So…I have had the amazing opportunity to be doing what I love for exactly 1 year now. 12 months later, I am still standing (YAY!!). Statistics show most businesses fail in the 1st year so the fact I am writing this only gives my hope the future is bright. Over the last couple of days, I have reflected on the last twelve months of ICONs Closet and all that has occurred during that time. Below are 12 nuggets of truth I learned over the last 12 months:
- I can’t build a business heavily reliant on friends and family primary customers: When I set up my business, my primary target market was going to be my friends, family and personal network. I imagined (ignorantly perhaps) I already had a ready market or base of recurring customers. I was so wrong…lol. It took me a while to realize my business would be dead on arrival if I depended on them to sustain my business. Don’t get me wrong, they have been wonderful and supportive but my expectations were not realistic.
- It gets lonely: In running a start-up business like mine, you get to experience a unique type of loneliness. Although, there are tons of entrepreneurs around, I have struggled find those who can relate or empathize with me. Friends and well-wishers want to and try to be supportive you but everyone has a limit of how many times they want to hear you vent your frustration of running a small business single-handedly. Everyone has their own issue they are trying to solve and mehn! is it a lonely feeling
- Mentors (free mentors) are hard to find: One of my biggest heart’s desire is to get a mentor in the fashion retail space that can really help me navigate this very challenging but exciting landscape. It has been near impossible to find anyone who will consistently offer you anything / advice for free. There’s always a catch – “take my course for $199” or “my per-hour consultation is $X” or “use my shop for consignment for 35% of your proceeds”. Maybe I am searching in all the wrong places so ICONs please. As a start-up business, my capital is limited so free is the best I can do for now. Big SHOUT OUT to all the successful business owners who offer their time and resources for nothing… I hope I can join your ranks one day… BIG SHOUT OUT to all of those who have taken their time to answer my questions and expressed a genuine interest in helping this venture grow
- You meet amazing people: I think the best part of my job so far has been the amazing women and ICONs I have met along the way. The bloggers, vendors, fellow entrepreneurs and of course the amazing customers. Especially those customers that take the time to personally appreciate our product/service and leave encouraging messages. Also, I am grateful for the “pushers” who looked out for me whenever I go quiet. ICON’s Closet is what it is today because of all of you. Thank you and happy 1 year anniversary to you as well.
- Celebrate your successes: When I started the business, my goal was to turn ICONS Closet into a multi-million dollar enterprise. Much to my disappointment I am nowhere near achieving this goal. I am however, learning to celebrate every milestone such as selling out on an outfit, convincing a blogger to work with me, breaking my previous month sales records, locating that perfect outfit (more on this in a later post) after looking for it for days, adding that incremental Instagram follower… It’s the littlest things, but I am thankful. And I am learning to enjoy the process.
- The customer is king, but she may not always be right: Customer service is the probably the most important thing to me. I strive to offer a very unique and consistent customer experience. I want customers to get excited when their outfits arrive when they unwrap our pink tissue. Ok I will be honest, I am very thin skinned and my biggest fear is criticism. As much as I love my customers, a few times I have been stepped on because I did not want someone criticizing my start up on social media. This attitude has cost me losses at times…all part of the process I assume. I am getting better at learning it is ok to sometimes say NO to a customer (the right way of course J) and I am realizing that people respect you as much as you respect yourself
- Have a process and follow it consistently (always leave room for some flexibility though): Since I started this business, Mr. ICON has said to me… “have a methodical process you follow consistently around quality, customer service, procurement, purchases, shipping/logistics, returns…etc.”. Being me, I have not always listened to the “consistency” part of his message and it has come back to bite me in the rear a couple of time. I once ordered a really fabulous dresses that was flying or the racks…seemed liked everyone wanted a piece of it. However, due to a missed quality check, I did not realize the zipper in the back was faulty and did not work properly. Well what do you know, the dresses all started being returned by customers. An expensive but very necessary mistake
- Don’t give up: Most people that know me, know that this is not my first rodeo in the world of retail…but I am praying that this is the longest and most successful… It has not been easy, heck it has felt impossible sometimes… But every time I have considered giving up, I think of all the amazing entrepreneurs I started working with 10 years ago when I launched my first business and how far they have come.
- Cash is King: CASH CASH CASH… So when I started I wanted to have 20 styles at every given time, advertise on every popular platform, and pay every blogger wearing my outfit…It all sounded fantastic on my business plan. Unfortunately reality has been very different. Contrary to popular misconceived ideas, nobody, I mean nobody works for free and you burn through so much cash if you are not careful. There are so many amazing ideas and opportunities that I have had to put on hold in order to live to sell another day.
- Rome was not built in a day: I always imagined ICONS Closet would be an over night success, everyone would love us and we would become the next Fashionnova and Chiccoture … Wrong!! It has been an uphill battle. I wake up every morning, encouraged that I survived another day. So far…365 day and counting.
- My idea of a best seller is not always right: I would say 50% of the time I get it right… I see an outfit, I think my ICONS will love this… I excitedly order it, counting how many times it will sell out. Just to be sure, I put it out on social media and I get lots of thumbs up and comments from my ICONS “we are definitely getting this” 2 months later I haven’t sold one…. I have a few of these in my mini warehouse as constant reminder.
Fashion is black and white: This is probably the most controversial…that simple…its not rocket scien