Category Archives for "Business"

Apr 13

How Well Do You Know Your Market?

By Maria Pesin | Business , Fashion

How well do you know your market? This is an important question. Unfortunately some Entrepreneurs aren’t even sure what the market is for their product.

The term “your market” is a group composed of characteristics which are used to identify a specific target group of consumers or of a market segment and can be understood with information composed of the demographic, psychographic, and socio-economic factors of the population.

The internet is a great place to find this data. There are many sites that will give you detailed information on your potential audience.  HubSpot posted a helpful article called: “17 Tools & Resources for Conducting Market Research” which as the title says gives you sites you can go to in order to do research, many of which are free.

Throughout the course of starting and developing your business make sure you ask your buyers what they think at every stage. You should be led by what they will buy, not just by what you think they will want.

Additionally “knowing your market” encompasses knowing your products competition. The most successful people I know in the fashion industry are very in-tuned to their market. They are constantly in the stores and speaking with salespeople and consumers, or walking the floor with their buyers.  This reinforces their ability to be relevant to their customers and not fall behind.

No matter how high up you are in your companies hierarchy never stop interacting with your market. When I ran businesses I would visit the stores that carried my product and spend hours working with customers one on one.  It is amazing what you learn when you sell directly to the end consumer.   There is no substitute for hands on exposure.

Never assume you know all there is to know and that your markets wants and needs won’t change.  By constantly studying and learning your will assure your brand of continued success.

 

Apr 06

When people see your product do they know it’s you?

By Maria Pesin | Business , Fashion , Vibe Consulting

What makes your brand uniquely you?  Do you have a point of view that is recognizable?

When you look at Chanel apparel, even without a label inside you know it’s Chanel.  If you see a Versace dress it is totally identifiable as sexy.  Calvin Klein, clean, modern. and sophisticated.  Ralph Lauren, Americana.  We always speak of brand consistency.  Which of course is very important.  Labeling, packaging. Photography, website, all brand collateral must be identifiable to  the brand.

However, first and foremost is product.  Are you creating product that when a customer sees it they recognize your style?  Have you endeavored to have a signature look?    High end fashion lines tend to have an easier time as they are creating trends where less expensive lines more times follow them. But, no matter what your price points, you can most definitely have your own style.

Tom Ford once spoke about the importance of product and how it is key. I used t0 jokingly say that product was first, second, third, fourth, and fifth, in other words everything.  It still is.

Differentiate yourself from competitors through a strong brand personality in your space and create product that is uniquely you.  What makes you identifiable?  Can you articulate it?  When a customer sees it would they know it is you without seeing the label?  This is somethings all designers should strive to do.

Consistency creates brands people trust that are dependable.  They also are recognizable.  It’s like handwriting, uniquely you.

“It’s frankly easier to create something new than to rework someone else’s attempt,” Adam Judge, Author of ‘The Little Black Book of Design’.

 

 

Apr 03

5 Things an Entrepreneur Should Know Before Starting A Fashion Brand

By Maria Pesin | Business , Fashion , Vibe Consulting

Starting a fashion brand is exciting.  But, it can also be quite daunting. As Sophia Amoruso founder of Nasty Gal once said, “It takes a lot more than just knowing how to put an outfit together to succeed in the fashion industry, so more power to you if this is where you want to be; just don’t expect it to be an extended trip to the mall.”

I know we love the glamour and excitement we perceive being in the fashion business will bring.  But it is a lot of hard work and sometimes a lot of disappointment before you can start to see success.  Here are 5 things you should know before you start.

  1. What is your big idea?  There is a lot of competition out there.  So you need to know how you will stand out.  What will you bring to the table that is new and different?
  2. Who is your customer?  Having a very clear picture of your customer allows you to build a collection that is focused on what you buyers wants and values.
  3. How much money do you need and where are you going to get it?  Planning your financials is a critical component to your success. Making a plan for what it will cost to run your business and then raising the money first will help you with the significant outlay of capital before your business starts making money. One of the main reasons most small businesses fail is that they simply run out of cash.
  4. How is your product being produced?  The best designers I ever worked with kept production in mind while they put together their lines.  Many newbies create great designs only to find out they are not financially or technically feasible.  Working closely with a good production company will save on time and money as they direct you to the best factories and suppliers for your product.
  5. What is your sales and marketing plan?  Unfortunately many designers come up with a line and sometimes even a production run before they even know how they will get it sold.  Without sales there is no business.  So make a plan from the beginning.

“Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.”-Coco Chanel

While it is a business, for many of us, it is still a passion.  If you have the passion than go for it and fulfill your dreams!

