Funding Your Fashion Business: Advice from Investors and Branding Pros

Funding Your Fashion Business

Last night we had the pleasure of sitting in on the latest in OS Fashion’s Discussion Series: The Founder’s & Funder’s Dilemma. The panel was made up of a nice mix of investors and branding professionals offering their perspectives on what you should know as a fashion company looking for funding.

Panelists: Elizabeth Cannon of Fashions Collective, Lilly Chan of Fareskind, Sindhya Valloppillil of Helix Men, Shai Goldman of 500 StartupsNikhil Kalghatgi of Softbank Capital, Jacob Brody of MESA+

Here’s Our Recap About Funding Your Fashion Business: Advice from Investors and Branding Pros

How to Position Your Brand for Funding (from an investor’s perspective)

  • Have experience in your domain.
  • Worry more about having a great Operations person than a CTO.
  • Lead with design.
  • Have a pre-launch cult following.
  • Have an awesome product development team member.
  • Have a launch with paying customers.

How to Position Your Brand for Funding (from a branding professional’s perspective)

  • Have a standout product with a standout story.
  • Have someone on your team who really knows storytelling.
  • Stand for something more than just the products you’re making.
  • Create a movement with a cult following.
  • Have a distinguishing factor about your brand and product.
  • Have true and deep rooted passion for what you’re doing.
  • Be agile but have consistency.
  • Take all of the above and then learn how to sell. You have to know how to acquire a customer.

How to test whether you are good at customer acquisition: 

  • Create a landing page.
  • Add a strong CTA with an email capture.
  • Having compelling copy that creates excitement.
  • Are people signing up?
  • If not, you have some studying to do because you’re not good at customer acquisition.

What to do when investors aren’t interested:

  • Assemble a great team who is passionate about the brand.
  • Understand everything listed above.
  • Understand your brand inside and out.
  • Go to friends and family for initial funding, even if, it’s small, in order to start accomplishing what’s listed above .
  • Get the traction you need (email sign ups, cult following,etc).
  • Then go to investors.

Tips, advice, and take-aways:

  • It’s rare for an investor to fund a fashion label that isn’t doing something with technology beyond your basic e-commerce. Think about what hole you are filling in the marketplace and figure out how to innovate (Warby Parker and Everlane are good examples).
  • Be a media company and produce content (editorial, email newsletter, social media) regularly.
  • Don’t try to introduce a new product and a whole new behavior at the same time. Approaching it in phases allows your customer to adjust accordingly.
  • Be sure that your entire team is constantly communicating with each other.
  • When you’re just starting out, pull in all your favors.  Your friends and network want to see you succeed, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. Use every resource you have.
  • Figure out what you don’t know and educate yourself constantly on best practices and how to’s.
  • The Flash sale approach (Fab.com, Groupon, Living Social, etc) is not a good way to measure traction and become profitable. Investors don’t use that as an indicator of growth and economic sustainability.
  • Start online but absolutely have a plan to quickly be available offline (showroom, brick and mortar, pop ups,etc).
  • It’s almost impossible to build a billion dollar company (if that’s your goal) exclusively online. But even smaller companies will struggle to grow if you are not available offline too.  It’s fashion, people want to touch.
  • A huge area for innovation right now is in the supply chain.  What are you doing to innovate the way clothing gets made?
  • You need to create a community around your brand to acquire and retain customers.
  • Know your audience and be a brand that others want to hang out with.
  • Be cocky and passionate.
  • Drive your dream everyday.
Nicole Giordano
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!

13 comments
  1. Avatar
    Husna

    Very informative, i kept tallying myself with each and every point while reading. Thanks

  2. Avatar
    SimonPeterDOS inc

    I am in need of help requesting funds to renovate chattel house shop,manufacture ,market ,rebrand and launch the labels SimonPeter- S P–DOS-and DOS246 and working capital
    please help more information if needed do contact I have tried all avenues here in Barbados No joy can you help TALENTED.

  3. Avatar
    Laura Stephenson

    Hi, I have a portfolio of furnishing designs on paper & would like to see the them materialise onto other applications such as ceramics, wallpaper, furniture etc and to create a brand. My designs have potential but I lack the funds & contacts to get started. can you suggest anyone I could go to with my work for creative advice/funding/help?
    Thanks! 🙂

  4. Avatar
    Suna

    Hi Nicole, this was great and inspiring advice! My friend and I have been working away at our start-up and your article really gave me the push we needed to keep going.

    We’re a bit on the outside of fashion circles, and do more social work in developing countries. Do you have any advice on how to find or join networking circles of people with expertise or looking to invest in a unique fashion start-up?

  5. Avatar
    Nathaniel

    BTW, your site is informationally INVALUABLE.

  6. Avatar
    Nathaniel

    Thank you sooo much, I’m on it. I just hope that if I find that it’s not my forte’ then I’ll pass it off before everything goes south.

  7. Avatar
    Nathaniel

    This article has opened my eyes to some things. I have a question. Background: My designer friend has recruited me to do Operations for her fledgling company. The closest I’ve been to Operations is running administrative offices during my time in the military. Fashion is another animal. In the article you say “•Worry more about having a great Operations person than a CTO.” Question: Where can I go, or what resources are out there that would provide me some guidance? I really want to make this happen for her. I won’t know if I can be a strong Operations person if I don’t give it a try. Also, what is CTO and CTA?

    • Nicole Giordano
      Nicole Giordano

      Hi Nathaniel,

      The best resource I have found for Operations is the book E-Myth. I learned more from that book that anything. Also, check out Skillshare.com, I have no idea of they have any classes on Business Operations but it’s a great resource for learning.

      CTO: Chief Technology Officer
      CTA: Call to Action

      Hope that helps!

  8. Avatar
    Hillary

    all great, concrete advice. thanks!

  9. Avatar
    Mariana Leung

    Fantastic, practical advice for all fashion entrepreneurs! Thank you so much for this.

Comments are closed.

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