23 things I wish I’d known before starting my business ǀ Justine Leconte


Hi everyone, it’s Justine. I’m a fashion designer with a double background
in fashion and business. A few months ago, I asked if you’d be interested
in a video about what I’ve learned since starting my business and the answer was basically…
“yes please”! This video is not easy for me – you’ll hear
several things that I’ve never talked about on this channel because, well, some of it
is embarrassing and because talking about your weaknesses online exposes you to judgment. But I think that sharing my experience can
help you, if you want to start a business. And when other people say that their company
creations were like a walk in the park, I think they’re not telling the whole story,
or I’d want to know how?? In this video I’m sharing what I’ve learned
about creating a product, about marketing, finances, sales and resilience. If you want to start a business or already
have one running, you’ll find this useful (hopefully), and if not, you’re welcomed
to still have a good laugh at my expense. The first question should always be: what
is my service or product? What do I want my brand to stand for that
makes me unique? Personally, I always knew what I wanted to
stand for – that was clear – high quality, ethical production, great fit and direct selling,
to keep my prices more affordable. I focused on knitwear because right now knitwear
represents 50% of anyone’s wardrobe and yet all we see in stores is leggings and sweatshirts
and I wanted to give more options. That was my plan… and then all kinds of
people started to pitch in and they knew exactly what I should be doing and how, even though
they were not entrepreneurs themselves and they usually had no idea about the fashion
industry that I was getting into. Listening to an advice is great – no question
– but only to a certain point. Then you need to stop listening, put your
head down, get the work done and bring your product to the finish line because no one
will do THAT part for you. There’s a time to think but after that comes
the time to just do. How to allocate my time smartly? When I first started, I focused on what I
knew the least, which is finding fabric suppliers, finding sewing factories – this kind of
thing. And I ended up not doing enough of what I
actually had experience in, coming from a business background and it is – marketing. Isn’t it ironi… that in the first year
I neglected what I’m actually the best at, in terms of experience? Now looking back at it, I would say that marketing
and sales has to represent at least 50% of your time right from the beginning. If you put a product or a service out there
and no one knows about it, you can’t expect to sell anything, clearly. If you knew how many designers I met, who
say “I don’t do marketing. If my product is great, people will notice”. But no. No, people aren’t looking for you, they
won’t notice your product, unless you show it to them. There’s absolutely nothing disgraceful about
going out there and talking about a product that you created, because I’m assuming that
you believe in yourself. Now, if you say “I really hate selling,
I’m a very, very poor seller.” That’s okay, if you’re aware of it, but
then make sure that you have someone that does the selling for you. Next point: planning ahead of your launch. When I started my first collection, it came
out way later than I had planned, because when you work alone, everything awaits your
attention, your feedback, your input and your thinking time. Nothing gets done in parallel, it’s more
like one thing after the other, so everything takes longer. I would say plan everything, and then multiply
that time by 2 – that’s the time you’ll realistically need. For all of your suppliers, you will be a small
client, so you will have less priority. At each step of the process, things might
get delayed and throw off your timing, so you need to just be aware of that and plan
accordingly. Especially, if you’re announcing your upcoming
launch date, which I recommend you do, because then you start building awareness for your
brand, people can already register for the newsletter, etc. For my latest collection, I did pre-orders
and I communicated in which week I would start shipping out. I did plan in a lot of buffer and yet the
buffer was used up completely because just one of all the suppliers delivered their part
late. But for my clients, shipping started exactly
when I said it would. How to finance my company? I spent 3 full weeks writing a business plan
that no one read. Not a single bank. And I know it, because when I asked them for
feedback, they said things like “Oh, we just don’t finance finance projects, because
most businesses fail”, which technically is true, but I also have experience in business
and I think that my business plan is viable… if you’d just read it. I lost four months trying to get a single
bank to even read my project – never mind. But one day, I did an online simulation for
a car credit. Guess what? When you get a car credit, no one asks if
you actually got a car with that money. Now, if I were to start again, I would also
look into crowdfunding platforms, like IndieGoGo or Kickstarter. They’re like a way of testing if people
like your product – if they’re willing to pre-order it, then that’s a proof of the
