Tips to Grow Your Fashion Business
Fashion means big business for the African economy, if the industry is developed sufficiently. It is a billion-dollar industry which can provide employment for millions of people across the continent, given adequate resources and efforts. Fashion entrepreneurs are a critical part of the fashion industry, and need support through financial investment and knowledge as well. Gaining knowledge and understanding of the fashion industry is essential in helping them build formidable businesses that can thrive in complex environments. In the spirit of spurring fashion businesses towards growth, this week we take a look at a few helpful tips for entrepreneurs seeking to start or grow their fashion businesses.
Understand the market
Most fashion entrepreneurs wear their hearts on their sleeves, and are driven by passion as a primary motivator for building their businesses. Whilst that is a commendable trait, it better serves the business when augmented by extensive knowledge of the industry that one is venturing into. Understanding the myriad of factors that motivate consumers to buy certain types of fashion, will help fashion entrepreneurs to design and make products suited to their specific market. In Africa for instance, most households fall under the low-middle income bracket, and as such, their decision to purchase is tied to their disposable income. Regardless of how great a fashion piece looks, parting with a lot of money to buy expensive clothes is usually not in line with their priorities. It is more likely for the majority of people in such a market, to purchase moderately priced clothes, or second-hand clothes as an alternative. The fashion entrepreneur therefore should be cognisant of his/her market’s paying point, and make adjustments accordingly so as to reduce the risk of incurring losses, and in some instances closing shop.
Additionally, fashion entrepreneurs need to understand their competition, and implement the necessary strategies to claim a certain share of the market. As an example, if a business produces clothing for women, their competition might not only be manufacturers of female clothes, but thrift shops and even jewellery shops too. Although these three players might seem different, they are united by the fact that they all appeal to a woman’s need to look good. With such facts in mind, careful study of the market and purchasing habits of the consumers, is a factor that the aspiring or growing fashion business cannot overlook, if they are to claim and maintain their market share.
Define the target market
A common mistake among entrepreneurs is wanting to produce for “everybody”. Pursuing that route will prove to be taxing and unsustainable, financially. In the early stages of establishment, there is often a need for businesses to make heavy financial commitments before operations can begin. For that reason, to aspire to serve or produce for “everyone” will prove costly, as different customers have different product needs, which attract differing costs and revenue. If one is to run a successful fashion business, there is a need to correctly identify the ideal or target customer, so that resources can be committed to harnessing the most sales from the most lucrative market. It is only advisable for a business to diversify into many markets simultaneously, when it has grown in scale and is better capacitated to handle such financial demands.
Have a good handle of both the creative and the business side
Running a fashion business has two aspects: fashion and business. Most fashion businesses and entrepreneurs find themselves struggling, when it comes to balancing the two. A significant number of fashion entrepreneurs have the talent to come up with great designs, but face challenges in effectively delivering on their value propositions, due to lack of proper management. For one to create a successful and sustainable business, a lot of effort and thought goes into creating business systems that can run flawlessly, independent of the business owner. This aspect also speaks to how well a business fares in terms of turnaround time, producing quality clothes, managing cash flows, retaining skill and resultantly, building and maintaining a reputable brand image. Because a fashion business holds the same economic importance as businesses in other sectors, it is important for the fashion entrepreneur to understand that making a profit is one of the key goals of the enterprise. With that in mind, the business will be guided on which projects to take up, and which projects not to pursue. Creativity and strategy can therefore work together seamlessly, giving the business better chances of becoming a success.
Production of good-quality garments
Product quality is an essential component when it comes to a business’ ability to sell, and successful fashion businesses can attest to this. Having a set of standards which are adhered to will ensure consistency in quality of the garments produced. Once a business masters the ability to produce garments of an expected quality, it becomes easier for them to retain customers. When the tailoring and finishing is also done properly, it will help boost customers’ confidence in the business. Aspiring fashion entrepreneurs are therefore encouraged to constantly develop their skills and also assemble a team with the requisite skill set needed to help manage customers’ expectations in terms of quality. Where an entrepreneur is still recouping from the initial cost of establishment, the temptation to source “cheap” labour is always imminent. However, investing in a team with strong technical skills that support the production of quality products, always results in great payoffs in the long run.
To make the journey of building a successful fashion business easier, the Fashionomics Africa platform has a number of features to help the upcoming and established entrepreneurs. To keep up to date on upcoming seminars, workshops and master classes in the fashion industry, kindly visit our events section. Our platform also has a section for reports, which you can refer to for market trends, patterns and information pertaining to the fashion industry. To easily locate manufacturers, suppliers and other partners in the fashion industry located near you, you can visit our database. We also have a jobs section if you are interested in vacancies in the fashion industry, and a marketplace where you can sell your fashion products across the globe, thanks to our partnership with DHL.