Five Tips For Emerging Designers on a Bootstrapping Budget

Are you a new or aspiring fashion designer that wants to launch your own line, but a little low on funds? You can still make it happen. Bootstrapping is a term for new business owners who pull together their own start-up capital from their own resources. Most new entrepreneurs do it this way, and here’s how you can work with what you have now in order to make your way into the fashion industry.

Tip #1: Throw your own launch party and charge an entry fee.

Announce what you are selling – to everyone! Let all your family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and ex-boyfriends know that you are venturing off into the entrepreneurial world. More likely than not, they will be very supportive of your endeavors and will want to reach out and help. Throw a party at your house or apartment to celebrate the launch of your new career in fashion and charge $5.00 at the door for each person to get in. Ask your closest friends or family to chip in to provide drinks and hors d’Oeuvres. Turn the music up and celebrate. You’re in the fashion industry now! Say 100 people show up – that’s $500.00 to pocket for your start-up costs. (Just don’t forget to send out thank you notes to all of your guests the following week.)

Tip #2: Take out a percentage of your paycheck from your day job to fund your new business expenses.

Pursuing your dream, but still maintaining your 9 to 5 gig? That’s understandable. It’s great to have that “guaranteed” salary coming in every two weeks while you get your fashion line established. Just take out a percentage of your paycheck and set it aside in a small business account with your bank for your business expenses, i.e. fabric and sewing supplies. The ROI on the production of your fashion line can be doubled or tripled for each piece that is designed and sold. (A classic case of taking your money and flipping it.)

Tip #3: Do-it-yourself PR.

Okay, so you just finished a 10 piece collection…now what? How are you going to make any sales? There’s no way around the fact that in order to sell your merchandise, people need to know about it. You can start your own publicity and marketing campaign by using free and low-cost ways to push your products. There are tons of free press release submission websites, which are always scanned by media professionals looking for a new story to cover. Create your own lookbook with your digital camera, and use an image editing program on your computer to touch up the photos. Be your own model for your lookbook, or even scout out models who are willing to work for free (in model terms, it’s called TFP, or time for profit) in exchange for photos to be added to their portfolios. Sign up for your own website and/or blog, and upload the lookbook for your visitors to view. Need street marketing? If you’re artistic enough, you can cut out your own flyers or just use index cards to illustrate your own street promo material to hand out to everyone you pass on the street. Last but not least, don’t neglect the power of social media marketing. It’s all free. Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, LinkedIn, Blog Talk Radio, message boards, forums, and so much more. If you resist “new media,” you will be left behind.

Tip #4: “A la carte” options from a PR firm.

You may be too busy to do all of that in Tip #3. Maybe you would rather delegate that work to a PR professional, and there are lots of PR firms these days that have foregone the traditional monthly retainer fee and have adapted to a new trend – an “a la carte” service menu. Maybe you can’t afford a $2,000 monthly retainer fee on a one year contract just yet. “A la carte” menu options allow you as the designer to pick and choose which services you want and do not want on a month-to-month basis with heavily discounted prices.

Tip #5: Participate in sample sales and trunk shows in your city.

In the frenzy of social media and everything being virtual these days, don’t forget to pound the pavement and make your face known. Don’t be scared to meet people in person and pick up the phone and make a cold call. Let people see who is behind your brand. On the weekends, participate in local events in your city where you can set up your table or booth to showcase your collection and make direct sales. Sample sales, trunk shows, art walks, and other types of designer’s markets are always in a city near you. All you have to do is just look.

It may take a while to see the fruits of your labor (unless you’re one of these rare cases of being an overnight sensation), but don’t give up. The fashion industry is a hard one to break into. There may be times when you get frustrated and run into obstacle after obstacle. Your will, faith, and determination will inevitably be tested (plenty of times!) but that’s just a part of the ride. This is the season of paying your dues and hustling your way to the top. Starting something out of almost nothing is a courageous task that you should applaud yourself for. Focus on your dreams, and always be sure to keep yourself inspired and driven at all times. Take what’s yours. Cheers to your success.

Tips for Effective Workplace Communication – The 1/99 Leader to Follower Ratio

Some experts tell us that for every one leader there are ninety-nine followers. When communicating with staff members, it helps to know where these people fall within the category of the 1 to the 99. The two extremes may require a different way of communicating, and so everything in between. The same tool can be used when trying to identify the leaders in your company. The expectations of each will be different also, both from their points of view and yours.

