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How to Fund your Fashion Business, with CinCin’s Co-Founder Geo Moriarty

Updated: Sep 20, 2023

This is Geo Moriarty for Female Startup Club

Today we’re learning from Geo Moriarty who is one of the co-founders behind my absolute GO-TO favourite fashion label CinCin. If you can imagine the vibe of FSC but in fashion label form, I mean this is it. It’s bold. It’s bright. It’s super cool. It’s giving maximalist OTT everything - and all the things I love. Right down to their hot pink couch in their retail store.

Geo and I go back circa 15 years and watching her build this business from the ground up into a multi 7 figure empire has been nothing short of bloody amazing to say the least. And if you’re in fashion I think you’re gonna love this episode. Seriously. We’re talking through the manufacturing and printing piece, even down to the nitty gritty of why you should or should not use silk. Lol. We talk about how to fund a fashion business and why it’s so tricky. We talk about retail, we talk about wholesale, the marketing piece. There’s literally so much gold packed into this episode. You are gonna love it!

Let’s get into it, this is Geo for Female Startup Club

Please note, this transcript has been copy-pasted without the lovely touch of a human editor. Please expect some typos!

Geo. Hi. Welcome to the female startup club podcast. Hi. Oh, thank you so much. It's a pleasure. I'm so excited about today and I wanna give some context for our listeners because you and I have known each other since I feel like maybe even school or certainly like around that time when we graduated, I know you can pinpoint you um dated my very good friend then and I remember getting to know you and you were really um switched on them. Like you had a fashion blog. Wait, it was more a blog. It was like a portfolio of your work. But yeah, I was like, oh, that girl is really career focused. Oh, my gosh, that's so funny. It's such a long time ago. I feel like that's 15 years ago, which it kind of freaks me out saying that maybe even nearly 20 years ago, we have a connection through when you worked at the iconic in Sydney as well. We've kind of stayed in the same network. Yeah. Yeah, I feel like I, I mean, I knew you a lot longer before Lou came to the iconic, like we were, we were both Brizzi girls. But yes, that also loops us back in and I feel like I've watched you over your career dabble in a few different things to do with fashion and all these kind of things before you started chinch in. And it's been such a joy watching you on the sidelines and kind of what's happened now with you and Lou, you know, where the business is today and what you've managed to build is just so impressive to me. So I'm so excited for this too. I mean, I remember when your first came out. I was like that. Yeah, here we are. Here we are. I actually, I was wearing my chin bikinis that I bought in Bali yesterday and they make my boobs look so good. I don't know if I told you that last time, but my best friend was like, your boobs look like the best boobs I've ever seen. And the bikinis, it's, I know, I know I feel like Chin speaks to my soul in, in fashion form, but I wanna go back to the beginning. I wanna understand the start of your story with Chin. How did you and Lou kind of come up with this idea? Where does, where does it all start? Um So Lou and I are old friends and we both worked in fashion for years and years that was our thing, right? And then we traveled for three months. It was a bit of a cathartic monumental travel experience. So we wait for three months. But this was after in the relationship, moving out of houses, changing cities, lou left a really stressful job that gave her like adrenal failure at a fashion head office. And I basically uh split up with my fiance, moved out of that house and we were like, yeah, we're off, we're doing this. And then two months later, we returned back to Sydney. I moved to Sydney from Brisbane. And um I actually started a business with someone else and quite quickly realized that that was feeling not right. And I thought I better pull the and then lou and I were chatting, we just got on this roll. I remember it was like in Bondi a stunning afternoon and we've just got really excited, like almost worked ourselves up. It's crazy to this day how our our ideas are so on the same page, we just got so excited. So I guess the root of it all was our creative idea that we were linked through that. And I think it was also timing the perfect time and we did decide let's create a fashion label. And I guess it was a passion project in the beginning and we didn't know what we were getting into at all and never what I thought that it would end up like this and it's amazing. It's better than I could ever have envisioned actually. So at that time, were you already living in Bali? Like, did you already have that kind of life or were you like? Oh, I should move to Bali to start the brand. No, you were already living in Bali. I lasted in Sydney for six months and then my lease ran out and I'd always wanted to go to Sydney in uh Bali. Sorry. And it never felt daunting to me. It always felt really