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How do I start a clothing business off I’m 19 years old I’ve been wanting to make my own clothing brand & etc but I’m lost & I have no support !?

How do I start a clothing business off ? I’m 19 years old I’ve been wanting to make my own clothing brand & etc but I’m lost & I have no support !

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Subject: Career question for you

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Kris’s Answer

**Please forgive any spelling/grammar errors. This is quite long and I've edited sections of it multiple times. If you need clarification on something, please let me know.

Hi Dalia!

I've worked with over a thousand startups as a business plan writer. I'm going to stray from what you'd hope I'd answer. You're not going to like it, but it's what I truly believe. If I said anything different, I'd be lying to you. Please understand that I'm not trying to be harsh or impolite, and it can be challenging to convey tone through text. This is pretty much exactly what I'd say to my brother, sister, nephew, friend. So, here goes:

My advice is pretty simple - don't start a business (yet). One question you should ask yourself before starting a business is - do you really want to be a business owner? Many people (not saying you, but generally) envision starting their own crafting business and knitting all day, mowing lawns all day, or planning weddings all day. In reality, that couldn't be the furthest from the truth. You can (and will have to) do all of that fun stuff... After you've spent 6-8 hours per day being a business owner. After you put in the work, maybe 5-10 years down the line when you have all your ducks in a row, but that'll be 10 years of not being a fashion designer or whatever - it's being a business owner. That is your job - and it will be for a long time.

I tried to start my own website design business around your age and, because I had no business experience, it did not work out at all. Would I have eventually figured it out if I just stuck with it until I succeeded, no matter how long it took? Most definitely. But I would have wasted years of my life making mistakes that I could have avoided. Being a business owner isn't as simple as it sounds, especially in the beginning. You are the owner. You are the accountant. You are the salesperson. You are the inventory manager. You are the website designer. You are the website manager. You are the secretary. You are the district manager. You are at both the bottom of the totem pole and at the top of it. You are the janitor and you are the CEO. If you don't currently know how to perform most of those roles, you'd be better off waiting until you have more experience.

What you should do now is find a mentor. Find someone who has already created a successful business that's willing to teach you, They don't have to be in the fashion industry. You can learn that by yourself. But it's all of the other things that I mentioned before you'll need help with, and they apply to almost every business imaginable. Then work for or with this person for a year or two (seems like forever, it's not). Learn everything that you can related to business. Ask them questions. Watch what they do. When you're absolutely positive that if your mentor died tomorrow you could take their place, then you're ready. You'll probably think this pretty early on. The first 5 times that you think you're ready, you're not.

While you're doing that, be honest with yourself throughout. Are you okay with missing out on the social life that your peers will have? New business owners (at least the ones that make money) don't go out and party with friends. They don't go on week-long vacations. They definitely don't work a 40-hour work week. Are you willing to put everything you have into this business? Are you willing to work 12 hours per day, sometimes more? Are you willing to not fully take a day off for a few years? Would you be okay if you put a bunch of time in and none of it works out?

After you've done that, you can move on to the list below. If you still want to start a business right now, even with all of that in mind:

The most critical thing is to GET. A. CUSTOMER. FAST. You can make a logo, you can make business cards, and you can play around with an Instagram page for hours. If you don't make a sale within the first 30-60 days, you will quit and all of your time will be wasted. For an apparel business, these are pretty much the only things you should worry about (in order of completion, not importance) -


- Make a PayPal account. You will need a real bank account - think Wells Fargo, M&T Bank, Citizens. Chime (speaking from personal experience) doesn't work. Make it a personal checking account. You don't need a business account yet. There is a high likelihood that the first couple hundred dollars put into your PayPal account will be "held for security reasons". There have been times it took me upwards of a month to get my money from them. Unfortunately, however, they're the only option.


- Make sure you have at least $1,000 and more money to invest as you progress - without relying on the revenue you think you'll generate.

- Come up with a specific niche for your clothing that is both somewhat large and relatively underserved. When you target everyone, you target no one.

- Write out a few marketing ideas. Study your competitors - other apparel shops (not multinational companies like Gucci). Find out what they're doing. Are they advertising on Instagram? Are they hiring brand ambassadors? Are they DMing celebrities?

