In Review | AFC Finance & Business Plans Seminar
Words: Alexandra Briscoe
The Business Planning and Finance Seminar took place in July at the AMP Capital Towers overlooking a beautiful morning. With speakers Gabrielle Manning, Lizzie Renkert, Jim Softis and Alicia Kemp from AMP Capital facilitating the event, the knowledge and experience was well rounded and covered a lot of ground.
Gabrielle Manning of Manning Cartell shared with the audience the experience which comes from running a successful fashion business in Australia (and soon to launch in the US) for twelve years. Lizzie Renkert comes from the very different approach of an emerging business of three years in a very different retail climate. The two compared the differences between operating their businesses and their approach to business planning and financing in Australia and the massive change the internet and shopping online has made to running a fashion business. Financial consultant Jim Softsis of Crowe Horwarth gave the valuable outside perspective on fashion financing and his experience in working with Australian fashion businesses in an international financial consultancy firm.
Lizzie Renkert spoke about understanding the importance of experience - you can’t have enough of it. She and her sister, Georgie both worked different industries before starting their own label We Are Kindred. Renkert reminded the audience to remember that the biggest weakness is not acknowledging your own weaknesses and being too proud - or too unaware - to seek help from professionals.
Says Manning: “You can never have too much experience”. Running your own business is one of the biggest undertakings one will ever go through and it doesn’t get easier faster. It’s a full time job, round the clock career and having a business plan is essential. Jim Softsis advised what a financial consultant is looking for in a business, potential or otherwise. A business plan is the number one way to assess the best way to approach financing. Do you get a loan, an investor or do you self fund? Sitting down and dedicating the time to getting the planning right saves you time and money (and heartache) in the long run. The time old adage ‘measure twice, cut once’ applies to fashion in more way than one.
The three agree retailing has changed in the last decade. Traditional retailing is already a term used to refer to the of bricks-and-mortar retailing as the main delivery to customer method, and online sales are a disjointed, unconnected entity of the business. Traditional retail is becoming a marketing cost to many savvy business operators. Most people prefer to shop online, especially those of the under thirty age bracket, however the value of a face-to-face and bricks-and-mortar presence can’t be undervalued.
Manning spoke of how important retail locations have been for growth in the business and choosing the right location is everything. Getting the balance of foot traffic,demographic and the surrounding retailers. Manning Cartell has always understood the importance of being able to interact directly with their customers while We Are Kindred operates on a very different model. Predominantly an online label, they have only recently dipped their toe into the world of bricks-and-mortar retailing with a pop-up location. Renkert acknowledges they may not get the sales directly from the pop-up store to think it was a profitable location, but it has helped build brand loyalty, with their online sales soaring.
Knowing which method of retailing suits your business is part instinct and part planning. Jim Softsis advised instinct plays an important role of business planning, knowing your product and knowing your customer are the best ways to succeed and has seen first hand fashion businesses go under because the planning just wasn’t there to support the business. He points out that it’s much easier to get your plan right in the beginning then to try and go back and change everything later once the business is up and running. The same way it’s better to invest in a good pair of shoes you know will last you the distance, it’s better to get your system and plan right in the beginning. Invest now for payoff later.
Softsis reminds everyone before they leave: “Don’t forget why you got into fashion. If you think you have the right product and the right business model start getting out there and getting that advice to get you off the ground. Talk to everyone you can.”
TIPS: Invest now, reap rewards later! Investing in good systems from the beginning, whether that’s your distribution method or your computer operating system, take the time and money to get it right from the beginning.
Ask for advice in and out of the fashion industry. Financial consultants can offer invaluable advice to emerging designers and budding businesses, but so can other small business owners and the head pattern maker from a big brand. Always be on the lookout for ways to learn, and people to learn from.
Spend time in planning out your business plan. It may take months or even a year. There’s no right or wrong way or time to spend on your plan.
Getting the right team is as important as having a business plan. Knowing you can trust people to do it well and do it right is one of the most important parts of a business, and learning how to let go and delegate is essential.