When you start a new business from scratch, you are going to make mistakes. It’s part of the process. Believe me, I’ve made more than my fair share going from a Chartered Professional Accountant to a Clothing Designer.
Let me tell you about two of them:
Mistake #1 – Niching Down
Find your niche is standard 101 starting-your-own-business advice. I heard this from many different sources. Don’t be afraid to niche down. Start small. Stay focused.
I did just that. My target market was women going through breast cancer. I knew that market well. I was one of them. I knew their pain points. I did my market research and concluded it was a viable market. I even ran some focus groups to make sure I was on the right track.
I wanted to provide these women with soft, comfortable clothing that was easy to slip on and off, without lifting their arms up over their head, and looked good on. I wanted to make their lives a little bit easier during a difficult time.
But, women diagnosed with breast cancer have a million and one things on their mind. There are life-shattering issues and emotions to deal with, a myriad of appointments and tests to attend to, treatment plans to understand and digest, and the many side effects to contend with like losing your hair! Clothing is the least of their worries. It’s just not on their radar and understandably so.
Mistake #2 - The Me, Myself and I Fit Model
When I started out, I used myself as the fit model. It seemed reasonable at the time. I was designing for women just like me. I was my ideal target customer. Plus, it made things easy. I was always there and available.
Well…hello…as you can see…I am not your average North American woman. I am barely 5 feet tall and petite. My sizing turned out to be inconsistent. My designs didn’t properly fit many of the women who were my ideal customer.
The good news is I am learning from my mistakes.
The beginning of the year was a time to pause, take stock, and re-evaluate. I stepped back and took a good look at my business and who I am serving. I looked back at how far I have come, and then forward to where I want to go.
I put my new spring/summer designs on hold which is why you have not seen new styles added to my online store.
I am redefining my target market. I am niching up. I want to dress women over 40, women who have reached their mid-life and beyond. Women whose bodies have changed and matured. Women who want style and comfort. Women who want clothing that will effortlessly take them through their day. No pulling, no tugging, no binding. Classic casual comfort.
I have had many customer conversations to figure out what women want. There are some common requests…clothes that fit an expanded waistline, natural fabrics, comfort and style, good quality, Canadian made, and pockets.
I will always keep the needs of women with breast cancer in mind. It is where I started. Easy on and off styling is my staple design feature. I will continue to donate a percentage of my sales in support of local breast cancer programs and services. It is a cause that is near and dear to my heart. And I will continue to do the “Forget for a Moment” Makeover event for women living with breast cancer.
I am working with a new design development and manufacturing team in Oshawa. They are helping me refine the cut of my clothing so if fits the mature body. For many of us as we gracefully age, our bodies change, our midriffs thicken because our metabolism slows down, or we are on medication or going through treatments, or we are simply enjoying the good things in life. And that’s okay. We just need clothes that fit, clothes that make us look and feel good.
My sizing will be adjusted and more consistent. A Large will be a Large in all styles. Which brings me to my new fit model, Heidi. Heidi MacLaren owns Wanderlust Scarves. She sells beautiful globally sourced scarves that nicely complement the coKANna line. She is a size Large.
I am also getting my fabric custom knit at a textile mill in Mississauga. This will ensure a superior quality of bamboo, pre-washed so no shrinkage, and custom dyed colours. It will remove the unpredictability in quality and availability of fabric, no more back orders or discontinued colours.
So please keep your eye out for the new look, feel, and fit this coming Fall. I will keep you updated on what’s going on.
In the meantime, I will be having a 50% off sale to clear out my current stock and make way for the new. I very rarely have a sale because I like to price my clothing at what they are worth from the get-go.
So if you would like to add a few more coKANna pieces to your wardrobe, or if you have been thinking about trying a coKANna piece but have not gotten around to it, here’s your opportunity.
Come out to Dickinson Days in Manotick on Saturday, June 2nd, 2018 from 9:00 to 5:00 pm. I will have a booth set up in the Village Craft Fair and everything will be 50% off. Come and say hello!
Colleen Kanna is a breast cancer champion and creator of coKANna Designs, a line of bamboo knit, Canadian-made clothing for women over 40. Five percent of online sales are donated to the Ottawa Integrative Cancer Centre in support of their Head Start Program for women newly diagnosed with breast cancer.