My “Fleek” Advice on Starting a Fashion/Beauty Business

Big ups to Kayla Lewis on her new business venture! Oh wait you don’t know Kayla. Are you familiar with her nom de plume  Peaches Monroee? Nah? How about the “Eye Brows on Fleek” Girl?

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Yes, the young Miss Lewis is the visionary who introduced the world  to the term “ on  fleek.” Her new project is launching  a gofundme page to raise capital for a hair and makeup line. And I ain’t mad at her. I think it is important for youth of color to know that their creativity, genius and swagger is valuable. Why not profit off the slang, dances and style you invent with your friends? Kayla, I applaud you.

 

But I am unsure if she will be successful. After making a donation to her gofundme I reached out with well wishes and encouraged her to contact me for consulting advice.  I think she is making some critical mistakes that might hinder her. If you are wondering what advice I’d share, keep reading.

 

She doesn’t need $100k

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Her funding goal is $100,000. While my expertise is in fashion, I have learned about a little something called minimum viable product. In short you don’t have to have all the bells and whistles. You can go to market with one dope product and grow from there. We are drooling over pallets by Anastasia Beverly Hills because she hooked with us by focusing on brows. You can be Gucci down to the socks, but that brand began with luggage in 1921. Start small with one stellar product; make it for as little as possible and invest in marketing it to the people. I believe she can get it poppin’ for $10k.

 

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I love nurses. My sister-in-law is a nurse. God bless all the nurses, but if Kayla is gonna go  to college and start this business she is going to waste a lot of money. It would be better for her to study business, marketing, or focus on the beauty industry. She isn’t going to learn the skills that are going to help her launch her business and she will have to pay in employees and training to make up for those deficits.

 

Keep the squad small (for now)

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She states in her Gofundme summary

“Just so everyone can know my plans, with this money I plan on starting a website, get this project on legal papers with a good team of lawyers, etc and making sure my dreams come true as far as this “Fleek” thing. “

I think creating the proper legal entity is a good idea, but she doesn’t need a team of lawyers. The company Stripe actually has a product that “  automates the complicated process of starting a company into a filling out a short web form” and  “takes care of incorporating a company in Delaware, setting up a US bank account with a tax ID number, and creating a Stripe account so they can accept payments.” Sites like Legalzoom also help you establish an LLC. Due to her age, gender and ethnicity she can reach out to government agencies and non-profits for assistance in establishing a business including legal support and mentorship. Remember how I said she doesn’t need $100,000 to start this business? Don’t spend money you don’t have to mimic a business model you don’t need.

In case you are thinking of establishing a beauty brand and need some guidance, feel free to reach out. I share with fashion and beauty entrepreneurs what I have learned to save them time and money. I hope that Kayla decides to contact me for more help so that she can be super successful. 

How to film a panic free commercial for your crowdfunding campaign

“Donatella Versace. Kimora Lee Simmons. Diane Von Furstenberg. Beyonce. Oprah, Oprah,Oprah.”

If you found yourself sitting to next to a black woman nervously chanting those names on the bus, I’d like to apologize for freaking you out. I was going through some things. I figured that in my anxiety I could evoke the energy of those women when I had to step in front of the camera. I mean the blog is called Fashion Week or Die Trying, not “hide in your closet, scared”.

 

Last week I filmed my first commercial. I am using the commercial to relaunch my collection p29:18 on Indiegogo this summer.  While I know that crowdfunding campaigns  are more successful when they have a video, I was scared to make that move. I am a behind the scenes person. Yes I’m vlogging, but I’m doing that reluctantly. I decided that since my passion is to grow this business I need to throw my fears in the garbage. I don’t have the luxury to hide in the shadows. I need to employ all tactics to make this  business a success.  So if you are freaking out about filming a commercial for Facebook or a crowdfunding video, explore these tips:

 

Work with professionals

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I’m all about working with the homies, but professionals will ease your nerves. If you have been networking, you have probably added a few new associates that have the skills you need.  It was comforting to have friends on set, because I knew they had my best interest in mind. Additionally I could trust their artistry because this work pays their rent. I also hired a producer who used her network to round out the crew. You don’t have to be a Jack of all trades. You can hire people who know what to do  and learn form them.

 

Make a budget and write it down.

Money stresses me out. I’m learning to  have a more chill relationship with money, but I’m not Scrooge McDuck rich either. If you you are bootstrapping, don’t play yourself.  Create a realistic budget, discuss it with your team and pay people on time. It will help you focus on the important parts of the product.

