Vera von Garrel started her fashion design business after running the Killy design production department of Nevica Technical Sport System Ltd.
“It was great to learn the ‘tools of my trade’ with Killy, but I knew that the job was just a staging post for designing my own range of clothes,” points out Vera. “So after four years with the company I launched out on my own.”
Doing it right
After spending some months planning the move Vera became a sole trader on 1st February 2001, whilst still working part time on special projects for Nevica, but was able to dedicate herself to her own business nine months later, with the blessing of her previous company. But although she was up and running, she felt she needed expert business advice.
“Working for myself I thought, am I doing it right? Should I be spending time learning how to run a company and write a business plan? So I enrolled on five business start-up workshops.”
Although the workshops were helpful, showing her how to write a basic business plan and giving advice on finance and marketing, Vera still felt that she could not relate a lot of what she was learning to her particular industry and wanted more help and support.
Thorough understanding of the industry
“For a while I carried on designing and building up my business independently, not wanting to burden friends with discussing my business. Luckily for me I attended an ‘Unzipped Conference’ at the London College of Fashion and heard a Business adviser talk. She obviously had a thorough understanding of my industry and as soon as the formal part of the conference ended I approached her and asked what she could do for me. I had a brochure and some photographs of my designs, and after looking at them she suggested that we get together.”
Business advisors offer a package specifically aimed at London’s thousands of small businesses in the fashion and interior design sectors, which account for the employment of over 7,500 people.
At the first meeting Vera took her laptop with her and together they wrote a proposal, marketing strategy and discussed ideas for the launch of her collection.
Business Link has now been working with Vera for ten months and she has just returned from her biggest show to date in Duesseldorf, which she reports as being a resounding success.
“I am happy to work independently, but need feedback so my adviser is in the loop with much of what is happening within my business. She gives me information and ideas and I can take her advice or not,” points out Vera.
‘Inside’ advice puts Vera ahead
Vera cites her press pack for her Winter 03/04 show as a good example of how valuable her business adviser’s opinion can be.
“Because she is a former buyer with an international retail chain, she knew what other designers were doing and gave invaluable advice on how to make my press pack different and unique from the hundreds of others which buyers and press would receive during the season,” explains Vera.
“The feedback I received from those who received my press pack was really excellent and I achieved a higher level of recognition because of it.”
Business knowledge helps confidence
Vera von Garrel is currently splitting her time between Germany where she has her manufacturing base and the UK where she is looking to open a showroom for her elegant designs.