What It's Like to Really Build a Global Brand

Threads by Dreads founder, Christiana Afotey has spent the last 2 years building a global brand with a traditional Ghanaian culture at the forefront of business. With the rise in popularity of African inspired prints, Christina goes beyond the prints to offer a taste of home, charity and a relationship with global partners that new brand owners can learn from.  

Threads By Dreads offering scholarships through fashion global business

Tell readers more about you, your brand and what inspired you to create the business Threads by Dreads? 

 High energy, adventurous, intuitive, organic, these are some of the adjectives that I can use to describe myself and driving force behind the Threads by Dreads brand. Threads by Dreads (TBD) is an extension of what and how I feel. This brand entails more than just fashion design. Threads by Dreads is about showcasing the evolution of modern, African wear. 

To be honest, I get my inspiration from a number of different sources; nature, people, places, life’s lessons and experiences. However, none of them compare to my mother, who is one of my biggest influences and inspirations. Although she has transcended, I still feel her encouraging me along my journey. 

Although you live in the US, you return and work with individuals in Ghana, why did you decide Ghana would be the place to collaborate with? 

The reason why I decided to work with Ghana is because, that is where my roots are planted. I have a big family and a huge responsibility to preserve my Ghanaian culture and heritage the best way I know how. So collaborating with my people (local vendors, textile manufacturers and etc) is an essential core of my mission. 

threadsbydreads

What has been the biggest challenge you faced building a Global brand? 

Honestly, my biggest challenge with building a global brand is my level patience. My patience can be easy going at times but then at times my patience is non existent. As an entrepreneur and designer, I’m constantly learning new things: what and how to do things better. As for branding, marketing, designing and the entire manufacturing process, am learning that in this industry, patience and timing is essentially key! There’s a perfect time on ‘how’, ‘what', 'when’ and ‘why’ to showcase collections throughout each season. Presentation is important! 

What are three main tools you use to make the work relationship run smoothly? 

1. Calendars / Day-Planners! Oh my goodness! Such an important tool to keep close, especially since I’ve become more experienced in this thing called life :) Just remember to write things down, plug it in your calendar and be prepared with adequate resources. Also, don't forget to make time for you! 

2. Dry-Erase Board! ‘Write it down with the ink of your veins and watch things come to life!’ Don’t forget to set realistic & attainable goals. I write my ideas, upcoming projects/events after a good brainstorming session. 

3. Grab hold on to and follow (no stalking:) a great blogger, writer, editor, any-& everything techie, graphic designer, etc…by all means use your network to increase & improve your net worth. You want to stay in-the-know with what is going on within and outside the fashion world. 

How did you build a trusting relationship with your global partners? 

Honestly, when it comes to working with new global partners you have to make calculated risks and just trust your intuition. Along my journey, I’ve learned that one way in which I can avoid mistakes and miscommunication, is to go directly to the source. I work with local textile manufacturers in Ghana. Communication is vital, so when in rural areas sometimes English is not understood or communicated well. Thankfully at a young age, my parents taught me to speak one of the native languages. In addition to the mutual benefit, during a partnership, being clear with expectations, plans and objectives is an actively important role that has to be played well on both ends. 

How do you use your global brand to make a difference? 

One of the ways in which I use my brand to make a difference is by using my talents to give back to those who have made contributions along this journey. I’m not just talking about monetary or materialistic contributions either. The contributions I am referring to include gifts that are intangible, preciously life-changing, tear-jerking, heart-hugging and impactful contributions. 

The Threads by Dreads Foundation focuses on empowering exemplary scholars into pioneering leaders of tomorrow. The foundation’s first project is currently underway with the Mrs. Fedelia Adokailey Mensah Scholarship Award (established in memory of my mother). Our foundation is making the ability of attending college a reality for ten gifted high school candidates in Ghana. This award will serve as a conduit in cultivating and carrying on her nurturing legacy, aide in community re-investment and contribute to building a brighter future for young adults all over Ghana. Ten scholarships are available until December 31, 2016. 

How do you keep up with the trends in both US and Africa and make sure they align? 