like a comfortable thing to do. So I was like, all right, I'm going to Bali and to avoid a big, I just said, ok, I'm gonna go for three months, kind of knowing that it wasn't going to be three months. Um But then went there and we were already in the process of setting up the brand, but we did buy off a lot in the beginning placement print, which is a process of like getting the motif onto certain garments in a fixed way so that you don't print a roll and cut the patent pieces off that you have a fixed piece of the patent on every garment pattern piece. So that is tough, especially in the beginning. And um even the girl that we had helping us, we asked her to help us with our second collection and she said, you know, I don't want to do it. I'm so sorry, but I can't do it again. It was too hard like it, it was just so, so I think now we find it a lot easier, but back then we had to lay out all the patent pieces individually on the roll. So if you order 20 small 20 me or 20 you gotta lay them all out. Like you can't just, it also cost more money and to work out. Yeah, it costs more money. But does, it also mean it's harder to kind of mass produce anything because it kind of more aligns itself to being small batch because it's so hands on to do that technique, you can do it commercially 1 100%. But it's going to um use more fabric and show up errors and take a lot more time and care and skill. So that's why print placement like they'll have a border on the bottom of a pair of pants or a cuff or even just like a digital kind of graphic print. It will be in one spot that if you have like a sunset, well, you wouldn't want one shirt that just has a corner of a cloud or something. But cheap brands, if you look at fashion, it's all small repeat print usually with a lot of black lines. So if there's an error, it just gets hidden. And for you when it was like in the beginning, the early days, what was the vision at that point? Was it like, hey, let's just do some resort kind of bold patterns out there. Like different styles or what, what was the vision? I think that a bit, but we started off doing silk pants suits. So it was printed, print on print, head to toe print. And we were inspired by Italy, which seems so cliche now, but it got under our skin. And um yeah, we did uh really luxurious pleated pants. Do you have a pair? No. Yeah, I have some from the original or like the early maybe the first or second collection as well. Ok. Yeah, they're not the original original, but we started with that and then matching button up and it was a really cool look and we brought it back now, like our roots are present because I love that book. It was almost like a silk pajama suit, I guess you could say and printing on silk is hard too like not only is the natural fiber printing another ball game but um silk fades. It's just tricky I think as you've come like a few years into the journey now when you think about the manufacturing piece and the fabrics and the dying and that kind of um and the evolution that you've had, do you still do the same things like are you still doing that printing on silk or has it changed? And what have you learned through the manufacturing piece so much? The learning curve is, yeah, it's really been um a crazy learning experience. So basically all our processes were fine tuned, but they're very different from when we started. And I guess there's no handbook and a lot of people are very, uh you know, unwilling to give away information. I can't just go to someone and say, hey, how do we do this? You know, it's really trial and error and then seeing what works best, seeing what sells best, um and see what gives you the best quality. But now, um we it's also finding your supplier for the printer. We started off with hard to work with just slow. And um now I think we have a really good relationship with the people that we work with. And I mean, things are different because the volumes are so much higher. So we make an effort to meet face to face and um we now know how the whole process works. Like all the machine that gives a lot of insight to, but definitely the fine tuning will never stop. We're still learning so much about even now I'm trying to force different fabrics to, you know, some garments you want to make you, your fabric library doesn't really lend itself to that exact thing. So you're always trying to also, I think finding the perfect fabric that you keep in your fabric library is like really labor intensive. Yeah. Wow. I've, I've never even heard of that. Your fabric library. I've never even heard of that. I think I just made that up. I've never said that before, but we have our regular, yeah, I just love, can we go back to like the money piece in the beginning? Because I feel like a lot of people listening who are maybe dreaming about starting a fashion label one day would love to know, you know, how much does it cost to start a fashion label? What did you need to invest even when it was at that level of passion project? Like what is the kind of realistic capital that you need to get started? And how were you funding it in the beginning? We were funding it through. Oh, well, I, so this isn't my first brand. The brand