to, I wholeheartedly call bullshit on this mindset.

How dare anyone else make us feel as though our work doesn’t count simply because it’s not making money yet or it’s not making it possible to travel world or it’s not allowing us to work the hours that suit us best. Basically, how dare anyone question the legitimacy of our businesses when they haven’t yet reached the potential we know they possess.

Nope. Not OK. We as business owners get to decide the what, the when, and the how. And nobody gets to tell us that we’re wrong. Or delusional. Or destined to fail.

OK, so I realize that it’s easy for me to say this now that my business has reached the success I was after for so long. Touche, and all that. But my hope is that by sharing this now, I can maybe prevent some of you from spending your days feeling anxious and worried and agitated and lacking.

‘Cause I did that, and it sucks.

So if you are one of those designers who feels as though nothing is happening fast enough and that a business isn’t a business until you’re 100% working for yourself, making tons money, and working four hours a week (or some such thing), then I am asking you to consider a different approach.

Consider accepting slow growth.

I know, it’s pretty easy to say “yeah, OK, sure, I’m fine with slow growth. Done.” But that’s not really true, is it? You need to mean it. You need to spend some time thinking about what that means.

The difference here is how we feel about the slow growth, not others. It’s about making the decision to grow slowly rather than desperately wanting to go, go, go. Or, more accurately, grow, grow, grow.

I hear you saying to me “Uh, I want to grow my business and the sooner, the better. What the hell are you talking about?”

I know. I’m not suggesting that you should snail your way to a money-making business. I’m suggesting that you become comfortable with the idea of a calmer approach to business and set up some things in your life and your operations to make slow growth OK, if the business is growing slowly.

Confused? Sorry. Here’s what I mean…

Scenario #1: you launch a fashion business, some famous selfie-taking influencer snaps a picture of it, you get so many orders that your site crashes in a good way, a buyer from Barneys sees the pic and places an order, Vogue has emailed you 4 times trying to get ahold of you about a feature, your orders are so many that you can now cut your cost of goods by 18% thereby increasing your profits, and you have 3 super star interns begging to work for you.

Don’t you just love when that happens?

Yeah, it never happens. (There’s no way you’re not answering that first email from Vogue)

Here’s the more likely situation…

Scenario #2: you launch a fashion business, can’t figure out why the online orders are much less than you anticipated, you don’t seem to hear back from any buyers even though you’ve pitched so many, editors are not yet interested in your story, you’re struggling to fund the next production run, though at this point you still have inventory so cutting another batch seems pointless, and you’re a one person operation struggling to find time to get everything done.

I’m not trying to be depressing, I’m just sharing what I hear from designers on a daily basis.

This business is hard. But it’s totally do-able, as long as you are open to being patient and accepting that slow growth may just be the best option.

So what does slow growth mean? Well, to me it means:

  • Creating a signature product or very small collection to test the market
  • Understanding that working a “day job” for a few years is a real possibility
  • Remembering that there’s more to life than just work, and spending time with family and friends should not be ignored
  • Making a plan to allot time to work on your business rather than always feeling scattered and behind
  • Setting incremental goals rather than just large, overwhelming ones
  • Practicing having a mindset of acceptance and patience with a healthy balance of ambition and hard work

Doesn’t just reading that create a sense of calm in you? I found myself releasing a deep breath when I finished writing it!

Do you see what I mean? Slow growth isn’t laziness. It’s not a lack of ambition or the act of admitting your business isn’t legit.

It’s the belief that life is crazy (both good and bad), that business is just one part of life, and that everything goes by so fast it would be quite a shame to not be present.

It’s important to accept that things take time.

Who’s with me?

Lots of love and encouragement,

How to Grow Your Fashion Business, Your Way
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Nicole is the founder of StartUp FASHION, an online community and support system for independent designers around the world. She’s a traveler, a weaver, and a foodie. A deep love for the craft of fashion pared with an adamant belief that success is defined by the individual, led her to found StartUp FASHION were 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!

2 Comments
  • Laura Williams

      REPLY

    Nicole, I am a wholesale apparel rep who enjoys reading your posts. It gives me great insight into the designer's world. Over the years, my late husband and I pioneered many start-ups, and there are so many obstacles to their success. How wonderful and generous of you to share your experience with those coming up now, and for offering them the encouragement they need while helping them set their expections. Best, Laura

    1. Nicole Giordano

        REPLY

      Thank you, Laura!

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