“The ‘there might be a great business in this’ moment came. I started doing research and realised there was a genuine gap in the market.” Janie started up her own company selling fashionable work bags online. Her bags are now stocked in 53 Australian stores with plans to expand to the United States. The idea behind Janie’s business came from her personal experience and needs. She realised that, as a working mother; she struggled to organise her personal life and working life all in the one bag. Then the “there must be a great business in this” moment came. “I started doing research and realised that there was a genuine gap in the market for bags that were specifically designed for working women.” Janie, like many small business owners, loves the freedom of calling the shots. However, no one person can ever know it all, and continued business education has been fundamental in the planning and practice of her business. “I am always doing another course, or watching a webinar. The more I learn the more I realise I still need to learn. There are so many facets to running your own business. It’s impossible to be bored!” Three things Janie wishes she had been told before she started her business:
- You can do it on your own. “I was nervous about starting the business on my own and thought I needed a partner to fill my knowledge gaps. But when I had to go it alone, it gave me the perfect opportunity to really look at the business.”
- Sometimes just being online isn’t enough. “Everyone talks about how much we shop online and how quickly this is growing. The reality is that the majority of fashion sales in Australia still happen via ‘bricks and mortar’ stores.”
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. “I’ve been continually amazed at how generous people are with their knowledge and how willing they are to share.”
Every step of growing a business involves having to learn something new. After Janie’s business partner quit she had to quickly learn how to manage every element of the business on her own. Having sole control of a business is scary but it is all the more rewarding. Things that once seemed daunting can be great learning curves and will allow you to get a better understanding and sense of control over your business.
“Every step of growing my business has resulted in having to learn something new. HerBusiness is the first place I look. I’ve listened to webinars, read every newsletter as there’s always something that’s worthwhile following up, downloaded Guides, done the Small Business Finance Course. It’s the most amazing resource.”
Janie Bartlett’s advice for starting a fashion business:
Design — The design of the product is only the beginning. You have to be able to manufacture to a price point. It’s all about the numbers and margins.
Manufacturing. If you’re forced to manufacture overseas as we were (no bag manufacturing left in Australia), get help in finding the factory. There are companies, such as China Blueprint, that help you find a reputable factory in China. Money well spent when you’re starting out. Make sure you find a factory that suits the size of your business. This way they are more likely to let you start with smaller quantities and grow with you.
Marketing and PR — A huge area that you work on daily. It’s relentless.
Website — Again, a huge area. Our website, for example, has over 1,000 shots for every range. We use a Sydney company that provides us with the framework and supplies 24 hour tech support for the e-store component. We do everything else ourselves. All the copywriting, the photography, the uploading of every shot. If you don’t have this expertise be prepared for this being a major cost.
Warehousing and Distribution — It’s expensive to move product in Australia. Shop around for the best system for you.
Financial management — Get yourself a great bookkeeper. Make sure you’re on top of your figures. Do the ABN’s Small Business Finance Course. It’s a beauty.
This post was co-authored by Ella McDougall, an intern with HerBusiness. Ella is studying Journalism at the University of Technology, Sydney.