Happy 5 blog years in Ottawa

January 26, 2016

I forgot that on January 18, 2011, I launched EF Magazine here in Ottawa, five year ago now. I know, how could I!? It was a Facebook post by a friend of mine that reminded me of the party.

I had been in town since 2008 and using an old blog template for EF. With my trustee new laptop, (geeze, five years already with this baby too and still ticking!) I refreshed the blog using iWeb and threw a party at Flock Boutique. More than 100 people showed up to show me their support and it was such a great feeling. Thyme & Again donated delicious hors d’oeuvres for my guests and my cousin surprised me from England. Friends showed up, strangers showed up, and some of those strangers have since become dear friends.

Five years later, I’ve met wonderful new people, made great connections and partnerships, and am gradually posting more and more about starting up the shop. Once the shop is live in August, I’ll transfer EF to the shop’s blog page. The new blog will be the shop’s storytelling platform. You’ll read engaging interviews with our designers, read about Canada’s budding sustainable fashion industry, learn about the advantages and disadvantages of designing sustainably in Canada, and get a behind-the-scenes look at running the shop. I’ll try to make it as seamless a transition for you as possible and I hope you can follow me on this journey.

Fashion startup: tackling the business plan

January 17, 2016

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I haven’t given a proper update on the progress of the shop in a while and I figured it was time for one. I’m thrilled to say that I received startup funding from Futurpreneur in November (thank you Futurpreneur). I had to submit a business plan to apply, and my friend Maureen Dickson from Slow Fashion Forward told me that Futurpreneur had a user-friendly online business plan template that she recommended I use.

What a great tool. Each section gives instructions on what to include as well as examples of text from different sectors to give a clear idea of exactly what to write and what to omit. Even if you aren’t applying for funding through Futurpreneur, you can use the free online template and rearrange or delete the sections to fit your needs. You can download the plan as a Word document and work on it from your desktop. Oh, and a real plus, you can download the financial sections into Excel and they have a lot of automated fields (a life-savour for somewhat business math illiterate people like me).

DeathtoStock_CreativeSpace4 11.45.06 AMMarket size

The one section that stumped me for quite a while was the market one. In this section, which is one of the most important if you ask me, I had to not only provide a detailed description of my ideal target market, but also identify, as well as possible, how big this market share was. I searched Statistics Canada and other online sources for population figures, but the consumption of sustainable fashion items, especially online consumption, is too granular of an activity to be captured by census at the moment.

After weeks and months of trying to pin down a number, I decided to take the number of Canadian women that shop online, which was available on Stats Canada’s site, and then out of these women, find the number of them that are in my target market age range (also a regular stat). I had a separate percentage that represented how many women bought clothing and accessories online, but again, it didn’t specify whether or not the clothing was sustainable or not, let alone whether the purchases were for themselves or their children, etc.

Resources

  • Statistics Canada
  • Online news articles on sustainable fashion
  • Online news articles on online shopping
  • Online industry articles on online shopping
  • Online industry articles on sustainable consumerism
  • Google is your best friend

*Don’t forget to site your sources at the bottom of each page where you refer to them. This also helps you keep track of where you got each piece of information.

DeathtoStock_Creative Community9Financials

I’m not, as I’ve said before, a numbers person. But I knew that if I wanted to apply for funding and if I want to run a successful e-commerce business, I had to get my feet wet in Excel. The good thing about crunching numbers for your business is that your excitement about the business and your motivation to get it going fuels you to stay focused and to pay attention to the numbers.

So what do you have to consider?

First off, how many clothing items and accessories do you want to buy? To answer this question, you need to figure out the average cost of each product. To get this number, I contacted several designers that I was interested in buying from and looked at the wholesale prices of their products. I averaged out the price by adding up the cost of each time and dividing that total by how many types of items I’d buy. This gave me my product cost – how much the item would cost me to buy.