concept which you can then use to get financing from a bank or somebody else. Crowdfunding – to me – seems to me to work
best when you have a design-intensive product, an aesthetically pleasing product or when
you are a mono-product company. How much can I sell online? Well, you need a lot of traffic to sell something. If 0.5% of website visits convert into sales,
to sell one thing, you need 200 visits. 0.5% is probably a pretty good conversion
rate, when you’re starting and I’m assuming that your website functions well and looks
good. It’s not about how much you can sell or
how or how much inventory you have when you start. It’s about how much traffic you can get,
really. And for that – use your skills. Whatever you know how to do – that’s going
to be useful. For me, it was online marketing, from my previous
career. For you, maybe it’s PR skills, photographic
skills, a better network than what I had when I started. This brings me to the topic of my online presence. I’ve strongly disliked my websites for as
long as I’ve had it. Why didn’t I change it earlier? Great question, glad you asked. Because I didn’t know where to look. Main reason for everyone not to have a better
website. And because I didn’t have the time… I didn’t take the time to research better
providers. It’s a huge mistake – one that I only
corrected recently. If you visited my website in the past, you
saw something static, non-flexible, very limited, in terms of features. I couldn’t intergrade videos without linking
to YouTube, I couldn’t make my Instagram posts shoppable. I needed to recommend related products on
a product page, so I had to manually insert static photos and text boxes – a nightmare. I believe that for 3 people who bought something
on my website, there are like another 10 who left without buying anything. Which means lost sales and that’s obviously
not ideal. So in the last couple of months, I looked
into providers and into what a website should be able to do. And let me be very clear – having just a Facebook
or Instagram page is not enough. You need a space that is yours and that does
not depend on an algorithm. I do social media, you can trust me when I
say: algorithms change all the time, you can’t count on them. So having a great website, whatever you sell,
should be a top priority nowadays. But what should go on the website? For that, I asked a friend of mine, who is
an e-commerce expert – bonus – and he said “well, to start, you write down everything
you want your website to include on little cards. Priority 1 is super important and should also
be what I’m talking about on the homepage. Priority 2 should be sub- parts of these points
in the navigation bar. Priority 3 is a must-have but not super sexy,
so that typically comes in the footer. Then, you will need good product photos on
a neutral background – that’s for your webshop. Good headshots that you can use on your website
and in all of you social media channels. And photos that aren’t simple product photos
– you need a mood, a concept. All these things, you need in a mix of wide
formats and vertical formats, because you don’t know yet what you will use them for. If you don’t think your home is fancy enough
for a photoshoot, I recommend to book a location for one day, plus a photographer, and maybe
even a videographer, because getting professional-looking shots is essential. It is so so worth the investment. Then comes everything, related to e-commerce:
size table, shipping info, etc. Everything you need to know as a customer,
when you shop online. And then, all of the mandatory pages: FAQ,
contact page, terms and conditions, privacy, cookies – this stuff. If you want, you’re welcome to just go on
my website and copy the footer. Then comes the question of “what I want
my website to be able to do?”. For me, the main criteria was that I did not
want to learn how to code. I wanted a system that would give me ready-made
modules that I can just put together. I filled in the products, the text, the images,
the videos – boom. Done. That’s all I’m able to do. As far as e-commerce is concerned, for example,
on a product page, I wanted a direct link to the size table, and to the exchange and
return conditions. If you’re thinking any website does that,
just know that not many platforms do a lot for it! It is more efficient to decide which features
you need before you look into which platform to go with. Then, the next question is traffic. I never wondered how much traffic my website
can actually take, sustain. And I learned the hard way that most providers
only allow about 300 simultaneous visits on a given page and that’s not a lot. If you have, let’s say, 10k Instagram followers
and you post a story with a swipe-up link to your website, you will get 300 visits. That sounds reasonable to assume that your
website will then crash – just like mine did for the last 2 years, all the time. I met two gentlemen from Shopify and their
first question was “Are you using Shopify?”. Mmm, not right now. “Is your website crashing?” Yes. “Well, you should be using Shopify.” Well of course you’d say that, and they
went like “No no, really, do you know Shark Tank?” Yes, I love it. “Well, on Shark Tank, people use Shopify,
