My Mother: My Inspiration
My journey into the world of fashion design began inspiration from my mom, when she was in the hospital before she passed away. Because of her illness, she experienced loss of confidence in her womanhood. From that I developed the idea to create a fashion accessory line of wraps, head wraps and scarves called Wrapped in Love to provide warmth, beauty, dignity and style to hospital patients going through chemotherapy treatments or convalescence.
Know Your Customer
I learned that when you’re starting a new business it’s important to find a niche, particularly one that is not currently being served. Once you believe you have found a need for your product, you shoulddo your research. Search online to see if a competitive environment exists.
With a specialized line such as mine (wraps and head wraps for chemotherapy patients), you’ll need to seek out experts in the field to ensure you are meeting the market’s needs. I designed my wraps with the input of nurses to ensure that the design would still allow them access to their patients.
It’s also important to talk to the end user, which in my case was patients. I held a focus group with women going through chemotherapy to gauge their needs and preferences. Focus groups can be very helpful in developing a new product, especially as we sometimes we get so engrossed in our own creation that we miss elements of the design process that are critical points for the end user.
Advice on Research
Identify an organization or specialty group that you would consider a potential customer, and invite them to take part in a small focus group of 8-12 people. When you meet with the participants, inquire about every aspect of your sample product, such as the design, fabric, colors, patterns, and price point. Take detailed notes of their reaction. Don’t be afraid – most people love the opportunity to be able to share their input in the creation of a new product line. It helps to compensate them with a small monetary amount or gift card.
When I started Wrapped in Love, I engaged in conversation with both patients and caregivers to identify what was most comfortable to wear and what styles would provide enough access so that treatment could occur while the pieces were worn. I created head wraps and shirt wraps that could fit well over standard hospital gowns. Patients, running the gamut from those suffering from cancer to new moms, wanted something that they could feel stylish in, so I worked with bright and trendy colors and fabrics in response to their their feedback. Before my mother passed away, she wore one of my festive wraps over her hospital gown on Christmas Day. That was a special moment for us.
Local manufacturing is important to many customers and retailers, and it was important to me. Sometimes it costs more to produce in the United States, but the importance to the end user is worth it. Maker’s Row helped me find a manufacturer in my home state of Michigan – and the fact that I’ve produced locally has given me access to many retailers believe that to be a strong selling point with their customers.
Finally, if it fits within your business plan, look for the opportunity to give back from the start. I select different charities throughout the year to give back a percentage of sales. This quarter, we are donating 10% in sales to the American Cancer Society. This goes a long way with the retailer and the customer in signifying what your brand stands for, and it generates media interest as well.
Charitable organizations will help you promote your product if it benefits their constituents. Identify charities that have a direct connection to your product in some manner. Research organizations thoroughly to ensure that the partnership is the right fit for both of you. In some cases, donating your product to the charity may be just as, or more important, than donating a percentage of sales. #FashionForACause
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