- a SIMPLE web store. This is the most important item on the list. You can make it yourself in an hour using Shopify. You'll probably move from Shopify in the future but you only need something simple that people can use to pay you.

- 3 or 4 clothing designs. Doesn't have to be fancy.

- Find a distributor that can both make and ship your product for you. You don't have the infrastructure to do either, so I wouldn't even try. Make sure you've spoken to the distributor and you understand the fulfillment process A through Z. However, don't spend days on this. You should be able to find a decent distributor in a couple of hours.

- a SIMPLE logo. You're probably going to change it later. Just make it on Canva for free. Make sure it has a transparent background so it can be used anywhere.

- Get an Employer Identification Number (EIN) on the IRS website. You can do it in about 5 minutes FOR FREE. Do not use a 3rd party. They will charge you $100+ to do the exact same process. An EIN is free. Make sure you download the PDF they give you!!!!!!!!!!!! I've made the mistake of skipping past that and it can take over a month to get your paperwork mailed to you.

- Unless it's absolutely necessary (it almost never is) DO NOT form an LLC. There is simply no reason to form an LLC until you or your business has actual assets AND there are more than 3 people involved in decision-making. When you start adding more people and have something worth shielding from liabiltiy, you form an LLC.

- Make ONE social media profile and add a few posts. Make a Google My Business listing. That way, if your customers Google you, they'll at least see something.

- Get yourself set up on LinkedIn. Connect with local professionals in your area, business owners, and apparel company management. Tell them that you're thinking of starting a business and you were hoping to pick their brain. 100 people will ignore you, 10 will say no, and 1 will say yes. Ask this person as many questions as possible. Ask them what toothpaste they use if you have to. Ask so many questions that you think you're being annoying.

- Optimize the marketing ideas you made and implement them. You'll most likely use some kind of boosted post on Instagram or Facebook. Marketing campaigns will almost never produce results within 30 days. People only ever interact with ads when they've seen it 100 times. The first 10,000+ people will ignore your ad. You should be willing to put in at least $500 to $1000 over the next two months.

- Don't buy any inventory. Get one sample of each design from your distributor to ensure they're not awful. Place orders with the distributor as they come in. It'll be more expensive in the beginning, but the money you would have spent on inventory will go to more important things (such as marketing)

- Above all else, be prepared. Even if you're incredibly successful, there are high-highs and low-lows. There will be times you think your life is falling about. There will be times you think you're a failure. There will be times you can't sleep at night. There will be times when you've put in all the work needed and it still doesn't work out. Accept that there's a high likelihood that you will fail before even starting.

After you start making a little bit of money, there's a list twice as long as the one above you'll have to implement.


I know it sounds like I'm being a party pooper or I'm being pessimistic. I'm not!! This is the reality of starting a business. It's not as glamorous as it sounds. Whatever you decide, I wish you luck!
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James Constantine’s Answer

Hey there, Dalia!

Embarking on the journey of starting a clothing business can be thrilling and fulfilling, particularly if you've got a knack for fashion and a creative spirit. It might seem a bit overwhelming at first, but with careful planning and a dash of determination, you can successfully kick start your very own clothing brand. Here are some handy steps to get you off the ground:

1. Carve Out Your Brand Identity: Before you plunge into the world of fashion business, it's key to have a crystal clear vision of what your brand stands for. Think about your ideal customers, the type of clothing you'd like to create, and the values your brand will uphold. This will help you stand out in the crowd and draw in customers who vibe with your brand.

2. Do Your Homework: Carry out detailed market research to get a grip on the latest trends, what customers are looking for, and who your competitors are in the clothing industry. Spot any gaps or opportunities in the market that line up with your brand's vision. This research will also guide you in setting your prices, identifying your target market, and crafting your marketing tactics.

3. Lay Out a Business Plan: A well-crafted business plan is a must-have for any startup. It serves as your compass, keeping your clothing business on track towards your goals. It should cover areas like an executive summary, company overview, market analysis, product line description, marketing approach, operational plan, and financial forecasts.

4. Design and Production: Whip up a unique and consistent collection of designs that match your brand identity. If you're a designer yourself, you can create the designs; if not, think about teaming up with freelance designers or design agencies. Once you're happy with the designs, find trustworthy manufacturers or production partners to make your designs come alive.