Reading articles and how-to books, listening to radio/podcasts, and attending networking/fashion shows are great for establishing a foundation of knowing which direction to steer a brand. But during design mode, I usually unplug from most social outlets, meditate, reflect and express what I feel on paper. I’ve learned that this helps keep my work authentic and allow for the ideas to brew organically. 

threadsbydreads

Learn more about Christiana Afotey at Threadsbydreads.com  

 

Emerging Designers: Should You Launch With One Product or a Whole Collection?

Emerging designers think BIG which is amazing in the fashion industry, you want to be creative and innovative but many designers still lack knowledge of growing the business side of their brand. It’s evident that designers don’t think about long-term growth and fail to strategize the growth of a brand and realistic expectations. You also have to consider that when you first start your brand you are typically a very small team and perhaps even an army of 1. You are handling everything on your own, as much as we would all love to have someone to help, hiring someone immediately is not feasible for most emerging designers. 

What we find is over commitment by the brand in the beginning that hinders them in the future? So, when we get the question of how big do I start with my first collection, I redirect the question and ask, what is a realistic plan for getting YOUR business off the ground? 

Productlaunch

Starting With a Smaller Challenge

“Do not aim to create a full collection until your business is ready to handle it"  

If you are in the decision phase of creating a whole collection or starting with one product note your goals, budget and time. Be realistic if you see your brand starting off completely wholesale or if you are going to have your own E-commerce space for your customers. With wholesale you want to give retailers options to decide from but you can also start with 1 category and grow from there. 

Having your own E-commerce allows you to grow in your own timeline and availability and also gives you some room to understand what your customers are looking for from the brand before trying to sell wholesale. Even if you wholesale out to a retailer you want your collection to have an identity and story, starting off slow and growing allows you to really understand what your customers expect from your brand. (Read about how to create a brand experience online).  

Note: Building a lucrative brand from E-commerce before going wholesale could help with cost. Designers are excited about wholesaling but forget that your brand must be able to afford the upfront costs that wholesale will require. 

Start in a particular category with a signature piece 

With designers looking to keep up with fast fashion, creativity has seemed to take a back seat in the industry. Designers are trying to be everything to as many customers as they can. Instead try starting in a particular category and grow from that. 

Categories such as: 

  • Denim 

  • Skirts 

  • Swimwear 

  • Jackets 

  • blazers 

  • Shampoo 

  • Organic Candles 

  • Lipstick 

The power of the “Signature Piece” has become less popular with the desire to create quickly. Finding your brand’s signature piece can help you build a more well-known and well-rounded brand. What current items or style can you put a new twist to? or what do you think may be needed in womenswear for the work place or girls night out? 

Start with one type of product 

 Don’t be afraid to start with one type of product, whether you are clothing, accessories, makeup, tech, footwear or hair brand. Designers tend to start with an assortment of items, especially if they don’t see the current product moving the way they hoped. Instead of fixing the issues they add more and more products. Master one area first, get to know what else your customers would like to see and start a plan to slowly add it in.  

Full collection route: Think Retail 

“You want buyers to have enough pieces to decide from, to avoid being overlooked.” 

 If you do decide to put the time and energy into a whole collection. Start with 10 to 12 of cohesive pieces. If you are looking to tackle bigger retailers and boutiques you want options making 10 to 12 a focus allows you to give yourself a smaller area to be the most creative. Don't just throw in different types of products from different categories to makeup your collection, plan out your brand style and understand your strongest design skill as a designer. I have also seen brands start with 5 to 7 pieces, especially for clutches, handbags, accessories and beauty products. Always note what type of retailers and boutiques you are looking to place your products in, visit these locations and get a feel of their product selection. Are they buying a few pieces or whole collection, the setup, the buying time frame, etc.? 

 Stay updated on the fashion calendar 

 No matter if you decide to push a whole collection or one product  learn the fashion calendar, market trends and what customers are looking for. Designers get caught up in their designs and limit themselves because of the lack of seasonal trend research. Keeping up with the information allows you to understand what buyers will be looking for, what styles are popular. 

4 Ways To Incorporate Charity In Your Fashion Business

“Charity” is a word that brand owners have most likely heard several times since launching their business. Whether it’s a charity asking you to donate funds, partner on an event or spread the word on a cause, there are a lot of options to be involved.

Deciding to partner or create an organization for helping others should always align with your company’s mission and vision. It should be a partnership that your customers believe in and happy to be apart of. You shouldn’t decide to participate in any charity “just to look” good.