 

Accept that your body is camera ready.

 Yo I was scared of them 4k cameras! They make everyone look crazy. Instead of being a 31 year business woman, preparing for a commercial I felt like 12 year old walking through a hallway full of bullies. I’m too damn old to be this self conscious and yet I was. I was so nervous that I couldn’t remember my lines, AND I WROTE THE SCRIPT! If  you have any insecurities know this: you are filming because you are a professional with a vision  to share with the world and you are good enough. If you hate your hair, eyes, weight, teeth, toes whatever you are good enough, do what you came to do. It is easy to  get wrapped up in this quest perfection.  Photoshop and Facetune have us  believing that only the flawless deserve to be seen. This is not true. A dope team and a smart budget can have you looking your best and you know what? Your best is good enough.

So I’m Vlogging Now

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So I’m vlogging now. I know, I know! Don’t clown me to hard. It’s a weird experience. My videos aren’t fancy and cool. I’m filming on my phone. The ultimate goal is to build up brand awareness for my relaunch of p29:18. I’m a baby vlogger for sure and have no idea what I’m doing. Check out what I’ve uploaded.

I Ain’t Mad- Why I am giving Shea Moisture the benefit of the doubt

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I’m a black woman with an internet connection so I heard about the Shea Moisture ad debacle. In case you haven’t heard, let me give you a brief synopsis. For black women hair is the biggest of deals. Mainly of us are pressured by our families, employers and romantic partners to straighten our hair. In the last decade with the help of online communities there has been a resurgence of black women backing away from dangerous chemicals and expensive weaves and embracing their natural hair.  During this movement Black owned  companies have emerged to support the unique needs of natural black hair. These companies have strong cult followings. One of those companies is Shea Moisture.

With their new campaign, many black women felt that Shea Moisture was trying to act brand new. No longer reppin’ the girls that helped them build their business, the new commercials featured 2 white women and light skin black woman with bouncy ringlets. All the women were beautiful,  no shade.  But this reminded me of those commercials from the 90’s that made  me ashamed of my tightly coiled hair. I didn’t look like the ethnically ambiguous girl in the Pantene commercial who proclaimed that her hair was so healthy it shined.

 

 

I’m grown now. I am confident and filled with self love.  I like my hair in twist, afros, weaves, braids and flat ironed to Michelle Obama perfection, but I get understand the sting. Many times black women feel like we get trends poppin’ but don’t reap the benefits. Creatives and capitalists use our support as fuel to fly far away and never return. It kind of looked like Shea Moisture was doing the same.

I believe something else though. As an black entrepreneur I want Shea Moisture to win BIG. I want them battle to Unilever and Procter & Gamble. Ten years from now I want them to be a titan that can invest in their customers as they develop new ideas. I want a black owned deodorant company and a black owned contact solution company and a black owned nail polish  all at Walgreen’s. We aren’t going to get there without companies like Shea Moisture. So after we snatching edges with shade on Twitter, let’s snatch some market share. I am excited to watch their beauty company grow. It helps me to my open my mind  on where my company can go.

 

One pantsuit nation under a lot of stress

Originally posted 11/8/16

 

As an American, I have experienced an array of emotions during this last election. My friends abroad tell me that the entire world thinks the US has lost it’s mind and I won’t disagree. The news feels more like a reunion episode of Love and Hip Hop everyday. I am saddened as more of my peers, friends and family feel disengaged in the political process. I wish we were doing more listening and reasoning. I wish there was less violence.



The only high point is the movement around Pantsuits. I’m no Olivia Pope, but I look damn good in a blazer.




I have no idea what will happen in the next few hours but I hope to see more community. If I can’t find it I will remember my ancestors and make it.  I found a few awesome people expressing themselves today and will be going out to find more. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Halloween is coming sooner every year

 Originally posted 11/13/17

Man! When I tell you that  Halloween snuck up on me this year, it sure did! I am pretty ruthless with people that are surprised by events that happen on the same day every year. Maybe this was my punishment, for my lack of empathy all those years ? Instead of the Prince costume that I was working on, I grabbed a red dress out of my closet and found some fake blood from the year before. All in all it was a chill Halloween. I went to  a friend’s show. Her Band Noody was opening for Adore Delano, of Rupal’s Drag Race Fame. 

It was was super cool and I saw some awesome costumes. Don’t call me old, because I was snug in bed at 1am. There are 52 weekends in a year. I have ample opportunity to turn up. I earned my turn in. 

