How to Start a Clothing Business Online - Tips From Project Runway

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Launching an independent business online
Launching an independent business online

While many people would love to start their own clothing design business, Project Runway Season 6 contestant Louise Black already has done it. In this exclusive interview with eHow, Louise shares her behind-the-scenes views on the online clothing business, along with what it takes to make it work.

This 32-year-old Texas native and Christian Lacroix fan believes that the future of fashion is on the 'Net: "There will always be a place for brick and mortars, but online is definitely the way to go for most. It's definitely the best way to get your start without losing your shirt," she tells eHow.

Things You'll Need

  • Computer with Internet access
  • Clothing or accessories to sell
  • Enough cash to cover living expenses (usually several months' worth)

The first rule of success is to be fearless about your business. In the beginning, your whole vision may be nebulous, and it may seem like a wild fantasy, but "it's the people who try - and persevere - that find success and happiness. I didn't wait for the perfect storm to roll in or the right alignment of stars. I just decided one day to take a stab at it," Louise says.

Inspired by the clothing designs of yesteryear, Louise worked hard and learned the ropes - two markers of highly successful entrepreneurs.

Project Runway contestant Louise Black
Project Runway contestant Louise Black

Know that becoming your own boss has both ups and downs. Louise loves the freedom and the mobility to move, along with the fact that she's accountable only to herself. The drawback? Money can be tight, and financing scarce. Therefore, plan well; have enough money saved up to cover the basics and feed yourself while you build the business.

Online businesses thrive on offering one of a kind work to customers. People love to find special items that no one else will ever have. Even though some say that there's no future in fashion without production capability, Louise hasn't found specialization to be a problem.

Her views on the necessity of mass production for online clothing businesses? "Poppycock. It may not be quite as easy, but one-of-a-kind work is a fantastic way to find not only what works for you, the designer, but also for customers."

When looking for a venue to sell your goods, diversify in order to drive the most traffic to your online properties. Also, look into a hosted site in addition to a free-standing store. In the past, Louise has had her own site, in addition to an eBay store.

Nowadays, she has also put down very profitable stakes on Etsy. This hosted, crafty site offers security and built-in traffic flow; in more than two years selling on Etsy, "I've never once had to deal with my site being hacked," reports Louise.

Try e-commerce on a smaller scale before diving head-first into obtaining financing and loans. In Louise's case, bank loans would have represented a loss of independence; she counsels patience and persistence for those without lots of funds.

"Financing is definitely the way to go for some, but it should rarely be the first route to take. If you can work your way up the hill on your own, even if you have to forge your own path, you're left with more control," Louise says.

Tips & Warnings

  • Attend classes at your local Small Business Administration office to learn more about entrepreneurism. SBA centers also offer counseling sessions and other services for free, or practically no cost.
  • If you decide to join a hosted site as a seller, make use of the online community. Often, posters have great tips and advice for newcomers, and they're happy to help people find their way.

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