I look at it as a responsibility you take on when you create a business. Having a sense of community work is a great way to use your brand to also create a community of do-ers.

Look at your mission and decide where your company can be a big help and not only your company but your customers.

“People change people.”

Inspiring your customers to get involved in the giving is very important and the great thing about doing charity. When you decide to involve charity in your work it should be a team effort, it shouldn’t be exclusive, it should inspire a movement locally and/or globally.

When you decide to tackle “charity” start small and set some goals to meet. Allow yourself to understand exactly what your brand needs to meet your expectations. Trial bases is very important because you want to make sure you can meet your goals and have a full understanding of them before making a commitment of x amount of dollars that you may not actually sure is feasible for your company. 

| Team up to Raise Funds {Partner with a Nonprofit or local organization}

This is typically one area a business is asked to team up and help raise funds for nonprofits and organizations locally. This is a great way to be a team player to your local market. You can find ways to raise funds for families in need, organizations that focus on feeding families or helping them in other areas. You can help fund research or provide funding to a cause that is close to your heart, help schools get items students need! Raising funds through your business can be as simple as a (%) of items sold going to the cause or even create an event or a limited edition collaboration.

| Donate “Specific” items for others in need

A great way to partner up with your customers is to donate items in need. This can be shoes, coats, scarves, business clothing or it can be food bags. With so many opportunities to donate items, this is a great time to really think about something that will inspire your customers to get involved.

| Foster Economic Growth

Very important and typically done in many foreign countries but it would be great to see economic growth partnerships around the world! Letting funds help with providing jobs and opportunities to families, college graduates or others.

| Assist in raising Awareness

Charity collaborations don’t always have to be about money it could simply be about raising awareness. Such as educational programs, ethical and sustainable practices. Think about what your customers really believe in and tie that in with your business practices.

Do your business have charity goals for 2017? How are you planning to meet them?

 

5 Tactics to Highlight Brand Experience for Your Online Shoppers

 

Before you start the process of building an online shopping website think about your brand message and ways you can share that online with customers. 

Key Points 

  1. Think about what makes your brand and your customer’s unique. 
  2. Think about how you can curate content and personalize it. 
  3. Give your readers incredible visuals, engagement and brand highlights on your e-commerce homepage. 

  4. Your website landing page should intrigue them to shop, read more about your brand or sign up for a newsletter. 

If you are looking for some ways to engage your shoppers, you must first understand their shopping habits and personality. An online shopping experience is not a one-size-fits all. Today we have provided you with a few ways to engage your shoppers online. 

Brand Experience

Curate Content 

Curating content is a great way to bring in shoppers and also a great way to provide your customers with daily, weekly or monthly insight from your brand. When you curate content make it useful to your brand and the customer. Your content can include ways to wear an item, background information for socially conscious brands and consumers, highlight your favorite tunes, and give details about the products, where it was made or what was the inspiration. (check out our post on content) 

Jazz Up Holiday Sales 

I am not sure if you realize it but Holidays are a great time to host a sale! It’s also really fun to give your website some Holiday cheer for customers.  Don’t be afraid to do something totally different with your holiday sales, offer a giveaway, percentage off, create fun hashtags, or play a game on your website for customer to win prizes. Make the Holiday sales personal to your brand and your shoppers for the ultimate brand experience.  

Display Quality Video’s, Images and Look books 

I think we have all heard many times how important images are in the sale of a product. I find that customers love brands that really represent them or that go BIG in their photography. When it comes to video’s a brand can do video look books, behind-the-scenes of a collection or photo shoot, a fashion film (my favorite) or a how-to. You can even try opening with a fun video that draw your customer in. Uploading your brands look book on the website is a great way to showcase the entire collection in a cohesive way; it also gives you the opportunity to really put on an online fashion presentation, fixed with creative direction and great styling to inspire.  

Introduce Your Newsletter 

Email marketing campaigns and newsletter signup are always a great way to build an email list. Target content, deals, styling tips, personal letters from the designer are an awesome way to get customers back to your website weekly or monthly. 

