Industry Spotlight: Fashion Business Consultant Shares How to Grow a Fashion Business
When it comes to the fashion and creative worlds, Andrea Rosenfeld has done it all. She’s a fine artist, maker, designer, educator and consultant, and has worked in various areas of the industry. With her bountiful knowledge, we couldn’t wait to pick her brain on the business of fashion.
Tell us about yourself and your history in the creative industries.
Firstly, I’d like to thank DG3 for this opportunity to discuss how I support our creative community. I admire your mission and am thrilled to be working with all of you!
After studying fine art at the University of Michigan School of Art & Design, undergrad, on a whim I transferred to the Fashion Institute of Technology in NY and into fashion design. I graduated in 1986 and while working with a large, dress company as an assistant designer for their urban collection, I noticed people working on computers in a back room, asked their purpose and was told, “merchandising.” Remember, this was the ‘80s and computers weren’t prevalent, so I was intrigued. In fact, while in fashion school, we did everything by hand. Everything.
I researched “merchandising” and realized that I HAD to learn it if I was going to begin my own label. I dove in and the next thing I knew I was the Assistant Merchandiser for Perry Ellis Portfolio Menswear! I moved from illustrating clothing, designing fabric and sourcing findings to designing spreadsheets and detailed formulas to track materials and create costs. I was in heaven. I didn’t realize how much I truly ENJOYED the organized, left brain business end of a creative business. After being there for a few years, a colleague referred me to a newer designer, Isaac Mizrahi, and I became his director of merchandising and operations. There were five of us when I started and we did everything necessary, including sweep the floors. My role was to maintain internal order and communication between the different departments as well as oversee our computer hardware and software orders and installs, specific to the fashion industry and our particular company needs. It was an incredible way to view almost every aspect of this innovative, growing design company and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity.
I got married while working for Isaac and a few years later left the fashion world to raise my family and continue with my fine art development. Once my children were old enough that I could find the time to commit more heavily to my art, my work was accepted into galleries, museums and private collections. Then as an experimental artist, I moved onto jewelry design, off-loom weaving, beading, silver soldering and gem setting. I attended small to large wholesale shows in NY, PA and NV, and Henri Bendel and Bloomingdales were the first retailers to offer me trunk shows, however I preferred galleries as my jewelry is geared more towards the art market. In addition to managing and growing my art business while raising my children as a newly, single mother, I began consulting other creative business owners to help them learn from not only my merchandising and operations background but from my OWN failures and successes, as a small, creative business owner.
Now that I’m back home in Michigan, I want to be involved in something bigger than myself, than selling my art. I desire to add my own style of value to the redevelopment of Detroit and support my creative community.
What exactly do you do now as a business specialist and consultant?
Through Detroit Art & Business Institute, it’s my absolute goal to uplift my client’s self-esteem and increase the value of artists and entrepreneurs using Mind Your Art Business relationship and business building education and consulting. I combine basic life coaching with best business practices and help my clients “grow from the inside out.”
Building a new or existing business, especially a creative business, can be extremely daunting if you don’t have targeted education and committed guidance. Add the fact that it’s YOUR business, which is quite personal, and that every one of us makes daily choices based upon emotion, and you get a number of entrepreneurs too fearful to take steps forward or constantly making the wrong choices. Some jump in emotion-first, wasting time and money because they’ve never been taught strategic steps to become profitable. They alienate potential customers from lack of healthy relationship education or they are taken advantage of because they chase dollars instead of honoring themselves, their relationships and their integrity.
Through my private, targeted one-on-one consulting and group workshops, I teach entrepreneurs how to identify with and connect to their passion, their “why” and their mission, which is the backbone of a strong company. From there we detail “who they are” in business and what type of business they want to grow, based upon how they live their personal lives. I ask them to “see” themselves honestly and I request vulnerability from my students and clients.
