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How To Start A Clothing Business
March 05, 2020

How To Start A Clothing Business

Do you love fashion? Are you a sewing expert? Do you have a keen eye for fabric? If so, you may want to start a clothing business. Whether you offer an alteration service, open a boutique, or become a personal stylist, you’ll get to spend your days doing something you’re passionate about. Best of all, the income potential is virtually unlimited and hours can be quite flexible.

If you believe you could benefit from this type of venture, you’ve come to the right place. Below, we’ll discuss how to start a clothing business that succeeds.

Clothing Businesses Are Exploding in Popularity

Clothing businesses are more popular today than ever before. In fact, you may be surprised to learn that the garment and textile industry is worth over three billion. Every year, it grows by around 4 percent. Menswear and womenswear continue to increase annually as well by over 10 percent.

These figures make it clear that clothing businesses aren’t going anywhere any time soon. Americans will continue to spend a lot of their hard earned money on various clothing items. Clothing reflects their personalities while giving them confidence. Plus, it brings great joy and excitement to their lives.

If you have a passion for clothing and want to make money on it, now is the perfect time. While you’re bound to face some serious competition, a bit of hard work, patience, and creativity can steer you in the right direction. Keep in mind that your business won’t become an overnight success.

After all, it takes years for many clothing businesses to thrive. Large clothing retailers like Abercrombie & Fitch, Lululemon, and Nordstrom had to start at the bottom initially. Over time, however, they grew into the massive, high-revenue corporations they are today.

The Steps: How To Start A Clothing Business

There are numerous steps you’ll need to follow to get your clothing business up and running. By following each of them, you can increase your chances of short-term and long-term success. Without further ado, here’s what you’ll need to do to start a clothing business.

Deciding Upon A Niche

Perhaps the most important part of starting a clothing brand or business is choosing a niche. There are countless niches you can choose from, so you’re bound to find one that works for you.

For example, you could start a brick-and-mortar store for pregnant women, or an online boutique that sells exercise gear. If you sew, you can offer alteration services. And if you enjoy giving fashion advice, consider working as a personal stylist.

Before you decide on a niche, consider your interests, passions, and budget. Remember that a brick-and-mortar store will likely cost more upfront than a personal styling business.

Also, much time you want to commit to your venture? Although all clothing businesses will be time-consuming, some will require more time than others. An alteration service, for example will likely be more involved than an online clothing store.

Looking at your competition or business leaders that you admire can also help you niche down. If there are ten wedding dress businesses in your local area, opening one may not make sense. On the other hand, if there are none and you love weddings, this may be the ideal route to take.

Developing Business Plans and Budgets

Once you’ve selected your niche, it’ll be time to develop your business plan and budget. Your business plan should include the following:

  • Executive Summary

The Executive Summary should offer a quick overview of your clothing company. This section should include your target market, an explanation of the problem you’re solving, and your financial highlights.

  • Business Description

In the Business Description, include your business goals and who you hope to serve. Also, explain how your business will stand out from its competitors.

  • Products and Services

The Products and Services section will include relevant information on your offerings.

  • Market Analysis

The main goal of the Marketing Analysis is to dive deep into your industry, competitors, and customer demographics.

  • Finances

A sales forecast, profit and loss statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement are all important to include in the Finances section.

Business Organization

There are several important factors you’ll need to consider in order to organize your business including:

  • Location

If your goal is to start a brick-and-mortar store, you’ll need to figure out where to open it. In the event your business will be online, think about where you’ll be working from. Your bedroom? A warehouse?

 

  • Management

Will you start solo and eventually hire employees? Or do you prefer employees like a designer and accountant right off the bat?

  • Daily Operations

What will you do on a day-to-day basis to ensure your business runs smoothly?

  • Sales and Marketing

How will you get your name out there and promote your offerings to your target market?

  • Funding

Do you have cash on hand to cover start up costs? Or, will you need a small business loan?

  • Insurance

Depending on the nature of your clothing business, you may want to invest in product liability insurance or online retailer insurance.

Design Development

Developing your designs is one of the most exciting parts of the process. If you plan to create the clothing designs yourself, grab a piece of paper and start sketching. Also, you can look for inspiration online or in retail magazines.

