How to Start a Fashion Business with No Money

How to Start a Fashion Business with No Money

So you are probably curious to know how possible it is to start a fashion business with zero money right? The truth is anything is possible when you put your mind to it.  I started 2 successful businesses (well successful in their own way in terms of revenue and client base) without a kobo.  How did I do it?!  

2 words:  

1. Collaboration!

2. Sheer Hard Work! (ok pretend this is one word though it’s more of a phrase…)


Which businesses were these?!  Jewellery Sales & “Gift Consulting”.  Both of which I stumbled upon by accident just by doing what I loved doing… helping people out!


I’ll tell you my story…  


The Jewellery Business

jewellery business

When I was working, many of my colleagues loved my jewellery and yes I loved HEAVY jewellery!  Whenever they asked me where I got my stuff from, I always referred them to the lady who sold them to me.  I would even go the extra mile to make the calls and set up a meeting with the lady.  At some point I thought to myself…. “Hang on!  This lady is making so much money from my referrals, why not take the orders and get compensated for it, even if only for the stress I go through and my phone bills”.  And that was how Aunty Juliet and I became partners.  


I took stuff off her, added my tiny bit, sold it to friends and family, paid her for what I sold,  returned stuff I didn’t sell back to her and kept my tiny bit.  And I tell you… I made a “comfortable killing”, not from the individual items but from the volume of sales ?


So why did I stop this?!  I went off to fashion school!  And when I returned, despite many calls from her to revive the collabo, I refused and chose to focus on my business.


The Gift Consulting Business

Gift business

NOW the “gift consulting” was a hobby that became a business.  I loved shopping  and eating out at restaurants (still do…) and when I was working, I used to be the go-to person for various things.  From birthday presents for mothers and girlfriends, to the ideal spot to take a potential girlfriend, I knew it all.  In fact, I would go as far as planning even the item on the menu the guy should order to impress the girl without going broke (because I had the price lists in my head) and even what to say and when to say it!  I was a master planner.  For the gifts, I went out and bought and packaged the stuff myself.  And you know what?!  Most times…if not all the time… I got raving reviews on either the gifts or the “meals”.


So yet again!  Something went off in my head.  I thought to myself… “Hang on! Why not charge for this, even if just a tiny bit to cover my petrol costs and phone bills“.  And bam… people never batted an eyelash when I started charging for it.  


For my 1st major project, Valentine’s Day, my client base grew from 13 in the first year to over 30 in the 2nd year (and that was not counting the orders during the year).  And before I knew it, I was making another “comfortable killing” from the volume of orders.  A lot of work but I enjoyed every stressful minute of it!


And it continued… even while I was in South Africa.  Orders were just a phonecall away.  I would package stuff and get them delivered.  Strangers called me based on referrals, paid the money into my account and I would get it all sorted.


So why did I stop?!  The business was growing at a fast pace and yet again I decided to suspend it so I could focus on my fashion business.  


So what am I saying?!  

You can also start your own fashion business without spending a dime of your money!  How?!  Focus on being the middleman between your client and your tailor.  You really do not need so much funds except you want to go into retail only.  Your client can fund your business!  And even with ready to wear.  with a successful product pre-launch, your clients can fund the production of the ready to wear.  And it validates your theory that you are providing what the market wants.  And it also worked for me!  I bought my first set of machines from the money a client paid me for a set of outfits.   


What I realize from speaking to so many designers is we focus too much on the paparazzi and “branding” when we should be focusing on setting up proper business structures!  Most of us want to launch with a bang and are, therefore, more concerned about PR, fashion shows, branding, professional photoshoots, etc when we do not have products!  How can you focus on branding when there is no product to brand!


What happens when you get 50 orders for your product?!  Can you conveniently produce them?!  If you can and have the funds, sure why not?!  But if you do not, then please start from somewhere and take baby steps!  I know this all too well because I also made the same mistake!  But I woke up to reality and not a moment too soon!   


How to start a fashion business 

with little or no money?!  

Start a Fashion Business with No Money

Set up proper processes in your micro-establishment.  Work on your sketches, find a good local tailor / production house, do your proper costing of direct and indirect costs, approach your clients with your sketches and get them to choose from YOUR designs rather than hand you a magazine to copy from.  


I have often found out that most people hand out magazines simply because they do not want to take a risk on a design they would not like but when you have your sketches, you can agree with them on a perfect design for them.  That is what I used to do when I used to sew for people and it worked!


So please start small if you don’t have excess funds and before you know it, you’ll grow from scarce to plenty in no time!  It is a long journey to success but if you start off on the right track, you will get there sooner than you think.

How do I find Customers?

how to find customers

Another question many people which is quite simple. Start with your phone! Network with people and store up favours.  If it worked for me, it can also work for you!  Get friends to do stuff for you for free.  And you know what, never be too proud to beg!  I know it doesn’t cost me anything to get on my knees and grovel if need be.  You don’t need to be a door mat but be humble enough when you have your eyes on a certain goal.


So how can Martwayne assist you start your own business on a lean budget?  I am working on various projects targeted at assisting designers get their businesses off the ground and will launch them as soon as next week. But you can start with getting the required knowledge you need to run a successful fashion business. Our Online Fashion Entrepreneurship Course teaches the step by step guide to starting and growing your clothing line and you can register wherever you are in the world. It will help you with your costing and pricing, the questions you need to ask, how to track your finances using an accounting software and how to build structures in your fashion business.

I’ll leave you to digest this much for now… Hopefully it has got you thinking.  

Determination

I tell you, all it takes is determination, a can-do attitude… and of course a LOT of prayers!  Thankfully, all 3 are absolutely free!    So please!  Stop waiting for someone to believe in you and invest in you!  A wise person once told me people do not invest in individuals but invest in clear visions and business ideas and processes.  That changed my view about a lot of things.  You need to start looking beyond your passion and start seeing yourself as a business and look for ways to succeed in your business!


I had a fashion advisory session recently and it was an eye opener for her.  She suddenly realized that there is soooooo much to do and the work has just begun.  And you know what?!  She believed it was money well spent!  Before you start buzzing me, please note that I charge for my sessions.  I had to to stop free sessions because it was draining and my business was suffering.  So if you can, book and pay for an advisory session with me before the session. I am happy to point you in the right direction.  All it takes is one click on the Whatsapp button and we are good to go!


Here’s wishing you all an excellent week and hoping you put your thoughts into action!  I look forward to hearing from you.  Drop me a comment in the comments section if you have more ideas or if this was helpful.


Cheers!

Recommended Resources

Fashion Business Idea:  How to Start a Ready to Wear Clothing Line

Debunking the various myths about fashion design and the industry

Start & Run a Successful Fashion Business

About Me

Tope Williams-Adewunmi

Tope Williams-Adewunmi

A fashion entrepreneur passionate giving power through fashion

by sharing knowledge guaranteed to help fashion lovers

turn their love for fashion into a viable business.

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2 Comments

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  • Thank you so much for this.

    Catherine Reply

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