How Nicole Giordano is Helping Designers Build Their Dream Fashion Business

If you haven't heard of StartUp Fashion and you're a designer you might be living under a rock.

We're not just saying that to be funny. Founded in 2009 by Nicole Giordano, the StartUp Fashion Community is the community for emerging brands and designers. Boasting over 100,000 visitors a month, thousands of subscribers and active members, this community is where it's at in terms of building a successful fashion business. 

As you may know, The Sales Concept started as a way to help independent designers grow their sales by focusing on sales + merchandising strategies. 

While we aim to focus on those two areas we are obviously not experts in everything. This is where StartUp Fashion comes in.

Nicole's community and resources are a one-stop shop for everything you need to help your business grow. From PR and marketing, to sourcing suppliers and manufacturers, if you're looking to build a fashion business on your own terms, this is the site for you. 

And today we have the unique opportunity to interview Nicole Giordano, the founder herself! 

As a textile designer and fashion industry veteran, Nicole started StartUp Fashion back in 2009 as a blog to share resources, advice, and offer support to other independent designers.

She recognized the need for a community directed towards small brand owners who are striving to make their businesses work on their own terms and not the typical way that the fashion industry dictates. 

If you've read her blog you'll surely see why Nicole's voice resonates with her audience. She's open and vulnerable about everything it takes to start and grow a business..the good, the bad and the ugly. 

We're definitely fans, and we even had Nicole be a featured speaker at our Fashion Founders event last year in NYC. 

Nicole Giordano from StartUp Fashion

So read on to learn more about Nicole and the StartUp Fashion community.

TSC: Tell us a little bit about yourself:

Nicole Giordano: "I’m the founder of StartUp FASHION, an online community and support system for fashion designers as they work to grow their businesses. I’ve been in the fashion industry for 15 years, after having gone to school for textile design.

I’m based in NYC but I travel constantly for extended periods of time, chasing the summer weather-- a bit of a digital nomad."

When did you officially start StartUp Fashion?

"I launched StartUp FASHION as a blog in 2009. We launched the membership community in 2014.

What inspired you to start StartUp Fashion? We know it started as a blog and now it’s a giant community, but did you always want to create such a platform?

"When I began the blog, I simply had the desire to share what I was seeing in the fashion industry; what I had learned, how I thought it could improve, and ways in which designers who didn’t necessarily identify with the traditional industry rules could find the success they were after. I didn’t really have an agenda beyond that.

But over time, I started to see how quickly our readership was growing and how strong of a community we were building-- a community of emerging and independent brands who wanted to connect with others who were going through the same thing.

So, I kept the blog going as a side gig, consistently posting and taking it seriously for years, even though it didn’t bring in any money. It wasn’t until later 2013 that I, along with my life partner (he’s in the tech world), started playing around with the idea of making it a true community, providing tools, guidance, information, and connection, as well as making it a business that I could focus on, rather than a side gig. We realized there was potential and that since he could build it for me, it was a low risk venture."

Startup Fashion community photo

How did you manage to grow the blog, work full-time, and grow such a large audience?

"A lot of discipline. And always being myself.

Community is built when an audience trusts you, believes in your message, and feels that you’re not trying to be anything you aren’t.

I was communicating an anti-rules message that I truly believed in, using my real voice and personality, in an industry that traditionally coveted a “you-can’t-sit-with-us” mentality. I was preaching inclusiveness when they were still clinging to exclusivity.  I think my readers appreciated that.

As for the discipline-- a read everything I could on time management, productivity, and business planning. It wasn’t easy, and I’m sure I dropped the ball a lot, but I just took one step at a time."

We’re sure you get asked a TON of questions all the time, but what’s the most common?

“How do I stand out when there are so many other brands out there doing something similar?”

I always say that the only way to stand out is through your brand personality. You have spend time developing it, communicate it to everyone on your team, and then have the courage to stick to it, always. I say “courage” because when you have a strong brand personality, then you are inevitably going to have people who don’t get it or don’t identify with it. This is a good thing, but sometimes as the brand owner, that’s hard to see. All you see is lost customers. When really what you should be seeing is the increased strength of the connection with your core audience."

What would you say is the biggest struggle you see with the designers in StartUP Fashion?

"Lack of funds.  Growing a product based business requires some money.

I don’t believe that it requires hundreds of thousands of dollars (that’s a very old school mentality, in my opinion) but I do believe that you need some money. So things like thoughtful crowdfunding, smaller collections, and signature products become creative work-arounds."

As an entrepreneur yourself, what would you say has been your biggest “ah-ha” moment?

"Slow growth is not only “OK”, it’s great. In the beginning of having a business, I was so hell-bent on quick growth -- more, more, more. Over time, I have realized the power in slow growth. I believe our brand and our business is better off because we took time to listen, improve, and grow."

What’s been your biggest struggle?

"Impostor syndrome. In the last couple years, I’ve gotten much better but i still struggle sometimes with truly believing that I am deserving of this success -- that it wasn’t a fluke."

Was there a point in your journey where you just knew it was all going to work out?

"I think that I always knew it would work out. Not necessarily that the business would be a success, but that, no matter what happened, everything would work out. I had a strong network of family and friends, an education, and strong work ethic. I would be fine."

What has been your proudest moment thus far?

"Every single time I see a member of StartUp FASHION reach a goal, I am so proud. I’m proud that I was able to bring together a community of designers who all help one another succeed, rather than feel competition.

What piece of advice would you give to someone wanting to start a fashion company (sorry we know you probably get this one a lot).

  1. "Figure out how you’re going to support yourself until your business is making money.

  2. Double your estimate of the amount of time you’ll need to be profitable.

  3. Don’t skimp on the brand building component.

  4. Start building a community before you have anything to launch.

  5. Less is more, especially when it comes to product. Start with a few pieces, listen, learn, and grow."

Describe the StartUp Fashion community. Who is this community for and who is it not for?

"The StartUp FASHION Community is a global group of fashion and accessories designers
who are all defining and creating their own paths in the fashion industry, and lifting each other up along the way.

We promise to always support you in your goals, cajole you into committing to your work, push you to have more focus, remind you to embrace your creative edge and celebrate your determination to do things differently, and to do whatever is in our power to help you build a profitable business you love and create a life that makes you happy."

*This community is for emerging and independent designers, but not for service providers or industry people. 

startup fashion membership

So there you have it designers. Your ticket success on a silver platter. You've heard the phrase "better together" haven't you? Well, this my friend is no different. 

Trust us, this opportunity is not to be missed! As an affiliate for StartUp FAshion we only recommend products, courses, or memberships that we know would be helpful and worth your time and money. And so because enrollment only happens twice a year, you should prooobably jump on this asap. ;-) 

All you need to do is click here to join StartUp Fashion and you'll be on your way towards building a successful fashion business - on your own terms! 

Cheers to your success!