Clothing is one of human’s basic needs. It will be in-demand, even if economy crashes or rises. So if you’re planning to start a clothing line, you’ve chosen the right industry. But like any other businesses, beginning it with a solid plan makes a whole lot of difference in the success or failure of your startup.
The cool thing about building a clothing line from the ground up is that you can do it from the very comfort of your homes. You just need to follow these 10 steps:
Research is important, particularly if this is your first foray into the fashion industry. You have to learn the ins and outs of the industry, and everything you can about your chosen target market. Are you planning to sell teen wear? If so, discover the spending habits of teens.
Find an established clothing company (with similar theme as the one you’re planning), read up on interviews or feature pieces about that company, and take inspiration from their success. If possible, come up with a novel idea that people would flock for. Diane von Furstenberg made the wrap dress a must-have for years. Make sure your product would stand out from the crowded clothing industry.
Create a Business Plan
No business will ever work if you don’t plan ahead for costs, inventory, and marketing. Even if you’re just starting the clothing line from home, there’s no excuse to organize your ideas into actionable to-do lists. Your business plan should outline strategies you plan to implement, which would serve as your guide as you execute each step.
You can find plenty of business plan templates to begin crafting your own, but make sure it includes the description of your company, mission/vision, product offering, SWOT analysis, marketing/advertising strategies, pricing and costing, capital generation, and financial projection.
Obtain Licenses and Permits
If you’re planning to start a small clothing line and keep it low-key for years on end, you could sell your items on eBay, Etsy, and other marketplaces without licenses and permits. However, if you plan to scale in the future, you have to think about the legal matters.
In most countries, clothing companies need to obtain a tax-payer number and a corporate bank account. You have various options when it comes to business structure – Limited Liability Company (LLC), Partnership, or Corporation.
Since you’re going to operate your business from home, you can skip permits from health, safety and fire departments. However, you’ll need a business license, certificate of incorporation, business plan, insurance policy, and intellectual property protection (copyrights, trademarks, tradename, etc.)
Sketch Your Designs and Get a Prototype
Whether you draw your designs yourself, or hire someone to do it, you’ll need to get your ideas on paper. The products you decide as your first collection would give dictate customers’ ‘first impression’ of your company, so choose wisely.
Once the sketches are done, you’ll need prototypes created. These samples will also be used when inviting investors to fund your business, which means the prototypes must be of high-quality with realistic pricing and has the potential to wow the investors you’re trying to court.
Secure Startup Funds and Determine Pricing
Most start-up clothing lines begin with at least a minimum of $500 to start the business. If you’re planning to manufacture items in-house, the initial investment goes up to $10k quickly. You’d need to secure startup funds from investors, bank loans, or from other means if you plan to start big, or if you’re in the process of expanding your store.
Scaling your business is best, if you’re still in the learning process of wholesaling and retailing, but you can go straight to a bigger startup fund if you’re able to create a plan that would result to a profit margin of 30 to 50% higher than base cost.
The prototype you’ve created will often be more expensive than actual inventory cost because you were still paying for retail. But once your clothing line operates, you’d have to find cheaper (but still quality) materials for higher ROI.
This step is one of the hardest to complete, since your vision for your products (such as quality of fabric, prints of fabrics, and so on) often goes against your budget. Sourcing materials that could meet your requirements and priced lower than your estimates is a tricky process, but as most clothing lines have done, it is possible. So dig deep and find companies who could sell or custom-make the supplies you’ll need. The legwork would be worth it in the end.
Find a Manufacturer
If you’re lucky to find a supplier of your materials who also manufacture products for third-party companies, then you can skip this step and begin planning for your store launch. However, if you’re like most clothing brands, you’d have to find a manufacturer separate from your supplier.
Local manufacturers are always best, because they’d be able to deliver the goods quicker than international manufacturers. The downside though, is that local manufacturers often have higher fees. On the other hand, manufacturers from overseas do offer lower fees, but the shipping cost and delivery issues may not be worth the trouble.
Launch Your Store
Build a website that has a mobile-ready, user-friendly, fully-functional store. Because you won’t have a brick-and-mortar store, the website will be your main platform. Spend time and effort in creating a website that’s memorable and provide a positive user experience to all visitors, whether they buy your product or not.
Market Your Brand to High Heavens
No matter how awesome your clothing line is, or how one-of-a-kind your online store is, without people visiting your website, all your efforts has been for nothing. For your website to get its much-needed traffic, you have to focus on marketing your brand. The good news is that in today’s social media world, you don’t need to spend much on advertising.
The good old word-of-mouth technique still works, and with the advent of social media, you can create buzz by hosting contests, promotions, referral programs, and more.
Provide Exceptional Customer Service
Once you meet your first customer, provide the best service you can possibly provide. Remember that positive experiences lead to repeat business and referrals, so if you’re after more sales, work on customer service religiously.
In addition, you have to listen to what your customers want. Seek for their feedback from your market before making major changes to your clothing line, website store, pricing, or other elements of your business. After all, they’re the ones who are going to make or break your business.
Although setting up your own clothing line from home may seem easy, this business isn’t child’s play. If you’re not ready for the ton of work this industry requires, it’s best to keep your clothing store small. But if you’re up for the challenge, then follow each step listed above. How well you implement the steps to building your clothing business directly affects the level of success it could reach in the future.