8 Things to Remember As You Walk Out the Door to Start a Fashion Business


Congratulations. You’ve done it. After years of working late nights to build your fashion business, you’re officially ready to take the plunge and go full time with it. You’ve quit your job, you’ve cleaned out your desk and you’ve said goodbye to your last coworker…

But, wait.

As you walk through those familiar office doors one last time, there are a few things to remember:

1. Have a plan and set a timeline.

I know… You’re thinking, “uh, duh,” but have you really thought about this? By all accounts, you’ve put a lot of time and energy into the decision to leave your job, but walking out the door is the easy part. The success of your business goes up exponentially if you’ve devised a viable plan. How many months are you giving yourself to get your brand off the ground? How long can you get by without an income? What foreseeable expenses do you anticipate?

In other words…

2. Get real about your cash flow.

A budget don’t lie, folks. The first thing you need to do is figure out your “run rate.” In other words, when will you run out of money? If you’re giving up a steady paycheck to pursue your dreams, then you need to have a padding of savings in the bank. Calculate how much of that savings will go towards your rent, food and living expenses and then figure out where you can allocate the rest for business expenses. Once you’ve determined how you’re going to spend the money, you need to know when your bank account will flat line. By that point, your business will either need to be generating enough revenue to pay you, or you’ll need to have a plan B.


3. Working from home is overrated.

As someone who has been in a home office for the past six years, working in your pj’s is not all it’s cracked up to be. And you’ll figure that out quickly. It takes a rare person to be able to go from a traditional office setting to working from home. There’s no one demanding you to be at your desk by 9am, there’s no official “end” to the day and there isn’t anyone stopping you from going to the refrigerator every 20 minutes. There will be an adjustment period so make sure to step outside and smell the roses every once in awhile.

4. Don’t go at it alone.

When it comes to working from home it often means a lot of alone time. And no, your cat doesn’t count. One of the best things you can do for your own sanity and the success of your business, is to find a like-minded support system. Whether it’s joining your local incubator / accelerator, an online program or a fashion community, a network of peers can keep you inspired, hold you accountable and provide valuable advice and insight.

5. There will be times when you’ll regret it.

This is just a fact. There will be nights when you’ll fall asleep thinking, “What have I done?” Remember, it’s all normal and you will get past it. When you hit a low point try to recall why you started in the first place and visualize the big picture. Imagine how it’s going to feel when you’re the founder of your very own clothing brand one day.


6. Don’t be so in love with your original idea that you can’t see the better option staring you in the face.

This is something I say to my entrepreneurs a lot. Oftentimes, when we have our designs down on paper and we create such a clear vision of what we want things to look like, we can often become blinded by the “aspirational” and not see the “realistic.” As an entrepreneur, you have to be open to new ideas, changes and edits, especially if it means getting your product to market quicker and thus getting customer feedback sooner.

7. There’s nothing wrong with a side hustle.

Several years ago when I was launching my clothing brand, both my co-founder and I worked side jobs in the hospitality industry. During the day we would work on our startup and at night I would bartend. It certainly wasn’t easy going to bed at 4am and waking up to be an entrepreneur in the morning, but having a side job gave me the freedom to not worry about money all the time. If you can’t pay your own bills, then your business will suffer.

8. Attitude is everything.

Real success is a series of baby steps and the entrepreneurs who break apart from the pack are the ones who stay “up.” What does that mean exactly?

They don’t let a tech glitch destroy their mood. They don’t let a confusing email from a supplier derail their focus. They don’t let a botched sample force them into the fetal position. Successful entrepreneurs know that every problem can be solved and they do it with integrity, thought and resourcefulness. Remember, when you walk out of that door there won’t be anyone to tell you what a great job you’re doing. You’ll need to take moments to look in the mirror, pat yourself on the back and say, “I’ve got this.”

To register or to learn more about the Brooklyn Fashion+Design Accelerator’s Certificate in Design Entrepreneurship classes for entrepreneurs starting a new business, go here.

Shannon Whitehead Lohr is the founder of Factory45, an online accelerator program that takes sustainable apparel companies from idea to launch. Before you “walk out the door,” find out the most important question to ask yourself here.

Images: qimono, NikolayF,