One of the most neglected skills of management is the skill of RECOGNITION — recognizing the potential in their people. Many companies have highly capable employees who are treated as if they are just out of school. The 1’s are treated like the 99’s. This is a fatal move! It is a good way for the company to lose what Robert E. Kelley, called Gold Collar workers in his book “The Gold Collar Worker – Harnessing the Brainpower of the New Workforce”.

Knowing this 1/99 ratio will help identify if an individual fits in the 1% or the 99%, or somewhere in-between. Some may be already there and are not being used in their full capacity. They may not be recognized or they may actually be dwarfed.

An example of not recognizing an already-made leader is where an individual joins a company after having had his/her own business for many years. In the capacity of owning a business, that person has most likely learned and earned the skills of management or leadership. But, in hard times, that person may take on a lower level position, even clerical work, in a company, temporarily. The hiring manager looks at the résumé at the time of the interview, hires the person and never looks at the résumé again, even though all the executive/management skills are clearly illustrated.

As the employee shares and demonstrates his/her knowledge in the process of the work and problem-solving, management ignores it because of the present position held. In other words an individual may be an order desk clerk but has had years of experience dealing with high power executives, making presentations, closing sales, leading a sales team and monitoring financial statements, projections and budgets.

This is not uncommon in this day and age. Many have lost businesses in the eighties and nineties and have never been able to get back into it because starting a business is no longer like it was in the sixties and seventies. They may have to work for a while at lower jobs until they can get back to their level again. But during that time they are taken for granted instead of being harvested into productive critical positions.

These entrepreneurial types cannot wait years to move up, they’ve already had their training, they already think at higher levels — operating at lower levels of clerks and subordinates is totally frustrating to them. “Once expanded, the mind cannot return to its original size.” They need to be recognized and accordingly moved fast. Companies must harvest these gold mines right away or lose them. Sadly, most management people lose them, because they have not been trained to recognize the skilled and talented. They got there through doing their job, knowing their service or product line, but, unfortunately, that’s all they know: their “line”. They haven’t trained themselves to know beyond that.

I remember doing a short-term contract for a multi-million dollar corporation. In my interview with the operations manager, I was asked about my Ph.D. listed on my résumé. We briefly talked about it and moved on. I was hired and after several months, when I finished my contract, the same manager asked me for my phone number, in case he needed some information. When I handed him my business card, he saw the Ph.D. and said with a surprised look and tone: “Ph.D.?” I said, “You knew that!” He had completely forgotten. That’s how insignificant it was to him when he interviewed me. All the time I was there, I was never taken at my level. I was to do my job as asked, nothing more, nothing less. My views and comments meant nothing, even when they were good, they were not explored further. I was there to do a specific job and that was it.

It is always up to top management to create the environment to recognize these people — for the company’s own good. Unfortunately most managers don’t see this. Some of the immediate managers or supervisors may even feel threatened by someone who may know more than they do, so they will not promote their ability. The less they ask questions and the less they discuss with them, the better it is for these managers. Just do what you need to do. Andrew Carnegie’s epitaph reads, “Here lies a man who knew how to enlist into his service people better than himself”. It should be placed on every manager’s desk.

I know of another organization where top management made sarcastic remarks to their managers in management meetings such as, “we have all these managers yet the company has to bring in outside consultants to fix problems.” And they did. These people would come and go. They would walk around doing their interviewing and digging, then make their recommendations, and the company managers who had been there for years were expected to follow them.

Yet top management did not listen to suggestions and ideas from its managers, who knew what needed to be done (a prophet is not welcomed in his own country). They just needed their leaders to listen to them and say “OK, let’s do it”, rally up behind them, support them, encourage them, give them the environment to get it done — in other words empower them! In this company (and in many companies) there is no leader to set up a “brainstorming” or “think tank” meeting where everyone is encouraged to speak their mind without being knocked down.

What outside consultants come up with in the majority of cases has already been suggested or thought about by their own people but has never been allowed to be put forth.

In one company, a memo came up one day on the e-mail, addressed to everybody. It announced that effective immediately all external correspondence should be sent to a general secretary for review and logging. Imagine, you as a manager, receiving such a mandate! This was a world class organization. Talk about empowering your people. This is de-powering and down right insulting. Needless to say, no one conformed to this draconian command. However, it wasn’t really the organization but one manager of a department who was simply not ready for leadership — and nobody was there to train her.