before were my practice runs and they were much smaller, but I closed down the brand that I had before that and sold off my remaining stock wholesale very deeply, which is actually a regret of mine even closing that brand, I should have just kept it running. But um so I put some money in that way and then there was um my business partner also contributed her share. But to be honest, I mean, we weren't fully trying to bootstrap, but our investment in the initial stages was small and we didn't even realize, you know, we were thinking very small at that point, we didn't think let's create a two year plan and see, you know, put it into phases and how many collections that we really just thought, actually, we didn't do much thinking in the beginning it was just creating and then seeing what was like, um, and we did reach a point where we were, like, ok, well, we've exhausted our funds, we need to get some more. So, it's just crazy thinking back to how small we saw in the beginning. But I guess that's what gets you the way you are because otherwise the barrier to entry would have been too big in our mind. But, um, I would say if your listeners would really like, like pragmatic, cool. Ah, it depends on the level you want to go. You couldn't like my level before that was 2000 bucks. Maybe I started that and that, that was my bread and butter. Like that was my money that kept me alive pretty crucially. It was good. I traveled the world, like doing that and just working on my laptop at night. Um, but nowadays, if it was me starting a new business, I don't want to have a certain standard to be imagery and you'd want to do things, right. But then you could even get away with doing super small P OS or starting off on preorder. You could be super savvy. I, I don't think you need more than 10,000 or even 5000 to start something. Get a friend, take some photos on your iphone. You know, like my first friend that I would sell every day. It was a self timer in my lounge room. I don't even know how to use the camera. The times have changed again. There's a lot of competition and you have to be a little bit more split to elicit trust from your buyer. But I do think, don't let the dream go if money is the obstacle. Oh, I love that because the banks are gonna give you money in the beginning. So I'll see what reaction you get and build easier said than done. But yeah, 1 ft in front of the other in that beginning, like first collection. How many pieces did you have? And what were the minimums you had to order at that time? Oh, it was very small. But I think tightly edited is the way to go in the beginning and you're not trying to be a supermarket of clothing. Probably not unless that's your business model. Niche is the way to go. I'm like, I remember listening to all these marketing podcasts and they were like, specialize, specialize, specialize, do what you do and do it really well. So we did our silk suits and two print um like a really graphic red and beige one. And then the cooler end of the color part was like all purple and pale pink and blue. And then we just had matching swim. So two bikini sets and one swimsuit and we did them eat every piece in two print. Ah, and then two scar really small. And that was enough, that was enough for um interchangeable styling. So the head to toe look could be headscarf bikini or the swimsuit is the body suit and the pants and the shirt. And was that like as in when you say small, do you mean like 20 units per item or do you mean like 200 units per item? I was just talking about the range plan. So on paper, the amount of styles that we had to me now, that's small. But I actually think it's perfect to start off with that. So it would have been two shirts, two pants for the system and then minimum order quantities. Oh, I can't even remember. I know the minimum that we could order was 12 with our supplier. But then our swim guy, we could order whatever actually. Oh, that's amazing. Yeah, we just, I mean, things are not probably not gonna fly out the door when you launch your brand. So yeah, we ordered four and um I it probably was 20 pieces to begin with, but the lead times are so short. I could just print another 10 m of fabric back then and order another 10 like it, this wasn't a part of our world thinking of big pr numbers and getting for that. I feel like we had pretty much summed up the manufacturing piece. So I wanna kind of shift gears and talk about marketing, but specifically the launch. I love to always find out like, you know, those early days, how did you get started? How did you get your first sale? Like, what was that process? So the process was, uh I don't want to say anti climactic but didn't work towards um having like a database prelaunch. It was just a bit of a soft launch. Now, I look back, I can give it that name, but at the time, we didn't categorize it. It's slow. You don't get fireworks and a big balloon like you just, you, you're live and then you wait for orders to come in. Um So we got our first sale. Uh I always used to remember this girl's name she's ordered from us since which is really cute. But I mean, go on, go then to um kind of take a punt on this random new Instagram brand. So there