Why Being Experienced is Better than Going in Fresh For Fashion Entrepreneurship
Being an entrepreneur can feel like jumping into the wild unknown, especially if you are fresh out of the education system. Fashion entrepreneurship is difficult enough to get off the ground, let alone sustain along the journey if you have never done it before. As essential as education and theoretical knowledge is, there truly isn’t much that can replace practical experience. You could have your excel sheets in order, your 6-month 1-year and 5-year plan all sorted, have B through Z in contingency plans, but still not be completely prepared for real-world experiences when it comes to fashion entrepreneurship.
This is not to say that it can’t be done, it’s just saying that entrepreneurship entails plenty of risks, so should those risks not be calculated and thought out, so that they may be worth it in the long run? There are plenty of fashion entrepreneurs that have succeeded without any prior experience, but there are also so many with incredible prior experiences. If you aren’t sold yet, here are a few reasons experience can offer fashion entrepreneurship a smoother ride.
1) Finding That Sweet Spot
We all know that success is to be found in tapping into an untapped niche. But how are you going to find that niche? It can be really easy to assume you know the industry from the comfort of your google search, but it’s a real-world experience that will help you find a problem that needs solving and in turn a business that is sure to thrive.
Suchi Mukherjee, the founder of Lime Road, lived in the UK for over 17 years before she returned to India in 2011 with the aim to create a global digital-age equivalent of the 16th Century Grand Trunk Road—a highway that changed the face of trade in the Indian subcontinent. Since its launch in the Indian market in 2012, LimeRoad has had over 50 million visits and the country’s highest conversion rates. The USP of this online fashion portal is a community of unique sellers and curators, who together post a record 3,000 new products and 20,000 new fashion stories per day. While abroad, she helped build eBay in the UK. She was on the executive team of Skype, where she assisted with designing the biggest upgrade in Skype’s product history.
Having worked in various different industries gives you the lay of the land. It gives you an idea of what exists and what is yet to come into existence. The key to understanding what entrepreneurship is about is to assimilate all the data you possibly can. Identifying a critical, unsolved problem in the market that you can solve with a winning solution, is a great way to start a business.
2) Ideate and Multitask
Not all prior experience needs to be years of work at various companies and firms. It can just be a few internships.
In 2001, the Sabyasachi Mukerjee, won the Femina British Council’s most outstanding young Designer of India award, which took him to London for an internship with Georgina von Etzdorf, an eclectic designer in Salisbury. Here is probably where he learnt the basics of how a business runs on a daily basis and came home with ideas, and started retailing major stores in India.
Even Sabyasachi went out and got some experience to help propel his fashion entrepreneurship. Internships teach you an array of things. When it comes to studying fashion, students learn the basics of a lot of things, but seldom go into depth about more than their chosen subjects. Interns are often made to do a multitude of tasks that make them adept at a lot of tasks, and every entrepreneur knows that at the beginning of a business they cannot possibly hire someone for every task. So being a jack of all trades is incredibly valuable for entrepreneurs.
3) Build Resourceful Connections
Business networking is all about connecting with people that can be mutually beneficial for one another’s business at any point in the future.
There is much to learn from Christian Dior, and the same goes for his resourceful connections in the fashion industry. Before he started his own label, he worked for a couturier, Lucien Long. This is where he met Pierre Balmain. Around this time, France was occupied by Nazi Germany and, Lelong, like other French ateliers, dressed the wives of Nazi officers as a way of preserving the fashion industry. Around this time, Marcel Boussac, the ‘cotton king’ of France, wanted Christian to become the artistic director of Philippe et Gaston, a failing fashion house. But Christian convinced Boussac to finance his own brand instead.
I cannot stress the importance of making strong connections enough. When you have worked at organisations in the past, built strong relationships and trust, it creates a mutual understanding amongst peers that at any point in the future there is a possibility to help one another out. And in an unpredictable and ephemeral industry like fashion, that is absolutely invaluable.
4) Managing a Team
You may not begin your business with a very large team, but if you are to succeed, you will surely grow into one. Knowing how to manage a team, deal with different personalities on a team and being in a leadership position is not something that simple research can prepare you for.
You’ve heard of Nykaa, I’m sure? Falguni Nayar is the founder of Nykaa, one of the most sought after, profitable, and well-known companies in India and abroad as well. Before she went on this entrepreneurial journey that now has over 700 employees, she was the managing director at Kotak Mahindra Capital Company. So luckily, she had some experience backing her.
When you have some work experience, not only do you know how you want to treat your employees, but you also know how you don’t want to treat them. It is always nice to have been in the employee’s shoes before you are in the leader’s shoes. And of course, if you happen to have the added experience of managerial experience, that would make things a lot more smooth flowing, especially in the face of adversity. 2020 could not have been easy for leaders to navigate. Looking after your team is as important as coming up with the idea for your business in the first place. Because teamwork makes the dream work!
5) Understand Your Customer
If you think about it, your customer is the only one who can truly help you succeed. So understanding them and catering to them is something of great importance to any business, new or old.
Nina Lekhi lay the foundation for Baggit in 1985, now one of the leading handbag brands in India. Lekhi is a strong advocate of ‘beauty without cruelty’ which motivated her to establish her cruelty-free brand. At the time of establishment, the concept of cruelty-free, was quite unheard of, especially in the leather-forward handbag world. Before the establishment of her brand, she worked many jobs simultaneously. She worked in textiles, interior decoration, and even as a salesgirl where she picked up valuable skills about decoding and understanding customer behaviour.
With relevant experience, be it internships or jobs, you get a better understanding of the different demographics in the fashion industry. So when it comes to your own fashion entrepreneurship, you will have a good idea of the customers you are dealing with, what they like and how they respond. Additionally, relevant experience will allow you to better catch on to the changing trends in customer likes and dislikes, you will be better attuned to picking up on cues and changing patterns that will allow you to plan your future campaigns better.
If you’re an aspiring fashion entrepreneur, there are many paths you can take to turn your dream into reality. And additionally, there are so many things you should know before you do. Luckily enough, we live in an age with ample access to information. So whether you decide to go in fresh or get some experience before you do, make sure to do your homework and be prepared for whatever path you choose to go down.