Mar 27

Pot holes and fallen tree trunks

By Maria Pesin | Business , Productivity , Vibe Consulting

Obstacles to your business growth are a given.

In the real world things occasionally go wrong.

That is just how it is. For example, I have a new client who’s business has gone down the last two years and he doesn’t know what to do about it. He’s worried, but hasn’t actually decided on a course of action. Sometimes it’s just far too easy to hide your head in the sand.

A far better approach is to look at the obstacle as an opportunity.

Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel once said, “Bad companies are destroyed by crisis, Good companies survive them, Great companies are improved by them.”

Confronting obstacles isn’t necessarily easy to do, and I am not suggesting you take them lightly. Underestimating the difficulty of clearing a roadblock can cause the problem to become that much more threatening. But hear this: not dealing with potholes and fallen tree trunks make them even more dangerous.

Don’t let hurdles in your path floor you. Expect them and embrace them. Take the time you need to overcome them. Most days I think my job is just that – to solve problems.

By thinking this way, rather then bemoaning difficulties, you start to build the habit of being a true problem solver. When you figure out how to turn it around you will find that you can make your business stronger and more lasting than ever before.

So what is my new client doing?

He hired me to help him design and implement a strategy to turn it around. No matter what the obstacle, there are always solutions. To find them you need to face the problem straight on.

Ask yourself, “what is the opportunity here?”

Believe me, this is a much better conversation to be having. Not only does it set a more positive tone, but it opens your mind to finding alternative routes around the pot hole.

Sometimes a scenic jot down a lazy back country lane can get you to the interstate faster than waiting for the traffic jam to clear. Not only do you get to enjoy the countryside, but you’re in motion.

Of course, you could always strike up a game of gin rummy with the poor guy stuck in the car ahead of you!

Feb 28

You Screwed Up. Now What?

By Maria Pesin | Business , Fashion , Vibe Consulting

You saw the news everywhere.

While announcing the best picture Oscar award at this past Sunday’s event, there was a mix-up of cards and presenters Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty initially declared the musical, La La Land, the winner.

Ooops!

But just as La La Land’s producers were accepting the award, they were interrupted by Host Kimmel who stated La La Land was not the winner, Moonlight was. As you can imagine chaos and confusion erupted on live TV.

Wow! That is a big error!

Who’s fault was that? And how does the guilty person recover from such a huge mistake? Can you image that person’s rep in the industry? I bet they won’t be stuffing envelopes for a while!

Embarrassing, yes – but not really all that uncommon.

In the fashion industry people screw up all the time, many times publicly.

Remember when Lululemon had to recall their yoga pants because they were too sheer? Or the time Andrew Marc was sued by The Humane Society of the United States after an investigation revealed raccoon dog fur violations? The investigation uncovered evidence that the brand continued to sell raccoon dog fur (a species of dog) despite a court order prohibiting it after March 2013.

Think of one of the biggest business blunders ever! Coca Cola changing their soda formula. Overnight Coca Cola experienced a huge drop in sales.

How do businesses come back from these mistakes? And they all did.

According to Paul Schoemaker, the research director for the Mack Center for Technological Innovation at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and co-author of the forthcoming Brilliant Mistakes, most people tend to overreact to their slip-ups. They “make asymmetric evaluation of gains and losses so that losses loom much larger than gains,” he explains.

I know in my many years in business there was a time or two where I made cringe worthy mistakes. We all do. Then I dwelt on them for months rather than remembering the successes.

So how do you handle a mistake?

First you own it. Acknowledge it, even if it has to be public. Maybe apologize. Learn from it. Then course correct.

You can’t undo what’s already happened. You can’t miraculously make people forget.

However, by being honest, humble and up front about it, your chances of quickly recovering are good. People are usually forgiving of honest mistakes.

They may laugh at you for a while, but remember: no one ever died from a red face!

Feb 23

Should your Fashion Business Go “Seasonless”?

By Maria Pesin | Business , Fashion , Vibe Consulting

My goodness, is spring already here?

Wasn’t it snowing a couple of days ago?

The weather is so strange. It seems winter is later and spring is earlier every year. Climate change is all too real an issue for our industry.

Many years ago I was taking May 30th for Fall deliveries from Saks Fifth Ave. Now no one wants inventory before August. For 6 years I worked in the coat industry. Each year business became more and more difficult as the cold weather took longer and longer to arrive.

One solution is the buy now, wear now model. Creating clothing much closer to need as opposed to showing way in advance of the season. “The current way of showing a collection four months before it is available to customers is an antiquated idea and one that no longer makes sense,” stated Tom Ford.

Another solution is to include “seasonless” pieces in your collection.

These are items that feel timeless and can be worn again and again, but are still interesting enough to make the customer want to buy. I don’t know about you, but I find myself wearing the same clothing all year round.

