Running my lingerie brand Vanjo, this time around is completely different than the first time. I’ve learnt from my mistakes and all the best ideas I have avoided the pitfalls that I suffered the first time and applied the successes and all that worked to the brand.
Vanjo the first time around was just about the lingerie, my USP back then (and still today) was providing lingerie in the bigger cup, smaller back section and using fabrics that were either organic or reclaimed. I stocked in shops and boutiques and sold online.
Today I only sell online, as it’s not only Vanjo that I work towards, I write and sell the patterns used in the collection, and freelance for start up brands and write advice and books for people wanting to either start their own lingerie brands or make their own lingerie.
So let’s digress and start with what worked for my lingerie label.
Designing I could do but business I didn’t really have a clue.
So enrolled and went to as many courses and talks as either possible or that I could afford. First up was the Business course with Invest NI, which covered writing a business plan, forecasting sales and meeting up every week with like minded people who were starting their own business, above all it was lovely to chat to people even though in a different industry, were in the same boat of striking out on their won. Also I gained a £250 grant, and got contacts for someone to help me with press.
I attended talks given by previous applicants from ‘The apprentice’, talks about SEO and websites, basically anything I didn’t know about I sought out if there was courses or talks on the subject, not only did this keep me progressing forward but it got me meeting real people which seemed like a luxury in the first few months of working by myself all the hours of the day.
I applied for a Princes Trust loan, and with that gained a mentor whom I met every fortnight, where I could pick her brains and talk through any concerns or worries. I applied for and got accepted for a course that was being held by Belfast City council about trading over the boarder. I entered and won the Shell Live Wire award for the Lisbon area in Entrepreneurship. It was important to me to try and gain as much knowledge and insight into the business side of things that I didn’t know about.
And it still is.
Although I don’t have the luxury now with working at home with children, I still seek out courses I can do, or talks to listen to excel my knowledge. I the past couple of years I complete B-school by Marie Forleo, went to a talks done by EVB and Cissy Wears (Instagram) done the free course by Boss Babe and currently working through the video and worksheets for #mindsetreset by Mel Robbins
So if you don’t know where to start or can’t afford all the courses you want to take, then start with the free stuff, not all the stuff I listen to is business based, but it is all about hearing someone else tell you, you can do it, which is especially important if you’re in the midst of balancing a sideline and your new work.
KNOW YOUR STUFF
This isn’t about knowing how to make a bra, or running a business, this is about taking all the data you have about your business and analyzing it. I set aside, one or two working days to gather all the information I have and have a look at it all. I don’t have the luxury of time for this, but I don’t have the luxury not to do this. With Vanjo I use to look at what were the three top sellers (32FF, 28FF & 32DD) and the bottom three (28E, 30C & 28D) , with this information when I had spare time I knew which bras to sew up so they could be shipped out straight away. It also helped me when I was talking to potential buyers, I could advise them on the size range they needed to buy. I could also see how much I had sold and which range was performing the best, so could plan and build up on my goal’s with this information.
Now-a-days I use this information to plan what I’m going to do next, more writing? Patterns? etc. I also know if I have to drop any of my designs if they aren’t performing or what to update and expand on.
It can be overwhelming when you first start and money can only stretch so far, but one thing I do recommend is keeping control of your brand. In the past with Vanjo I can name occasions that spring to mind where I gave control of my brand to others and in the end it didn’t reflect very well in the end.
The first one was doing photoshoots for my lingerie. I teamed up with someone, who for samples would do my photographs. The problem was I didn’t check, the model or the style of photographs, I was so busy sewing and getting the first collection out that I didn’t prepare what I wanted for the second lot of photos. Needless to say I didn’t like the photos that came back. They didn’t reflect the brand at all. I thought the shots were quite cliché and the model they used looked really young, and the shots weren’t that fashion based. It all felt a bit wrong to look at if you get what i mean.
Which meant that I had to re-shoot them in the end anyway.
I still apply this rule to running my current business, I’ve had offers for freelance work that I’ve turned down because it didn’t reflect the values of myself or my company, and try to seek out and take on work that resonates with me or is helping designers begin their own brand especially the ones that seek to make a difference, not just the jobs that will bring in the money.
Just by understanding and making time to keep your brand image consistent will save you time and money for the future.