Fashion, Texiles, and Soft Product Development: A Viable Career Options for Harvard Graduates

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As uncertain as the future may hold for Harvard students, there are still many unique niches for a brainy go-getter to consider. The fashion, textile, and sewn product industries encompass over a 1.2 trillion dollar worldwide mega-market every year. These stats beat out other heavy-hitting sectors such as restaurants, digital and traditional media, science, and many fields of tech. Furthermore, the textile and sewn product industries are mature sectors of worldwide global trade, with hundreds of years of technology and commerce from which to draw experience.

Although competitive, a typical well-schooled business, marketing, or art student can easily break into the fashion, raw textile, or sewn products markets. First, you will need to do extensive product research that allows you to develop a product that stands far above than that of the rest of your competitors. Unfortunately, the reason why many people fail in these fields is that there are a lot of copycat competitors, and not a lot of originality. You have to develop a useful and unique product to set yourself apart from the stiff competition that you will be facing.

After you do your market research, you will need to look into sourcing sewing suppliers, including trim suppliers such as Roxwell Waterhouse. It is essential that you seriously investigate local domestic sewing houses if it all possible. If you can do production locally, you will be saving yourself a huge headache as immediately jumping into foreign production as a new start-up can result in all sorts of unexpected (and costly) issues. However, if this is not tenable, you can head over to the internet sourcing websites such as Alibaba and have a serious and thorough conversation with as many factory representatives as possible. Be sure to always calculate the importing and shipping variables with determining the final cost of goods. This alone can break your budget if not carefully examined, and also applies to crocheted, quilted, and knitted soft products as well.

It is imperative that if you go into business for yourself that you learn as much about digital marketing as you can. Prudent and well-executed digital marketing campaigns can save you many thousands of dollars in marketing and advertising costs over traditional methods. One must be very cautious when undertaking options such as conventional big-city trade shows. Fashion and crafts trade shows are costly, and usually, participants do not include travel costs in the equation. This is no way meant to imply that conventional trade shows are futile, but you must be very careful if you have a limited start-up a budget. Many vendors at trade show end up losing thousands of dollars and leaving after it ends very defeated and burned out. This recommendation is not an absolute, but something to keep an eye out on.

Instead, take a few months to learn everything you can about building a WordPress website and learning about the ins and outs of search engine optimization. You will need to optimize both on-page, which is relatively easy and very low cost to do, as well as perform an off-page audit. You also need to learn about the different options of paid digital marketing. However, understand if you jump into this without doing due diligence as with the trade shows, you could lose many thousands of dollars within a few weeks. Knowledge is power here.

Learn how to do a lot of outreach to potential wholesale fashion or department store purchasing managers or buyers. Start small, and get your feet wet calling on local mom-and-pop boutiques and product sellers. Have your presentation all worked out and well-rehearsed. Invest in a few slick brochures outlining the features of your product, making sure you have your full contact and website info. When employing a more conservative outreach method, you don't have to go through layers of bureaucracy to get to the person in charge of buying that way. As you build experience, you can then work up to larger for-profit and non-profit institutions at a later time as you build confidence and expertise.

It might be helpful to consult with the SCORE (Corp of Retired Executives) chapter at the local small business administration branch in your city. There you will find many many retired business owners and executives very generously volunteering their time to mentor you and to give you valuable input into business development. Be sure to tap the valuable network that you have cultivated at Harvard, as there are many colleagues with extensive experience for which whose minds you can pick to help gather ideas

Harvard students are known to have some of the finest minds in the world. It is worth pursuing the sewn product, textile, and fashion industries, as these are the most established and oldest small and large business sectors in the world. You can exercise both your business acumen and creative abilities at the same time, while potentially realizing very healthy profits.

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