This is a trend that brands need to be on.

Seasonless fashion is on the rise, and we can’t afford to ignore it. And this isn’t just about heavy coats and lighter fabrics. This change breaking some of our hardest kept fashion rules.

Now you can wear white in the winter and cashmere in the spring. Also using lighter weight fabrics that are layered in the fall and then stripped down in the summer. You see women without hose in the winter, and all sorts of weird fabric combinations.

Then there are companies like AYR (https://www.ayr.com) that stands for All Year Round. They were founded in 2014 when the founders saw the need for seasonless clothing. And Catherine Quin (http://www.catherinequin.com) who’s website says the brand was “created as an interchangeable wardrobe reflecting the needs of the modern woman, the Catherine Quin collection transcends occasion, climate and culture with seasonless versatility.”

Is this a strategy for you?

Obviously I can’t be sure. However, I think this is a strategy everyone needs to consider. Almost certainly there should be some element of “seasonless” incorporated into just about every collection.

Feb 13

Ever Feel Discouraged?

By Maria Pesin | Business , Fashion , Vibe Consulting

Sometimes it’s hard not to get discouraged.

Deliveries are delayed, samples come in wrong, stores are late making payment. Believe me, I know that sometimes things happen in my business that are out of my control and I also get discouraged. It’s just human nature.

Running a business is not always smooth sailing and it is often harder than you ever expected. (similar to marriage and raising children, lol).

For entrepreneurs, being discouraged from time to time comes as part of the gig.

Entrepreneurship is filled with peaks and valleys. And from experience, I know the valleys can feel like someone has trounced on your spirit. Someone wearing big heavy military boots.

This can lead to questioning and self-doubt.

So what is the solution? Sometimes you just need to step away. Read a book, see a movie, or go to the gym. But what do you do if that is not an option?

Listen closely, because I have a multi-step sure-fire solution that works for me:

Step 1: determine what the exact problem is…without blowing it out of proportion. For example if a delivery is delayed, rather than thinking I will go out of business, I slow down and state the exact problem. Many times it is not as bad as I thought.

Step 2: make a list of possible solutions. For the delayed delivery I may ask the factory to give me a discount, or send by air rather then boat if they are coming from overseas. There are always viable alternatives if you breathe calmly and look closely.

Step 3: take action. In our hypothetical case of the delayed delivery, I get on the phone and start negotiating. The key step is taking action.

To me the cure for discouragement is activity.

Movement always beats sitting there in the dumps. I totally understand that when you’re in the thick of the problem it can be difficult to see a solution as you get so emotionally involved. You just can’t think straight.

When that happens get your team on board. This is when your business consultant is worth her weight in gold.

Contact them to talk you off the roof and brainstorm solutions.

And remember, a month from now today’s mountain of despair will seem like just a bump in the road!

Feb 09

Why Fashion Businesses Are Drowning in the Facebook QuickSand

By Dennis Lewis | Business , Guest Posts

You’re posting regularly.
You’re running “like ads” to grow your audience.
You’re advertising your online store.

And it’s just not producing.

Sound familiar?

This is the Facebook quicksand trap that is slowly but surely drowning far too many fashion businesses.

But before I continue, I’d like to share a quick tip with you that could save your life.

You see, drowning in quicksand must be a truly awful way to go. While maybe not the most clear and pressing danger for many “city slickers,” you just never can be sure, can you?

So, file this away in your memory: The best course of action when you find yourself being swallowed by a hungry puddle of quicksand is to slowly raise your legs while leaning backwards. You’ll float right to the top!

With that now out of the way, I’d like to try and save your brand’s marketing budget as well.

You see, all too often I talk with fashion entrepreneurs who seem to be flaying away – desperately trying to do a bit of everything while pretty much going nowhere.

Don’t let this be you.

You see, Facebook is the most powerful advertising platform in the world. It offers unparalleled targeting options and can drive torrents of high quality traffic.

But it’s notoriously tricky.

And even worse – it is a terrible place to try and drive organic, free traffic!

Why? Because for brands, Facebook is decidedly NOT a social media network.

Nope. Those days are long gone.

Facebook is an advertising platform that sponsors a social network for individuals. Just like the good old days when Coca-cola sponsored Gilligan’s Island, today your brand’s messaging is sponsoring Uncle Ben’s ability to check in on his grandkid’s trip to Fort Lauderdale!

So, what should you be doing?

First and foremost, EVERY fashion startup should be dedicating four times more effort to Instagram than Facebook!

Instagram is where the engagement is.
Instagram is where the loyal followers are.
Instagram is where the sales are being made.

