If you are thinking about starting your own business, you might recognise that it can be challenging to figure out what the right steps to success are. Just like with everything else, which you are facing for the first time, it can be difficult to know in which direction you should go.
A mentor can make a significant difference when first starting a business. Being able to consult with someone who already has the experience can make the process much smoother and the road to success less bumpy. Mentoring can be helpful in many different aspects, both for more established brands as well as for start up businesses. A start up business, or someone’s first business, can often benefit from someone who can point in the right direction, someone who already has learned from theirs and many other’s mistakes and who has the industry insight the start up business is lacking. A brand that has been in the game for a while can also benefit from the guidance of a mentor. The fashion industry is ever changing and it can be a challenge to keep up with trends and customer needs. Someone who reaped the benefits of having a mentor is Ulrike Seeber, founder and owner of GVYN.
Ulrike Seeber moved to London 2.5 years ago to found the affordable luxury handbag brand GVYN, which she launched during London Fashion Week in September 2014. She had then spent roughly a year being mentored by fashion consultant Ben Muis, who runs the fashion consultancy firm Conceptable Ltd. Ulrike found Ben and Conceptable online, and they started working together in June 2013. Ulrike chose Ben as her mentor because of his extensive resume within the fashion industry, and because he is one of few business consultants out there who specialises in fashion. Also, due to his diversity of previous clients, Ulrike felt as if she could rely on Ben knowing what works and what doesn’t in a complex industry such as fashion.
GVYN is already a success story, having its first collection immediately picked up by luxury goods department store Harvey Nichols, where key pieces sold out. Ulrike first got the idea for GVYN when she was running her first business, a shop based in Berlin, and noticed a gap in the market for affordable, good quality, leather goods with a sleek, timeless and simple design. Thanks to her previous experience in the fashion industry Ulrike had an understanding for the market and its needs and what buyers are looking for, which in return gave her a clear picture of her product and brand image. But she also faced a lot of new challenges taking on the role of a designer. Ben helped her identify a lot of the hidden costs when creating a product, as well as helping her structure her work. Although Ulrike never strayed from the original idea for GVYN and the foundation of the brand – affordable, timeless, good quality leather goods – she did change and adapt her range a few times when working together with Ben. Because of this Ben also helped Ulrike to first finish her business plan and later on also rewrite it to better suit her final direction. With the help of Ben and his experience with start up brands she made a more long term plan for the brand, holding back its the potential in order to be able to expand in the future as GVYN grows.
GVYN and Ulrike are no longer in need of regular mentoring, as GVYN is doing excellent already in its first year. Without Ben’s experience and knowledge the road to success would have been very different for GVYN, which is why a mentor can be vital to a new business. The first vision of GVYN never changed, but with Ben’s help Ulrike identified a lot of the challenges working with leather, something that later came to massively influence her final collection. Which is exactly what a mentor should do, guide and give direction without making decisions for the mentee. Instead the mentor should help the mentee find their focus and strengths, which is what Ulrike felt she found when being mentored by Ben.