Do you have what it takes to start-up a fashion business?

Fashion designer entrepreneur walking down San Francisco street with handcart full of rolls of fabric

If you have no fashion industry experience should you still start your own clothing line? In addition to having a good business sense to figure out how to sell your line, you’ve got to design products and assess where to source your apparel and accessories materials, and locate factories and manufacturers.

The most important thing to consider when starting is your why. For what purpose do you want to serve? What is your reason for being? If you answer these questions honestly (there is no one, correct answer) you will be able to make informed, targeted business decisions and remain hyper focused on your goals you set forth.

Furthermore, truly understanding your why will help you anticipate when you might need to pivot those decisions and goals to optimize your success.

Last, but certainly not least it requires a lot of determination, patience, and an optimistic attitude to recover and see setbacks as learning experiences rather than failures - so the real question is, do you have that entrepreneurial spirit and a bit of grit to take the plunge?

Try to fall in love with the notion of being a perpetual student because as an entrepreneur expect that you should always have a learning mindset.

If you have the above and are willing to do your research, then yes you can do it!

And that’s exactly what Sharone of Heliades did to start her apparel and accessories line with no experience. She spent several years researching the industry and sourcing fabric and navigating all aspects of the business to get her sun protection apparel and accessories brand for obsessively stylish, skin conscious women launched. 

She researched what her customer needs were, and spent a few years sourcing for materials with permanent sun protection qualities woven directly in to the fabric. Her educational journey has been long, constant and never-ending (in a good way).

Sharone was recently interviewed by omnibrand channel, Pantastic, and was asked these questions. Her responses are below:

What made you decide to start your company?
What were some of the biggest challenges when you started?
What do your customers love most about you?
What is the biggest piece of advice you could give to someone wanting to create their own brand?

What are you most proud of?

What made you decide to start your company?
Hmm, well it was an unlikely confluence of me wanting to orchestrate my next career move and a desire to prevent sun damage to my skin.

Around this time I actually used to wear an ugly swim shirt over my dresses every day to keep my skin sun protected! I thought, how do other busy women manage to keep their skin healthy while they juggle their to do lists in their outfits of the day? I created my brand because I could not find what I wanted to wear: fun, stylish UV blocking apparel made of pretty yet functional sun protective fabric that feels comfortable and luxurious and protects my skin. That’s how the concept for Heliades was born.

Woman wearing black dress, black evening gloves and royal blue Sol Escape, UPF 50 sun protection cape with finger loops to keep it in place.
What were some of the biggest challenges when you started?

My background is in tech, and I’ve designed jewelry for years. While my mom and my grandmother taught me to sew when I was little, I otherwise had to learn everything about the fashion industry! I chose to make my own designs so there is the entire product development side I needed to learn as I moved thru stages from concept to physical samples, pattern making, sizing, fit, markers and finally production. The single biggest challenge that I’m embarrassed to say took me years to solve was finding and sourcing the best sun protective fabric. Did you know you can ‘make’ almost any fabric sun protective by washing or layering a chemical additive on top of the garment? (It will eventually wash out which is a poor return on your clothing investment.) I was looking for the holy grail - sun protective fabric made with the equivalent of mineral sunscreen permanently woven into the thread itself then made into beautiful prints and fashionable colors that don’t look or feel cheap. Once I was able to validate its existence, the rest started to slot in to place.

Woman wearing UPF 50 arm sleeves for UV sun protection in Coigach District plaid print in plum. Paired with sunglasses, black tshirt and jeans
What do your customers love most about you?

Well, I'm learning to be as approachable as possible and I think my clients appreciate this. I try to be direct about our products and share what I’ve learned through researching the sun protection industry and its impact. And I'm pretty honest when I hit a snag and voice my disappointment. I’m a mom of four and many of us are going through the same things as the keepers of to do lists and family schedules, and as a cohort of the sandwich generation. We are there for each other and I’d like to believe that my customers help me as much as I hope to help them. There’s definitely a lot of virtual laughter!

4 UV sun protection neck wraps or mini capes in UPF 50 blue daisy floral block print, fuschia pink block pattern, black with white floral allover print, and ballet pink with black polka dot print. All UPF 50 material
What is the biggest piece of advice you could give to someone wanting to create their own brand?

Always be an able student ready to learn, however listen to your instincts. Find a group of other brands and create a safe environment to share ideas, wins and setbacks. And remember to enjoy the ride whatever stage your brand is in. It can feel very disappointing if you’re always waiting for that next great thing so flip that thought and accept what is before you at the moment. 

Stadium approved clear shopper tote with black 9" drop shoulder handles and outside pocket. 100% vegan bag

What are you most proud of?
Honestly, I am surprised by my ability to continually return to optimism after dissecting set backs. And I have a very clear conscience about what, how and where I make and sell. Searching for that fabric as frustrating the process was, I learned so much about the impact fashion and textiles have on the environment and also the impact sunscreen has on both our physical system and our waterways. I reached a new level of understanding which led me to make decisions to become a sustainable brand that’s not only environmentally and ethically conscious, it is also a safer choice for my clients. So the term safe in ’sun safe’ actually has a dual meaning: our products protect your skin from too much sun AND from harsh chemicals that are absent from the fabrics we select to use. It also means we are doing our part to keep the planet safer.

Ultimately it is a very niche product because working with factories committed to sustainable practices, and finding ethical, local manufacturers, and using high end, OEKO-TEX certified and eco-conscious materials does drive up the price point. So the challenge is finding people who are skin conscious, want sun protection and want to wear their stylish wardrobe, and are also into sustainability or are eco-conscious. At the end of the day, though, I feel confident about my business choices and standards. Having a clear conscience has enabled me to plunge forward.

Help Sharone build her business! Sign up to join the Heli community and get a free, downloadable book about managing your skin's health.

#getheligirl #wearUPF #defendyourglow


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