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Guide to Growth: What are the fundamentals to cover for a new brand?

In a company’s infancy what are the absolute fundamentals to cover off? There is a lot of online scaremongering for early-stage companies, when funds are crucial. So where should you invest? 

Drapers’ Guide to Growth programme is produced in partnership with Clipper Logistics.

“The difficult thing when a business starts is that there are so many things to do,” says Judith Tolley, head of the Centre for Fashion Enterprise, who stresses that forward planning is essential when decision making on areas for investment. “They need to put a little bit of order in place to decide what they should be doing, when and what their priorities are.”

Protecting ideas and brand identity is one aspect she flags as crucial: “If they have an idea or are a tech business, they need to be patenting their idea quite quickly to protect their intellectual property [IP]. If they aren’t a tech business, they might instead be registering design rights, as well as the name of the business.”

She notes that because of political uncertainties caused by Brexit, businesses should ensure they are registered both in the UK and the European Union, as well as in any other countries in which they will be doing business, particularly China.

“China is the place they are most at risk of intellectual infringement, even at graduate stage,” she says.

Tolley advises brands to engage a lawyer as early as possible to ensure they are doing exactly what they should. Although this is not cheap, it could save money in the longer term by avoiding potentially costly errors.

“I would recommend they take legal advice from someone on the ground. It is possible to do it yourself, but you are in much safer hands with a lawyer.” She adds this does not necessarily demand a huge investment. “The landscape has really changed and there are a lot of resources you can tap into to get legal advice for small businesses. A lot of legal companies will offer a free half-hour, for example, and all sorts of banks offer advice or run small incubator programmes. Find as much advice as you can for free before you start paying for things.”

Haeni Kim, founder Kitri, says trademarking the brand name was one of the first things she did when plans for the womenswear brand began to take shape.

“People thought I was crazy to trademark Kitri so early,” she says. “It’s an incredibly expensive investment to make.

“It doesn’t have to be for everything that you think your business will do in the future: lots of businesses grow into owning different categories. For us, it was really important to check off all the fashion categories we wanted to trade in over the first three years.”

Kim also notes that non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) can play a role in protecting IP, and recommends brands embrace the security they provide, “particularly if it is a new idea or a new proposition”: “You will be relying on a lot of people when you bring them on board, whether that’s freelancers, interns or experts. The first thing you should do is get people to sign NDAs. People can be nervous about asking people to sign NDAs but it gives you security and peace of mind.”

Engaging a lawyer to assist in drafting NDAs, as well as other important aspects such as terms and conditions, privacy policy and acceptable use policy is also something Kim says should be a priority for a young business – especially a digital business.

“All of those things are incredibly important for us to safeguard our customers,” she says. “There is a huge element of trust from customers when they give us their money, so we wanted to make sure that was absolutely watertight.”

Our advice portal for retailers and brands, Guide to Growth, aims to solve the problems and challenges fashion businesses encounter as they grow. Email your questions to associate editor and we will get them answered. 

Plus, read our Growth in a Changing Economy report here to learn how fast-growth brands and retailers are overcoming barriers to growth. 

In partnership with Clipper Logistics

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