What You Need To Know About Growing Your Fashion Startup Business Through Collaboration
As a fashion entrepreneur in Nigeria, many times it might seem like the odds are against you and you have to really strive to be seen and heard. As a creative individual in the fashion industry, most people will not want to give you a chance because everyone wants to see your experience and your body of work.
It is at times like this when you sit and wonder how to grow your body of work and clientele if no one is willing to give you a chance that collaboration can really come in handy.
What is Collaboration?
Collaboration is a form of partnership, it is a value exchange and since there is a value exchange, it is not charity. For instance, if a big company wants to bring their products into a new niche, they can collaborate with a YouTuber to push the product to their followers. In this case, the company is giving value in the form of money and the YouTuber is giving value in the form of exposure to a new market.
However, we are going to be talking about unpaid collaboration today.
How to Navigate Unpaid Collaboration
The first thing to consider before going into collaboration with anyone is, 'What is the mission/goal of the collaboration?
Are you trying to create brand awareness? Are you trying to increase sales? Are you trying to get your next big clientele? Whatever it is that you are trying to achieve through that collaboration has to be established.
Knowing the goal of your collaboration right from the beginning will help in navigating and choosing who you will like to collaborate with.
Why Should I Consider Collaboration?
Collaboration has its many different benefits, some of which are;
1. It expands your audience:
When you collaborate with people, you are able to leverage each others audience. Collaboration opens up a new door for you to showcase your work to a new set of eyes.
2. Having shared interest with your partner helps cut cost:
In collaboration, you can leverage each other's skills to make the collaboration work and push each other's business instead of hiring someone.
3. It gives you an opportunity to learn on the job:
As a fashion entrepreneur who has never done something before, say a photoshoot, collaboration is a way to get your feet wet without using too many resources. It helps you with your next project in the sense that when you want to do a photoshoot yourself, you know the things to consider to make it work without spending too much money.
How To Find The Right Partner
1. Find people that you have good synergy with:
You cannot find this out off social media, it is not until you start to communicate with the person(s) that you find it out, so this requires a bit more time. You will want to establish a relationship with whoever you wish to collaborate with first.
You can start with following them on Instagram, sending a direct message, or reaching out via the contact information they provide online. When you start talking to them, shoot your shot and tell them you really like their work etc.
In reaching out though, you want to make sure that there is some form of a relationship established, so comment on their work on social media, comment on their page, when they post something new be there to give them fire smileys, hands raised smileys, and so on, just to start a relationship.
2. There should be mutual respect for each other's work:
When you reach out to a creative you want to collaborate with, if there is no rapport and conversation seems forced, you have to pick up on it. You want to be sure they love and respect your work the same way you love and respect theirs before collaborating with them.
A successful collaboration cannot happen if your partner feels like they are doing you favour.
3. Find out how reliable that person is:
Do they keep their word? If they promise to do something, do they do it? To know this, you must have already formed a relationship and built a rapport with them first.
Red Flags To Look Out For In Choosing A Partner While Starting A Conversation With Them
Collaboration should never be rushed. Take your time to get to know the person(s) you want to collaborate with. Get to know their person and their character because at the end of the day you will be tying your brands together.
You want to collaborate with someone that has a good reputation so you don't taint yours.
While in conversations with this person you intend to collaborate with, look out for these red flags;
1. People who avoid documentation:
Granted, sometimes, this happens out of ignorance as some people are just scared and don't want to be roped into something they'll be liable for. However, someone that is willing to hold up their end of the bargain should never run away from contracts.
People that are wary of contracts are people you need to be wary of.
When the person(s) you wish to collaborate with doesn't want to sign a contract, you should dig deep and find out why. This conversation of contracts should come up as a discussion at the beginning of the collaboration.
A person can be very talented but lack professionalism. Professionalism in that sense they do not deliver what they should, they do not meet deadlines, they do not communicate with you and are sloppy. With such people, you have to be very careful because their shortcomings might rub off on you and affect you.
If they do not meet their due date on deliveries, are not professional, would not meet deadlines and do not give you your work as at when due then regardless of how talented they are, do not work with them. Unprofessionalism starts with little things like lateness to meetings, negligence, and so on.
Now, you have met someone, you have good synergy with that person, there is mutual respect for each other's work and you want to do the collaboration, how do you structure that partnership?
Structuring Your Partnership
Write it down! Whatever you and your partner want to achieve has to be written down. The importance of writing and documenting every single thing cannot be overemphasised. You can do this in a formal way or an informal way;
Normally, you might want to write a memorandum of understanding which is a letter of intent that states what each party is expected to contribute to the collaboration. It is like a draft of what the partnership will look like. After this, you can enter into a formal contract.
A memorandum of understanding helps you know what to expect from the collaboration. It is that process of drafting and it requires you to communicate and establish intentions.
If you do not want to be so formal, you can use an app like WhatsApp, which is end-to-end encrypted which means that no third party can change your agreement, for the formalities. On WhatsApp, you want to make sure that the purpose of the collaboration is written and outlined clearly.
The reason for collaboration i.e.your goals need to be stated out clearly so that at the end of the collaboration, one party does not feel slighted and used.
Things to write out in your agreement:
You have to write out what is expected of the collaboration and state what the markers to indicate a successful collaboration will be. For instance, is your goal to get 5 clients out of the collaboration? Write it out clearly as the end goal of the collaboration.
In your written-out agreement, you should state how the collaboration will work and put a timeline to it. You will also want to decide on the process to follow in achieving the goals.
You are going to need to state when the project will be done, what each party is to deliver and the time frame for each deliverable. Every deliverable must have a due date.
4. Consequences for not meeting deadlines:
For each deliverable that there is, it is important to talk about and state what the consequences for failing to deliver in the given time frame will be.
Everything needs to be written out and clarified so that nothing is misunderstood or miscommunicated. If there are some things you do not understand in the agreement, ask questions to be sure.
With each meeting you have, whether physically, over the phone or virtually, one party should take the minutes of meeting and share it on the WhatsApp chat. If it's a multiple person collaboration, then you might want to open a WhatsApp group chat and have the minutes of the meeting sent to the group and everyone acknowledge and agree to the terms in it.
You have to ensure that every agreement is in writing and that every party acknowledges and agrees to every agreement made. This is because some people go back on their words and some will not remember the decisions made over the phone or different parties might have different understandings of the agreements made. Writing is important!
Collaboration is a great means to grow your startup fashion business but in doing so you must be wise and ensure that your brand message remains the same and your brand image is not tainted.