Is the Arduous Process of Writing a Business Plan Keeping You Stagnant?
Many new entrepreneurs get so stuck writing a business plan that they either:
- Develop analysis paralysis or
- Disregard strategic planning altogether.
Neither of these is an ideal place to be as a start-up designer. But let’s face it, writing a formal business plan- especially as an emerging fashion designer is antiquated. Traditional business planning glorifies the planning stage instead of the working action that’s required to launch a successful fashion business. Business plans involve time spent conjuring up pre-mature marketing strategies and elusive financial projections before you’ve even tested the viability of your idea or received any market feedback! How backwards is that? In a fast-moving “in-today-and-out-tomorrow” industry like fashion, it’s hard to predict the future. Your time is better-spent testing responsiveness around your ideas so you’ll know if they’ll sink or swim in the competitive market.
So What Should I Do Before Writing a Business Plan?
Emerging entrepreneurs must start “business experimenting” instead of business planning. While strategic planning is crucial, it’s 10x as effective when it’s approached as an action versus a proposal. Emerging entrepreneurs must start “business experimenting” instead of business planning. While strategic planning is crucial, it’s 10x as effective when approached as an action. Click To Tweet Whether you’re just hashing out ideas or you need to approach investors- research and testing must be done before writing a formal plan- if you end up needing one at all.
8 Things to Prioritize Before Writing a Business Plan
#1: You Must Know Your “Why”
What inspired you to start a business in the first place? Is there a problem you’d like to solve or a void in the market that you want to fill? Have you come up with a revolutionary way of approaching the fashion business altogether? Your purpose must be greater than making money or designing for design’s sake. There will come times when you feel like giving up; your why must be strong enough to refuel your passion during the tough times. Your why is also a compass for important decision-making- it’s essentially where your business’s integrity lies. Think of it as your DNA. It must be unique enough to distinguish you in such an over-saturated industry.
#2: You Need to Analyze Your Resources
We like to call this step your personal analysis. How much time and money can you seriously devote to this business venture? Do you have venture capital or savings? If not, start by opening a business savings account. Do you want external funding; then maybe you should consider crowd-sourcing or reach out to investors once your prototype is developed and tested.
Time is also money. Do you need to maintain your full-time job while working on your business, but afraid you’ll never have the energy? Develop a realistic, daily routine for yourself and make “business building” a part of it. Consistency yields progress and your commitment to your business while you juggle a 9-5 will prove your dedication to your vision. We go more in-depth on this subject in our Fashion Biz Foundation Online Course which covers business mindset insights for new entrepreneurs.
#3: You Need to Research Your Desired Industry
At FAW, we always tell clients that the research aspect of the business needs to be done regardless of whether you’re writing a formal business plan and it needs to be done right away. Don’t worry about your business name, trademark, or sample-making until you know who your designs are serving. This is your market research and it will inform your design process.
For example, if you’re thinking about getting into handbags and no one is buying handbags, then why are you starting a handbag business? There is no point; your idea is not going to be profitable. Most of the start-up designers that we work with need this to work and they need to make enough money to quit their full-time jobs. So, it’s crucial to look at the industry trends and study consumer behaviors. Think: How can you create the most culturally relevant design/product?
After analyzing the industry and consumer trends; you’ll need to know your market segment and product category. If you’re going into womenswear, determine the price point and the market category you want to specialize in. Is it eveningwear or athleisure? The more specific you are, the greater the impact you’ll have in your market.
#4: You Need to Learn About Your Target Customer
The next stage before writing a business plan is defining your target customer. Target customer research isn’t, “Oh, we think she’s 25 to 45 and she likes to shop at Bebe and Express.” You’re not making this person up in your head! You need to take time and invest in serious target customer analysis. Facebook is great for this- especially after you’ve nailed down your competitors. You can literally find out who your competitors’ customers are in order to figure out who your customers are. Facebook gathers a ton of information on all of us- Instagram as well. Utilize this surplus of information to your benefit. Find out their favorite brands, hobbies, occupations, salaries, demographics, class, married status etc. All of this will later inform your designs.
#5: You Need to Identify and Study Your Competitors
The competitor analysis is also really important because you need to know what’s going to make your line different from everyone else’s line. If you’re going to start a line that’s already out there at the same price point, with the same fabrics and the same this and same that, what’s going to make someone want to buy from you? There are so many fashion lines out there. It’s crazy to start a fashion line and not have it be unique in some way, shape, or form. So, you have to figure out early on what is going to make your business stand out from the rest.
#6: You Need to Execute Your “How”
Once you’ve nailed down your “why,” you can start to work out your how. This is the early experimenting and prototyping phase. How will your execution solve the problem you want to solve? For example- if you want to start a line with democratic sizing standards- how will the engineering of your clothes adapt to different body types? Will there be ties or adjustable closures? Will your fabrics all need elasticity? The how stage allows you to brainstorm, explore the logistics, and manifest your idea. Your prototype’s success will determine if this is something you can achieve, reproduce and sell. Only after your prototype or “samples as we say in fashion”- can you start to assess the demand.
#7: You Need to Test Your Idea
Now that you have your samples or prototypes, you can start to promote your business venture and see how responsive it is. This is a great time to launch your social media and advertise a crowdfunding campaign. If the demand is there, that means that your ideas are desired and marketable.
#8: You Need to Know the Goal of Writing the Business Plan
After the first seven steps, you can assess whether you still need a completed business plan. The type of business plan you need depends on your future goals. Are you reaching out to investors? Then a bulky, detailed plan is definitely needed. Do you simply want to flesh out your ideas? A lean one-page business plan would save a lot of time. Also if you want investors- keep in mind that they won’t back a fashion business until you’re generating sales! So, you may not need one immediately anyway!
If you’d like further coaching for your fashion-start-up or help writing a business plan, we encourage you to subscribe and check out our Online Courses and Consulting Services for more information!
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