When you are an entrepreneur, it is important to remember that friendship and business are two separate categories. One should never launch a business counting on friends as clients. Their worth in your life is far above that. It is inevitable however, that the two categories have a slight overlap at times. As a female with a fashion business all about empowering women, it’s a beautiful thing when my two worlds come together, some of my friends support my business, and I get to do the same for them through it. It can get complicated however, when in the comfort of friendship, certain boundaries get crossed. Because I chose to believe people’s intentions are always good and sometimes they just need blunt honesty, I wrote this list:
Supporting Entrepreneur Friends: My Top Five Don’ts
1- Don’t Bargain:
Are you doing business with a start up in the U.S. or buying trinkets on the streets of Abu Dabhi? I mean really, it’s awkwardly embarrassing for both parties, and quite honestly disrespectful. Would you walk into Nordstrom and bargain? Would you try to talk down the cost of ridiculously overpriced yoga pants at Luluemon? Why can’t your friend get that same respect? If anything, those extra dollars make a huge difference in a small business’ account. Don’t make your friends feel bad about their pricing. The price is set and it’s not a random guess. There is a costing process that goes with pricing clothing. You telling me you think it should cost X amount because you usually shop at Target will not change a thing except put you on my ignorant client list. Just don’t do it. If cost really is an issue, the way to go about it is:
“I really love it! It’s slightly above my price range but please let me know the next time you have a sale or special.” I will add you to my e-mail list and you will be the first to know of my next sale. Now that is efficient, not comparing my prices to Target (…I can’t even).
2- No Freebies:
On the same note of bargaining, don’t try to get things for free because “people ask you where you buy your clothes” often. I do gift and donate often but it’s need, not popularity, based. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that I should give someone clothing for free because people always ask them where they shop, or they go to a lot of events so the clothes would get “out there.” If you go to a lot of events, you should buy a lot of clothes. That’s just life. Unless you’re Beyonce (or fine, anything from C list up in celebrity status), my clothes are better of in my inventory closet until someone who knows their worth comes along. I get so conflicted when I get contacted by someone talking about what a big shot they are and how they would let me dress them. If I were a big shot, I would use my time more efficiently, buy the goods and support the economy, versus writing an intricate e-mail to ask for free clothes. But maybe that’s just me. I’m pro shopping 🙂
3- Air your dirty laundry at home:
Don’t bring up your budget and personal circumstances when shopping with a small business. I was raised with the mentality that you do not air your dirty laundry in public. You do it in the privacy of your own home. What does that mean? Save the drama for your mama. When I list a new design or collection for sale, I don’t make you hear about the blood, sweat, and tears that went into producing it. I don’t make you hear about how I went through my personal belongings to see what old beloved pieces of worth I could part with and sell to raise money to pay my manufacturer (ok, I guess I just did). Point is however, I make it work, present you with the piece of the story that interests you, and spare you of the rest. So give me the same courtesy and don’t tell me about how you have plumbing work to do this month, bills to pay, etc. Come shop with me when you’re ready, and don’t if you can’t afford it. It’s really that simple. I work really hard to keep costs friendly to shoppers as is.
4- Stick to what you know:
I love customer feedback. I take it and run with it so I can continue to better take care of my customers’ needs. When the customer tries to play a role other than that however, it can get tricky. The last thing I want as a fashion designer with clothing construction training and experience, is someone who doesn’t have that sharing their “innovative” ideas. If it starts with “you should do this,” or, “you should try that,” 8 out of 10 times it’s cray talk and feels like you’re telling me how to do my job.
5- Don’t Compare:
If your friend has a startup or runs a small business, chances are they are trying to be unique and bring something fresh to the table. Don’t list all the other companies you think are doing the same thing. It’s not helpful, efficient, or encouraging to be reminded you’re one of many trying to make it. Instead point out how you like something they’re doing to bring their own unique spin to their industry (because lets face it, there is already a lot of businesses out there).
When all else fail, keep in mind uplifting is key. All entrepreneurs need that in their life. I often wish I could have my boss give me an encouraging pep talk but then I remember, I am my own boss. With that comes the great and the challenging. Having quality people in your life that don’t cross boundaries is key. Be a good friend.
*Thank You for reading! Sharing and feedback is always welcome. To contact the author, feel free to e-mail: SO@SalwaOwens.com