Ask James Caan – 26th April 2011 – Issue 45
This week I’m exploring the issues facing Mira, a single mum who’s had considerable success in the fashion industry but is having to re-think pursuing her dreams to pay the bills.
‘I am a 37 year old single mum of a 5 year old son. I have over 12 years’ experience working within the media industry. I freelanced so I could work from home in the first year of my son being born. I then went on to start my own fashion label and launched that a year later.
‘I started making couture pieces made to measure as per order. Yes I had a lot to learn and I did, very fast too. Trial and error has been the best teacher! It took off, Mira Taylor Couture House was born, brand awareness peaked with small fashion shows, features in Asian Bride magazine, Britain’s Next Top Model and an interview on a fashion panel on Brit Asia TV.
‘I’m 3 years into this and I have not gained the financial independence I hoped for. New customers are still coming and many returning customers too, but it’s not enough to give me the financial independence I need.
‘So I have been job hunting again, a 9-5 job that will allow me to work from home a couple of days a week so I can do the school runs. It’s been 5 months since I updated my CV and registered with many agencies, direct applications and so on and still to no avail. Of course I would love it if my business took off at a level where it gave me financial peace of mind, but I know at this stage without further cash injections, I can’t take it to the next level yet’.
Firstly, Mira, what an inspiring story. To pursue your dream business and receive the kind of exposure you have had so far is a tremendous thing.
As someone setting up in the fashion industry, I appreciate some of the hurdles you’re facing. My wife, Aisha, set up a few fashion boutiques in the 1980s. Whilst the majority of the hard work was done by Aisha, it exposed me to just how competitive the fashion world is and the sheer amount of work it takes.
They say in business that your best loss is your first loss, and this is particularly relevant to a start-up. Yet you’ve demonstrated that you’re learning from your mistakes and the fact your clients keep returning is good news. It means you’re on the right foot.
It seems to me you have two options: to go back into employment or to continue with the company.
On the face of it, your best option, initially, is to look for a job to pay the bills – after all, family comes first. What kind of roles are you looking for at present? As an experienced business owner, I imagine you’re looking at managerial appointments, but do they offer the flexible working you seek? There are a number of options to consider: look at vacancies specialising in areas you enjoyed when running the company, or perhaps an industry that could help you to start building up contacts for when you return to the business.
The entrepreneur in me, however, thinks you should continue to pursue your dream of running your fashion company. If you can’t commit the time and resources needed at present, consider bringing someone in as a partner. An additional pair of hands could bring further expertise, not to mention a cash injection if you’re willing to take a step back.
Overall, Mira, you’ve demonstrated to me you have the right qualities to succeed as an entrepreneur, and as you can see, there are a number of options to consider.
I wish you every success,