Category Archives: Business Start-up

Your business is meaningless without marketing and sales

Marketing and sales go hand-in-hand and are the foundations of revenue for your business. Do not put off marketing because other activities are more important. They aren’t. If you’re not marketing and selling, you’re not:

1. Bringing in revenue
2. Getting on the radar of revenue-producing clients
3. Showing investors you’re serious about selling your services or products

And for 4 other tips check out this post from A Billion Entrepreneurs:

What “I’ll try” really means in business and personal relationships

Short answer: the other person isn’t committed.

Communications 101: Communication is the foundation of all relationships — business and personal. When communications function well in a relationship, the relationship succeeds. When they don’t, the relationship struggles. It’s that simple. And “I’ll try” is a bright red flag. Whether it’s a business or personal relationship, “I’ll try” is a signal that should not be ignored…it signifies something is amiss in the communications, and thus the relationship. When you receive the “I’ll try” message, you need to proceed carefully.

Gene Guberman ( specializes in dealing with communications within relationships. Here is his take on the situation: The way someone communicates reveals something the person is unaware of. In poker it’s known as a person’s “tell” that unveils they are “bluffing”. Interpersonal communication is loaded with varieties of information untrained people don’t perceive and speakers don’t know they are unwittingly sharing about themselves. Conflict is omnipresent between individuals. Managing conflict between people and building successful relationships requires understanding the hidden aspects of communications – our own and those of significant others.

Fashion Forecasts for the Fall by Guest William Clark

My guest blogger this week is William Clark who will discuss some of his choices for this fall’s fashion lineup accompanied by a historical reference of fashion falls gone by. And this being a small business blog, the last designer is just that.
William is the founder of JETTSTYLE, his consulting business where he has worked with Reese Witherspoon, Pauletta Washington, Benny Medina, and Renee Zellwegger. He brings to JETTSTYLE a wealth of experience in every facet of fashion. No less impressive is the fact that he was selected to assist in the styling of a major shoot for a recent edition of Italian Vogue. His background includes working with Carrie Donovan at Vogue, Bill Cunningham at the New York Times, Jean Paul Gautier, Thierry Mugler, Comme des Garcons, Giorgio Armani while, at the same time, overseeing direction of the Emporio Line visually for the US, and Bottega Veneta. His red carpet clients in addition to those mentioned above, include Jennifer Aniston, Brad Pitt, Hilary Swank, Gwen Stefani, Mary J Blige and Salma Hayek.

It’s official: we’re diving into summer — let’s talk about my favorite ready to wear collections of the season.
We are first taken on a African safari with Sarah Burton of the house of Alexander McQueen who was obviously influenced by Monsieur Yves Saint Laurent’s African Queen collection from the 70′s . She used vibrant graphic prints and intricate textures in abundance. Her use of textiles was so beautifully executed by making feathers and beads to appear to be checkered tweed. The crocodile and gold harnesses worn over graphic printed kilts then gave it a medieval twist.

Alexander McQueen, NOW



Miuccia Prada over at the house of Miu Miu looked to the 60′s & 70′s through a naughty school girl’s rose’ colored glasses for inspiration. Her use of muted pastels such as pistachio, powder blue and neapolitan in beautiful childlike prints of parrots, foxes and angel fish could have easily been seen on supermodel Veruschka in the 70′s or today on the houses Oscar winning muse Lupita Nyong’o. Muiccia’s artisan approach to usage of textures like crochet, tortoiseshell, suede and python was perfection.

Miu Miu Spring/Summer 2014, NOW


Veruschka, THEN

While back home stateside Prabal Gurung presented a hyper colored and floral splashed collection out of the 50′s with a ultra modern twist. These vibrant colors lined dramatic evening coats in metallics giving them edge. Between binding the waists of dresses and pants with clear pvc belts and the ultra sexy shoes there was a slightly erotic vibe to his collection and I liked it 😉

Prabal Gurung

Next on to design duo Badgley Mischka. We’ve been invited to a party thrown by the Great Gatsby on one of his opulent yachts. The color palette is muted pastels and the theme of coarse is nautical. There are chic touches of the 20′s & 30′s in pleated chiffon palazzo pants, fringed bugle beaded dresses, bucket hats and the girls wore marcel waves in they’re hair.

Our last destination (a small business fashion house) is Ancient Egypt where there is new Queen on the throne and she is The Serpent Queen from the House of Rubin Singer. For s/s 2014 this rising star couturier is giving elements of the ancient and regal culture with a ultra modern approach. He uses embellishments in his embroidery such as bugle beads, chains and swarovski crystals. He sculpts and drapes the female form in combinations like silk brocade, chiffon, python, and metallic leather embossed with hieroglyphics from the tomb of Queen Nefertiti. His Serpent Queen is a dangerous temptress that knows she can seduce with her dark beauty.

