Growing your fashion business: Interview with Larimeloom
Maria Lucia Squillari knew from a young age that she wanted to work with her hands and be engaged creatively. She started out selling knit scarves on Etsy when she was 20 years old. After only a few months, she grew bored of the monotony of making scarves and moved on to sewing.
Fast forward to today and Lucia has sold over 8,000 items, and has a consistently growing clientele year after year. Want to know how she did it? There are several key attributes that Lucia has that have led to her success:
- Honest with herself and others
- Thoughtfully analyzes her business
- Focuses on gradual improvement
When I was 20 years old I was in my 3rd year of college and still had no clue what I wanted to do with my life. Lucia had clarity of purpose from a very young age, and was able to begin her journey earlier than most people. She knew what she wanted, even if she didn’t have a precise roadmap of how to get there.
Lucia understands her talents, passions, and the type of work and life that she wants for herself. Congratulations Lucia – you’ve probably already accomplished more in figuring that out than many 50-year-olds!
Knowing what you’re capable of is hugely important when you are making the decision to start a business. Many people make one of two mistakes: they over-estimate what they are capable of, or they allow themselves to take on tasks they don’t like and ultimately fail.
Understanding yourself will help you avoid those pitfalls.
Honest with herself and others
In speaking with Lucia, I was immediately struck by her honesty and ease in talking about both her successes and failures. She didn’t pretend to be something bigger than she was. With 8,000 sales she could have told me she had a full-time staff that supported her and tried to come off as a larger company.
Yet, Lucia was very direct in mentioning that she did most of the sewing herself and only leveraged an outside helper when she was too busy to get to everything and she was very comfortable with that arrangement.
Instead of saying she wanted to double her business this year and move into international markets, she stated that she wanted to continue gradual growth and incrementally improve on her business. That type of groundedness will set the stage for larger growth later as well as a fulfilling career.
Furthermore, her ease and forthrightness will be an asset when she’s ready to hire employees or when making business deals. While Donald Trump makes for good television, no one actually wants to work for or make deals with a bully. We’d much prefer to work with the likes of Lucia.
Thoughtfully analyzes her business:
I talk to lots of small business owners who tell me that they are building a website, or are planning to launch one before they’ve ever sold anything and I always ask them why. Most people see that the big brands have a website, so they think they need one too.
They don’t know how much hard work and money goes into building one. When I asked Lucia why she felt the need to build a website when she already had sales on Etsy, she answered:
“I’ve been in business for almost 10 years without a website. It’s only now that I feel like it’s time to put the money and effort into building one because it adds an additional amount of legitimacy to my business that I feel is necessary. I have social media accounts, and with a website, I can link to it instead of just an Etsy store and people will know that I’m not here for the short term. Plus I can give them a more branded experience versus just being another vendor on a platform [like Etsy].”
I’ve worked in technology and e-commerce for over 10 years, and let me tell you, Lucia hit the nail right on the head. After 10 years and a successful growing business, it is appropriate to build a website.
It will help give her credibility and a better branding experience for her customers and potential customers. But if you are just starting out, skip the website and focus on getting sales and feedback as fast as possible. Don’t waste your time building something without proving out your product first.
Lucia had thought long and hard about what she was doing and why and she was extremely articulate explaining herself.
Focus on Gradual Improvement
When asked what her biggest problems were, Lucia answered that she struggled with organization. I asked what kind of tools she used to stay on top of things, and she gushed that she used Excel but wasn’t extremely knowledgeable about Excel’s capabilities.
She stated that her goal was to become better at using it, but it she knew it would take time and she couldn’t dedicate nights and weekends at designing a better organization mouse trap.
Focusing on gradual improvement is the way to go. I’ve consulted Fortune 500 companies as dictates from upper management have forced complete revamps in the way things are done, and let me tell you – it never ends well.
You end up spending way too much time on learning a new tool or process when incremental improvement over the old way of doing things would have been much better. The Japanese even have a word for it: Kaizen, or gradual improvement in business process or efficiency.
My recommendation to Lucia would be to dedicate 1 hour per week, Monday mornings at 9:00am – first thing of the week, to reviewing her organization methods. Here’s a list of tools that I recommend considering:
OneNote / EverNote:
Use either of these tools to write long term and daily to-do lists. I review the list first thing when I wake up and check off tasks during the day as I complete them. I also review the last before going to sleep at night.
Hootsuite for social media:
If you have Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and blog accounts – HootSuite can help keep all your social mediacampaigningg organized.
UpWork and Aiveo for digital:
UpWork is a platform where you can hire, pay, view screen grabs, and rate digital workers. You can hire designers, copywriters, marketers, and coders here.
Aiveo is great for keeping tabs on assignments. Create projects, assign tasks, and review them when they are done. I find it indispensable for website work.
I have to plug ourselves as Maria mentioned that she currently modified her designs manually to accommodate her customer’s sizings.
To help her grow and improve efficiencies, she could leverage a digital design tool like ModaMake where she can create her designs and then plug in her client’s sizes to print a pattern that instantly fits.
I think it’s clear that Lucia will have a long and prosperous career doing what she loves. We wish her the best and hope that you will check out her fashions at the links below: