RUNNING A BUSINESS IN FASHION : STARTING UP
Time and Money
The start of Sachini was a very gradual process. I was working fulltime in banking when I first started making the first set of silk shirts. I was determined to keep working in Finance until I knew what exactly I am doing here. It might sound a bit odd, but on the very early days, as much as I wanted to have my own clothing line, I didn't know the answers to many questions such as what scale I would operate at, how much resources to put in to it, is there a long-term feasibility in this project etc.
Somehow, as time went on, me working from Monday to Friday doing my day job and completely dedicating my weekends and evenings to make clothes wasn't sustainable. I was tired and started to show signs of fatigue and stress.
That is when I really had to make a choice. Looking back now, I admit that I was avoiding to ask myself the question “Am I seriously to leave my career for good?” And as much as I love Fashion and Style, leaving a well-paid job, which I was educated to do was absolutely terrifying. That is why I decided to go part-time on my job first and to pursue the clothing line on 3 days a week.
My strategy was to run it for 6 months with this set-up as a trial run. I also thought while I am at it, I am going to make it a real experiment by compartmentalizing everything. I created a different bank account for the business and made all my financials (personal from the business) separate. This was to answer one of the key questions I always pondered on. Will it pay? So I decided to freeze any spending on the account that my banking salary coming in to and left it alone. I wanted to see whether the business can support my living within the 6 month trial period. It didn't for the first 2 and half months and instead of tipping in my work bank account, I made lifestyle changes. But at the 3-month mark, it was providing me sufficient funds to live my ordinary lifestyle and continued doing so.
So after that 6 months, I said goodbye to my banking career.
Challenges and Psychology
As soon as I started doing the business full time, that is when it finally hit me. The uncertainty, the fear of living my life without a steady plan ahead (many people who know me well, found this very uncharacteristic of me, and yes, they were right). I think as long as I had the part-time job, I had the security and stability. At least my subconscious mind always thought if it didn't work out, I can always go back to be full time. But when I finally became a full-time businesswoman, I had a serious dilemma in my brain. A part of me was so happy as I am finally doing what I want to do and I am my own boss. And the other half of me was scared of the uncertainty ahead.
This is when I realize, part of this great change is to manage my own psychology. I cannot live in constant fear and that is harmful to both myself and the business. I have to come out of it and keep my headstrong to keep a young business alive and well.
A few strategies I learned (from my Dad my Husband) is not to set goals set in stone but to concentrate on the processes day to day. Because in the world of business and fashion, things move very fast. What you thought was a goal last month is no longer the case because of the volatility of variables involved in a business. So the best you can do is, to do the tasks that are due today to the best of your capability and ready for a change at any given point. The actual running of the business is such a fluid task and you can only get ahead by adapting to the situations and being flexible.
I also have strategies to keep myself in check. Back int he day, the board of directors will tell me that I have done a good job or they would give me constructive criticism, and I really missed this at the beginning of the business. I had to learn to be objective and look at myself from the third party perspective. I had to train myself to assess my own performance and congratulate me when I have achieved something (In all honesty, this is still a working progress - my team and my family will ensure you so). Nevertheless, learning to look after your own headspace is something so important to a successful start of a business.
Next Time: Running a Business in Fashion: The Rule Book in Fashion