Published: July 29, 2020 Updated: March 27, 2023 10 min read
One of the hardest parts about starting a clothing line is getting everything done. When you work for yourself there is no boss breathing down your neck to meet targets, so, you need to rely on your own self accountability. For the initial startup phase, you are the designer, salesperson, marketer, and intern - that's a lot of roles to fill. But, by learning how to use the SMART project plan to manage self accountability before you get started, you can organize yourself for success.
After speaking with so many of you that want to start your own sustainable and ethical businesses what I learned is that part of the reason you are willing to pay thousands of dollars for a course, is that the coaching component creates accountability and forces you to meet your goals. Well, guess what? You don't need to hire a coach. You can do it yourself, with a SMART plan.
The great thing about the SMART plan is that it can be used for all aspects of your business, and even you're life. For all the hats that you wear, each one needs its own SMART plan to keep you organized while goal setting.
When you start to take any other lessons in the course, always come back to this lesson on setting goals and worksheets. Because it will give you the tools you need to succeed. No more excuses, its time to get your business started.
The great thing about a SMART plan is that it is really quick and easy once you get the hand of it. And, it's super impactful in helping you reach your business goals and objectives.
Things like budgeting, business plans, and finding the perfect customer to target can all take a lot of time to get right. Sometimes, as long as months. When things take that long, it is easy for them to slip through the cracks or become delayed.
SMART Plans are great for those moments where as a founder you are like, wow, I have so much to do I don't even know where to start. A SMART goal setting is basically your BFF that says ok, slow down, let's talk this out, and set a plan.
SMART is an acronym for
Specific - Be clear and conscious.
Measurable - Criteria is set to determine if the goal is met or not.
Achievable - The goal is something concrete that can be done.
Relevant/Realistic - The goal is possible.
Timely - Set a time limit.
Most of you are probably here with the broad goal that you want to start a clothing line. That's a great start. But, for the SMART system to work you need to get more specific.
The first step in getting specific is to look at the 5 W's - who, what, where, when, and why.
Who - Who is going to be involved in making this goal happen?
What - What am are you trying to do?
Where - Where will the goal be achieved?
When - By when do you want to achieve the goal?
Why - Why is this goal important?
So we started with "I want to start a clothing line" Then let's apply the 5 W's
Who - The who is you, you are starting this clothing line.
What - The what, is starting a clothing line.
Where - Will your clothes be sold online, at markets, or in retail stores?
When - The when, is super important in fashion. If you spend 6 months designing a spring line, but miss the spring season, you just wasted a ton of money!
Why - Why are you doing this? For many of my readers, they want to gain the financial independence of being a small business owner while doing something they enjoy.
So, taking all that into account, our new goal might be something like this -
I (who) want to start a clothing line (what), that will retail on my website (where) by spring 2021 (when) as the first step in my journey of becoming a small business owner and gaining financial independence (why).
Do you see the difference? And, this works for everything that you are doing. I will give, even more examples of how to use SMART plans at the end of this post.
The SMART goal needs to have measurable criteria. Simple checks that you can say, yes, I did that, I am self accountable for this. Without having these checks it becomes hard to hold yourself accountable to the goal.
When setting the metrics for your SMART goal, think about the following questions.
Now, let's go back to our specific goal.
I want to start a clothing line, that will retail on my professional website by spring 2021 as the first step in my journey of becoming a small business owner and gaining financial independence.
How many or how much?
For most of the brands, I start with I say they should produce at least 20 pieces of each style.
When will I know if I have reached my goal?
80% of your inventory will be sold out.
What are the key indicators of progress?
The key indicators of progress are completing each step in starting a clothing line as outlined in the virtue + vice free project course.
And, guess what? Each of the steps of progress should have their own SMART plan to help make them more manageable.
Your goal needs to be achievable. Everyone wants to become the next Reformation or Eileen Fisher. And, while it's great to dream. It's also really easy to feel like a complete and total failure when you are first starting out. To keep yourself motivated, you need to celebrate small success.
That is why achievable goals are so important. And, why I recommend only starting out with 20 pieces per style to sell. The worst thing you can do for your own moral is to hold yourself accountable to unrealistic goals.
To determine if your goal is achievable ask yourself these two questions.
Do I have the resources to reach my goal? If not, what am I missing?
Have others done it successfully before?
Let's start with the second question. Have others done this successfully before? Absolutely, yes! So many of my clients have gone from idea with zero experience in fashion to a successful brand. You can be one of those people too!
Secondly, do you have the resources? For most people starting out, their biggest limiting factor is cash. Take a look at my budget guide, where I recommend to have at least $8,000 to invest for your fashion startup. I f you aren't there yet, I recommend holding off, saving up, and starting your business the right way.
