How Do I Start a Clothing Business?

Sheri Cyprus

To start a clothing business, it's important to first identify and research your target market. You'll have to thoroughly understand the likes, dislikes, budget and clothing buying habits of potential customers before getting to the fun part and choosing items to sell. You'll need a well thought out business plan, especially if you hope to get investors to help finance your clothing company.

A person starting her own clothing line could sell the apparel in a boutique.
A person starting her own clothing line could sell the apparel in a boutique.

Many start-up companies make the mistake of quickly constructing a business plan or paying someone to do it. The problem with that can be overlooking key areas. Being able to have a thorough understanding of all aspects of your customer base, competition, business model and likely return on investment (ROI) is probably going to take a lot of research and contemplation on your part. While it may be wise to hire people to help you start a clothing business, paying someone to do your preliminary thinking for you is likely not the best idea in which to base your company strategy.

Boutique clothing stores are common in resort towns.
Boutique clothing stores are common in resort towns.

Carefully weigh all of your options to help capture a profitable part of your target market. For example, if your original idea to start a clothing business was to involve apparel manufacturing, but after calculating expenses versus profits you decided it wouldn't work as well as you thought, consider other options. You may want to choose a vintage clothing business model rather than your own clothing line. If you still hope to involve sewing and design in your clothing company, understanding the facts can help you come up with workable strategies.

Many countries have a government-run small business information center, and this can be a valuable free resource to use when starting your clothing venture. Even when your business plan is effectively complete with thorough research, you're likely to still require help with regulations and laws. Make sure you have enough working capital as you start a clothing business, especially in the typically tough first year of operation.

Marketing your products is crucial to get your name and brand out to potential customers. Your marketing strategies as well as their costs should be outlined in detail within your business plan. Remember also to consider all of your overhead costs whether your clothing business will be home-based or in a rented commercial space. When you start a clothing business, make sure you can have all of the details accomplished, such as a company website and required staff, before your launch date.

In order to start a clothing business, a well thought out business plan is needed.
In order to start a clothing business, a well thought out business plan is needed.

Discussion Comments


@indigomoth - I've seen a lot of small clothing businesses come and go on the main streets of my city. I know that sounds cynical, but honestly they seem to pop up and then vanish again overnight.

And I think you're right that a person needs to focus on what will make their company unique. But they also have to be accessible to a range of people and definitely cater to their audience.

You don't want to be too unique. It's great to be different but in the end, people like what they know and what they need and if you aren't providing that, at least in some form, then they won't visit you.

Of course, what I would do, if I was starting a clothing business, is start off online and only go into a physical premises if the online shop did well. That way you can get a good look at your customers and learn to cater to them without the expense of rent and so forth.


You should definitely take advantage of any kind of small business related help you can find, from investors or the government. Often there are government run initiatives that exist to provide help for small businesses. You could end up with grants or advice or interest free loans or any number of things.

Every area is different so make sure you check out all the possibilities in yours. I often see competitions being held to reward innovative start-ups and if you put a lot of thought into what will make your business unique, you can take advantage of that.

I know some people think they ought to be able to make their business work on their own, but the first year is so difficult for any business and the slightest bad patch can cause you to fail.

Your best bet is to take advantage of as much as you can and pull out all the stops for your first year.

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