BILLYKIRK: BEING A BEAUTIFUL BUSINESS ..NOTES FROM THE FRONTLINE
Starting your Beautiful Business by Chris Bray of Billykirk
I am sure scores of business execs will have differing opinions regarding the top objectives with regards to the beginning stages of any business endeavor. However, I suspect near the top of each list would be to ‘keep your day job’ so you have some income rolling in. I think we kept our day jobs for around 3 and a half years before we went solo with Billykirk.
A – Do not get into a long term lease situation early on if it is not necessary. I think most designers/business owners in our profession probably started out in their houses/garages. We were no different and spent about a year in our tight quarters. Not only did it save us money, but my belief is that if you can continue doing something in an unfavorable, cramped working environment for a ling period of time than you must really enjoy doing it. Obviously, not everyone can do this but if possible save that rent money.
Once we really outgrew the space we were working in we were luckily enough to, at no cost, use a few shelves at Arnold, our mentor’s factory. Kirk was working evenings at the time so he would go there nearly every day to learn skills and techniques and work on our designs and orders. Arnold charged us a per piece price, so it was extremely fair. It was essentially “Leather Making 101” and no university or art college can give you that type of one on one hand’s-on tutelage. It was about 3 years later that we actually “flew the coup” and began renting a space in a large factory with two other designers. Finally, around 4 years after we started Billykirk, we rented our very own space which was designated as a live/work space in DT LA. We had 2000 square feet and Kirk could live there, plus it was only $1 a square foot. Finding this type of live/work situation is ideal if you don’t mind sharing your living quarters with work.
B – Ask a lot of questions of the right people. Having knowledgeable, trustworthy advocates you can turn to when you have questions regarding business structure, legal issues, financing, accounting, etc. is imperative. We had some success early on dealing with the volunteers at SCORE “Counselors to America’s Small Business.” Especially when registering a business entity with state you reside in and the appropriate business structure for your business. I am sure Canada has similar entities. (See: score.org)
C – Work for free as an intern with a reputable company that you can gain skills from.
D – Write a business plan. This doesn’t have to look like a Harvard MBA wrote it, just get something down and continue to update it. There are numerous business plan templates out there that will assist you in this.
E – Learn Quickbooks and basic bookkeeping skills early on.
F – Know your business, the market, and know your competitors. Obviously, before you invest too much time and money make sure your product or service is viable, relevant, and customers will want it.
G – Guerilla marketing – look into it.