5. Build a Digital Footprint: In this tech-savvy era, a strong online presence is vital for any business. Set up a professional website that tells your brand story, displays your products, and provides contact information. Make the most of social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest to show off your designs and interact with potential customers. Consider investing in professional photography to showcase your clothing in the best light.

6. Set Up Supply Chain and Logistics: Establish a dependable supply chain to ensure a steady flow of materials and finished products. This includes finding quality fabrics, trims, and other necessary components. Also, set up efficient logistics and shipping processes to deliver customer orders on time.

7. Marketing and Promotion: Craft a comprehensive marketing strategy to spread the word about your brand. Use both online and offline channels to reach your target audience. Consider teaming up with influencers, hosting fashion shows, setting up pop-up shops, and partnering with local boutiques or online retailers. Build connections with fashion bloggers and journalists who can help boost your brand through reviews or features.

8. Customer Service and Feedback: Top-notch customer service is key to building a loyal customer base. Make sure you have efficient systems in place for order fulfillment, returns, and exchanges. Encourage customers to share their experience with your brand, as this feedback will help you improve and fine-tune your offerings.

9. Financial Management: Keep a close eye on your finances by keeping accurate records of expenses, sales, and profits. Regularly check your cash flow to ensure your business stays financially healthy. Consider getting professional advice from an accountant or financial advisor to manage your finances effectively.

10. Continuous Learning and Adaptation: The fashion industry is always on the move, so it's crucial to stay in the loop with the latest trends, technologies, and customer preferences. Attend trade shows, fashion events, and workshops to network with industry pros and gain market insights.

Starting a clothing business at a young age might seem daunting without support, but remember, many successful entrepreneurs started from scratch. Look for mentorship opportunities or join entrepreneurial communities where you can meet like-minded people who can offer guidance and support.

Remember, building a successful clothing brand requires time, dedication, and persistence. Stay true to your vision, continually learn from your experiences, and adapt to the ever-changing fashion world. With passion and determination, you can make your dream of starting a clothing business come true.

Top 3 Authoritative Reference Publications or Domain Names Used:

1. Entrepreneur - www.entrepreneur.com
2. Shopify - www.shopify.com
3. Small Business Administration - www.sba.gov
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Rodrigo’s Answer

Hi Dalia ! Thank you for asked us !

Starting a clothing business at 19 can feel pretty daunting, especially when you're on your own and feeling lost. But hey, it's totally doable! Here are some laid-back tips to get your clothing brand off the ground, even without a ton of support:

Passion First, Everything Else Second: Make sure you're genuinely passionate about your clothing brand. This will keep you motivated through the ups and downs.

Learn the Ropes: Study up on the fashion industry. Watch videos, read books, follow fashion blogs, and get a sense of trends and styles.

Create a Unique Brand: Figure out what makes your clothing brand special. What's your niche? What's your style? Define it and own it.

Design Your Heart Out: Start sketching and designing your clothes. You can even learn to sew or collaborate with a local tailor.

Budget Wisely: You're young, so funds might be limited. Create a budget and stick to it. Look into crowdfunding or small business loans if needed.

Build an Online Presence: Social media is your best friend. Set up profiles on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest to showcase your designs and build a following.

Website Wonders: Create a website to sell your clothing. Platforms like Shopify make this super easy.

Networking is Key: Attend local fashion events, connect with other designers, and don't be shy about reaching out to influencers or bloggers.

Start Small: Don't feel pressured to produce a huge collection right away. Start with a few pieces and see how they sell.

Customer Feedback: Listen to your customers and adapt your designs and marketing strategies accordingly.

Stay Persistent: There will be challenges and setbacks, but remember, every successful entrepreneur faced them. Keep your head up and keep pushing forward.

Embrace the Learning Curve: You're bound to make mistakes. That's okay; it's all part of the process. Learn from them and grow.

Find Mentors: Seek out experienced people in the industry who can guide you.

Believe in Yourself: Self-doubt is a part of the journey, but don't let it hold you back. You're young, but that doesn't mean you can't do it.

Stay True to Your Vision: This is your brand, your passion, and your dream. Don't compromise on what you believe in.