Showcase Your Social Media 

I know you are wondering why you may want to showcase your social media pictures but this is a great way to lead customers from the web to your social and social fans to your website! I love websites that remind customers to be a part of their brand and to connect with you in other places online that will keep them updated on your brand from behind-the-scenes. This is perfect if you have a strong, fun social media presence and especially if you include customer photo's.  

What type of experiences other than shopping do you give your online customers?

3 Ways You Are Cheating Your Online Shoppers

If you are looking to grow your brand, you must decide to be customer focused and that comes with responsibility and your policy, “No refunds and exchanges” does great harm to your brand. Customers want to know you care and deserve to not be cheated. Stop denying returns, exchanges and great customer service. Here are 3 reasons your customers know you do not put them first.

onlineshopping

You Have No Clue about Sizing

Let’s be honest about all the amazing online boutique owners, you may be great at picking out some clothes but you are not a designer and you don’t think twice about sizing, style or fit. When you do not take out the time to learn about sizing, fabric, stretch, etc. you forget about your customers. All customers come in different sizes and shapes and a medium is not the same for everyone. It may also be beneficial to let your customers know about the material because some material just looks better in certain sizes. If you are not familiar with measurements for your target market you will have a problem.

As I analyze Instagram so many of you guys are having customers complain in your comment section about the fit, the fabric and how things just wasn’t the same when the “dress or skirt” was delivered to them. Take out the time to really learn about sizing and quit losing customers.

Note: Try being diverse with your models. If you are selling an item in a larger size then the model, have some models in L or XL in the shoots as well so your customer can see how it will fit and look on their body type.

Your Quality of Fabric is Just Bad

Those wholesalers you are purchasing from and charging $80&up for your products is out-of-hand. The fabric is not even worth $20. This is a big reason to have some form of refund/exchange policy. You are purchasing from the same wholesalers and the problem is that the fabric you have is not of high quality. Things look so awesome on your model but when it gets to the customer it's not the same. Be mindful of that when you are choosing your products and treat your customer with respect. Respect enough to know that the quality they are paying for is not good and they deserve the opportunity to get the right fit. Those spandex clothes can hit all the wrong curves if it’s not the right size, offer an exchange or you won’t have a returning customer.

You Do Not Provide Any Customer Care

Posting a return/exchange policy is important if you are an online merchant that doesn’t have it displayed. Not displaying it will not stop the customer from trying to return or exchange; it will just make the customer angry and feel that the online merchant is unprofessional.

*STOP* All you online boutiques owners and designers and check your Instagram, I promise you I am not the only one to notice that you have some angry customers because of no response back from emails regarding their purchases. Get that problem fixed immediately.

Think about your customers, it’s important to try and do at least an exchange or refund (you could offer store credit refund). Many of you want to be boutique owners but don’t want to go about it the professional way. Research what the Returns Law is in your state that your business is registered at.

If you are a custom designer, have a sizing method in place to make sure your customer gets exactly what they need or you won't have an unsatisfied client.

Re-thinking Your Customer Service Policy

If you want to be treated like a professional boutique you have to learn to act like a professional and responsible business owner. Get on doing some research, and dive into growing your business, without your customers there is no business. Think of all the possibilities if you would learn to think about your customer’s just as much as you think about being popular on Instagram. Learn to display good customer service!

Thinking that no returns and exchanges protect you? You are right to some degree but you must also remember that customers expect authenticity and transparency. They expect from you what your website and visuals say it will do, so correct yourself on your end. Check your sizes, check your fabric, check your messages and be a great brand owner.

9 Ways to Use Etsy for Your Fashion Business

Starting a business is not cheap no matter what side of the industry you are in, clothing business, cosmetic company, fashion tech or even a fashion service company. Here at 1608 Creatives, I have my fair share of expenses coming in to keep the business and running. After doing many things in the fashion industry over the last 8 years I will tell you it never comes cheap but I have learned some things along the way to help me save.

One of the ways I found to save money is through Etsy. I will say my love for Etsy over the last couple of years have grown but when I realized I can use Etsy to find amazing designers and cut back on some of the spending it was a relief.

When you think of ETSY you think of all the amazing handmade products and gifts for family and friends on their special day but you never really think about using it for your business. Today I want to share a few tips on how to use Etsy to save some money + find amazing designers to work with.