must have been something in our product that they like, but the sales were very slow in the beginning. But we're very lucky because early on in our first collection, we got picked up by Moor Operandi and sold wholesale to them. So that was the kicker. Oh, wow. Straight away. Yeah. Ok. Wait, let's unpack this for a second. So did they reach out to you or were you actively pursuing retailers at that point? I've never successfully actively pursued a major retailer. It has never worked. Every single major retailer we have partnered with has sort us out right in the first three years of our business, we haven't acquired any new ages in the last two years. So, do you know what that tells me? They're very interested in getting the hot new thing? Emerging brands have a lot of appeal for them. Um, because they want to be the first one to get it. You're not saturated, you're not on every website. But then there are other things that they're not wanting to encounter, which is you being unprepared, not being able to deliver on time. And we did have some insight because um a friend of mine knows the buyer at a certain major and she was like rooting for us and she gave us some advice. Like you've really always got to appear that you're going to deliver, try to do the three seasons a year instead of dropping down the two because they really won't back you if they think that there's any possibility that you won't be able to fulfill what they asked to do, which has never occurred to me. Oh, that's so interesting. Yeah. So all the major retailers, they all want three collections a year minimum or just like three full stop two minimum, but really to compete and offer newness and stay relevant if you want to grow as a brand, I think three is probably minimum, which is sounds like a small amount but per year for every four months. God, it just creeps up. Um but there could be like three seasons and then you do a collaboration per year. So then it's four. There is also if you do three, quite a large gap in between 2 to 3 and then that's a bit of a cash flow gap as well, which can be a challenge. Oh My gosh, to me, three sounds like a lot. I'm like, holy shit. Are you planning your collections for like, like do you already know what's coming out all of next year? So we know now what's coming out? Oh my God, that's crazy. The end of July. Now we know what will come out in the end of Jan or mid ja. You know what? That's not even that crazy. It should probably be an extra season ahead. So as soon as these like literally next week, I'm set for the new collection that will come out in May. Yeah, but you have to be ahead because we need three months to produce anyway. So we'll go to market for with the collection three months before we deliver it. So, ok, I've got more questions about, wait about who did you say the first um retailer was Motor Motor Operandi? Yeah. Yeah. So had you, when you say you've never successfully pitched or like gotten someone that you were chasing, are you actively like, you know, sending emails and look books and that kind of thing? Oh Let me define that because yeah, that could be misleading. So we have an agency now and we're in showrooms with our agents in like America and Europe and Australia. And they have our, all of our samples so buyers can come through and feel and see the samples and then place their order. They've only got enough one new major retailer though. It's all been independent boutiques. But when I say that I didn't ever successfully get on, it was when friends and I that were in the industry would swap buyers contact and we kind of do a cold retail or an intro. And initially there was some excitement like or not excitement acknowledgement and they'd be like, yes, this looks great or I'll pass this on to a different department, right? I've tried it with a few people. It never worked on both sides. Wow, that's so interesting. So you've got to kind of really just hope that they're looking at your brand in the beginning just to paint the picture when Moda reached out to you, how many followers did you have on social media? Do you think they cared about anything about that? Or was it literally just like your clothes are different? They're unique. I personally love it. I think our customers will love it. I wanna chat. Um I know for a fact that buyers are looking at your socials and certain buyers from certain ages are very hesitant to take you on unless it's of a certain caliber and different regions look for different things. For instance, like the U A is really looking for a lot of brand awareness through influences from that region. So Mo operandi had a unique business model at the time, they were really the leaders in the whole trunk show. So it's not by now where now it was you watch the runway or you get an exclusive pre buy. So everything felt very exclusive and special. And then I guess that may be was where we could become an effort because we were undiscovered and could offer something that no one had seen. So we're included in a group junk show. But I think they would have liked us cos what was the investment into that? It was a small po for the show but it, it, it was good because they're not going to