The SMART goal should be realistic. Remember how I just mentioned how everyone wants to be like the big brands? The hard truth is that's not realistic. But, you can have a booming business that gives you financial stability without boarding on the cusp of growing so quickly you walk the line of fast fashion.
Again, that is why I recommend brands start with only 20 pieces. The other day on Instagram I was chatting with a brand that is now about 2 years old. Another consulting company convinced them it would be a good idea to invest in 400 pieces per style for their very first collection (I know some brands that have been in business for 5 years and still don't make that many units). Well, 2 years later they're still trying to move all that old inventory and make back their money so they can make their second collection.
They were given some seriously bad advice.
The goal they set for themselves was not realistic. Do your research, ask other small brands and startups what they buy, and how they sell. And never feel pressured to buy more than what you feel you can sell. If you do the right research you can set realistic targets for your companies growth.
To determine if your goals are realistic ask...
Is the goal realistic and within reach?
Is the goal reachable given the time and resources?
Are you able to commit to achieving the goal?
If you work with virtue + vice. The answer is yes to all of these. Our approach is holistic, meaning we look at the entire health of your business before setting goals.
A SMART goal must be time-bound you need a start and finish date. For self accountability to work, you need a concrete end date to make sure you are hitting your goals and moving forward instead of treading water. And you need to hold yourself accountable. You know those things in the back of your mind you always think about doing like never do? Maybe it's cleaning out an old closet, or doing a random house chore. But, for some reason, it never gets done. This is where personal accountability comes into play, it helps you get things done, and see results.
Does my goal have a deadline?
By when do you want to achieve your goal?
Don't let procrastination be your business. By setting dates you ensure you are making progress and moving forward.
For our launch example, the date is Spring 2021. Now there might be a few other dates in there too. I like to work backward. If you are launching April 22, 2021, that means you should receive all your inventory by at least March 15. It takes about 3 months for a production order to ship, so that means you would need to order your inventory by December 15, 2020.
Before you can order inventory you need to develop and sample. Another 3-month process. So that would mean you would need to get started with your product development around September 15, 2020.
And, before you can start product development you need to design your line and find suppliers. At least 2 months there. So the start date for design and supplier research would be July 15, 2020.
Do you see how that to meet our launch date of April 22, 2021, we need to get started on July 15, 2020.
By working backward and setting up a realistic schedule you are setting yourself up for success.
The SMART system works for everything, that you need to practice self accountability for. I have made a SMART goals template that is free for download. Do yourself a favor and print this out. Before you start any new project that has to do with your business pull out one of these forms and fill it out.
The hardest part about starting a clothing line is that there are so many balls in the air. You are doing at least 4 different jobs at once, the SMART system keeps you accountable and on schedule.
For many of you the next step, once you decide to launch your line, is actually is designing your line. Let's break down that goal.
I want to design my first collection.
Who - Me (you reading this).
What- Design my first collection.
Where- With my factory supplier, to be sold (where ever you want to sell it).
When - The collection is launching April 22, 2021, but I need samples by December 1, 2020.
Why - What are you doing this? To have something sell.
Everything that must be done to get samples.
The goal is done when I receive the 1st proto samples to use for photoshoots and other media. This is important, self accountability does not work if your goals are impossible.
Yes, I am creating a small capsule collection of 5 styles, which my start-up budget allows for.
Start today, and end December 1.
After working through the 5 W's my goal becomes more specific. And, my self accountability becomes easier to track.
I want to design my first capsule collection of 5 styles by December 1, 2020. This will give me enough time to produce them for my Aril 22, 2021 brand launch date. To do this I will follow the product development and production guide to ensure my product is developed properly.
Key indicators that I am on track include. As I work through these steps I ensure I am moving towards my gaol.
My goal is achievable and realistic. Using the free virtue + vice course that has been tried and tested this goal can happen. By working backwards from my launch date each step of my goal has realistic target dates to meet.
Then we keep going. Need a marketing plan? Or figuring out what trade shows or markets to participate in. Create a SMART plan.
Both business and personal.
Another great thing about the SMART project strategy is that as your business grows and you start to take on more of a management and leadership roll in your business but, you can still use these principles to help keep your team accountable for the work and responsible for deadlines.
For a lot of people just starting out, budgeting time can be the hardest thing. Most people simply don't know how long each step of the process takes in fashion. If you get stuck, feel free to email email@example.com. I am here to help.
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I have spent over a decade living and working in fashion factories, seeing firsthand how clothing is made.
And now, I want to share with you everything I know. To help you navigate supply chains, and launch your own conscious clothing brand.
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