What did you wear for Halloween?

K.I.S.S. – Love YSL Yves Saint Laurent at the Seattle Art Musem

 

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Originally Posted 1/9/17

I finally got around to seeing the Yves Saint Laurent exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum. It was a very hot ticket. When I tried to go on the final free Thursday event of the exhibit’s run, there was a two hour wait. Instead I purchased a ticket for the following Saturday. Even then there were people lined up for up to 15 minutes prior to their ticket times. I found out once inside this was to control the number of people in the exhibit. It got very crowded and chatty at times, and I appreciate SAM’s efforts to curb that.

For me I usually like to quietly experience art. I look, and read and think about what I am viewing. In the case of fashion exhibits, I look closely at techniques and design for inspiration. While musems can be fun dates and hangouts, I have a great time on my own.

My main takeaway from the exhibit was simplicity. Remember the acronym K.I.S.S.? In case you aren’t familiar it stands for “keep it simple, stupid”. Well, I certainly felt YSL’s spirit giving me a big ole K.I.S.S. With solitary focuses and impeccable fitting, while he could do a lot, he usually choose not to. The exhibit showed sketches from his production process as well as finished garments, films and photography. As was evident from his childhood illustrations, YSL could draw, but his illustrations were very simple and over croquis that remained the same for decade long stretches of time. Still a little insecure from my days as a fashion student, I don’t draw a lot. I get frustrated that the image on the paper isn’t as beautiful as the image in my mind. It has be en a long time since I drew just to express my imagination. This maybe hindering me.

Half way through the exhibit, my phone went dead. Sorry. Even sadder it was in my favorite room of the exhibit. Piercing through the darkness was an elevated mannequin under a spotlight. The mannequin wore a black velvet dress with a brown fox draped over it’s shoulder. The fox wore a thin graphic gold muzzle connected to a gold chain that tethered it to the mannequin. They both were placed upon a case filled with  costume jewelry. A contemporary audience  would consider a lot of it garish, but I fell in love in that room. From the vibes of the treasure trove I saw the special pieces my grandmother saved for Sunday morning and the items my mother would defiantly wear on the number 2 bus. It was the type of bounty you’d expect in the closet of Elizabeth Taylor;  her brushing off your awe saying “ you mean this old thing?” Yves Saint Laurent encouraged his customer to dress head to toe in black, but to accessorize with passion. Why don’t we still dressed this way?!

In the following rooms I quickly sketched  a few  looks. I enjoyed not being concerned with the results. I definitely need to continue that spirit in my work. I can’t wait until the next fashion event the Seattle Art Museum.

 

 

Check out my photos from the exhibit.

 

Showtime at the Washington Hall

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Originally Posted 11/17/16

Yesterday I went to a pitch competition for Seattle Start up week. Billed as a blend of  amateur night at the Apoll and Shark Tank, Showtime at Washington Hall featured a happy hour, live dj, podcasters Hella Black Hella Seattle as hosts and 5 black entrepreneurs from all over the world. At a pitch competition entrepreneurs get the opportunity to describe their business and investors provide cash prizes to the best business.  It’s a great way to fund your venture and create buzz about your  upcoming projects. In addition to being a cool scene, I was inspired and learned a lot.  I am not creating some  future “unicorn”  status app, but one thing I think fashion companies lack is business knowledge. In a room with investors  you need to be able to show that you know what is going on with your business. Here are some questions I wrote down that I am going to add into my business plan:
Who is your Target Market? How big is that market?

How did you determine your pricing?

What is your exit strategy?

What is your proof of concept?

How will you reach your target market?

Where will your company be in a year?

How are you going to use the money you are asking for?

How will you build your team?

Seeing  people that look like you, making moves is always inspiring. I also got the opportunity to learn something as well. Not bad for a Wednesday night. I will attend other events for Seattle Start Up Week to connect with business people of color. What are you learning that will help you move forward with your dreams?

How to Fabric Shop in New York

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Originally Posted 9/19/16

 

Sourcing in New York; nothing sounds more elite. “Oh sorry. I‘m gonna be  in New York that weekend. Going on a hunt for some polyester softshell.” That statement right there will make anyone’s eyes pop out of their head. So yeah, enjoy the ego boost, but afterward you are going to have to get to work. It’s fun,  but you will enjoy it more if you are prepared. Here are a couple of tips to make  that process easier.