keep buying you if the filter is not. So to get that sell through and like to actively make sure that that was gonna be a successful partnership. How much money did you need to invest in? Like marketing or additional things? Your marketing would be part of your broad bigger picture strategy. But to ensure sell through, I think it comes down to your fits and your fabrics being really um yeah, you just hope you get a low return rate and things fit and people love it. I mean, a lot of it is having that it factor and making people just want your things and also it's out of your hands. But all you can pray for is good feedback because some retailers, they do very detailed feedback and it's so useful and we definitely use that. It's sometimes so detail. So an example would be uh so different retailers might tell you what colors and what pieces really sell the best for them or like the tried and true favorites or they see a trend coming up and then they think you should jump on that and I'm not anti trend. I think it's a great way to grow your business. Like ride the wave of the trend and other feedback, especially from our agents. It's really valuable. It can range from, you know, with the UAE more modest clothing that we need to develop our collection to include down to like micro advice, like maybe the buttons here, they, they had feedback that the logo on the button wasn't to their liking. That's real feedback that I've had. Oh, wow! Ok. I, I thought it was such a nice thing having the logo on the button. Yeah, I tend to agree. Love a logo. Um And your logo is great. Wow, that's so cool. Ok, so Mota places this order, it's kind of the first pivotal moment for you guys in business and this is back in 2019 or 2018 that you launched right? 2019. It would have been, oh, I think it was 2018. So it did feel very exciting at the time, we were excited and we poured over the contract trying to get our head around all the terminology which now we know off the back of our hand. But in the beginning again, you can't just Google this stuff. It's like jargon. So you know, cancel date, net 30 net 60. It doesn't mean anything to us. So we were very excited and we didn't have any systems in place. So I remember we had to learn barcoding, well, not learn and implement it and the way we did it, I printed all these little labels on Microsoft Word and, and print them like eight to a page and just spend a day like sticky taping sticker paper to a piece of paper on like what now we've registered with GS One Bar and that honestly felt like we deserve a trophy after doing that because it's unpleasant. It's admin, right? But you have to have G one registered product. Yeah. All the fun things, but it's worth it. It's just getting a product market really. I don't even know what that means. My God. OK. Bar coding. Yeah. And so what happens after that because you get this one order. But like how do you kind of start to build, you know, consistent, stable traffic to your own website and consistent stable sales through your own e-commerce site as well as continuing to spread through retail and things like that. Well, the retail was the best way to get traffic on our own website. And I think that was why we um acquired the majors early on because they're just looking at what the other majors are stocking. I think that was the best exposure and even getting posted on the majors. Instagram. Like when we were very young and we got posted on the Instagram, I think we rode off that Instagram post for months like it was good. See, this was pre COVID and I always wonder with how we started if it's completely different now, like I don't even know if the buyers would have taken us on now. I think everything is always just getting a little more slick and the expectations get a little more higher. How did you grow up? Is it so good content? It's always just a chase for new, new, new, more content. Um and then really defining who we were like our identity and trying to remain true to that and that's ongoing. You're always evolving and growing, but it's a bit of a conundrum like it, it can be harder than, well, it's harder than I thought to really pin down your brand DNA. But now I also knowing our girl, the chin girl, we just refer to her or our 22 or three customers like constantly. And I think that's the best way to design, enter market. How do you approach like influencer marketing, especially in the early days? Because obviously you have a product that's a higher price point. So you can't, you know, gift at scale. So how did you in the very beginning think like, you know, how much of our product should we allocate to gifting? How did you approach that strategy? And then let's talk through how that's evolved. So the gifting has changed so much for us when you start out in a nutshell, no one's interested because it's not really a win, win. The influencers is not getting exposure from being posted on your account. So they've really just got to love the product. Uh It was a lot harder to get attention to get replies. Whereas now we're inundated and we actually get quite a few amazing influencers messages that we're so excited to like create something with. Um But yeah, in the