Example:
  • Pair of pants – $50 cost price
  • Blouse – $60 cost price
  • Sweater – $80 cost price
  • Dress – $90 cost price
  • Total = $280/4 = $70 (average cost per product)

Next, I had to figure out how many items I wanted to buy and how many of each size. I asked the owners of an online shop in the UK how many of each size they bought. They said to keep things small and only offer two to three of each size per item. With this in mind, I started writing out my list of items, sizes and quantities per size.

Example:

Pant #1 – $50 cost price, two size 2, two size 4, two size 6, two size 8, two size 10 = 10 total = $500

Pant #2 – $65 cost price, two size 2, two size 4, two size 6, two size 8, two size 10, two size 12 = 12 total = $780

Blouse – $55 cost price, one size XS, two size S, two size M, two size L, two size XL = 9 total = $495

Top – $45 cost price, one size XS, two size S, two sizse M, two size L, two size XL = 9 total = $405

Total cost of inventory sample = $2,180

Product price

From here, I knew that the wholesale price was about 50 percent of the sale price, so I knew that an item that costs me $50 to buy would sell for $100. This is my product price. In an ideal world, if I sold all of my sample inventory above at sale price by the end of the year, I’d make 2,180 x 2 = $4,360 in sales.

Expenses

Don’t forget, this sales total isn’t what I’d get to take home. I’d have to deduct all of my business expenses from that year, including initial start-up costs and operational costs. The startup costs are one-time expenses to get the business up and running such as the incorporation fee, initial inventory costs, and branding. The operational costs are regular expenses such as shipping, office supplies, taxes, web hosting and advertising.

To calculate how much you’ll make in net sales in one year, you have to take your gross sales of $4,360 and deduct your expenses. What’s left is your net profit.

What I liked about Futurpreneur’s Excel cashflow sheet is that I could easily play around with the number of items I plan to sell and see how those figures affected by total net profit. Obviously, the more items you sell, the more money you make, but your expenses also go up. This sheet calculated all of this for you so long as you included all of your start-up and operational costs properly.

This is a sample of some tips I learned while writing my business plan. Remember, as long as you show the promise of generating revenue and of revenue growth in year two and so on, you have a better chance of getting funding. Funders want to see that you have put a lot of time and effort into your plan and that your business has great potential to succeed.

DeathtoStock_Creative Community10Last-minute business planning tips

  • Be reasonable in your sales projections. Don’t say you’re going to make $50,000 in sales in year one if in reality you can only afford to buy enough inventory to make $20,00o. Each sale takes time to make, from promotion to basic shipping, only take on as much as you can handle.
  • Don’t be afraid to start small. I work full-time, so realistically, if I don’t want to run myself into the ground and lose my job, I can’t spend additional eight hours a day processing and shipping a hundred orders each day when I’m already working 8.5 hours a day. I have to start small, keep the business demands manageable so that I can do things well and scale up when the numbers add up.
  • Read. Read sample business plans and talk to people you know in accounting, banking and funding. I asked a few friends who work in these sectors to review my draft plan with me, especially the financials. Their advice and help was wonderful and reassuring for me.
  • Take your time. If you have the time, take it. No one wants to write a business plan under fire. Then again, I know that some times I work well under pressure, but there are some aspects of a business plan that take time. You can’t pull figures out of your derriere and expect them to be right.
  • Remember that your business plan is a living document. Once it’s done, I encourage you to continually refer to it and update it as your business takes off. You may learn that your client base is a different demographic than what you had predicted. Write this in. You may find that your marketing messaging has changed over the years, write this in too. Your business plan is there to help you put on paper your idea but to also guide you along the way and to record your thoughts as your business develops.

Slow business in a fast world

January 14, 2016

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I just finished reading Sophia Amoruso’s first book, #girlboss. It was short and sweet, pro-capitalist, pro continued business expansion, the sky’s the limit, etc., etc. I gobbled it up in only a few hours, and it gave me a great kick in the pants to keep up the hustle and get my online shop up and running. But it conflicted a lot with my personal values as a mindful consumer and my professional values as a sustainable entrepreneur.

