18.02.2021

subject matter: LAUNCHING A BUSINESS DURING A PANDEMIC

Intro

Hi, I’m Steph, the founder of subject matter and this is our first blog post.

Launching a business in a pandemic might not be the perfect environment for everyone, but if you have an appetite for innovation and aren’t afraid to be agile, I’d wholeheartedly recommend it. In fact, a number of the fashion industry’s most successful brands – and whose businesses remain strong more than a decade later – were launched in the midst of the last recession. You may have heard of millionaire founder and fashion mogul Victoria Beckham, for example?

From Architect to Business Owner 

For me, besides the promise of financial abundance – which obviously goes a long way in sweetening the deal – the limitless opportunities, control and sense of freedom from being your own boss was an attractive proposition. Different people start businesses for different reasons, with my biggest motivation in life being my son, Ayaan. Being my own boss would mean greater control of my work-life balance and a sense of purpose that goes beyond family or career success.

I had already worked through one recession and experienced several rounds of redundancies as a trained architect, so I was wise to the fact that traditional employment doesn’t necessarily guarantee the security we signed-up for. During every global economic downturn, the architectural profession has notoriously taken its fair share of punches and so, with an industry hard hit by lockdowns and my appetite dwindling, it was time to ignite the spark for a new passion. I wanted to convert uncertainty into opportunity.

Prints and Scarves – A Match Made in Heaven

After the why, the next step was to understand what I was passionate about? How did I want to make a difference? And most importantly, did I have the right tools for the job?!

With a catalogue of photographic memoirs that I’d collected over the years, my idea was to create something unique and contemporary with my images – something more tangible than traditional prints. I’ve always loved scarves but had never really found the perfect all-weather solution. The pairing of the two seemed like the perfect marriage; with the silk scarf facilitating a flawless canvas for my images and offering versatility to be worn in multiple ways. I wanted my images to take on a form that would allow them to be interpreted and worn in different ways by different people – expression through contemporary fashion.

Establishing subject matter

Developing my concept further, the fundamental objectives behind the subject matter offering were to create a luxury, sustainable brand, inspired by travel and art. It was crucial that as an organisation (be it a small one), we would use our voice and processes to fight against mass production and fashion waste – a huge problem across the industry. To do so, we had to source the best silk and the best printers. This took time and although we are constantly developing our scarves to this day, I can confidently stand by our product, knowing it proudly fulfils its brief. 

A Pandemic Start-Up

With the concept under my belt, I was raring to go, and I truly believe that launching subject matter when I did was the best thing for the business. They say that necessity is the mother of invention and that’s especially true during a financial downturn. I had come so far in developing my idea, perfecting the product and taking a sabbatical from my paid job, that I wasn’t going to give up the fight on something I’d strived so hard for – and most importantly, believed in. 

Whilst this pandemic has confronted us all with colossal challenges, it also struck at a peak time for entrepreneurial activity across the UK. Nearly 1 in 10 working age adults are in the early stages of starting or running their own business, with female early-stage entrepreneurship hitting an all-time high. We can’t all be mad, hey?!

All in all, there’s no right or wrong time to start a business. Sure, there might be one or two good reasons why you shouldn’t start a business right now – but entrepreneurship has proven itself to be a life-changing experience for so many people, and it’s always worth considering. I for one can vouch that being in business for yourself is truly empowering. I know that all the work I do directly benefits my own family and the people I choose to work with – which makes it all that more rewarding.

Looking Forward

So here we are, 2021 is the first year I will be invested solely in subject matter (as well as my family of course!). After eight years of working in a busy London architectural studio, I’ve decided it’s time to take a break from a career that has undoubtedly given me the tools and professional ethos to put me in good stead as I nurture my new calling – one that sees me as the proud and excited, founder of subject matter.

Starting Your Own Brand

For anyone reading this who might be thinking about launching their own brand, I thought I would end this post with 10 helpful tips that have helped me build subject matter: 

  • Begin with a business strategy.
  • Find your support network within your friends and family.
  • Give it everything, believe in your product or service.
  • Stick to your guns and do not compromise on quality.
  • Start to build an image bank early on and choose wisely. These images will set the tone of your brand.
  • Spend smart, invest in experts for critical brand building elements.
  • Invest in the right kind of marketing for your business.
  • Creative blocks will come, don’t try and fight them, park it and come back to it.
  • Give it time, be patient.
  • Collaborate.

We are always on the hunt for amazing artists to work with and would love to hear any ideas you may have. If you would like to get in touch, contact us on [email protected] and let’s chat.

It’s lovely to meet you,

Steph

#EphemeralMeThat

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