There are a lot of leaders and potential leaders out there. The ratio varies from company to company. Some organizations may attract a larger amount of leaders than the 1/99 average. Its ratio may be 2 out of 99 or 10 out of 99! In many high tech firms today, every employee is a manager level worker. These companies deal with specialized, high caliber people. It’s up to these companies to identify their ratio and provide the right environment to direct these special people to appropriate positions. But first, managers must develop themselves in the art of people management and recognition, and not be afraid of “snooping” or “fishing” around for these existing talents./dmh

Effective Problem Solving Tips For Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs are nothing other than problem solvers for humanity. Their stock in trade is creatively thinking up solutions to the problems plaguing the world. This unusual burden is the essence of entrepreneurship. To successfully carry out this task, as entrepreneurs we must first understand fully the nature of what we are up against – problems.

What exactly is a problem?
A problem is a gap between where you are and where you want to be, with obstacles existing that prevent easy movement to close the gap.

This definition was given by James P. Lewis a project manager. In my opinion, no one understands problems better than project managers whose only task is to plan and schedule solutions to problems. I picked this definition because it’s so direct, no stories, simply straight to the point. A problem is nothing other than a gap! Having this mindset helps you get over the phobia of problems.

This definition is so accommodating, rather than making you see problem as something to avoid, it presents problem as a gap; a missing link; an obstacle, and these are less threatening. When you begin to see problems as a gap (missing link) it enables you to consider options you wouldn’t have naturally considered before. You begin to see the problem as what is hindering you from accomplishing what you had set out to accomplish. That alone, makes you want to go all out to find ways of dealing with the hindrance. At that point, the problem is not regarded as an option that can be overlooked, but rather, an obstacle that must be overcome if the goal is to be achieved.

Two Tips for becoming a better problem solver

1. Be willing to pay a price to find a solution
Each time I’m called upon by a client to solve a problem, before getting into the consulting process, this is what I often ask them;

“Are you prepared to find a solution to this problem?”
Most of the time they get turned off by this question, to them, if they weren’t ready to solve the problem why on earth would they invite me in the first place. No matter how ridiculous this question may sound, I have discovered through experience that people naturally want a goal achieved but are seldom willing to pay the required price. They allow themselves to be buried by the weight of the problem. The very mere mention of a problem seems to knock out any form of idea that could have led to a possible solution. Because of the way they dread problems, finding a way out of a problem becomes almost impossible.

People, rather than focusing on solutions tend to be more comfortable concentrating on the problem itself. So, rather than thinking, they find themselves worrying. John C. Maxwell once said;

“50% of getting what you want is knowing what you have to give up in order to get it.”

The truth is this; if you truly want it, you will go after it and get it at any price. I’m sure you are familiar with the saying that “fortune favours the bold”; here is a better way of saying it; “life makes way for the problem solvers.”

You see, there is always a way out of every problem we encounter in life or in business. The very fact that we are faced with a problem is a proof that the solution lies somewhere. The problem with most people is not that they don’t know how to think (although this is equally true) but that they always want to run away from problems. This is why finding a way out of a problem seems very difficult. You cannot overcome that which you are afraid to confront.

They don’t look beyond the problem to see the goal which must be accomplished. The very moment the problem surfaces, they seem to lose sight of the goal they initially set out to accomplish. One thing is certain and that is what I want to point out in this unusual article; problems arise only when we are in pursuit of something.

Life has been designed in such a way that makes us all to be lacking one thing. No one is self sufficient and as a result, everyone is after something at every point in life. This is because; Life is built and governed by the principle of exchange. Yes, nothing goes for nothing! The principle is simple and states that; you cannot get unless you are willing to give; you cannot find unless you are prepared to lose. There has to be an exchange; something for something.

Ever wondered why we humans breathe in oxygen (what plants breathe out) and the plants breathe in carbon dioxide (what we the humans breathe out?) Ever wondered why rain falls down to the ground and later goes up back into the cloud during photosynthesis only to form another rain? Why are the waste products of animals being used later as fertilizers in the production of food for man?

All these, point to one fact, life is designed for exchange.