because of the traffic peaks on their websites.” Oh.. Wait, hang on a minute. Then where were you 4 years ago, when I looked
into all of the platforms available and I didn’t see you? Turns out, they come from North America and
they’ve only really tackled the European market a couple of years ago. That’s why they were not on my radar yet,
last time I checked. Shark Tank is an American TV show, where people
come in and pitch their ideas to a jury of investors. I used to watch Shark Tank, when I was living
in New York. Die Hölle der Löwen is the German equivalent
of that show, I don’t know if there’s anything similar in France – let me know. But basically, it’s primetime TV and TV
generates a lot of online traffic, I should have though about that earlier. If a system works for Shark Tank candidates,
it probably can take a lot of traffic. Long story short, in the end, I did go with
Shopify because I believe that it’s the most powerful system among all of those for
which you do not have to learn how to code. I also wanted to have video content on my
website, because fashion shouldn’t be static. I wanted to have an automated feed on my homepage
and dynamic effects like a hyperlapse. It makes the whole thing just a lot more modern. What helped me personally a lot during the
research, was to look at websites that I think are well-made and to see which features they’re
using. Then, try to replicate that with your own
personal touch. You can check what platform any website in
the world is using if you type in the URL of the website on www.builtwith.com and it
will spit you out the platform, the email system, the payment system, the shipping system
– all of the widgets that they’re using. Super useful. That’s another resource that I wish I had
known about four years ago but now I know about it, that’s why I’m sharing it with
you, so you don’t have to look for it. What about other marketing channels? I would definitely advise that you start Facebook
and Instagram ASAP, already at pre-launch, but not at the expense of your website – you
need both pillars and I would strongly recommend that you try to keep them separate. For me, when I started YouTube, I noticed
that some people watching my videos were visiting my website afterwards. While it was bringing traffic, I was afraid
that it would make my sales depend on YouTube and I didn’t want that, so I worked to generate
traffic directly to my website, from people who were not necessarily following me on social
media. Right now, social media represents less than
20% of the traffic that goes to my website. So even if Instagram and YouTube shut down
tomorrow, I’ll be fine and I think that’s essential. PR, like gifts to the press, mailings, etc.
is another channel. I think it only makes sense though, once you’ve
already achieved a minimum level of awareness. In the beginning, I did my homework and I
sent multiple mailings and things to the German press, because I’m in Germany. To the French press, because I’m French,
and I got zero answer. Not a single one ever. Now, I do get featured, but it will be in
Russia, or in the U.S., in countries and in magazines that I actually never solicited,
so I would, really advise that you focus on your customers instead of spending time trying
to convince other people. Focus on your customers – the press will
follow, eventually. If you’re starting a business and you don’t
have either money, fame or connections yet – the three magic jokers, then starting
online is a clever thing to do, because this way you don’t need to spend time convincing
all of the gatekeepers that used to be the press, the buyers, the opinion-leaders in
your industry. That is the strategy that I used and my website
was key in reaching potential customers early on, without waiting for Vogue to write about
me. Because I’d still be waiting. I said earlier that my e-commerce platform
is now Shopify. I tried three so far and I researched all
of them. Shopify is optimized for commerce. It’s beginner-friendly, because you just
need to pick a template and enter your products to be able to start. But then, when you grow, and realize you need
additional features, you can just add them as you go, while keeping the same template
and the same platform. This is why you see both, small and big businesses
use Shopify with different features and at the end of the day, each website looks different. I don’t want my webshop to look like anybody
else’s! Shopify is sponsoring this episode: if you
want to try it out for 14 days FOR FREE, just click the link that I put in the video description
down below, and see if it’s for you. I’m very happy that I switched to Shopify
and I can absolutely recommend it. I feel like I could keep talking about entrepreneurship
for hours but I suggest that we take it to the comment section instead. If you have a concrete question on building
your brand, or your website, share it below, and hopefully I can help, or somebody else
in the community. Let’s share. Thumbs up if you enjoyed this video. Thank you very much! And if you want to watch more, I linked here
and down below a previous video of mine, explaining how I increased my productivity, since I started
my business. I found a system that works for me and it
might help you as well. Other than this, I will see you soon again
in the new video and until then, take care. Bye!

