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The Entrepreneur Mind: Business Person or Designer?

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Caribbean fashion has been growing at a steady pace, with fashion designers beginning to show a keen awareness of haute couture. Their pieces look excellent on the catwalk, with tall, leggy mannequins strutting their stuff in a glamorous atmosphere. The ‘fashion-istas’ in the audience are lapping it up, and the fashion artistes are savoring the glory, thinking about the big sales they are about to receive after the show.{{more}}

Then something strange happens. Hardly any orders are made after the show. The fashion designers are puzzled. “The audience adored my work. Why aren’t they rushing to buy my works of art?” Here’s a possible reason – your potential buyers are not fashion models. They can’t all fit into the show dresses, which usually have so many fitting needles that it’s a wonder no model bleeds to death. You see, an artist uses his/her blood, sweat and tears to create one-of-a-kind masterpieces. These works usually are high-priced and their worth is exclusively appreciated by the image-conscious, affluent few. Although the sales can bring high profits, purchases are rare because the demand level is very low.

Even the internationally-known fashion designers such as Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, and even P-Diddy understand that to make money in the clothing market, the catwalk styles must translate to meet the body requirements for the everyday shopper. Body structure or ergonomics have to be studied to provide the most comfortable fit for all sizes. Mass production manufacturing issues have to be addressed. Ingredients like labor and equipment, marketing, distribution channels and logistics are factors to consider when going into product development.

So here’s the question – “Are you a Business Person, or a Designer?”

You are a Business Person if. . .

• You are prepared to devote significant amounts of time to non-design endeavors.

• You are prepared to start a whole new business, like managing non-design things, like the business side of design, enjoy the mechanics and logistics of production, like solving production-related problems in hands-on ways, and don’t mind travel.

• You are prepared to find money or invest your own money to develop your idea, willing to invest operating capital back into the business, and don’t mind managing cash flow.

• You don’t mind employing staff/freelance resources, like managing people, respond to change well, and enjoy solving non-design problems.

• You desire total control over all aspects of manufacturing and marketing, and managing every detail is important to you.

• You are good at juggling many things at once, don’t mind change, and are easy-going.

• You have good planning skills, have the ability to prioritize, can see yourself doing well in selling situations, and work well with a wide range of personalities.

You are a Designer if. . .

• You want to spend the majority of your time designing, allowing you to do the upfront, conceptual work and let someone else deal with the manufacturing tasks.

• You have little desire to learn about or take responsibility for non-design activities such as product costing, managing inventory and handling returns.

• You are opposed to risk, preferring situations with relatively low degree of risk.

• You like to work completely independently, want to be able to work on one thing at a time, and like to start and stop projects when you feel like it.

• You don’t like pressure.

Designers must look at entrepreneurship from a different perspective than business persons. Because designers seek a high degree of creative freedom, licensing their product designs to established consumer goods manufacturers is a strategic method of delegating the responsibility of managing non-design activities. Depending on the product licensing agreement, the designer can still have power over the quality of the final product, the authority over how the product will be marketed, and even which retail stores can carry the product line. Designers are paid royalties, which can be like sales commissions at standard industry percentages, or a monthly paycheck from profits. Whether you are ready for a major change, or just wanting to try something new, if you’re planning to do it for the long term, make sure it fits your personality and style.

* Roland Nicholas is the Brand Marketing Director of Brand Coral, LLC, a brand management consultancy in Atlanta, Georgia USA. Vincentian-born, Roland has 10 years of education and experience in product development and corporate identity communication. Inquiries are welcomed at rnicholas@brandcoral.com (www.brandcoral.com).

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