Remember, many successful clothing brands started from humble beginnings. So don't let your age or lack of support discourage you. You've got this!
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Karin’s Answer

Hi Dalia,

I think it's great that you want to be an entrepreneur, but it's not an easy path. You got a lot of good tips already, and I would agree to wait a couple of years to build a solid foundation to be successful.

My first question would be: what kind of fashion are we talking about? Have you decided? There is a world of difference between e.g. printing T-shirts and sweat shirts and selling them online vs a small boutique of your own creations vs. a full fashion line of clothing that involves tailoring and knowledge of different fabrics and cuts. Do you have those skills?

Can you sew or knit or whatever your fashion will require? Maybe a apprenticeship with a tailor might be beneficial. Can you do fashion drawings? I would also recommend fashion school and possibly working at a fashion house for a few years, to learn the basics, make contacts and get some experience how these businesses run. Maybe you'll find a partner so you don't have to go it alone. That's the skills side.

Then there is the business side? Do you have any idea how to run a business? That's a whole other area where you need to learn. Work with some mentors and advisors who have been down this road.

You'll need a business plan and a financial plan. Developing that will force you to make some decisions and win some clarity.

Good luck!

KP
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Michelle’s Answer

Hello, Dalia !

How wonderful to be as talented as you that you can create fashion ! I admire that and would like to give some advice.

It is, as you've expressed, difficult to start with anything when you have no direction, but you can do this ! You have to take it a step at a time. You also may want to consider going to a Fashion School where you will learn all you need to know about building a great business. You'd also meet a lot of people that can open doors for you if you go to fashion school, so I highly suggest that you consider enrolling. It's hard for you and you have no support right now because you are trying to do this without school. School will give you the support to help you on your way. Since you are in Louisville, you can also consider doing an online study, but education does play a vital part in both starting a business and working in the fashion industry. I have left a link below to the Academy of Art University's on line program. You can also watch videos on You Tube about how to start a clothing business.

Many people have started businesses with the base you have now. First, I would spend a lot of time designing and sewing and coming up with a lot of your unique merchandise. You will need a portfolio and the actual items at hand. If you want to try to pitch stores, you will need product. Also, try to see if any venues in your town will accommodate you to do a fashion show with other designers so you can gain some exposure clout. You can also explore selling your line via the internet, creating a business website or using sites like Amazon or E bay or Craig's List. You're going to need to know how to do all this so you are prepared, so I suggest researching this on line as well. Always ask for advice, too !

But the best way to begin is truly by getting a full education for this venture. Take it one step at a time and try not to bombard yourself with too much work. Work for a while on your sewing and take breaks and don't forget to eat. Creating clothing from design to finished product takes a lot of energy and time, so pace yourself and things will turn out well.

I wish you well in your plans. It's a lot of hard work but well worth it in the end !

Michelle recommends the following next steps:

https://www.academyart.edu/art-degree/fashion/online-degrees/ THE ACADEMDY OF ART UNIVERSITY ON LINE
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Kelly’s Answer

Hi Dalia,

To start small and minimize risk, one thought around how you could start to approach this is to leverage Instagram and in-person markets to sell your products outside of business hours, and then work or manage a fashion retail store to get experience around some of the other aspects of managing a fashion business etc. stock take, customer service, merchandising, managing team members. This will build your experience whilst you are still able to start your selling your products. I hope this helps!
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Alora’s Answer

Hey there!

How exciting to want to follow your dreams as an entrepreneur! I admire your passion and want you to know that you're not alone!
Business owners of all ages and stages have times of uncertainty.

I was 16 when I was able to acquire a grant for small business owners under the economic development sector of my community, and I agree with what everyone is saying above-- it isn't easy, but I did learn a lot! I've since started up two different small clothing brands and went to school for fashion marketing, so I can relate to your desire to start your own clothing brand!

I see you've already got some great advice above so I'll try to keep it brief (hope this helps, wishing you the best of luck!)