Know the difference between jobbers and wholesalers

Kathleen Fasanela of Fashion-Incubator ( one of my faves. BUY THE BOOK) defines Jobbers as  “fabric suppliers who sell mill ends, odd lots and seconds”.  Great for smaller manufacturers, but not in cases where one needs to reorder. They do not guarantee quantities for reorder or that the coloring of the fabric will be the same in the future. What you order to sample your collection may not be there when it’s time to produce your orders. Personally, I need to build relationships with wholesale dealers and fabric reps that offer low minimums. A jobber won’t allow me to stay lean and competitive. You will find a lot of jobbers in the garment district, but if they meet your needs, shop on.

Dress Comfortably

Initially I wanted to dress up to “ look like a designer,” but all that is garbage. I was in New York in August. I was sweaty, my makeup was running and my blown out afro was the victim of massive shrinkage. It was all for naught. Be comfortable. You don’t have to be flashy. You are a designer shopping for product; you deserve to be there.  Worry more about the flights of stairs you are going to climb in the garment district and the New York weather. Heels in January and suits in July are probably a bad move.

Don’t be scared to make friends

New York has a reputation for rude residents. I have found that New Yorkers are direct, but not mean.  So be polite and ask questions. You  will get tips on  where to go to get what you need. I met a number of good people who pointed  me to stores that I would never have known about.

Bring twice as many business cards as you thought you would need

I ran out of cards. Don’t run out of cards. Give your cards out liberally and make sure they are accurate. This is an awesome opportunity to network. You will be meeting potential suppliers and customers. Make sure to leave them with a tangible memory  of your conversation.

Know what you need

Do a little fabric research before your trip. By knowing what you need you can communicate with ease and avoid wasting time somewhere you don’t need to be.  I learned that many of the dealers I interacted with were not familiar with the outerwear fabric I am using.  It helped that I could describe it as synthetic performance fabric used for outerwear. It would have helped even more to have a swatch as well.  To get familiar with fabrics, read a few books. I have the Fabric Glossary (third edition) by  Mary Humphries. When you stop by Mood ( because you will got to mood) they have a great book as well.

Scoprah Got Me Together – Power Moves 2016

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Originally posted 10/13/16

This Saturday I went to a business talk. The organizer is presenting women in business who have made impacts in non conventional ways. Her first speaker in her series was  Nicole Walters. Honestly I knew nothing of Nicole. I learned she started as a natural hair blogger and expanded her brand to a point where she could leave her job at a fortunate 500 company. Crazy, huh?  You ain’t heard nothin’ yet. SHE QUIT HER JOB ON PERISCOPE! After peacing out on the comfort and prestige of corporate life, she grew her online business and morphed into an Income Strategist. Now she teaches courses online utilizing her blogging success and corporate experience. To her dedicated following of online students, she is also considered an expert on the new live streaming platform and affectionately called Scoprah or the Oprah of Periscope.

After hearing all of this, you are probably thinking that  she sold us some get rich quick scheme for 10 easy payments of $99.99. No. What happened in that modest theater was something more beautiful. She shared her personal story as the daughter of working class immigrants in DC. I fought back tears as she described a childhood experiences that mirrored my own. Like her I was taught that I was born into this world with 2 strikes against me: I’m female and black ( a third if you count not coming from money). I also didn’t believe that those characteristics justified the differences I saw between my life, and the life of wealthier people. As she talked about the businessmen and politicians her father drove in his cab, I remembered being 4 and wondering why my house was so much smaller than the mansions on “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” (#80sbaby). “My mommy is just as beautiful as these ladies on TV.” I would think. “ She’s just as smart. SHE’S BETTER! WE SHOULD HAVE A MANSON!”
I think we all need confirmation. I occasionally reminisce on the little girl that thought those things, but I’ve learned to not always openly share her ambition. Not everyone is comfortable with it. In that intimate dark theater, I got choked up thinking that someone felt the way I felt and they did exactly what they said they wanted to do. It let me know that I wasn’t (and am still not) crazy.  Even if Nicole never shared another thing with us I would have been satisfied. Instead she went on to discuss how legal representation, sales, and customer service  can help us grow our business. We even talked about taxes. NO ONE EVER WANTS TO TALK ABOUT TAXES! I love learning all of the accounting and taxes things because if your books aren’t right you can lose your business. It happens all the time.  I will certainly be going to November’s talk. If you are in Seattle  you should come and check it out. Below are some words from Nicole: