If you’re reading this, you either: (a) own your own brand, or (b) you’ve considered starting one. The truth is, the clothing industry is an overly saturated market. Everybody has this sexy idea of owning their own clothing line, but only the few who’ve done it will ever understand how hard it is to make a living at it. Don’t fool yourself, starting an indie brand is anything but easy, even the brands that rapidly rise to success have their struggles and trust me—they work hard behind the scenes.
Plain and simple, this business is cutthroat. It’s hard to stand out, and even harder to build a loyal audience large enough to support your business. I’m not trying to discourage anyone, but I’d like to let you know what you’re in for by covering what I believe are four of the biggest misconceptions individuals have in regards to starting a brand or basically any business.
Misconception 1: It’s easy.
Misconception 2: If you build it, they will come.
To be honest, this was the biggest misconception I had when I first launched Sugar Steak—blame it on my industry inexperience at the time. I didn’t do my homework and I didn’t realize how talented my competitors would be. Having something “great” isn’t enough to draw in crowds, you must have something original, you must present a total package, and you must learn to be patient. Just because you have some kick-ass designs doesn’t mean people are going to be crashing the Big Cartel or Storenvy servers to buy them. Think about it, how many incredible shirts have you seen online and thought “damn, that’s sick,” but you never actually bought it? My guess would be dozens, I know I’ve done it, I do it all the time. Your designs may be awesome and unique, but building an audience will take time. Prepare yourself for that.
In other words, don’t expect to throw your tees online and suddenly be making thousands. That is unless you’re a celebrity or reality TV star—people will buy crappy star designs from Pauly D all damn day, that’s just the sad truth.
Misconception 3: Word of mouth is all you need.
You are not the exception. At least that’s how you need to think. Everybody wants to believe their brand is special enough to spread like the 14th century plague, but you can’t bank on that. You need to actively promote, market, and sell your brand. Even the king, Johnny Earle, busted his ass to get his brand to where it is today. Sure he didn’t “sell out,” but don’t tell me selling from the trunk of your car and touring the states isn’t work and legit marketing. Granted, any truly unique brand will receive plenty of word-of-mouth referrals, but you can’t rely on that as your only strategy. You will get out of your brand what you put into it, so work it. Make careful investments in everything from your websites to your point of purchase displays.
Misconception 4: You are going to make a ton of money.
Now this is your reality check. Very, VERY few clothing brand owners will ever be able to support themselves solely with their business. Just because you’ve heard stories of dudes raking in thousands a month selling tees does not mean you will too. In fact, I’d say 99% off all clothing brand owners work a full-time job in addition to running their business. Treat your clothing business like a business, but don’t be disappointed if it remains nothing more than a hobby.
In conclusion just let me say, the industry is hard, but it can definitely be fun and rewarding. Don’t set your expectations too high, be realistic and enjoy the ride.
Keep it steaky.