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Friday, March 30, 2012

Crowdfunding for fashion talk a big success

Ben Hamilton talking to Alison Lewy
Last night’s talk on crowdfunding with Ben Hamilton from PleaseFund.Us was a great success. Most of the audience weren't really aware of it, so he gave an overview of the concept and then gave us his tips on how to create a successful campaign.

This model of raising finance uses an online platform that allows you to ask friends, family and a wider community to pledge money to help you raise funding for a particular project for your business.

In return, depending on how much money is pledged, you offer a reward. You set a funding target and typically you would offer 5-6 levels that contributors can pledge eg £5, £10, £25, £50 and perhaps a tier for the whole amount required., in case you strike really lucky!  PleaseFund.Us has run campaigns ranging from £300 - £19,000.

Crowdfunding first started in the US around four years ago with a site called Kickstarter.com – they now run thousands of campaigns and raise millions every month. Currently there are around 35 UK based platforms including PleaseFund.Us which has over 40,000 followers.

Fashion labels Enya Patricia and Hatastic have run successful campaigns on the PleaseFund.Us site. Both brands wanted to raise funds to pay for stands at trade shows. As a result both labels had the opportunity to participant in something they wouldn’t have been able to finance without this external support.

Ben’s top tips for a successful campaign were:-

Create an interesting video – if you already have a  video of a show/exhibition,  you can use that, otherwise you should make one that will excite potential contributors. It shouldn’t be more than 2-3 minutes long.
Upload good product images that reflect your brand.
Include information about you and your business – people like to know who they are investing in.
Once you have set your funding target – be transparent and outline exactly what you want the money for and the associated costs.
Set a few different tiers offering different rewards to widen the appeal.
Think careful about the rewards you offer – remember your campaign may attract many small pledges so you have to be able to fulfil them rewards and if it costs you to much to produce them then it defeats the object.
Actively promote your campaign – it requires effort as you need to spread the word to as many of your connections as possible, they won’t come to you!

This method of raising money is set to grow quickly in 2012. For designers, and small businesses in general, I believe this method offers a genuine alternative to the traditional bank loan/overdraft route which has become very difficult to access.

If you have raised finance through crowdfunding I'd love to hear about it so please let me know.

For more information on how you can get involved feel free to email ben@pleasefund.us or go to PleaseFund.Us.

Author Alison Lewy

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Project 104 - our second mentoring session

Project 104's designer Sarah Reader and I  had our second mentoring session on a lovely sunny  March day. I was so excited to find out what Sarah had been up to since our last session and was blown away by how much she had managed to achieve in the four weeks.

From not having any formal plan in place, using the Fashion Angel Business Plan Guide, she has now started to put together her  business plan and strategy for going forward with the business, and we have started to develop her USP and key messages that will be used to reflect her brand across all communications.

Project 104 jackets are now on sale on the Etsy.com website and she is investigating other online retail opportunities, as well as the development of her own website which is now underway.

An opportunity has risen for Sarah to participate in a pop up shop in May – this is a great way for her to promote her brand and generate income. Sarah attended our ‘Setting up an Accessory Business’ workshop and as we are moving into Spring/Summer season, has wisely decided to design a Project 104  limited edition accessory range.

It’s tight, but we worked out a manageable schedule so she can make up  enough stock to sell at the pop up shop and then online.

Accessories serve as a good way of allowing consumers to buy in to your brand at an entry price point level, even if they can’t afford to buy from a main collection.

It’s been a tiring month, juggling all the work entailed with starting a new brand, especially when you are also working part time and on a tight budget, but Sarah has done tremendously well and we are all very impressed with her progress so far.

As ever, we  finished the  session with some clear actions and target completion dates before our next session at the end of April.

Author Alison Lewy 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Project 104 - Business Mentoring Session

Today was  the first mentoring session with our mentoring competition winner Sarah Reader founder of Project 104,  which was sponsored by Etsy.

Sarah wear Project 104 jacket 
photo Jay Mclaughlin
We had a really productive session, first discussing the current status of her business and outlining what the goals Sarah wants to achieve over the six month programme.  We defined  the key areas that are a priority  to focus on in preparation for the brand’s launch to market.

There are always so many things that need attention when starting up a fashion business,  but it is important to be realistic with what can be achieved with limited time and resources. It is far better to take things slowly and make sure you have everything in place, rather than rushing, making costly mistakes and putting yourself under pressure.

As with many designer, Sarah has so many ideas and plans for the brand  but has yet to formalise her strategy into a business plan  Many people think you only need a business plan if you are trying to raise money, and whilst this is certainly true, your business  needs one anyway as it is becomes your roadmap and guide, allowing you to keep on track with your goals and objectives.

Sarah in Project 104 
photo Elliot Rose
I  have given Sarah our Fashion Angel guide to writing a business plan – writing a plan isn’t  as onerous as it sounds and can be broken down into small chunks. It’s not something you can put together quickly – it usually takes a few weeks while you refine your business model and conduct the necessary research.Working on the plan makes you think about the direction of the business and the many aspects to running a successful business.

The plan will evolve as new opportunities and challenges arise. Sarah is at the perfect stage of her business journey start working on her plan and working with the Fashion Angel team will give her the tools and confidence to do this.

Aside from this we discussed how important it is for a brand to have a clear USP which will be the cornerstone for all brand development activity and be reflected in all sales/press and marketing channels. Over the next few sessions we will be defining the USP, looking at  production options, costings and profit models and researching routes to market.

We rounded off today’s session with some clear actions and target completion dates and will review  progress at our next meeting at the end of March.

I am really looking forward to working with Sarah over the next few months and watching her label develop and launch to market!!

By Alison Lewy