Wednesday, 21 September 2011

7 top tips to make your vintage business

Following on from my blog yesterday about how I manage my vintage "Portfolio" career I thought I would talk about making your living from the world of Vintage.

All aboard the good ship Vintage
Vintage is most definitely having a moment. The catwalks are full of Mad men inspired clothes, Billie Piper is doing campaigns for Peekaboo clothing even Lily Allen has her own second hand clothes shop Lucy In Disguise.For those of us who have been in love with eras gone by for many years this has largely been a positive thing. How nice to be able to buy a fifties swing dress from Topshop rather than hunting it down on ebay and this seasons love of all things leopard print has made me one very happy lady. I stock up on my favourite styles and will of course be wearing them long after the fashion for all things 50's and 60's has moved on.

Loving the leopard print in the stores
Its no great surprise that more and more Vintage inspired businesses have also been popping up, jewellery makers, Pin up photographers, dress designers, furniture restorers the list is endless. All wide eyed and bushy tailed and ready to make their mark in this thriving community.
This blog is not going to rain on any one's parade. I think for anyone to make the leap of faith it takes to set up on their own and become self employed is hugely courageous and should be applauded as such. With so much of Britain's manufacturing going to the wall, innovative thinking and cottage industry must surely be the way forward. What I hope to do is offer some advice. I run two  companies  Nicky Rockets and my events company The Vintage PamperBox so have some experience in turning ideas into employment.I'm often asked for tips on how to make a business work in these tough times so here they are.

Tip # 1
Do Not Expect To Become a Millionaire overnight (if at all)

In the early days of promoting Betty Bee Vintage at a vintage fair

We all need to make a living but if its fast cars and mansions you are after vintage may not be the business for you. Given time, with enough dedication and if (and this is a big if) your idea catches the imagination of the vintage buying public you should be able to make a reasonable living but at the beginning you should certainly expect that you will have to do some other form of work to support your venture. Taking a wage and covering all costs can take time. If you put large financial demands on your company too early you will almost invariably become one of the many small ventures who fold within a year. A sobering thought I know but one worth keeping in the forefront of your mind when you first begin.

Tip # 2 Love what you do.

Having fun at one of my vintage pamper parties
Don't set up a vintage inspired business (or any business come to think of it) unless you have a real love and passion for what it is you do. The flames of love for your venture and your belief in it will be needed to keep you warm through slow periods or when it seems you are getting very little out whilst putting so much in.If you are just setting up a vintage inspired business because you think its "in" you are almost certain to fail. Your potential customers will include some very sharp cookies who can sniff out someone cashing in from a million miles and they simply will not buy from you or book your services.

Tip # 3 Make Friends

Networking-Such a good excuse for a good night out
If you plan to offer a service to people who are fascinated by vintage and love elements of the past then you need to rub shoulders with that community. Depending on what your business is attend events, join forums, find like minded souls on twitter. Chatting with people who are into the same things as you can inadvertently teach you an an awful lot about how to market your business and what are the biggest turn offs for the demographic. A note of caution though. Don't just do these things to simply promote your company. Becoming a glorified spammer will not win you customers. Of course use every opportunity to promote what you are doing but occasionally take a breath and just enjoy the scenery.

Tip#4 Show Your Face
Hello this is me!
If you have a website or blog page (or both) attaching a photo and a short bio instantly makes people feel they have a better understanding of who you are and what you are about. If your business is the result of you not being able to find a certain items, or wanting a service which wasn't available in your area tell your customers about that. You are the story and the more people know and like you the more likely it is they will buy into your brand as well.

Tip #5 Plagiarise At Your Peril
Be influenced but don't be an imitator
We all know there is no such thing as an original idea and the world of vintage is to a certain extent all about repackaging the past but tread carefully. People spend a lot of time and energy making their business the best it can be and it can be all too easy to take a look and decide you can do better but ask yourself this question.Do you actually have a unique take on that kind of business or are you just ripping off somebody else's idea? Be thoughtful.Gordon Gecko was wrong. Greed isn't good.

 Tip#6 Go Back To School
I must not apply my lipstick in class
Nobody is born with good business sense. Some people seem to take to the world of running their own business more easily than others but its silly to think you will know how to be self employed or how to deal with suppliers, do your books or keep an eye on overheads. When I was setting up my tee-shirt business Nicky Rockets I attended a one night a week business course. Run by the government it was free and so helpful. I learnt basic accounting, drew up a business plan (invaluable) and was able to concentrate really clearly on how I wanted to market my company.

Tip#7 Shake It Like A Polaroid Picture

Would you like to come to my event?
I will be doing a separate blog about marketing but for any venture to succeed you need to get yourself out there. This may quite literally mean delivering flyer's in the rain, handing out samples of your cakes on the high street or offering to do events for expenses only (sometimes not even that) anything which will bang the drum about your business is valuable and never be too grand to promote yourself. Always have a business card in your wallet and if for example you are wearing one of your own fabulous creations and someone compliments you on it hand them a business card. Us Brits find self promotion difficult but even if your default setting is to hide behind the sofa rather than do public speaking you need to be able to speak about your business with confidence and conviction even if you don't feel it. 

So those are my tips. I hope you found them helpful. I would love to know your experiences of running a vintage inspired business or hear from you if you are just starting out.

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