Nothing is ever wasted in the universe. No one is an island of itself; we were created for connection and that’s what makes the exchange possible. In order to get something, you must give up another.

The problem with most people is that they often want to get ahead in life without playing their part in life. If you are one of those that think you can get without first giving, I suggest you try living elsewhere and not on this planet earth. A principle cannot be broken, principles are to be obeyed. Giving comes before getting, just as sowing comes before reaping.

In the end, problems are just nature’s way of bargaining with us each time we want to get something from life.

Every time we set out in pursuit of something and eventually encounter problem along the way, nature wants to know how bad we really want that thing and what we are willing to do in exchange for that thing. For every problem thrown our way by nature, we humans must proffer solutions if we ever want to move ahead in life. This is why the ability to think is perhaps the greatest skill worth developing by anyone who desires to be anything at all in life. We are both the recipients of nature’s gifts as well as the instruments for nature’s needs. We only get the gifts of nature when we meet the needs of nature. We get only when we fulfill the requirements for getting which is giving. The gifts are not meant for nothing, they are given in order to fulfill needs.

Solutions to problems are what we give to nature in exchange for our advancement in life. Without solutions to problems, there will be no advancement and development of life. Choosing not think by avoiding problems is simply choosing not to make any progress in life.

Think about it, have the greatest inventions by man in history contributed to the advancement of life here on earth or not? The answer is very obvious; each time man solves one of nature’s problems the world is becomes better as a result. Solving problems is our only way of making any meaningful progress in life and thinking is the only tool given to us to achieve this.

2. Keep a positive attitude about the problem

“The problem is not the problem, but rather, how we ‘think’ about the problem”.

In other words, the real problem is not with the problem itself, but the way we see or perceive the problem. The real issue is with how we define the problem. It’s our attitude towards a problem that often makes finding a solution very difficult. Often times our attitude influences and affects the way we ‘think’. A person with a wrong attitude towards problem will always find it difficult to arrive at a solution when thinking.

Before a person can know how to think, he/she must be willing to cultivate the right attitude for thinking and this can only be achieved when they change their attitude towards problem. If you hate or have a negative feeling about problems, then knowing how to think and mastering the ‘art of thinking’ might not work out well for you. I suggest you first address and change your attitude toward problems first. You cannot hate one and like the other. Before you can arrive at a destination (solution) you must acknowledge where you are coming from (problem). If you must know how to think and master the ‘art of thinking’; then you have no other choice, but to develop a positive mindset for problems. The greatest achievers in life are people who literally fall in love with problems; here are some of their views about problems;

“It’s not that I am so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer” – Albert Einstein

“The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem”. – Theodore Rubin

“A problem is a chance for you to do your best”- Duke Ellington

“Problems are to the mind what exercise is to the muscles, they toughen and make strong” – Norman Vincent Peale

“Money is the reward gotten for solving a problem”- Sam Adeyemi

“Problems are only opportunities in work clothes (disguise)”- Henry J. Kaiser

“Problem solving is the purpose of any business enterprise”- Peter F. Drucker

“Problems call forth our courage and our wisdom; indeed, they create our courage and our wisdom. It is only because of problems that we grow mentally or spiritually. When we desire to encourage the growth of the human spirit, we challenge and encourage the human capacity to solve problems.” – M. Scott Peck

I want to believe those quotes have helped to steer up within you a positive attitude toward problems. The truth is this; problems are necessary challenges we all have to conquer if we must achieve our greatest dreams in life. The road to success, fulfillment and significance in life lies right in the middle of many problems; that is, there will always be missing links (gap).

To get to our set goals and visions, we have to be prepared to solve all the problems life will bring our way; close or fill up the gaps. You’ll notice I didn’t say, “Problems life maybring our way”, but rather “problems life will bring our way”. This is because; problems are an essential part of life. They are not what may happen (probabilities); they are what will happen (certainties). Just as passing an examination is the only way for a student to get promoted into a new class; likewise, our ability to solve problems are our only chances of moving ahead in life. If we must rise to the next level, phase or stage in life and in business, then solving problems have to become our second nature. It’s not a choice, but a must (necessity). Hence thinking cannot be regarded as a convenience but a necessity if we must get beyond survival to really living.

Over to you
How have you been dealing with problems in your entrepreneurial journey?
What other tips are available to entrepreneurs for becoming better problem solvers?

Share your comments below, thank you for your time!