100 comments

  1. This is my first video in 2020 so: HAPPY NEW YEAR! 🥳 I tried to compress all my tips in this video but if you have further questions, let me know. I wish I had someone to talk to when I started out, so I'm happy to help if I can! 🤗

  2. Thank you so much for all of your amazing videos ❤. This one is exactly what I needed. I truly appreciate you. Happy New Year!

  3. Great video!! Can I ask if you have some marketing tips for generating traffic to a website, since this is not my strong point, thanks!! And great work again!!

  4. Justine, thank you for sharing your knowledge, very much appreciated. I looked into Shopify about a year ago and signed up, but hearing honest feedback has helped me to proceed with the my shop. Thank you & happy and prosperous 2020 to you!

  5. I’ve watched it religiously even tho’ i’m not even looking to open a business. 🤷‍♀️ Very interesting, informative and insightful (holy grail 3xi).

  6. Hi, dear Justine, what a great video, thank you so much for sharing!! I loved every second of it and who laughts at your expenses is a fool – who did no mistake in his/her life?! Big hug and have an excellent blissed 2020!

  7. Justine, your videos are getting better and better. You've come a long way from your first video! Thanks for you hard word work and knowledgeable videos.

  8. Justine, i cannot tell you how appreciated this is! I work in a different industry (art, illustration). I'd love to have the freedom to create only what i want, but right now i am more a service provider (makes me happy, too). I am very bad at marketing so i never even thought about relying on my own creations only. But all the experience you shared gives me hope that there is a way for me.
    Again – i love how structured, no-nonsense and transparent your videos are. I cannot tell you how much i appreciate it. Even your advertisement!
    It was painful for you to make some of these experiences, i am so glad you make it easier for others to go this way. Thank you so much and i just can SEE how much of your success is not luck but really hard, persistent work. Wouldn't you just want to strangle people sometimes, who tell you 'i wish i could do this, too, but i don't have your talent' (of course i don't want to strangle anybody ; ) i always politely nod and tell them, its more about the time i am able to put into learning this skill. but yes, there are a few people out who have a proficiency for skills that are helpful to have in a certain field.

    Thank you!

  9. Hi Justine happy new year. I would never EVER have a laugh at your expense or anybody else’s. I too am in need of a website, (not to sell consumable items but to provide tuition services) and I really don’t have a clue! I think building one and understanding everything I need to know is a skill in itself that I don’t have but I have yet to start reading about it!
    I hope it all works out for you.

  10. I love to hear the struggles and victories people go through when starting businesses. Like heroes journeys. It also gives me renewed hope for my own long term goals😍

  11. Excellent video! You are so kind to share your hard-learned lessons. I'm certain you saved some budding entrepreneurs from at least a few grave mistakes. Brava and Happy New Year!

  12. Thank you SO much for your honest, transparent and very generous sharing of your business tips. I have my own company in film and television and the social media platforms keep changing. I don’t think anything you shared is embarrassing, it’s exactly how businesses are grown and developed. Thanks for being such an inspiration. ❤️

  13. Wonderful to see you back, lovely Justine! And delighted to see that you have discovered Shopify, which hails from my hometown in Ottawa, Canada.

  14. BTW do you know the definition of FAIL? First Attempt In Learning. You have nothing to be embarrassed about. It is not easy doing everything yourself. Well done.

  15. Thank you! This was super helpful as I was thinking about starting a business (finally!!) You explain things in a clear manner and it’s appreciated-hope to see more like this!