After you nail down your clothing line designs, use a program like Adobe Illustrator to convert them to a digital format. Then, jot down the details and specifications of each clothing item you sketch. Include any materials, measurements, and unique features.

Not designing the clothing line from scratch yourself? No problem! Conduct research and find a designer that you trust and admire. There are plenty out there, so you’re bound to find one or a few that meet your needs.

If your clothing business involves personal shopping or alterations, you can skip this step as it doesn’t apply to you.

Brand Development

After your designs are finalized, you’ll need to focus on building your business’s brand. Since your brand can make or break your business it’s an important step that you should take very seriously. Here are some questions that can help you develop your brand:

  • What products and services do I offer?
  • What makes me different from my competitors?
  • What types of potential customers am I targeting?
  • How do I want people to feel when they come in contact with my brand?
  • Does my business solve a specific problem?
  • Are there existing brands I like and can use as inspiration?

The answers to these questions can help you choose the perfect name, logo, tagline, and other branding characteristics. Make sure your branding efforts appeal to the age, income, and preferences of your target audience. Struggling with brand development? Reach out to a branding consultant who can provide you with some great insight.

Manufacturing of your Product

Manufacturing is a fun stage because it allows you to bring your design visions to life. At this point, you’ll need to perform some research to find the right manufacturer.

Consider what’s important to you from a manufacturing perspective. Is it speed? Reliability? Cost? Experience in your industry?

Understand that it’s unlikely that a manufacturer will meet all of your criteria, so you must decide what’s most important to you.

Once you’ve chosen a manufacturer, be sure to test them out by sending them a design and asking for a small batch of clothing items.

If you’re satisfied with the batch, congratulations! You’ve found your manufacturer. Displeased? Keep looking by asking other professionals for referrals or reading online reviews.

If your clothing business doesn’t require manufacturing, skip this step.

Test the Sample Batch

Once you receive your small batch, you’ll want to test it out. By doing so, you can gain the confidence you need to bring your items to market.

You can start by sharing your items with friends and family to get their feedback. Then, move on to online platforms like Poshmark and Facebook Marketplace. You can also attend community festivals and fairs. Don’t take offense to negative feedback as it may be just what you need to make the right changes and improve your offerings.

If you plan to add more products to your business, you’ll find that this stage will never end. You’ll want to test out any new item you plan to sell. This way can get a good idea of what works and what doesn’t. While it may seem like a lot of work, testing can save you a great deal of time, money, and headaches down the road.

Launch and Marketing

You’ve figured out the ins and outs of your business and tested your products. Now you can bring your clothing business to life! Right before you launch, design and implement a strategic marketing plan. This may consist of print ads, commercials, social media marketing, SEO, Google ads, and more.

After you’ve created your marketing plan, price your products, set up any initial deals or promotions, and launch! The launch stage may be nerve racking so keep your head up and don’t get discouraged. In a few months, you’ll get into the swing of things and find that running your clothing business becomes much easier.

Final Words of Wisdom

Just like any business, a clothing business comes with its own set of pros and cons. If you believe the pros outweigh the cons, we encourage you to take the leap of faith and start one. While you don’t need any previous experience in the clothing industry, you do need a whole lot of confidence, motivation, and passion. Best of luck with your clothing venture!

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Frequently Asked Questions

What type of clothing business can I start?

When it comes to clothing businesses, the opportunities are endless. You can start a store for plus size women, launch an online boutique for formal wear, offer alteration services in your local area, and so much more.

Does it cost money to start a clothing business?

In most cases, clothing businesses require a lot of money upfront. If you open one, you may need funds for the apparel, location, packaging, design, manufacturing, and marketing. The good news is there are small business loans that can help you out.

How can I market my clothing business?

You can invest in digital marketing initiatives like social media, SEO, and Google ads. Trunk shows, television commercials, and radio spots may be beneficial as well.

How do I start a clothing business online?

Follow the steps we discussed above. You’ll need to choose a niche, develop a business plan and budget, organize your business, design and manufacture your apparel, test your items, and launch.

Fora Financial

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Fora Financial is a working capital provider to small business owners nationwide. In addition, the Fora Financial team provides educational information to the small business community through their blog, which covers topics such as business financing, marketing, technology, and much more. If you’d like to see a topic covered on the Fora Financial blog, or want to submit a guest post, please email us at [email protected].