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Five Lessons for Fashion Designers from Ohne Titel’s Closure

Ohne Titel had one hell of a run, but the brand’s founders and Parsons graduates Alexa Adams and Flora Gill realized one essential thing, a strategic partner was necessary for growth. As a fashion entrepreneur a net revenue of $2.5M in 2015 sounds incredible, but most fail to realize the administrative and legal ramifications present at that scale. This overwhemingly tends to be the true Achilles heel of small fashion business, inability to scale for growth. That of course applies to the few that can make it to a point of living profitability as many companies shutter prior to realizing even $100,000 in revenue.

However, many of the same entrepreneurs scoff at the mere mention of leveraging an agency relationship. For one, some entrepreneurs visualize a cannibalistic relationship, where the agency gorges on the profits of the smaller brand while providing a turnkey service. For others, the mentality becomes that of a one person army, capable of juggling all facets of their business, from marketing to tech to production to admin to business development and more. Yet still, for a few others, the agency simply focuses on big words and advanced metrics, such as social customer sentiment or share of voice, that mean little to the business owner and don’t translate to dollars and sense.

But the closure of Ohne Titel is a great lesson for many entrepreneurs as although Alexa and Flora were extremely talented, both in forecasting trends and designing envy-inducing frocks, both have openly admitted how little prepared they were for the realities of handling the business and worst yet for scaling it. Here are a few lessons on how a branding strategy or marketing agency could spur your growth:

More Time for More Essentials

Today only a foolhardy business doesn’t recognize the value of a tweet or post, sees no value in influencer relations or isn’t interested in media opportunities or published content. Fewer still want to optimize ad spend, plan every single detail of an event or analyze ecommerce and traffic reports to find trends to improve conversion. Yet many findthemselves handling this daily rather than spending critical hours connecting with retailers, improving merchandising or other functions that affect business growth in 3 to 6 months. The right agency works with their clients in not only building this branding but also strengthening core operations.

‘Turnkey’ Solutions Provide Stability

While many an entrepreneur bemoans the concept of turnkey strategies for building their brand, many of the same products and services they use for business operations are turnkey. For accounting and finances, Quickbook remains the go-to small business solution. When designing a website, many turn to Squarespace or Shopify or WordPress. For email marketing, so many turn to Mailchimp or Constant Contact. When scheduling social media, most have Buffer, Tweetdeck or Hootsuite. When managing wholesale accounts, many use Pipedrive or Salesforce.

Turnkey products enable businesses to more quickly and efficiently acclimate to tools that solve common products that face all businesses. Many agencies have go to strategies and products that similarly streamline their process, which in turn allows for greater scalability and customization. This provides the client with unique insight from highly tuned tools and strategies that the agency has successfully employed in the past.

Agencies Often Do More

Agencies often provide more value than a fashion entrepreneur can anticipate, as the goal of an agency or external team is to help the business more easily achieve their goals. In doing so, agencies often do more than what they are employed for. This can be as simple as a website management team providing suggestions that make it easier for the fashion designer to update a mailing list quickly or branding agency providing helpful examples of how creative PR could be employed to help with a new lookbook campaign. Typically, this added value comes outside of the expected arena of assistance for the agency, like a marketing agency helping to build wholesale relations for their clients.

Agencies Provide Invaluable Expertise

While some entrepreneurs start their company after working with famous design houses or after experience in buying / merchandising for larger firms, neither scenario prepares the owner for the full scope of managing a business day to day. It’s even worst for those on their first rodeo or fresh from the campuses of FIT or Parsons, who openly admit their education ill prepares them for competing in a digital world.

Enter the marketing agency, typically built by professionals with years of experience working with or for small or large fashion brands or in other agencies and consultancies with a breadth of experience in more than just how to craft a compelling social strategy. Also as many agencies are also small businesses, they bring their own experience in managing finances, staffing talent, expanding operations and building clientele, something all businesses have in common.

Agencies Recognize their Weaknesses

Good agencies won’t presume to know your business better than you, but they also know how their strengths and weaknesses can potentially impact your business growth. For example, very strong branding agencies sometimes contract web development agencies to better their creativity. Or a Sales Agency may employ a lead generation firm to help it acquire new leads in a region it’s not established in. A marketing agency may utilize an influencer or talent agency to build relationships with key clientele and so on.

Good agencies will be open and honest about areas where they can provide assistance or where they may need other professionals. After all, the goal is to provide the best resources to fuel your brand’s growth, which sometimes is outside the umbrella of that particular agency. In saying this, it doesn’t mean an agency is ill suited to help grow your brand. On the contrary, it means that the agency is totally committed to your brand’s growth and will provide the most credible expertise at your budget level.

Featured Image: Vogue

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