  16. I agree that starting a business is not a walk in the park. It could be a run through a park but you have many things that have to be done and it looks like they all need to be done at once. I have an MBA and over 20 years of experience and starting or pushing to enlarge is hard.

  17. I don't consider anything you've shared to be embarrassing or shameful. Life is one huge learning curve and you're navigating your way through it just fine. Brava, Justine, and thanks so much for sharing.

  18. Thank you! I am a New York immigration lawyer starting my firm after large law and civil rights. Women often have trouble doing, executing. We are superb at thinking. But our brains are plastic.

  19. I don’t know how many videos I’ve missed but your background/ your home i assume is really cool! I love this whole video, and not listening to advice from those you respect but aren’t qualified is SO hard, but essential.

  20. Great info and great cheering beginning to the year! HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!! Justine, I have been a fan now since I got obsessed with your YouTube videos a couple of years ago! (I'll visit your new website!) Ok, here is a question: I have a big old stone house in Le Gard, in-between Uzès and Nîmes, in a village. Since 1999 I have had the ambition to turn it into a space for an artists' retreat in a residential mode, and I even have the American and French personnel ( less French personnel, as I am American,) to teach there. Any advice now that I am nearly finished restoring the house and it is probably a possibility to open it up in 2020, 2021 or 2022? I am not sure how long this whole process from your description will take. Thank you in advance. Merci mille fois en avance!

  21. I was just talking to my husband about closing down my Etsy shop, and creating my own website. I will definitely be checking out Shopify. My business isn’t anything huge I make jewelry out of pieces of sea glass I find. Thank you so much for your advice! I will definitely be coming back to watch this video again and again. You are so brave not many people would talk about their struggles. Again, thank you so much!

  22. I hope this will help, the pop-up on your website of "this person bought this top from this place" are very incessant and bothersome. It pops up every 10 seconds, and keeps coming even after I x it. But other than that, you're right. Your website looks great now

  23. Justine, this is such an amazing and timely video. Thank you so much, as many designers, I feel, would not go to this distance for fear of competition. I have watched you for many years and have truly enjoyed your personality and the way you deliver what you are teaching. I just found your website and am excited to view your creations and learn from it as well. Many blessings to you.

  24. Wow, thank you!
    Did you do patterns of your designs yourself and sent them to the producing company, or did they do them themselves and presented to you samples?

  25. You are amazing! Keep up the good work and content! Your advice is always so wise and well sourced! I don’t mind the ad, it’s truly a joy to see a young intelligent woman doing so great in her field! I keep looking forward to more of your content and your advice! Best wishes for 2020!

  26. Hi, Justine! I love hearing about your experience building your business. Just curious: which platform were you using when your site kept crashing?

  27. Beautiful VIDEO. This video is gold. Thank you. I hope TO HAVE MONEY one day and buy what I want from your jewelry collection.

  28. Thank you so much for making this video! it was very informative and helpful! I am trying to build my own brand . Other people’s videos are mostly pretty vague, whereas your video covered everything I was worried about. Love your content ❤️

  29. Wonderful information , immensely helpful . I would choose Shopify again . I tried a website without it and also used Shopify . Think it’s by far the easiest and best way to go . Cheers 😊

  30. Wow Justine, phenomenal video. Thank you so much for sharing these great tips. Your videos are always so clear, to the point and helpful. I would give it a thousand likes if I could. You are phenomenal.

  31. Happy New Year!
    I used to take business classes when I didn't know what else to go with when I was younger, so I love hearing about this kind of thing. It's interesting that you mentioned crowd-sourcing because I've never been a big online shopper but when I thought about it I realized the only times I've spent serious money online has been through Kickstarter. Most of the companies I bought from I would again & I think it does a good job of making customers feel connected with a brand without being too in your face.

  32. Greeting from Sri Lanka… i am an emerging fashion designer in Sri Lanka trying to build a business without money fame or connections!!!! i'm glad i saw this and i will try Shopify…please try to help us this is my Instagram handle @charu_liyanage…. please check my page and adive me how to grow !! Thank you

  33. I hope you will design white tshirts and shirts. I know it sounds weird but these are the items I cannot easily find to fit me and have good quality.

