This is a very bad idea, starting a business in a field where I have no experience. I’ve thought about it, over and over and each time the need to do it gets stronger. This is how I felt before launching my business. Just AK is an eco-friendly, ethical, street-wear fashion label, predominately specialising in menswear. I am a female scientist, with no fashion training and no formal business training. It got to the point where the feeling was so strong I had no choice but to do it, but how was it going to work? Below are the key steps that I followed to launching a successfully growing business. But, before you continue reading ask yourself if the business you intend to launch is what you really want. For now don’t worry about whether it’s worthwhile, if you have enough money, or if it’s a good idea. It’s important to understand that the following points will only help and work for you, if you truly believe that this is what you want. Once you have that belief you can achieve any goal.
Step 1 – Ask for help
There is absolutely no shame in asking for help. Your biggest resource are the people around you. So, tell them your proposal or at least part of it. There will be those who will give you ideas on how to begin and as always there will be those who will have something negative to say. Use that negativity to drive you forward as it’ll either contain the truth which will be an obstacle you will have to overcome or it’ll be a diversion where can prove them wrong in the end. Over ten years ago I mentioned to a family member that I wanted to start a fashion business. The negativity I received put me off completely, but here I am today with a growing fashion business. Unless the person you are speaking to has been in exactly the same position as you, they have no idea of what can or cannot work. Seeking help not only gives you an initial direction but you will also gain feedback on your business idea. Which in turn can help it grow. In passing I spoke with a friend about how I wanted to start a business and she told me about a company that guides those who are under thirty into entrepreneurship. My friend herself had never been with the company but rather her sister had used them. See how these things work…
Step 2 – Research, research and research some more
I can’t stress enough the value of research. This is how you can gain experience and better understand the field you are going into. Coming from a scientist background I had no idea of what was happening in the fashion world or the market. I had no idea if my product was viable or sustainable. The only way to find out is to research. Some key questions to research and answer would be, what’s the current state of the market? who is my target market? what’s already available and how am I different? who are my competitors? how much money do I need to start? This list is not exhaustive and the research never stops, even after launching, but it does become quicker. Apart from everyone’s favourite, Google, a good place to start is the City Business Library. Here you can gain access to all kinds of business information including market research, financial data and business contacts.
Step 3 – Educate yourself
Yes, it’s true, I have no formal education in either fashion or business. However, I do not recommend going into any business venture totally blind. Researching the field and developing your business idea will inevitably throw up some questions. To answer some of these questions requires expert knowledge, which like me, you may not have. It was at this point I decided to attend a short course on fashion design and read a well known book on how to start a business in fashion. I’m going to say this in bold because it’s important but I’m only going to say it once…There is no need for you to get a degree in your desired field or in business. Educating yourself simply means gaining some understanding of the processes, terminology and available resources. You decide how, what, when and which method is best for you. Once armed with this knowledge you should be able to communicate effectively with others in your desired field.
Step 4 – Networking
And that brings us nicely to the final step, networking. By now I had identified my market, confirmed my business idea and had an understanding of the field I was getting into. I felt confident to discuss my idea and obstacles with others who may be in a similar position. Now, that being said, I did it this way but networking can take place at any point. Networking can easily be part of steps 1- 3 you decide. Once again, you chose how, what and where is best for you. There are so many options and I started with meetup. It took a while before I found one suitable for my needs but eventually I got there. The business library also held lots of social events that I found very useful. When it comes to networking, do not be afraid to put yourself out there. It sounds cliche and cheesy, but it’s true that you never know who you may meet and how you can help each other.