Rubin Singer’s Serpent Queen, NOW


Liz Taylor, Another Queen THEN

You’re a fashion lifestyle company…who are your champions?

#Fashion Institute of Technology and New York Economic Development – Together they are responsible for the Design Entrepreneurs NYC Mini-MBA program — year 3 and gaining momentum!

You can set your summer calendar by this program…take the best two weekends of endless sunny days and 32 dedicated and talented entrepreneurs happily spend the entire weekend indoors learning how to grow their fledgling businesses. And after the two weekends, they have 10 weeks to write a business plan. At the end of the summer they will compete to present their business to panels of fashion industry heavies in the hopes of winning a cash prize. But just participating in this program makes everyone a winner. Each designer has a clearly defined niche and their styles are so appealing! I’m particularly excited to be mentoring and And this year features the first #fashiontech designer to participate in DENYC! A handbag that charges your cell phone! Wait til you see the rest! On second thought, don’t wait

Check out the program, it’s current students and alumni,

Dr. Joyce Brown, President of FIT, welcoming the new designers! Jeannette Nostra, on the Board of GIII & Morris Goldfarb, President, Chairman & CEO of GIII in the background.

Christine Helm, Coordinator, Enterprise Center, FIT and Administrator of Design Entrepreneurs NYC.

You’re a lifestyle company. Who are your champions?

Silver Lining is one champion. I met Carissa Reiniger, CEO and President, about three years ago. She has dedicated Silver Lining to helping lifestyle businesses grow. Simple. It’s a one year, mostly on line, program designed to grow your business. It’s not a business plan but rather an action plan that relies on some of the same things in a business plan. There’s nothing wrong with business plans…they are great for determining what direction you want to take your company in. Business plans are primarily used to raise capital however. The philosophy at Silver Lining is that action plans are a better way for lifestyle businesses to grow. Their action plan is called SLAP: Silver Lining Action Plan. It’s a simple (because once you fill in the blanks, the plan program does all the calculations for you). Even if you’re self motivated, sometimes taking care of your own business gets pushed to the side by you – like the shoemaker with barefoot kids. If you can relate to this, then maybe you should check Silver Lining out.

Carissa Reiniger, CEO and President of Silver Lining

Gale Brewer, Manhattan Borough President who stopped by to cheer on the SLAP in the City participants.

Lifestyle companies… we are the 99%?!

Lifestyle companies are, as partially defined by Wikipedia, businesses that are established and run by their founders with the primary aim of sustaining the founder and, secondarily, those who work for the founder. Wikipedia says that the lifestyle owner wants to sustain a specific level of income that will give the owner a basis on which to live a particular lifestyle. I think the definition is broader than that though. A New York Times article offers other definitions: And here’s another question: at what point is a lifestyle company called a privately held company (one that does not have shareholders, or does an IPO)? Mary Sullivan, a blogger, offers still another point of view on the subject:

I also believe that lifestyle companies make up a large percentage of the tax base…after all, lifestyle companies don’t have lobbyists or have the kind of money it takes to wield enough power to get tax breaks for themselves.

As I’ve written about Natori, lifestyle, or privately held, companies have the advantage of being able to dictate exactly what the owners want to do with it. This includes sustaining a high level of quality, ethics, etc. This is important because it’s directly related to the owner’s vision. I’ve seen lifestyle owners customize their products for clients – still another advantage. Lifestyle companies also offer the owner the potential for a lot of individual freedom and flexibility in their lives. Most companies who I come in contact with at the entrepreneur and other courses I’m involved with (Fast Trac at Levin Institute, Licensing and Design Entrepreneurs NYC Mini-MBA program at FIT) mentoring (Lang School of Entrepreneurship at Columbia University and Philadelphia Fashion Incubator), and Silver Lining are lifestyle companies.

So while lifestyle companies are portrayed as “unglamourous” (meaning no IPO, no high visibility in raising funds, etc.) in the press and in certain communities, like Silicon Valley, Silicon Alley and the Route 128 corridor, they can often be a wise business decision and a road to success for the entrepreneur. Here are some other opinions along the same lines.

What’s your opinion?
#lifestylecompany #startups #entrepreneurs #lifestylebusiness

Natori: A Continuation of an Appealing Apparel Story

Natori: A Continuation of an Appealing Apparel Story

Continuing from the last entry on Ken Natori’s visit to my licensing class (CEO 035)
, here are more traits that distinguish Natori.

One is customer service. I emphasize this in all my entrepreneur classes and to my clients. Customer service is the most cost-effective, and probably least expensive way to differentiate your company from your competition. It is so important, and like marketing, often an afterthought to everything else a busy entrepreneur or business is focused on. But here’s the big secret: Customers remember customer-service! Often customer service tips the scales in favor of the company providing it. Whether it’s a sole proprietor or a Fortune 500 company.