Actually, each workshop or session, while focusing on different aspects of best business practices, even one’s specific to fashion, design, retail, fine art, etc., is tethered to mindfulness and asks the client to connect to their integrity and truth. That may sound wishy-washy but it’s incredibly brave to expose yourself to yourself and bravery is necessary while growing a small business. My type of coaching isn’t for every business owner but I find many, many clients who are looking for balance while grasping the various detailed and sometimes exhaustive aspects of a creative venture.
For someone in the fine arts and fashion industries looking to start a business, what's the one thing they should dedicate of their time?
Figuring out what they want to produce as well as WHO they want to produce it for. I see many artists/designers following too many different artistic paths, creating for the sake of creation or because it “feels” right or they “love leather.” They put no thought into their ideal client, how much their client is willing to pay for their art products and if they can make a profit from producing such products at the target prices. Please don’t mistake my request to plan and research as a comment against artistic integrity and creating from one’s soul, but there has to be a strong relationship between one’s passion and a clear business strategy. You’ll probably sell your art because you will hopefully find clients that see value from your work, but you may not attain the financial goals you’ve set if you live in your studio producing without due diligence while also getting out to meet your potential clients and learning the marketplace.
If you could give people in the arts three rules to follow when it comes to starting a business of their own, what would they be?
1. Know yourself well: how you work, how you are in relationships, your brilliance and deficits.
2. Educate yourself in business strategies and how best to work with retailers/galleries through books, group courses or a private consultant/mentor.
3. Get out of your studio and network, building a strong support system, and if any relationship feels wrong, walk away. (I threw in an extra rule for good measure).
You conduct business workshops and mentoring programs and your 30-minute workshop is very affordable. What can people expect from this "sprint" if they want to test it out before they commit to a longer consultation? How do people schedule time with you?
To help as many people as I can, I created a variety of consulting programs for different needs and budgets, but I must say that ANY coach/consultant /mentor will agree that they offer the most value to a client by REALLY knowing them, their passion, objectives and how they work best. So although I offer a Sprint, 30-minute consulting session I don’t recommend that for someone who needs a lot of assistance. I find that my Sprint sessions are mainly used by 4- or 8-week program clients who have a small-medium question/challenge that needs one-on-one attention.
My most budget-friendly, educational option is my MYAB On Demand, MP4 audio/visual workshops. Currently, I’m offering Fairs & Festivals: Step-by-Step Success for $19.95 to get people ready for the next summer sales season. Artists think they have time, but applications for local and national festivals are being taken as early as January (and jewelry spaces fill up first)!
My sessions and program are listed on my website but clients can’t just click to order/schedule. That’s too “cold” and to me, coaching means connecting. Plus, I prefer communication and building strong relationships, so I prefer to talk to potential clients, either through e-mail or in person (during local networking events or at my Meetups) then send them a WELCOME packet to learn more.
What's the best advice you have ever received and also, the worst advice your have received?
Best Advice: We are all on different roads so don’t envy anyone who may be further along than you. Appreciate and learn from the experiences/challenges you encounter on your own path.
Worst Advice: Take any opportunity put in front of you so long as it makes you make money.
What's your favorite article of clothing in your closet, where did you get it and why is it your favorite?
Everything that’s black or every single jean I own… Ha! Well, since we’re into fall, I have to say that when I’m not in jeans my go-to article is my BCBG black paneled, stretch legging with a zipper at the ankle. I’ve gotten my money’s worth and then some. Although I’m not a fan of wearing leggings every day (or yoga pants for that matter) I like the design and the cut, plus they are thick so they provide a buffer for our incredibly cold Midwest winters. The monotone yet textured fabric design brings the eye to the leg instead of the crotch area like plain, thin leggings tend to do. I can wear them dressy or grungy as they work well with stack heels or “combat” boots.
How do you take your coffee?
I’m a wimp: 2% milk or cream and sugar. Lots of sugar.
Books or e-readers?
BOOKS! I live in my local library and borrow from friends. I enjoy the feel of actively turning pages, underlining important passages, writing notes on the margins and dog-earring pages. (Um, in my OWN books, not borrowed ones.)
Flats or heels?
HEELS! Except during the day when I’m alone and working or RUNNING around - then I wear my Converse high tops or warmer combat or snow boots.