I learnt last night of the news that one of my favourite brands The Whitepepper has closed for business. Since they began roughly 8ish years ago i have coveted their designs and branding and just loved everything they did. There dresses were the right side of fun and affordable to keep in competition with the highstreet. I watched them grow from strength to strength and attended their press events and became friends with the girls who worked there.
On learning about this it got me thinking about how hard it is running a creative business. I’m going to focus on fashion as that’s what i do and know, but i’m sure many of the struggles I face daily are shared among all small businesses.
I absolutely love my job, and VSM is my entire world, I wouldnt change it and have been doing it for over 5 years. BUT. Sometimes I sit and cry because I feel i cannot cope, or that one customer sends an email without thinking and pushes you to breaking point. Or you machine breaks and you have yet another bill to pay. Sometimes it feels relentless and the idea of giving up becomes appealing.
I’m going to cover the few main cons (with a massive pro list at the end!) of running an independent business.. Id love to know your thoughts in the comments too!
Fees. These pesky little things are everywhere. Paypal, shopify, ASOSMP, depop, silkfred etc. They range from 1% – 35% and are always there, and sometimes combined. It all adds up and chips away at your profit margin, which is small anyway. People see something for £45 and assume £35 of that is profit. I wish. Take the 25% if you sell through a third party; the 2% paypal, the £3 postage, the £7 material etc… it all chips away and sometimes you end up working for less than minimum wage. Why dont you put the prices up?.. welll
In a world of “fast fashion” people want something straight away and for the smallest price possible. Trying to compete with highstreet giants is hard. They offer next day delivery & you can get a dress for a tenner. The highstreet currently have massive 70% off sales, i can understand why people would go there rather than spending £40+ for a dress from an independent seller. It’s so hard to get a look in sometimes with these global brands, it feels like your fighting a loosing battle. I built my brand around my love of vintage clothing, and upcycling, so im very big on the ethical fashion front. I think its important to know where and how your clothes are made, and at what ethical cost.
There are literally not enough hours in the day. Making all the products, marketing, updating the website, blogging, taking new photos, getting samples to press, getting to meetings with fabric reps, i sometimes feel like i ned to clone myself. Sometimes people expect email replies straight away, but it just isn’t possible. We have a ‘reply within 24 hours’ policy, its not because i cant be bothered or because i’m being rude, but i literally do not have the time to do it straight away.
Everyone is broke. Everyone wants a bargain. Postage rise, fabric costs rise, tax rises, cost of living rise, yet wages (therefore my prices) stay the same. The high street are pretty much giving away their clothes (which incidentally makes you think how little the people who made them got paid, if you can sell an item for £7 and still make a profit). The world has become anonymous and has lost that neighbourly feel. Spending £40 in my store can quite literally save my ass some weeks, but i understand its easier and quicker to go to asos/topshop etc. I do the exact same thing quite often, as we all want something for nothing, or a lot of the time it’s all we can afford. Its a vicious circle of a low economy and the only ones who benefit are the massive companies. I understand that small businesses aren’t really ‘competing’ with the big boys, it’s more trying to get customers to come to you rather than them. Its hard to show people the difference of why shopping and supporting handmade is so important.
Working solo or part time solo can sometimes be a lonely time. You’re missing that support network you get when working as a team or in a larger company. When you get that horrible email from the >1% which makes you want to cry or quit, theres no one there to talk to about it. No one there to share in the pain, or turn it into something funny. It can sometimes feel that you’re struggling on your own.
Luckily thanks to the wonderful world of FB, there are many groups where all us business babes have come together where we can ask advice, share stories or even have a little rant when necessary. These help immensely and the support they give is something i could not do without. Talking to my dog all day every day is great, but a little human contact goes a long way!
I’m living the dream! Working in the fashion industry. I’v met some amazing and talented people. Seeing something you have designed in a magazine. The customer pictures of people wearing your items. Flexible living.. afternoon mid week coffee? OK then! Being creative for a living. Every day is different. Being asked to make things for special occasions as well as some pretty funny fancy dress. Being recognised in the street (oh instagram fame). Passing a stranger in the street wearing one of your designs. Going to fancy events. Meeting amazing creative people. Being able to have a dog. Being too friendly with the post office girls. The lovely messages customers leave on our ‘notes’ section. Anything from “great job keep it up” to “your designs are incredible, i’m so happy i found your store”. Each one makes me smile.
I would love to know what you think regarding the status of independent businesses, are they dying out or going to stay stronger than ever? Perhaps the White Pepper had personal reasons for disappearing; i’m sure it will all become clear soon amid this speculation. It just got me thinking about how hard this life can be sometimes.
Incidentally, if you do want to support us, we currently have 25% off with code SUMMERSALE at Vintage Style Me
A few of my favourite independent brands:Read More