Estyforbusiness

PRESS KITS

Who would have thought you could get some amazing Press Kits designed from ETSY. I love doing clients Press Kits but sometimes designing the whole kit can be time consuming and if you are a small business like we are time is of the essence and you just may not have the time. These Pre-templates allow us to get some professional designs while cutting back on time and price.

With a Press Kit you always want to keep them updated with the latest collection, new releases or even single out a limited edition feature of your collection which can be pricey if you are constantly purchasing new kits, Etsy affordable kits allow you to change them with a limited budget and the product looks amazing.

Pre-Templates, the great thing about the templates they are easy to edit. If you are savvy with Photoshop or even have minor skills there are pre-design templates for Photoshop that allow you to add your own additions to the kit. If you are not Photoshop savvy there are some designers that create pre-designed templates for Word Document as well.

A major tip: Before purchasing a press kit makes sure you plan out what you are looking to put on your kit, you want to make sure that any adjustments, spaces, or changes can be made to fit your need. Once your Word Document kit is complete, hit save (in word) + save a pdf version & make sure you click Standard publishing (online & print).

WEBSITES

New designers make a lot of mistakes in putting too much money into the wrong things is one of those mistakes. As a fashion business consultancy company we have our share of designers who come in with thousands of dollars’ worth of branding (logo’s, websites, business cards, etc.) but the worst copy writing on the website, no quality product pictures, no samples, the list can go on.

When you believe you can sell a product just because you got great branding colors you already are behind in business. A great website understands their customers and how they like to shop and in order to do that a brand must first do the dirty work. If you are ready to take your brand online to test the waters Etsy is a great spot to get started. There you will find so amazing designers for WordPress and Squarespace designers with pre-templates or custom design services that will run you a few hundred dollars whether then $1,000s. There will be a time where a more expensive website is needed but it has to be the right time and you should really understand your shopper’s personality at that point, if you are 6 month old brand start smaller, learn your customers shopping habits and grow from there. 

Read up on why Squarespace is a great place for your E-commerce business. 

BRANDING MATERIAL

Branding material (business cards, flyers, coffee cups, pens, posters, banners, thank you cards, etc.) all are great additions to any company. There are many talented designers to work with on Etsy to get the branding material your company needs.

WHOLESALE KITS

Creating a wholesale kit can be a daunting task if you are a designer putting it together by yourself and it’s your first time. I have learned that a simple yet professional wholesale kit and order form can go a long way when focusing on getting retail stores and independent boutiques to pick up your brand for wholesale. You will find that Etsy designers already done the work of creating the outline for you and prepared the sheets for you to drop in your product pictures and Item Descriptions.

STOCK PHOTOGRAPHY

If you are looking for a polished way to do some brand promotion, stock photography is our favorite and easiest way to create a cohesive look online. Etsy is full of amazing stock photography designers with lots to choose from for fashion, quotes, product/eBook promotions, etc. We particularly are fans of the designers that allow you change the colors to match your branding.

OFFICE MATERIAL

We all love great office décor whether it’s for the home office or actual office space. Looking to jazz up your spot can be done with Etsy. We love seeing all these amazing products to fill our home office with. I think it’s amazing that we can skip the target prices and get handcrafted, affordable products. 

E-NEWSLETTER TEMPLATE

Custom newsletters can always make your brand stand out to your customers and draw them in. Getting pass the same older looks can be exciting and several Etsy designers has already done the hard part with formatting the newsletters for email marketing. Find newsletters that make clicking your brand emails worth it for your customers.

LOOKBOOKS

Creating a look book can be pricey; the photoshoot with photographers, models, hair, makeup, etc. can already have you coming out of your pocket pretty deep. These Etsy pre-made look books make it easier and affordable to create a look book on a budget and still win.

CLOTHING LABELS

If you are a startup brand and looking to do a test run with some samples this is a perfect solution for some labels, as you are trying to see what works. There are some amazing label designers on Etsy with small bulk purchase requests which is a lot more affordable then say, 1000 labels that you may not end up using in the long run!

Here are a few of our favorite Etsy designers:

  1.  Aiwsolutions
  2.  Sarah Dobbins
  3. BloggerKitCo.
  4. TwelveSkip
  5. Foxyoxie
  6. KellyBrito
  7. JannaLynnCreative
  8. TeaandHoney Studio