Data has proven that Instagram drives 58 more times engagement than Facebook! It is highly visual and people spend enormous amounts of time staring at their Instagram feeds every day.

If you’re interested, please check out my Powerhouse Instagram Marketing Service here.

Next, in order to avoid the Facebook quicksand you need to play a different game over there. A game that will be clear when you answer the following question:

What does Facebook love almost more than racking in your ad dollars?

The answer is: great content that genuinely appeals to highly targeted groups of users.

Facebook loves content that drives engagement. This is the key ingredient in their success. So much so, that they are willing to give away their most precious asset – user eyeballs – in exchange for awesome content.

So, my recommended formula for getting the most on Facebook is:

  1. Consistently invest a small amount ($5 – $10 a day, for example) on like ads to grow your facebook page following. Be super careful about how you target these ads!
  2. Make sure you are growing a Facebook retargeting audience of everyone who visits your website.
  3. Publish both original and curated content to your page everyday.
  4. Promote the content that gets engagement and ignore all the rest.
  5. Only run traditional ad campaigns to people on your retargeting audience.

Want to have a conversation about how this is all done?

Signup here for a couple of hours of 1-on-1 marketing assistance.

I’m looking forward to seeing your success!

Jan 23

Why Aren’t Stores Treating Curvy Women Right?

By Maria Pesin | Business , Fashion , Vibe Consulting

Recently one of my followers, Lisa Banks of Lisa Kay Banks Designs read a post I wrote “The demise of the department stores”.

She wrote me and stated’ “I wanted to also add that as a curvy woman going to the department stores to shop is fun but also disappointing. I would love to see more diversity in clothing brands that make apparel specifically for curvy women. I find some departments stores have the “plus size” area, next to maternity wear—REALLY—. I love the idea of the 3-4 way mirror, and to see sales personnel, that have training in styling and fitting, to help the shopper with recommendations while shopping for garments.”

She is so right.

I have a client that is making a foray into the plus size arena. While researching the market I found myself searching department stores in an effort to find the plus size department.

In some stores it was in the basement.

However, what was really disappointing were the assortments. Ill fitting, frumpy, and cheap looking clothing is what I found. Is business so good that stores can ignore or barely register a whole segment of the population?

There are designers who purposely don’t make past a size 12 because they don’t want to see large size women in their clothes. While this may be insulting, it’s their choice.

But then there are the ignorant people such as Chip Wilson, former CEO and founder of Lululemon who once stated, “Frankly, some women’s bodies just don’t actually work [for the yoga pants],” Chip Wilson said on Bloomberg TV’s “Street Smart” program. “It’s more really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there over a period of time, how much they use it.”

I believe it is time to make fashion that is inclusive of all body types.

So why not think of including extended sizing in your clothes or adding plus sizes to your brand? Did you realize that over 60% of women in the US are plus sized? What’s even more important, they are totally underserved!

Plenty of these women are actively seeking clothes that help them look and feel their best. Plenty of them have the economic means to make significant purchases.

That’s why I recommend opening your vision to this huge segment of the market. You might find a whole new set of raving fans who are hungry to buy your products!

Jan 18

Why Telling Your Story Is Important For Your Fashion Business

By Maria Pesin | Business , Fashion

I was at a trade show one day shopping for product to sell in my shoe and accessory store.  Passing by a booth I saw belts that looked interesting.  The salesperson gave me the information about the belts and I was ready to leave.  Then the owner of the company came over and told me the story of the company and the belts.  The story was so compelling that I sat right down and wrote an order.

Stories have the power to inform and educate, entice and engage a customer. Stories can capture the imagination and influence decisions. When you are marketing and selling, telling your story will create an emotional connection.  This is how you begin to create a brand.

whats_your_story

What are the elements of a good brand story?

Start with the reason your company came to be.  What was the vision behind your product, the inspiration that was the catalyst in creating your business?  I love the story about Spanx.  Sara Blakely founder of Spanx was going to a party one day and had white pants she wanted to wear.  She wanted to make sure she had no lines or bulges.  At the time there were no undergarments that did the trick.  So she bought control top pantyhose and cut the feet off.  After wearing it all night she realized this was something women needed and her company was born.

The next chapter should explain your USP (unique selling proposition). What makes your product fabulous and unique and why a customer should by it.  Remember to discuss benefits as opposed to features.

The story needs to have a hero.  Just as Sara Blakely was the hero of the Spanx story who is the hero of yours.  Is it you?  Then tell the story of you and how you came to the business.

Telling your story with passion, honesty  and excitement will make your story powerful.  Sharing your business story builds a sense of trust and familiarity and people are more likely to buy from those they relate to, understand, and most all, they trust.