If you're starting a fashion label, or any business for that matter "How to Make it in America" on HBO is a great show to watch. We've been following it all last season. Obviously, it's not the most realistic show, but there are several lessons to be taken away from it.
Quick Synopsis: Ben and Cam launch "CRISP" (great name by the way) an apparel line in New York City. Their main product is a hoodie made from Japanese cotton they found while in Tokyo. This season was about finding the right sales rep, growing the business from small boutique customers to large online retailers, and all the challenges that come with it.
A few quick takeaways:
-Choose your vendors/employees carefully: Gina Gershon, the big-time, connected sales rep seemed like the obvious choice. The other guy - (I forgot his name) was inexperienced didn't have those connections. This is an extreme example, because 100 out of 100 fashion labels would have gone with Gina Gershon as their sales rep. But the point is this: When you're hiring anyone (web developer, graphic designer, PR firm, manufacturer) - strongly evaluate the passion they have for your idea/business. The highly touted PR firm with amazing clients may wine and dine you, but after you start paying them, you might not get the time of day.
Regardless of what business you are in, you will get the best results when your employees/vendors share your passion. When you share a common passion, they become partners, not just someone collecting a check or earning a commission from you. For example, our prototype maker, didn't just make a few bags, but put her heart into our project because she shared our passion. We are extremely grateful for her. Another example, our graphic designer, became more than just a logo-maker for us. She turned out to be a true partner. As a member of our target market, she provided key input as we developed our product. If we hired a guy of 99designs.com, we probably would have ended up with a decent logo and nothing else. If we hired a 'big name agency', after they wined and dined we may not have been much of a priority compared to their bigger clients. So, lesson is - find people who are talented and share your passion - it will work out well.
-To be successful in any business, you have to believe in yourself. This may seem obvious. Anyone with the courage to start their own business, must believe in themselves, right? The answer is that it depends on what minute of the day you ask them. Starting your own business is a rollercoaster. "Just got another order - yessir!" or "Look at all the competition and they've been around forever." For anyone who really has passion for what they're doing, it's a constant internal emotional battle. The outside world doesn't help. Most people are very quick to tell you that you can't do it, or tell you why it won't work. It's hard to ignore them sometimes. Even the most successful people in the world had self-doubts. Richard Branson, Steve Jobs (RIP), etc. But if you have strong resolve, and a true belief in yourself deep-down, you can overcome the doubt (both self-inflicted and from the haters). Relating this back to "How to Make it in America" - Ben never truly believed in himself until his belief was truly tested. Cam is a hustler, and deep down always thought he would get it done. So Ben was ready to license CRISP to Yosi for big, easy money. Nothing wrong with that by the way and you really couldn't blame him if he did. I'm sure plenty of "business experts" told Starbucks to license their coffee and forget about the retail business. But if they did that, they wouldn't have become Starbucks.
Thoughts on her hipster haircut? Seems very 2010 to me...
Anyways, I'm rambling here, but the point is when Ben was tested, he spent the night at the studio and with the help of Enzo, the type-casted Italian tailor, he put together a line of jeans. The next morning, he turned down Yosi's money, got punched in the face, and moved on to creating HIS label - CRISP. At that point forward, Ben is all in.
This is getting long so thanks to anyone who has read this far. I'll wrap it up.
So for anyone out there working on your dream: Find talented people who share your passion and work with them. Don't listen to the doubters, and block out the doubt that comes from within. Go for it and believe in yourself.