We were recently asked to explain our four main challenges as a start-up. This was our answer:
1) Our customers are primarily start-up fashion brands.
Although we have 83 brands in our sales pipeline, most of these companies are start-ups that are in the early stages of testing their business models. It generally takes a lengthy period for them to get to the stage of placing an order, and usually the initial orders are very small whilst they test the market. Sometimes the brand owner decides to go in a completely different direction or to not proceed with their business at all, however our experience is those brands that thrive place larger orders over time.
2) Competing with suppliers that aren't fair trade.
The owner of a small fashion brand recently said to us "Our customers demand the highest quality, the best sustainable practices, and they are very price sensitive". Although we work hard to keep our costs down there are costs associated with paying a living wage to factory employees, producing the best quality, and trying to protect the planet in all our business practices. The brands we supply understand this but they are of course under their own financial pressures and are operating in an extremely competitive industry.
3) Cash flow.
We are a small business and don't yet have the reserves required to have month to month stability. Our first priority is paying all the employees at the factory and regularly we are left with very little at the end of the month to cover all the other financial commitments such as factory rent. This should improve as we convert more of the companies in our sales pipeline, and as more of them grow and therefore place larger orders. However, in the meantime cash flow is an enormous challenge and ultimately is the reason why we are so far behind on our loan repayments, which we deeply regret.
4) Global uncertainties.
We regularly hear from established small businesses that with uncertainties in the market and in international trade they do not want to add another potential uncertainty by switching supplier at this time.