As the FiveOneTwo continues to forge ahead into the sphere of the clothing industry, I felt it might be useful to document some of our trials in hopes to help along others who might be looking to start a clothing line. To that end, I think the first lesson is this: prepare to operate in the red.
What that means is if you are going to start a clothing brand RIGHT, you should be prepared to operate at a loss for the first few months. Here are a few tips on costs to expect and tips to make it through it all.
You Need to Have Inventory on Hand
Trying to “Insta-Print” your way to a successful line is very difficult. People can tell the difference. If the quality of the product doesn’t give it away, then the lead times necessary to ship something out will. Expect to purchase inventory and experiment with sizes and quantities as you go along (probably a topic for another post).
Website and Order Fulfillment
There are TONS of different options out there. I would recommend evaluating them all, and don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. The “5 minute setup time” type shops might be good to get things up and running quickly, but will become fairly difficult to sustain once things get moving. Whether that’s inventory management, order fulfillment, or just general changes in advertising and business strategies, really put some thought into how you plan on offering your product.
If you are going to outsource your printing, spend the time learning about how the printing you are doing is actually done. This will help you make decisions about design options, shipping times, and other types of issues any brand will inevitably run in to. If you understand what your printer is doing, you can better negotiate pricing or understand why a particular shirt might cost as much as it does.
This is really could fold into a zen-like discussion, but what I mean here is don’t be cheap while – simultaneously – avoiding wasting your money. Cutting corners seems appealing. Don’t do it. The most expensive options might seem like the highest quality product, but rarely are (or even cost-effective). Make sure you spend your money in the right areas (for example, instead of buying some elaborate credit card processing system, utilize paypal or a square reader).
If you have done your homework, then don’t panic when you are operating in the red. Remember, operating a new business at no loss is an extremely difficult thing to do in the beginning (ask Twitter). Unless you are an artist that people are throwing money at already, chances are, you will need to convince people your designs are worthy to be worn. That doesn’t happen over night. Keep your nose to the grind stone, and remember, you can do this. Treat your new brand as an investment. Be smart with your money, and remember, over time you can be successful and get paid to do something you love.