I’m now reading Stitched Up: The anti-capitalist book of fashion by Tansy E. Hoskins, and the two books have become the yin and yang to my business ideology. #girlboss is motivational, it makes you feel like a business rockstar and has you saying “I got this!” I appreciate Amoruso’s hustle, she has a bunch of helpful tips for any entrepreneur, young or old, girl or boy.

Stitched Up, on the other hand, is more of an academic overview of the fashion industry, it’s history, the good, the bad, and the ugly. It has reminded me of the “why” of my new business. I don’t just want to sell clothing. I want to sell sustainably made, ethically made clothing from Canada. I don’t want to sell as much as I can and as quickly as I can, I want to sell just enough to make this business my full-time job in the next two years or so. I don’t want to push my clients to buy more now and as often as they can, I want to encourage mindful consumption and making purchases that make sense for them.

My shop, which will launch in August, will walk a fine line between commerce and consciousness. I live in a capitalist society, in a capitalist world, one in which money talks. I’m not going to turn my back on it all and throw my hands up in the air, that won’t do any good for the sustainable fashion movement. Instead, I’m going to work within the system of money for product, and help sustainable designers carve out a place for their products and their ideologies.

If you ask me to envision the world of fashion twenty years from now, I’d tell you that I see an industry in which every product is made within a closed-loop system. Everything that is taken from the earth is put back. I see plant-based textiles that biodegrade. I see harmless, alternative dyes and innovative “smart” materials that change shape, colour and texture based on the wearer’s wants. I see modular clothing that encourages less consumption because each piece is more than one item of clothing. A skirt can become shorts, pants can become shorts and a shirt can become a headband. A jacket can become a vest and a tank top can become a hooded one. People buy fewer clothing items because they understand the importance of consuming less to preserve resources and reduce waste. The industry itself is smaller, but it is great. It is innovative, at the cutting-edge of technology and design, and a contributor to the greater good.

My shop is going to contribute, in a small way at least, to this vision. I hope you can join me on this exciting journey and share in this new image of fashion.

The selfish Christmas wishlist

December 5, 2015

I'm all about comfort and chic all in one | https://www.etsy.com/ca/listing/247099804/lounge-jumpsuit?ref=related-3

I must confess; I like to treat myself to the odd gift or two while Christmas shopping for my loved ones. Don’t you dare judge me! Don’t! I’ve been particularly active on Etsy these days, discovering wonderfully talented artisans and shop owners from all over the world. Since I’ve done a lot of the legwork, I figured I might as well share my finds with you (in case you’re still not sure where to start with your list). First off, my personal Christmas wishlist!

LE LIST POUR MOI

Can’t go wrong shopping vintage

December 1, 2015

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1990’s Ivory Quilted Drawstring Bucket Bag

I’ve often said that second-hand shopping is my favourite way to shop ethically and sustainably. I’m only now able to spend a bit more and buy contemporary eco-fashion labels and even then, my budget is small, so I  understand what it’s like shopping with a tight wallet. Today is Dec. 1st, and I am going to rely on some Etsy shopping to fill my family members’ stocking stuffers, that’s for certain. It’s just so fun, so many options!

Thanks to this thing called “the Internet” (capital “i”) shoppers have more online, second-hand shopping options. We’re no longer limited to our local Value Village or Thrift Store. Etsy is definitely the most popular choice for second-hand shopping online, and I spend more time than I care to admit browsing its many shops.

How second-hand shopping is ethical and sustainable

  • Economically sustainable for consumers, therefore more affordable
  • Helps reduce the amount of clothing waste that ends up in landfills each year
  • Doesn’t support fast-fashion companies that rely on slave and/or child labour
  • Doesn’t support fast-fashion companies that rely on environmentally detrimental practices
  • Doesn’t help contribute funds to local charities (The Salvation Army, for example)
  • Supports local second-hand shops
  • Supports small online businesses (through Etsy, for example)
  • Doesn’t contribute funds to leather and fur industries

Here are more vintage shops I’ve recently found on Etsy.

Love Signs Vintage

Brown Bag Vintage

Oiseau Vintage

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