Welcome to our guest Natalie Chanin from Alabama Chanin. Natalie Chanin has just published her second book [STC Craft/A Melanie Falick Book (March 1, 2010)] Alabama Studio Style: More Projects, Recipes, & Stories Celebrating Sustainable Fashion & Living [the first one is: Alabama Stitch Book: Projects and Stories Celebrating Hand-Sewing, Quilting and Embroidery for Contemporary Sustainable Style]
Here are some words of wisdom Launching your own line; what it takes in today’s economy from Natalie Chanin
This is a strange, difficult and beautiful time. There are so many options out there for a client; however, there are so many new options for reaching that client.
Kathreen: What would you say are these options (eg – email, direct contact, fashion shows, exhibitions – shop fronts etc) What have you tried that doesn’t work and what does work consistently in reaching new clients?
The internet has changed the way we do business from the ground-up. There are so many ways of reaching clients through email systems, social media, sites like Etsy, eBay… direct selling sites – never has there been a time when small companies have such an opportunity with global reach. At the same time, there are many more companies vying for that reach. It is not my experience that there is something that does not work or something that consistently works. When I built our first website, it had a limited reach and not very specific goals – today we work on our website and outreach constantly… each time refining our outreach as well as our goals – bit by bit. I believe that big growth is measured in very small steps. I believe, like I always have, that it just takes constant persistence, thinking outside the box and a bit of luck. And like I tell all of the students that I work with, a thorough knowledge of QuickBooks.
Kathreen: What are some of the big lucky breaks you have had in your design career?
Julie Gilhart – from Barneys New York – was one of our first clients. This is very lucky as I consider her one of the gurus of the industry today. Julie is a very supportive mentor who helped us grow our business – all the while understanding the sustainability perspective. This was very, very lucky.
Kathreen: You said you need a thorough knowledge of QuickBooks (an accounting software system) – when did you first get an a bookkeeper? did you do a course to learn how to use your accounting software – or did you fudge it for a while?
Well, we have always had an accountant but bookkeeping was turned over completely a little over a year ago… Unfortunately, I never did a course in bookkeeping but took a “learn-as-you-go” approach. On the up side, I am very detailed and on the downside, a bit dyslexic. It was very frustrating. This is one of the best parts of my life today – that I don’t have to do the day-to-day bookkeeping. However, running your own business, you will ALWAYS be involved in bookkeeping, accounting and cash flow. That is one thing that never goes away.
Most folks don’t realize that you will spend much more time balancing the budget than designing when you have your own line. This was one of the first shocks I had when I started. “But I am an artist…” this was my thought. Artistic leaning or none, cash flow rules the day. You can have a great product, with great clients and great press but still not be able to make the cash flow meet. No matter how good your product, you still need to be able to make payroll. I know this sound very boring… but this is the key to building a line in this or any economy.
See the rest of the blog tour and there is a book giveaway – over here (ends March 22).