beginning, it was definitely hard. There was a lot more reaching out for less of a response and we were starting off doing the silk pantsuit. So they definitely had a high cost price for us to get in the beginning when every piece kind of meant something to us. But as for strategy, we were quite vague, we would just say two, let's aim for two gifts a week. That was it. Mhm OK. And just on the kind of the chin girl basically, yes. But back then now I'm thinking we were really trying to think who is, who is that or giving different people a go because we thought they encapsulated like a different facet of who we were. But um yeah, it's hard and people make a lot less effort when you're an emerging man or to have just launched, no one was ironing our clothes. So they were creased, you know, silk pants. They literally get them out of the packet and put them on. And I'm like we need to make a clause in the guest, although it wasn't a paid gift like a paid post. So yeah, creasing the bane of my existence. Yeah, it's interesting because I would have thought it would have been like the same as retailers being like, I've discovered a new brand that isn't everywhere. So as an influencer, especially one who's, you know, a fashion or beauty influencer who is kind of discovering things and doing different things that it would have been the opposite. That's interesting. I really think it's a from their perspective, they're trying to get exposure with every post, right? Yeah, God, I'm just thinking back to some of the shots and it was, I think the whole Instagram landscape was different. People are pros now. It's not OK to just take a little um grainy selfie in the bathroom. They're like that people have full scale production now in the spare room like yeah, and there were no real, no video either. So I mean, it's a lot more fun now really if you think about it agreed and what about um you know, for you, when did you start investing in paid media? So, ads on Meta and Google, um, or whatever it might have been. And what was your budget in the beginning? Like when were you like? Oh, we should start dabbling in this side of, um, so we dabbled from the beginning in a tiny way, testing the waters doing what our friends had done, which was run as themselves. And I mean, maybe, well, I know they had success doing that, but I think another landscape, the landscape just moved so quickly. So that wasn't cutting the mustard. And then we did make a conscious decision, cutting the mustard. Have you not heard that for a while? I'm gonna use that. My God, I love that. Cutting the mustard go on. So we did make the conscious decision, right? OK. It's time to really maybe move out of passion project land and we did then get a bit more serious and we wanted to go, I don't want to say go hard with advertising because it's always like um a process of starting somewhere and building on that. Also, I don't know if we had that much data to be successful in the beginning because our pixel is still growing and we've learned a lot through doing our me a that's for sure. I think, I mean, we were such a small fry when we started doing meta ads as well. It's also finding the right fit who is gonna run your ads. We were even thinking, do we keep doing it in house? Do we get like a freelancer? Do we work with an agency? And I mean, it's a riddle. You're always trying to, even if you have a really successful ad, when is it gonna end it, or, you know, how long will it last? How much more budget do we put in if you replicate that exact same thing? there's no guarantee that that's even gonna have a good result. It's really crazy. It's not how I expected it to be. It's not a quick fix. It's not like let's get capital to put into ads to guarantee an output. So to me, I still haven't sold the Meta A Rubik's Cube and I think it's can be quite risky. I really think starting small and just building on your wins and also you will work out a basic skeleton of your formula. So we found what worked for us was um we call them our transitions and it's our girl getting changed into lots of different outfits, you know, Tik Tok style, but we'd edit that for real. So it would be a little bit more. I don't wanna say classy a bit more um aesthetically polished and chic and the music would be different to tiktok music. But whether it's the girl clicking her fingers or the, the song has like a beat to it where the outfit change, they work for us. That was quite good. And because we have so many prints and so many colors or so many different ways to style one piece. I think it really captured people's attention. So they watch her and I'd always get D MS of screenshots of the girl movie. Like, what's this outfit? Blah, blah, blah. And um oh, I love that. Yeah. So that's why I say it's a bit more fun because it is like more dynamic and entertaining. I guess it is entertainment based now because it's all about capturing people's attention for longer. Yeah, totally. When you think about like, you know, the ads side of things and then the influencer gifting side of things and the other marketing initiatives, you do, you know, maybe around pop ups or retail or whatever. Do you think that for you guys in the