Tanya Donahue, CEO + Founder, Mango + Moose
Ethical. Sustainable. Socially Conscious. These may be buzzwords today, but the importance lies in their meaning. As social entrepreneurs, we are creating a new culture for today and tomorrow. At Mango + Moose our mission is to support artisans in developing nations through business and empowerment, and it is something we receive abundant praise for. However, praise doesn’t necessarily translate into sales, so it's vitally important you are smart with how you launch and grow your brand. Here's the 5 lessons I learned when starting my ethical fashion brand.
1 | Accept that you will make mistakes
Accept that there will be a great deal that is out of your control. My lead times on particular products can be extremely long, and following fair-trade protocols means that I pay 50% upfront, in order for artisans to begin making the goods. Then comes another 50%, when they are ready to ship. In addition, shipping charges can add up and take much longer than expected. And do some research on each countries import charges, or ask other professionals who might know. Finally, follow that supply chain - you must know where the materials you choose originated.
2 | Don't start with too much inventory
The number one mistake I made right out of the gate was too much inventory, and therefore not budgeting enough for operations and MARKETING. We chose to grow our company organically, which sounded quite idyllic, but the need to order our Spring/Summer line hit fast, and sales were not where we projected, which left us scrambling.
3 | Start with why & keep it close
The day-to-day operations of our work can feel as commonplace as any position, but the reality is far different. As often as possible, remember to connect yourself and your consumers to the People, as well as to the Story, and Impact, behind what you are doing. When I was living and working in Haiti, it was easy to see the direct impact of my work; since returning to Canada, I have to be intentional to see it. This effort is invaluable, especially when things are tough, because being rooted in the PEOPLE behind what I am doing helps me to persist.
4 | Don't live in a bubble
It's easy to get caught up in the day to day of your business that you end up so stressed you don't see the burnout coming until it hits you dead in the face. To avoid burnout, I diversify my focus. I make sure my leisure reading grows me in other areas, not just my knowledge about Mango + Moose related topics, but rather ones that develop me as a person, and my understanding of people and places. I continue to learn a second language, I spend time daily to get to know God on a deeper level, and I plug away at keeping my family of six not only functioning, but connecting and being intentional. It means having a balance between my work self, who is incredibly focused on creating a better world, and my after-hours self, Tanya Donahue: mom, wife, homemaker, and Yahtzee player.
5 | STILL BE YOU!
You are unique and it's what your customers will love about your brand. Be authentic and vulnerable with your heart and your fans will follow. Want more? You can find and follow us at Mango + Moose!
If you want to avoid making the wrong decisions to build your brand and would like to be connected to a community of mentors so you can learn from their mistakes and discoveries, then join Deadstock District today.