Alora recommends the following next steps:

Research & find your resources: Are there any available community resources or grants you can apply to to help cushion your start up fund? Some stipulations of mine included mandatory (free) accounting courses and business management classes. I also had to submit a business plan with some forecasting involved and I needed to source help with learning how to do that. The great thing is there are a lot of free resources on the internet, Chat GPT/ Bard AI, Reddit forums etc. You just need to do a bit of digging! Do not skip the research stage!! When you create your business plan you should have a solid idea of your competition in the space, your prospective customers etc (your businesses strengths, possible weaknesses, potential opportunities, and any threats you can think of which would affect your business), and an idea of how much money you should be charging to be competitive while covering your costs.
Get scrappy: Like I said above, I used as many FREE resources as I possibly could to save my funds for product. There are free sites you can start selling on without having to build your own, like Redbubble (an example for artists putting designs on various product), or Big Cartel which is kind of similar to Shopify. They usually take a little bit of an operating fee but it saves a big headache with figuring out most site logistics. You can start small on Instragram or Tiktok shop as well. Do some research into your options and what would be the right fit for you. You can also use the Libby app to check out library books on fashion marketing or entrepreneurialism and brush up on topics where you feel you need the most support.
No job (or connection) is too small: I volunteered & worked a LOT of internships to make connections, and gain experience that I could apply to my small business (all while doing retail jobs on the side to get some money to pay the bills). The experience gained from seeing how other businesses run was worth the long hours and low pay. On days off I also sold my wares at small fairs/pop ups/community events to get some exposure and make connections.
Word of mouth is key: Be sure to put some TLC into branding & packaging up your product--It doesn't have to be fancy, it just has to be uniquely you. Include a little hand written note, sticker or other personal touch if possible. The little things definitely help with your customers overall experience and prompt them to leave a positive review. Be sure to build out and leverage your social media. Document your journey, tell your story, show how unique your product is... you never know what can go viral!
Master your elevator pitch: What's your BIG idea & what problem does your product solve for customers? What makes your brand unique? How does it differ from the competition? Who are your niche audiences? (your product won't be for EVERYONE and thats more than okay! Think about who you're unique community is and you'll have a better idea of how to reach them). These are all questions you should be able to answer before you put spend into your business!
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Chung’s Answer

First, you need to define who you want to target to be the customers of your clothing products, as different people have different tastes.

Once you know you potential targets, you need to research their preferences. Let's say you want to sell fashion to young people, you'll need to find out what they like to wear. You can read about it. You can watch Youtube video of fashion influencers to see what people are talking about. You can also go to fashion stores such as Shein to see what they sell.

Next step is to come up with product ideas. Hopefully it is something that is a bit unique. You will need to test your ideas with some people from your target demographics to see if there is any interests. Make adjustments as you get feedbacks.

Initially you may be hand making your cloths, but if you want to sell at any volume, you will need to find a manufacturer who can make clothes based on your design.

You need to figure out where you are going to sell your cloths. Will that be through an online store that you set up? Will it be via a local boutique?

Last but not least, you will need to build your brand since you want to have your own brand. This will require a ton of promotion. An increasingly common way of doing this is via social media. You need to come up with ways to tell a story about your product, create buzz, and keep the interests going.

> I have no support !?

Go online and look up names of people who have started their own fashion brands. Contact everyone of them. Many will ignore you, but some may offer you advice and assistance.
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Sharin’s Answer

Hello Hana! First off, kudos to you for identifying your passion - that's a hurdle many find hard to cross. Well done on that front!
To realize your goals, it's crucial to possess both the determination and the understanding of what it takes to succeed. Consider starting small by collaborating with novice designers to validate your designs. Engage with marketing firms to gain insights into orchestrating a successful launch. Remember, there's no need to hurry into starting a business. Ensure you've done thorough groundwork before proceeding with your plan.
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Angel’s Answer

Hi Dalia!!

I think it is awesome that you want to venture into creating your own clothing business. It takes hard work and commitment, but I have no doubt that you'll excel. While I do not have first hand experience with this, I do know people that have created theor own clothing business.

1. Think if a business name and/or what kind of visual representation you want your clothes to have.
2. Come up with a design or designs that you want for your clothing.
3. Doing a trial run is a good idea. Get a few items made with your design and market them to your family and friends. Have them wear your clothing and market to other people.
4. Creating an online store is also an idea, if you don't want to spend the time fulfilling orders yourself. You can upload your designs to an e-commerce store like Shopify. You can customize your items the way you want and then list them in a online store. Customers can order and the shopify store will make the items and ship them.


There are, of course, other avenues you can take to achieve your goals. These are just some ideas I got from friends and family that have created their own clothing brand.

I wish you the best of luck!!
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