fashion industry, it's kind of like all of these things kind of just are working kind of holistically together or is there one thing that you're like, this is really what does it for us? Like, you know, I think it's holistically how it fits together. I've never thought of it as holistic, but that's yeah bigger picture, broader way of thinking. And I think we're still really getting that into our heads will work together. Everything supports each other. So there's no use spending money on meta ads if you don't have the supporting EDM and the stories and you know, it's got to be cohesive. It's got to capture people and um you've got to have purpose. Mhm. And I don't think there's one key. I think one doesn't exist without the other, but really the root and the foundation of it all is products 100% and then content because you can have a White t-shirt and the content. How you present that White t-shirt, you know, your brand identity has got to come through with that. Mhm. Yep. Totally. Yeah, it starts with a product that is something people obviously want love, wanna tell their friends about and how that's presented online and the quality is good. And yeah, cos marketing, what if you did have an amazing result? But you don't have like a strong foundation in your business either. I think there's a lot to be said for the slow total Windsor rate. Yeah, it's a marathon, not a sprint. Yeah, just keep chipping away. Yeah, I think that's part of the problem in today's world. It's like we look at people online and we look at brands online and of course, it always seems like that brand has just popped and it's just happened overnight, but of course, it's taken 10 years of previous knowledge and previous things stacking together and, and slowly coming up to whatever that brand or founder is. And I used to think, oh, we'll reach that milestone and that's when everything will change or we'll get a break like someone famous and now I'm sure that that's not how it works. I imagine it to be like a house and you're just putting bricks, tiny little bricks and building that house, it's cumulative. Everything's cumulative. And then in a year you look back and go who we've come so far. But it never feels like there's, sometimes if it's a woosh, that's detrimental because I feel like the motor thing, we were unprepared. We had the learning curve was steep and um, if that order was huge, we would have stumbled massively and we might have burn that bridge because there would have been faulty. I'm sure if, if the order was like four times the size and delivery times, it was just so hard. But then now we have all of our supply chains and our own factory ironed out so well, timing is not a problem, but it can ruin your business if you cannot deliver on time. Yeah, Jesus Gosh, did I see that you were recently featured in Vogue? Um Yes, we were in a be so cool. Congratulations. How did that come about? Um Not sure they posted that one and we just googled it and found it, but we've been included. We've had pr agencies in the past and they got us one inclusion and then two other ones quite a long time ago actually happened organically. They included us in an Australian. Um, it was called Beach, please. Like the 10 new swim brands or the eight new swim brands that you need to know now. And it's always exciting being anywhere near a road, like, it's just really pinched me. I mean, the dream, the actual dream. Yeah, it is. Yeah. Have you had any celebs? Wear your clothes? Yes. Uh, we had Lily Rinehart where I think a few times and she's super lovely. Love her. I want to talk a little bit more about the retail side of the business because that's obviously a, a big part of what you guys are focusing on and what you're doing. And I feel like you're stocked in just so many cool ones. I think I saw you just stocked in revolve now too at the stage of the business that you're at now a couple of years in obviously like growing doing really well. What is a ballpark kind of po that a major retailer would place? Like wh what's the kind of level of order? Is it like 100 grand, 50 grand more, is it? And like, what's the, I don't know how does it work basically? And you don't need to be specific, but like just ballparks, I'm actually gonna say there is no ballpark because I talk to all my friends, all my not friends, like the contacts in the industry and we kind of keep close and always swap info because it's like gold. It's seriously like, how much was your po what are your terms? What are your discount Oh, the terms. Yeah, key. What do you mean discount? Um So when you make uh a partnership with a retailer, you'll have an initial markup and Imu percentage and then often there's a trade discount or a marketing co-op discount and it depends on your shipping terms. It could be like, well, if you're not uh doing landed terms with us, then we need a trade discount of this but we do land it now. But um also some bigger retailers will just want a discount because they are who they are, right? Ok. Got it. Yeah. But as for the figures thing, um it will also change wildly throughout the life span of your business. And I guess every market and market is like the selling period for a