Natori has multiple licensees but when a customer calls customer service, they do not know which product has been licensed – nor should they. This is due to keeping a unified brand within the fashion house. Customer service at Natori is trained to answer all questions about all products, irrelevant of the source (licensed or in-house). This makes for a seamless experience for the customer – how it should be.

Another distinguishing characteristic at Natori, is that Josie, the founder, has a Wall Street background, as does Ken. The result is that they understand first and foremost that fashion is a business. And they treat the company as a business. Ken emphasized this point when he spoke to my licensing class, in order to separate Natori from typical fashion houses which are often known for high drama. The culture at Natori, while still high fashion, is much more sedate and drama-free. Sounds like a nice place to work.

Which leads me to my closing point: Natori is currently looking for a junior person to work in their licensing department. Know anyone? Are you that person? If so, Ken wants to hear from you:

Natori: An Appealing Apparel Story

On Monday, May 5, Ken Natori guest spoke at my FIT Licensing class (by the way, you don’t have to be a fashion designer to take this class). He generously spent an hour and a half talking about his company, founded by his mother, Josie Natori, and answering questions on all aspects of licensing posed by the class.

First – what is the Natori brand:

Natori uses its brand equity to build East-meets-West lifestyle brands including ready-to-wear, accessories, bedding, towels, fragrance, home fragrance, swim, eyewear, and more

Their three-pronged brand strategy includes:
• Josie Natori / Natori (luxury, heritage)
• Josie (contemporary)
• N Natori (accessible to all women)

In a world of mergers, buyouts, etc., Natori is one of the few companies that has retained private ownership. This has allowed them, among other things, to maintain their own vision and control over their products and licensing procedures.

There were two things Ken brought up that really left a strong impression on me and the class. The first was related to his business ethics. When asked about who his licensees are and how he selects them, Ken brought up a simple, but powerful, equation: Partner over Product. This means the people he does business with are the most important element of licensing. By choosing the right partner, Natori is establishing a long term relationship with each licensee. This philosophy is similar to putting together a management team: licensing is like a marriage. You are in it for the long-term. Licensing is an ongoing dynamic relationship that, if done well, and Natori does it well, goes on for years. Translation: a win-win relationship that grows business (for both the licensee and licensor) while maintaining the brand.

Because of Natori’s relationship with their licensees (win-win and long term), the licensees have an in-depth understanding of both the company and the brand. This fosters on-target contributions for new product ideas as well as new vertical opportunities.

The other thing Ken brought up that left an equally strong impression was also related to business ethics. Natori built and owns its own manufacturing plant overseas. Not only does this make business sense and allow the company to keep control over the quality of the manufacture of many of their products, but equally, and some would say more importantly, Natori controls the circumstances and pay of their overseas employees. This methodology completely sidesteps the human rights issues (aka sweatshops) commonly found in overseas garment manufacturing. As a result, Natori’s stance makes them a green company by virtue of their humane treatment of their employees.

My next post will cover more elements that distinguish Natori from its competitors

Bidding for Services Online

Well, I finally have one tiny bit of confirmation (one case history) about my theory that all those cheap websites offering marketing solutions aren’t always worth it. An entrepreneur I know went to a bidding site for logos. He went three times. The first two times he got back garbage – or results that were unusable and totally unsalvageable. The third time was a charm – he was happy with the logo he received and is going to register it as his trademark. The whole process cost him some time (close to three months in total) and some money (he didn’t share how much with me). With no guarantees that each time he threw the line back in the water (or the credit card back on the website), that what he would reel in would be of any value to him.

And this is a savvy entrepreneur. He had some background in marketing and was capable of judging the quality of the work he bought.

So, should you bid for marketing services online? Well, ultimately that’s a decision up to you.

Are you a successful business?

Three of the most important things startups need to focus on / demonstrate if they are raising money, want to grow or just plain want to be successful:

1. Gaining customers (or if no proof of concept then a list of qualified customers)
2. Showing they know how to grow their business
3. Demonstrating profitability and ROI

These points may sound easy to achieve and you may be saying to yourself, ho hum, I don’t need to read further.

Point number 3 – Demonstrating profitability and ROI. A lot of startups get lost here. They don’t realize that you have to invest/spend money in order to make money – Lie #4 – I have to show a profit before I can market. Investors (and actually the company owners should feel this way too) are looking to see if you’re profitable or when you are predicting profitability (break even and beyond). And tossing some money out willy-nilly at marketing efforts will never bring ROI into your company…marketing is a strategic exercise that requires thought and planning and, well, strategy.

Here’s some definitions and formulas for calculating ROI and profitability: