“Often the difference between a successful person and a failure is not one has better abilities or ideas, but the courage that one has to bet on one’s ideas, to take a calculated risk – to act.” – French Historian, Statesman, and Novelist, Andre Malraux.
Only one short year ago I developed the idea to launch my own clothing brand, Anchored Style. I was terrified of the undertaking, but more scared of not taking the risk to fulfill my dream. So with the quiet buzzing of an idea in my head, the electricity of fear beneath my skin, and the knowing thump of my heart pushing me to take a chance, I threw myself into developing my line of surfer-prep apparel. In seven short months I had the product off the ground and selling in stores and on 11 college campuses around the U.S. Here’s how I did it, all in under a year.
Eat, Drink, and Sleep your market Immerse yourself in the lifestyle you want your product to appeal to Finding out exactly who your market is will and can be one of the hardest parts, but if you surround yourself with your desired customer you will find out exactly who they are and what they want. Your desired market could end up very differently than you had originally planned, or spot on. My goal was to design a line that focused on the nautical world with a surfer-preppy style. So, I took a part-time job selling boat shoes at a Sperry Top-Sider store. I also took up sailing with members of a local yacht club, learned the lingo and the sport. Living the lifestyle is easier than you think. I feel is it important to be authentic.
Read & Research Then read and research some more. Read as many business books, magazines, journals, websites, and blogs as you can get your hands on. Read absolutely everything you can about your market; watch broadcasts, newscasts, and financial programs; visit with local entrepreneurs. It is beyond important to know what and who you are up against, and how you will make your product stand out against others. There is a wealth of resources to help you get your product going. You’ll build knowledge and gain inspiration. And don’t forget to take the time to research the products of young entrepreneurs like yourself. One of the most important things to remember during this process is that others have been through, or are currently going through exactly what you are. You will gain a lot of insight and help from their stories. My two favorite must reads are Three Feet from Gold & The Tipping Point. Two of my favorite magazines – Entrepreneur & Inc. All of these materials helped me on my journey.
Network Everyone knows someone who knows someone, which will often lead you to a great connection. Talk about what you are doing when you are engaged in everyday conversation and connections will fall into place. If you don’t promote your venture, you can’t expect anyone else to. You are your own best PR representative and no one will speak as passionately about your product as you do. And don’t forget about the importance of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter; they are the easiest way to make your product visible, not to mention they are free!
Get a Mentor Utilize SCORE, a Resource Partner with the Small Business Administration that offers free and confidential mentoring through online and face-to-face meetings. I looked up the government website, found my local chapter, and booked my first appointment. They gave me guidance and helped by holding me accountable to developing my business plan at the same time. As I developed my plan I was also busy preparing for each meeting with them. I spent three months researching, writing, and editing my plan. Even now, I’m updating, and editing all over again.
Surround Yourself With Friends & Family Remember, becoming an entrepreneur is no 9 to 5 gig, and it is important for you to have people who support your venture and your time schedule. And don’t be afraid to ask those people for help – your friends and family have a vast amount of talents and knowledge and will probably be ecstatic to get involved and offer their help to you.
Experience It is always a good thing. Every short-lived job with a start-up company or stint with a corporate company will build your portfolio of knowledge. One of the main reasons I have been able to successfully launch my brand in such a short time is because of my background in the fashion industry. Each job with a new brand of a large retailer has given me the knowledge of what to do, and most importantly – what not to do.
Confidence Everyone needs it, especially yotu! Without confidence in yourself and your brand, consumers aren’t likely to have confidence in your product either. You are your number one sales person and when you believe in yourself, your passion and confidence are sure to show through the attention to detail in your product, and through a glimmer in your eye.
Most importantly, remember this - No risk = No reward You have to keep faith in yourself, and don’t stop. Take the chance and don’t be afraid to do it. Sure it’s hard but if it was easy, everyone else would be doing it.
Remember, in the words of Arnold H. Glasglow, “An idea not coupled with action will never get any bigger than the brain cell it occupied.” So get out there and cultivate your brand.