Today I received a great question from an aspring footwear designer. A young woman who wants to start her own footwear label. Which I answered in depth in an email but then I thought, 'this advice is too valuable - it needs to come out of my sent box and onto my blog where others can benefit from it.
Question: Do you have any advice on becoming successful within the industry?
You need lots of money, never underestimate how expensive it will be. Budget around £50,000 for your first two years, then you'll probably need the same again. It may take you 3 years to show a small profit. When Tamara Mellon launched Jimmy Choo as a ready to wear footwear brand, it was with a loan of about £130,000. People weren't automatically wowed by what she did, she had to invest. But she also knew all of the right people to promote her brand, she had worked at Vogue.
You need a unique selling point. There is absolutely no point doing what Louboutin does, or Nike does, buyers will buy Louboutin and Nike, because they know the quality is good and their deliveries are on time. Why should they take the risk with something which is the same but has the added risk of being new? They won't. Give buyers a reason to buy your shoes. It is fine to be a fan of Louboutin but if you simply copy him you won't emulate his success.
You have to be reliable - all your deliveries on time and good quality. The harsh truth is that you will only get one chance at this when you are a newbie. Deliver late once when your brand is not established and you've lost your chance, buyers will not risk their budget with you again.
You have to have an excellent pr and media strategy behind you. Because people need to know you exist in order to buy your shoes. I have seen amazing websites and product but no one knows who these people are nor do they visit their website because the brand owner did not understand how to manage social media, or the web or have grasped properly what they should do to promote themselves. So employ someone who understands how to do this or read as many blogs and articles and books as you can about pr, marketing and social media and learn how to do it yourself. In a way new shoe designers are luckier than they have ever been - you can now market your ideas to the world from your bedroom if you know what to do.
You have to have good contacts - some buying teams will simply not speak to new designers. You need to be creative to find a way in. If you don't have these contacts then nurture them. How? Don't ask me!
You have to have a good business head on your shoulders. Not only creative in design but creative in the business arena. What will you do to stand out?
You have to be able to learn to use your own initiative - no book or training course is going to tell you absolutely everything in a step-by-strep-way - I often get asked how to do things but I don't have all the answers - you do, you just need to awaken to them.
Photo credit: Photo of Shoe Designer Christian Louboutin from www.madaboutparis.com