Fashion Startup Challenge

Day One: What You Need to Know FIRST

Day One Startup Challenge

Awesome. You’re here!! Let’s get started with the Challenge.

A little background first. I was 25 when I started my women’s clothing line and opened my boutique in Chicago. I’ll be honest and tell you I had NO IDEA what I was doing. I was excited, I had a vision, and I was at life-stage when I could say to myself, “If it doesn’t work out, I can always waitress.” Of course, there are advantages and disadvantages to being that young and that green…

I was the classic case of you don’t know what you don’t know. My business lasted for over 14 years (until I sold it) and was profitable 13 out of 14 years.

And here’s the thing… I was not well-connected and did not have any fancy friends or relatives. I did NOT have a lot of funding – I opened my retail store with $25K and never borrowed money again. I’m not particularly talented, believe me. I’m completely average. I worked hard, I listened to my customers.

I focused on being creative and taking IMPERFECT action every single day. And I I firmly believe..


Here’s what I wish I knew when I started.

1) Have a PLAN – and that doesn’t mean you need to have a formal business plan

There’s power in a plan. I can’t explain it properly but I KNOW this to be true. Having an idea of WHERE you want to go and HOW you’ll get there is crucial to your success. It can be a simple plan on the back of an envelope – it doesn’t matter. The point is, you want a strong vision of the real value you’re bringing to people and a reason why you think they’ll give you money.

THEN, you lay out a simple guideline of action steps to get there. It doesn’t have to be more complicated than that, trust me. You don’t need to have all the answers on day ONE, you just need a simple plan. Whether you implement the plan perfectly – or at all – doesn’t really matter! There’s huge power in starting with a plan, no matter what.

2) It’s OK to start small. REALLY small

When I started, I thought being a designer meant offering an entire collection of clothing. Pants, jackets, dresses, skirts, tops, t-shirts — the whole deal. What I learned was the opposite. The TIGHTER you start, just dresses for instance, the BETTER things will go. It’s easier and more profitable to get known for ONE thing first and expand to other products after you’ve perfected your first thing. I guess that’s why they have that expression, “niche to be rich”, because it works.

3) Don’t believe your friends and family

They mean well, they really do, but they’re probably not experts in your field and they’re likely NOT your “perfect customer”. If you ask them what they think of your business idea, they’ll probably tell you they love it. They love YOU so they tend to like every idea you ever had. Just because “everyone” loves your concept doesn’t mean people would actually pay money for it. You’ll want to be doing more research than your close circle – but you don’t have to worry about that just yet.

4) It’s NOT all about you 

I assumed I would design awesome pieces and people would love them as much as I did and compelled to buy them right away. And it some ways, that IS what happened (I started selling to my first major department store 6 months after opening my boutique in Chicago). And honestly, entrepreneurs DO need to love, love, love their own product.

But – and it’s a big BUT – it wasn’t long before I had a true lightbulb moment sitting at my little desk in the back of my shop… “Ya know, self, (‘cuz I’ve always talked to myself like that – doesn’t everyone??) it doesn’t really matter how cool my design is, if people don’t buy it I’m in trouble. Girl’s got rent and all..” So I had to start considering what I wanted to design – together with what they wanted to buy. Aha. Now THAT’S a viable business.

5) Build your business around something you LOVE (or it’s the kiss of death)

I’m lucky to talk to hundreds of creative entrepreneurs each month. And there’s one thing I KNOW is the kiss of death for a new business. Here’s the story… I met a woman who wanted to start a business doing vintage inspired dresses. She went on to tell me that the dress business was going to take too long to start and that in the MEANTIME, she was starting a simple line of t-shirts to support her new dress business.

So she set up her online t-shirt site – she had run an e-commerce store successfully in the past so she knew what she was doing. And do you know what happened? NOTHING. Nada. No sales at all. And the reason is this…

She didn’t LOVE what she was doing – and it showed. There was no SOUL to her site, there was no blog for relationship building, no love for the customer, no passion. She was in it JUST for the money and that rarely works. You’re going to be working on your biz a LOT of hours and if you don’t LOVE the product you’re making, that will show. And it will bite you in the arse, trust me.


Your challenge today is to consider all the different products you could sell first, and which ones could be profitable and fun. The point is to understand the following…

  1. What do you love to do?
  2. What will people pay your money for? and then…
  3. Where’s the crossover between these two?

The crossover is where the magic happens.

Click here to download today’s Challenge Worksheet – you’re going to LOVE it.

After you fill out the worksheet, leave me a comment and share your DAY ONE AHA moments.

  1. Did it turn out like you thought it would?
  2. Was this first challenge helpful for you and do you still have a question about it for me?

Use hashtag #FBAchallenge so I can find it, OK? I can’t WAIT to see what you have to say.

See you tomorrow for Day 2, How to Get Your Samples / Prototypes Made.