    Nice video.

  34. Feliz año nuevo Justin!!! No me había puesto a pensar en todo lo que esta detrás de tu marca :O eres increible!!!! y ahora te admiro más 😎 un fuerte abrazo!!!

  35. Interesting – there are actually many companies that are very skeptical about their marketing departments. I see it all the time. Good to hear how you see it.

  36. Welcome back Justine! Happy New Year! What a great video to start out the year, very insightful. If you ever have time in the future, I'd love to see a video on more tips about marketing 🙂 Actually, any other business tips from your experience would be very interesting to learn about.

  37. Justine, I have watched you grow over the years. You’re so impressive and wonderful. Thank you for all your charm, and clear and professional videos 😘

  38. Hi Justine, thanks for the very helpful tips in the video. I would love to know/understand how you found quality fabric suppliers and garment manufactures. Thanks Linda

  39. Thank you for sharing this informations they are very valuable and useful.Thank you, thank you, thank you sooo helpful 🥰🥰🥰🥰🥰🥰

  40. Hi, Justine! Love your videos. I'd love to hear more of your experience in the field of marketing and getting traffic to your website. You mention you are naturally strong in those areas, but I think many people are particularly struggling in it (me included). If you or anyone has some advise on really good online courses for the mentioned topics I would appreciate 🙂 Thank you!

  41. Hi Justine! My name is Marisa and I want to say that you're amazing! Your intelligence, the way you explain your topics on your videos and the way you tackle certain topics (like the one in this video) is outstanding! Thank you so much! xoxo, Marisa

  42. Merci Justine ! Ton travail est impressionnant mais surtout merveilleusement inspirant. Merci pour tes partages, merci pour ta structure, ta créativité et ton magnifique sourire ! Tu es devenue mon petit bol d'oxygène et d'énergie dès que j'ai une baisse d'enthousiasme. Je te souhaite le meilleur !!

  43. Thank you for the advice ! I'd love more videos on entrepreneurship, if you still have things to say on this topic. I'm still studying and don't really know what will be my career path, but starting a business is on the back of my mind right now. 🙂

  44. You are an incredibly generous person, aside from being super dedicated to your mission. Thank you, Justine 🙂

  45. THANK YOU, JUSTINE! Starting a business is definitely not as easy as I thought but I've been doing most of the things you mentioned in this video. Hopefully, I'll be able to launch VERY soon!

  46. I'm impressed Justine. You work so hard and smart!
    Being from a non-business background, all this sounds so complex, but thanks for simplifying it down, I'm very intrigued and will be taking notes, may be useful later!

    Lots of love and power to you! 💕

  47. Very informative truly enjoyed it ! I was wondering if there is anyone who uses weebly for their e-commerce?

  48. Justine, this is such a valuable video! I hope it helped you to share and that it leads to more growth in your business. Merci!

  49. You are awesome! Thank you for being so generous with your experiences with your business. Building a business can be out right frustrating and a little lonely. Thank you for the inspiration!

  50. very helpful – thank you. but, truthfully, it does seem that you need to spend a LOT of time learning all these online platforms, rather than perform your actual craft. I feel overwhelmed trying to keep up learning them all. Good luck to you. You're terrific!

  51. This is a great topic video and I agree with you that the focus needs to be on marketing. However, when I started I did not focus on the areas of marketing because of old school knowledge. What is the best way to outsource marketing? You are very well versed in this area.

  52. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Since watching your videos I feel like I've become more conscious of my time management, what I'm wearing and where I purchase. I really like the sweater you are wearing in this video. Is this from one of your collections? I looked on your website but didn't see it. It's a lovely versatile and comfortable looking piece. Can you point me in the direction of where I can find something similar?

  53. i'm not sure if you have a video or maybe you're planning to make one someday about oversized clothes (how to style and wear it)? i like this style a lot but i feel that i miss the point and look more like a homeless person (:

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