Today, we continue our Founders Series with Amy Devan of Naveda Couture, where she tells us about dealing with competition, building her team and showing her first collection at New York Fashion Week.
Once you knew that you wanted to launch your own label, did you worry about how competitive the fashion marketplace is. How were you going to set Naveda Couture apart?
Competition is present in any industry and if as a business owner you see it as a threat versus an opportunity to learn, it is bound to place roadblocks along the way. The fashion world is cut-throat and full of incredible talent but I focused on how Naveda Couture could fill a void in the marketplace. For me, that was addressing the 30 to 40 something independent, forward thinking, professional woman who also has a free-spirited, creative side to her. The brand is about effortless luxury and timeless silhouettes and that is where Naveda is a perfect fit for the market.
Did you put a business plan together before you formalized the business?
I can’t say I put a “formal” business plan together when I first started, but because of my business background, I did thoroughly think through and jot down all of my thoughts concerning the various components of a business plan, from the product development process to the customer profile to financial projections, marketing, etc. Over time, those notes became more formalized and became my current business plan. As I learn new things about the industry and further develop the brand, the plan changes – but the core and my mission remains the same. I don’t think there is anything wrong with seeing a business plan as an evolving strategy – sometimes you don’t see the right path until you are actually knee-deep into it and then you have an ah-ha moment that tells you either something will or will not work. The plan only enhances from there.
What were the crucial elements that you needed to have in place before you moved forward with the business?
Three things really:
- Understanding the industry and how to do business within it – This involved research, research, research! I can’t stress that enough. Before really beginning the business, I spent endless hours researching everything related to the industry and the market – from customer demographics to manufacturers and suppliers, to fabric and embroidery details, to designers/brands who would be my competition, to the administrative steps needed to be in business, the regulatory environment, sales strategies, etc. The list goes on. Even when I went to India for the first time, I didn’t go blindly and without a plan. I researched fashion houses, suppliers, textile mills, embroiderers, and retailers before taking off and crossing my fingers. After doing as much research as possible, I felt more confident and that helped me talk to anyone I could while in India, despite my fears.
- Technical know how – There is a common misconception that fashion or design is an “easy” field. Like anything else, there is a science to it and a purpose for everything involved. It’s about more than just “loving” art or fashion, or being creative. With any career path, no matter the field, one must get the education and training necessary to learn the technical skills needed to succeed. Though, I had business education and experience before starting Naveda, I went on to study fashion design because I saw no other path. I needed to get the technical skills down. To me, there is simply no other way to succeed and grow.
- Seed money – Those in this field know first hand that launching a fashion brand and designing a collection is a huge investment that demands capital. Without having an understanding of the expenses involved and the capital to support it, at least initially, it is virtually impossible
How soon after you launched Naveda did you build your team and who were the first hires you made?
I noticed within the first six months that this would not be an easy undertaking to do on my own – there are so many moving parts of starting a business and though I worked virtually around the clock, with being in school full-time at Parsons and working on Naveda, there were simply not enough hours in the day to get the brand where I wanted it to be. I relied very heavily on my mentors for support and guidance, but I realized quickly that finding talented people to jump on board with me would only benefit my mission. The first few hires were interns that studied/worked in fashion marketing and then I added a branding and graphic design specialist.
How did you find your first customers?
In the beginning, like any startup, I had to be very cautious of where I was investing money. I couldn’t initially put resources into marketing and so I relied on what I think is the most powerful avenue – word-of-mouth. I talked to people in my existing network about what I was doing with Naveda, my aesthetic, and who I saw as a Naveda woman. I started to use social media to present my work (even if they were just sketches) so my network could visually be part of Naveda and this dream of mine and begin to help spread the word. My initial network began to grow into a community of supporters, if you will, and for that I am beyond grateful. Over time, my sales strategy has expanded to now include retailers versus just individual buyers. I have hired experienced sales people to help bring Naveda to the retail marketplace who bring a wealth of knowledge and experience in this arena.
You showed your first collection at New York Fashion Week earlier this year. What was that moment like when you saw your collection come down the runway?
It was a mix of emotions but most of all just overwhelming excitement. My adrenaline was going bananas and to be honest, the whole thing seemed to go by in a quick blur. As soon as my runway show was over, the very first thing I said to my family and team backstage was, ‘Let’s do it again!’ I couldn’t believe it was over in a flash! I remember thinking the entire day, ‘Is this really happening or do I need to be woken up from some dream?’ I felt such gratitude for everyone that had supported me thus far and just couldn’t wait for what was to come! I don’t think that fire has stopped burning for me.
What would you say was the most important decision you made that helped your business get to where it is today?
The biggest decision for me was the decision to take the risk of launching Naveda Couture. That may sound like too simple of an answer, but it’s true. It was the decision to let go of any fears or hesitations I had and just go for it that made me stay focused! I didn’t want to look back at life years from now and think, ‘coulda, shoulda, woulda’ and so I jumped all in with passion!
Check back next week for the final post in our series with Amy where she tells us how she got the attention of stylists, bloggers and celebrities and about showing her new Spring collection at London Fashion Week!
Images courtesy of: Naveda Couture
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