We receive dozens of emails a week, seeking advice on how to get into this industry, general best practice questions for entrepreneurs and specific questions about how we started Kristel Closets, Inc. I picked a few from recent weeks to answer in this week’s installment of Q&A Tuesday. Keep the questions coming!
“I don’t have experience but am always dressing friends and family. How do I turn my hobby into a business like yours?”
Before diving into a full-time business, it’s important to build a resume that will help position you as an expert. Growing up I always loved style and fashion. I was reading Vogue in grade school; I dressed my girlfriends for prom and was always dishing out advice to family and friends. While that certainly helped me define my interests, it did nothing to get me ready to manage a business. What helped me position myself successfully in my business was my practical experience. During and right after college I worked at a high-end women’s boutique dressing clients every day. When I eventually started buying for the boutique I was exposed to a completely different side of the business and helped me have a strong understanding of brands. Before I started Kristel Closets, I bought for QVC, which I hated, but the name alone on my resume helped legitimize me.
There’s a huge difference between giving friends advice and running a business. This business seems like a ton of fun, but it’s incredibly difficult to make money in it. I would recommend a few things:
1. Get hands-on experience. See if you can apprentice for a local personal shopper/ image consultant. You could also work at a better boutique or department store. This will expose you to designers, brands, and help you understand the process of working with your clientele.
2. Start part-time. I jumped into my business head first, full-time because I didn’t have a choice. It’s a terrible strategy. It was the most stressful time in my life. Instead, work with family and friends until your confident in your abilities, and then ask for referrals. You may discover a fun part-time job that keeps you creatively engaged without the stress of managing a full-time business.
3. Read everything. Learn as much as you can about all aspects of business. Pick up books on everything from small business strategies,and seek out tips around social media, website creation and SEO. For skill set building and insight into the industry, I found any book written by Brenda Kinsel to be incredibly helpful.
“My daughter is starting college and very interested in pursuing a career in fashion. What did you major in and what would you recommend she consider?”
I have a very strong opinion about this, and it isn’t always well received. If she wants to go into design, I would recommend trying a few classes at Parsons in NYC. Maybe a summer course to expose her to what goes into being a commercially successful designer before making a four-year commitment. If she’s looking into anything around the business end of fashion (buying, retail management, entrepreneurship, etc.), I would encourage her to get a business degree, not a fashion marketing degree, but a standard business degree. I majored in marketing and minored in economics at Temple University, and it was the best decision. The fashion industry is brutal, and retail is even worse. The burnout rate is high in both industries. Because of that, I think it’s important to have a degree that goes beyond fashion, one that is routed in general business, rather than the specifics of the fashion industry. Now that we do so much corporate work, and work in the C-Suite, I find my degree even more valuable. She can get hands-on, practical experience via internships and still keep her options open if she gets into the industry and is unhappy or leverages it into something bigger than fashion.
I am in the beginning phase of starting a business. What was your biggest challenge early on and how did you overcome it?
First, congratulations! It’s really brave to start a business. Early on for me, everything was a challenge. Frankly, the hardest part was getting my husband on board. He is my biggest fan and a true partner in the business now, but early on we were both scared, and everything was an unknown. I think the biggest lesson I learned was communication with the people you spend your life with will make or break your business. We were two kids with no experience running a business, so things were rough to say the least. Once we found the best way to communicate our fears, challenges and goals to one another, things turned around quickly. Have patience with the people in your life, and remember it’s scary for them too.
Also, the faster you understand the importance of managing your cash flow the better. It was a huge learning curve for me. When you are officially up and running, right after you get a business checking account, get set up on Quickbooks. Having a sophisticated system to send invoices, track sales and receive payments will spare you a lot of stress.
Thinking of starting an image business of your own? We offer private coaching with our Business Boost, a 2 hour virtual coaching session. You’ll receive straightforward, specific business advice and strategies based on your goals and where you are in your business. Some of our mentees are just starting out, while others are a few years in ready to leverage up. For more information visit our website or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org