business is really just common sense. is what i'm finding. i continuously read inc. magazine articles, watch videos and interviews with sophia amoruso of nasty gal, research successful brands, and it seems like it always comes back to just a few simple truths.
i love love love designing clothing. the more clothing i make the more i enjoy it and feel like i'm getting better at it, slowly but surely. but i think i really equally love the business aspect of what i do. it is like uncoding a puzzle. it's frustrating, fun, challenging, and requires just a ton of patience and hard work. there really aren't any short cuts. you just work hard, don't quit, and listen to your customers.
so let me explain some interesting ideas that have helped me with my business, ideas that took me a long time to figure out.
1. demand drives supply.
not that other way around! so many businesses get this wrong. they think 'i'll get a loan! money will make me a success!' no f-ing way my friends. no way. you can't create products for purchase orders that don't exist yet. having lots of inventory is not going to make your product more appealing to the customer. instead you'll just have a bunch of dead inventory people don't want and loads of debt. starting business in a hole of debt is a really scary place to be. you have to wait until you have a product that has been tried and trued, loved and bought by many many people. and you have orders you can't fill because you don't have enough money. this is when you think about a loan. when i first started my business, a loan was the twinkle in my eye. i thought money would solve all my problems. i know i still don't need a loan because when i think about what i would do with the money, i have no idea. i don't need it. i don't have demand big enough yet for that. (this is obviously not true for all businesses. nothing here is black and white, just what has worked for my small clothing line.)
2. don't advertise.
magazine ads, billboards, commercials, facebook ads... do you notice them? i don't. i have ad block on my computer and i mute commercials on stupid hulu. i actually want to buy items less when i see ads... i think 'i hate you ad. i hate how you are trying to manipulate me. i won't buy you.' we have become immune to advertisements because of how bombarded we've become by them. word of mouth and content based blogs, interviews, press, etc are a better way to get noticed.
3. press does not equal sales.
for a long time i've thought... why doesn't anyone notice purusha?! why doesn't my local paper want to write about me? can i get a little feature in fitness magazine or instyle magazine? nope. because purusha is still too small. i base a lot of my business model on nasty gal's business model. sophia (ceo of nasty gal) didn't have ANY press, even when she was making 10 million a year. once nasty gal got some investors, reporters finally took notice. 5 years later she got write ups in the ny times and on inc. magazine, long after she was successful. sometimes i see athletic brands in a little blurb in somewhat big magazines, and then i look at their website and facebook page. not a whole lot going on there. you never know what's going on behind the scenes of a business. and i know firsthand that i don't go out and buy something because cosmopolitan magazine had a tiny photo of it with a price tag on it in their magazine. only real customers who like what you make, and possible find you on their own, equal sales.
4. you don't need celebrity endorsement.
again, i realized this from nasty gal having no celebrity following, and from firsthand experience. in an interview sophia actually said, 'my customer does not go looking through US weekly to see what clothing she should wear. she dresses for herself and wears what she wants.' for so long i thought... i just need to get drew barrymore in my yoga pants! or even settling for some big name yoga teachers. i've sent free clothing to popular yoga teachers, and i've found it doesn't do much. what it does, in my opinion, is make your brand look a little desparate. like your success is riding on this person carrying you and you can't do it on your own. of course i would love for a celebrity i admire to wear purusha. but i'm not going to go find them and try to send them free shit. if they like purusha, they will buy it themselves. i would so rather have it that way.
5. don't think you should do every job yourself.
this one took me a while. i thought, i'll save money if i don't have to pay anyone! i'll do it all! screen printing, dyeing, sewing, marketing, emailing and shipping! actually, no. i lost money that way, because i am not that good at all those things. it's so much better to hire an expert in every field, a person that is incredible at their one job. hiring nadya to sew has allowed my business to grow enormously in the past 6 months. she does things just faster and better than me. time is money. i'm not a seamstress. and yippee, i just hired our landlord's sweet teenage daughter to do all my packaging and shipping (the photos you see above are me doing those jobs! eep! no more!). i will continue to screen print and market and dye until i am able to outsource those tasks to others when the time is right. i am at my best running the business as a whole and deciding what clothing to make. eventually and hopefully, i will have people even better than me at those jobs working with me! always try to find people to work for you that are better at the job than you are.
6. let your customers decide how big you'll be.
this thought was revealed to me from reading a response on a business message board. this dude was responding to a cupcake business named CRUMBS having to close a bunch of locations. the guy wrote, 'maybe if this business didn't get so greedy and think... "hey! we should open 67 locations! cupcakes are popular enough!"... maybe they could have lasted. you have to grow sustainably and not just assume the demand will be there. customers decide who has the right to exist and grow.' so so true. we have to listen to our customers, they are like my non-stop mentors. i'm not going to decide for them how big purusha will become. i have no idea how big (or small) purusha will become. time will tell. i can't dominate a market just because i decide i want to. i leave that up to the consumer.
so there you have it. some unconventional wisdom i never expected to be true. to my customers, thank you for all your beautiful help. all the feedback i get, whether it's a seam or fabric problem, or a design flaw, are SO SO appreciated. more than you know. i adore you. thank you! namaste.