Friday, August 26, 2011

BizBlog: Step 1 to Success!


My "Adventures of an Accidental FAT-shion Designer"-titled posts are the ones for more fashion-y stuff, for my personal thoughts and processes, etc.  I also am basically having to learn business from the ground up, and that is reflected in my posts where the title starts with "BizBlog".

Step 1: Finding Ideas in Your Network

I’ve been working with a book called “10 Schritte zur erfolgreichen Existenzgr├╝ndung” (10 Steps to a Successful Startup).  The first two chapters have checklists I have used to focus my thoughts.

What is your idea like? What do you want to develop and produce, what service do you want to provide?

My idea is multi-layered, but each layer has a name, which helps distinguish them.

First, and to my mind most interesting, is Body Brilliance, my idea for a body trend based garment prototyping system.  If it works the way I imagine and hope it will, it could revolutionize how clothing is designed for and marketed to big and fat women.

Secondly, but almost as importantly, is my design label, which goes under the name Queen in my own Mind.  A side line to this is QM II, my label for unique re-design pieces.  These garments, particularly at the outset, will likely form the primary channel of income for continuing to work on the R&D phase of Body Brilliance.

When I’ve reached a point where there is enough turnover that I can open a shop, I want to start with a small place in Munich that carries QM, QMII, made-to-measure service, BB, and plus-size Tracht (German folk dress, dirndls and the like).  So long as the shop is Munich-only and boutique-like in nature, I want the name to be some interesting German synonym for fat, possibly “mollig”, “saftig” (especially since I could use this with a “z” in English-speaking countries), or “fleischig”.  (I plan to do some polling on the positive or negative connotations of various fat-synonyms with native German speakers.)

The BIG dream is to have a full-on multi-level multi-department store catering exclusively to big and fat women.  It would have everything you’d find in a clothing store for regular-size women: daily wear, formal, bridal, maternity, sleepwear, lingerie, sportswear, shoes, accessories, etc., but all chosen exclusively to cater to the larger woman and her aesthetic.  But above and beyond that, I want the shop to help large women undergo the same journey towards self-acceptance that I’ve gone through the last several years, something that would come about by interactions with the carefully-selected and -trained staff, affirmations in beautiful script on the walls, and perusal and sales copies of books like “Health at Every Size” and “Lessons from the Fat-o-sphere”.  The shop would be called BFF, which stands for “Big, Fat, and Fabulous”
, but which of course also resonates with the term “Best Friends Forever”.  This is quite intentional, as I want my store(s) and employee(s) to be like dear friends to fat women, the friends they’ve been waiting all their lives to have.

Are these or something similar already on the market?  Do you need to bear trademark rights in mind?

Not as nearly as I can tell.  There are some systems that identify three or four body types, some that adjust for height, but none that would be anywhere near as encompassing as Body Brilliance, as far as I can see.  There are certainly no plus-size labels that would begin to measure up to what I have in mind.

Can you formulate unique features of your product or your service?

Fat does not mean ugly.  Fat can be fabulous.  Big can be beautiful.  Women deserve to have clothes they feel attractive and comfortable in NO MATTER WHAT THEIR SIZE.  This is the core value of my products and services, and it is one that is drastically different from the overwhelming majority of clothing labels.

Who are your potential customers?  How do they think and feel?

Women who are fat, or big, or both.  Women who are in that nebulous in-between zone, where regular sizes are often styled too tightly, but the range of most plus-size stores doesn’t extend down far enough, often called “tweenies”.  Women who are under-represented and under-served by the mainstream fashion industry.  Women who feel alienated, ignored, or outright persecuted by most clothing stores and designers.  Women who have waited far too long to feel like valued customers and valued people in their own right, and who have had to settle for less selection, poorer available possibilities, and being badly dressed by the very industry that sells them clothing.

What use do your customers have for your product or service? What needs are being satisfied?

The need to look and feel beautiful, to have clothes that fit and flatter the body, no matter what its size.  These are needs that the plus size fashion industry is not meeting, no doubt in part by employing designers and buyers who are not themselves fat women, who do not know what fat womens’ bodies really look like, and who really don’t like fat women.  The average size fashion industry doesn’t even try.  The need here is HUGE.

What is of interest to your customers about your product or service? How will they use it?

That a clothing designer actually IS a fat woman herself, who knows and loves fat women, and who will take their desires and complaints to heart.  They will wear my clothes and look better than they ever thought they could.

How does the market for your product or service look?

Wide open.  Despite the fact that so many women are in the plus size range, the clothing market is abysmal compared to the “regular” sizes.  If you get into designer boutiques and high end clothing, the situation is even worse.

Here are a few links out of the hundreds I found:
http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/bodymeas.htm
http://articles.latimes.com/2009/mar/01/image/ig-size1
http://www.cleveland.com/style/index.ssf/2010/08/size_14_is_average_american_wo.html
http://www.usatoday.com/tech/columnist/aprilholladay/2006-12-04-size-age_x.htm
http://shopping.aol.com/articles/2008/10/30/is-plus-size-the-average-clothing-size/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plus-size_clothing
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plus-size_model
http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/fashion/news/designer-says-plussize-models-are-a-joke-2001677.html
http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/fashion/no-one-wants-to-see-curvy-women-german-designer-1801469.html
http://www.newsweek.com/2009/08/25/america-s-war-on-the-overweight.html

Which distribution channels, which contacts, could you use for sales?

I can definitely start with women I know, as I have many, many fat and tweenie friends .  I also plan, once my website is up, to get cards made that I can hand out to friends, family, acquaintances and women I meet to recruit new clients.  Every time I’ve discussed my business idea with women I’ve gotten to know, I either end up with an eager potential client, or a non-fat woman who says “my mother/sister/best friend/partner/etc. would love to be your client!”.  

In all truth, my primary fear is that my business could grow so big so fast that I wouldn’t be able to manage it, especially since I have very little practical business knowledge.  I will have to be very intentional about cultivating mentorships, asking for advice, and reading the right books to make sure that I stay on top of things.

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