collective. You're building on what you've done before. Based on their feedback, you go and you make your collection bigger and better and you hope it's just the best thing they've ever seen and then your orders will grow and then eventually you'll have breakthroughs where it grows a lot. And then you're also hoping that your sell through continues to improve. So our sell through also reveals where your customer is. So revolve has proven to really be in line with our customer. She's more of a party girl usa is definitely our market. You know, it's fun, flirty, a bit sexy, whereas other retailers have a very different woman and then there are facets of our brand that cater to that woman, but it's definitely not just like this all encompassing. Yes. So revolves definitely our, the most exciting stuff is, yeah, I can see that even, even just thinking about them in general, it seems like it would be. Yeah. And they're great with rec cuts. The US is a recut uh region. Whereas like Europe, they're just gonna put all their eggs in the basket in the initial order out of all your major retailers. What's the biggest po that you've gotten? Mm I can't be that to. Sorry. No joking. Nice. Try. I'll always try. Ok. Well, I actually can tell you though. I'm waiting on a very exciting po and I think it will. I I'm hoping when we get off this call that it's come in and that will be the biggest po I've ever received maybe three times as big. We were chatting like do we have capacity to fulfill this funding? How, where are we at with this? So, ok, I I need to talk to it now because we haven't got it yet, but I'm pretty sure it's in the bag and that is exciting, but also a little bit like you gotta make sure that you're equipped what that like the terms and conditions are long. So, you know, if to sell through, are they gonna make you take products back? Is there gonna be a product swap? There's all sorts of things we need to consider because the stakes are higher. Like, yes, it's really exhilarating but then we're gonna deliver like the pressures are, oh my gosh. Well, I'm so excited for you. I can't wait to hear if that goes through. Me too. I hope so. You touched on something I want to ask about there. It's actually a two part question. It's about the funding side of how you keep going and like the working capital side and also the terms and you know, how do you go about negotiating better payment terms? Have you been able to kind of across your retailers and yet like, how are you funding each order when you get a huge order? That's three times the size I imagine you have to be like, ok, fuck, where do we get the money from? Well, where do I start? So in fashion, the cash flow cycle is brutal. They say that most fashion labels die in their third season because you've outlay for your first season, you haven't recouped for your second season and then you need to produce a third season. So everybody, well, this is what um like a of the industry told us in the beginning, she was like, yeah, she's made it to your third season. Um So there's that and obviously the payment terms of made can be through COVID net 90. So we would have to deliver our goods and three months later we uh receive payments. So they say really, it was like four months, five months, six months, it's so frustrating. So cash flow is a bit basically with fashion like that's just the way it is. And then, um, 10. So initially too, you are catering to their whim. You just want your foot in the door, you'll do anything possible to be represented by them. And after our motor opera experience, I knew that the exposure is just so great that it really is worth it. Even if you say, oh, this is just apr exercise, it's worth it. So initially the terms were X works because we're shipping everything from Bali, which is not very desirable for a major to take on. I remember one time for shop box, they agreed to um work which means we ship it from Bali and then it lands in the United States. So it's subject to customs. They had an agent, their own agent and they organized the label for a shipment and it was stuck in there for months and they kept asking us for help and we couldn't help. But it was like in the USA like you have your agent, you need to do it. But yeah, because if they didn't get it in time for the season, maybe they'll never order from us again, but they did. And now we see everything landed. But now we have an agent too. We're not doing the negotiating ourselves. So an agent over time will work to just get the best deal. It's not even always about the best terms. It's about them ordering more or them balancing their swim order with more resort or like if we have a swap, getting the best arrangement out of that, how do you get an agent, the agent? You just find one that would work for your niche and your product and be a really good fit that you think will work their butt off to sell your product and then you may or may not pay a retainer and you're represented in their showroom space and then every market they will use their relationships with the buyers to sell your goodies, right? So back to the funding piece for working capital when you're a fashion brand, even if it's not you guys. But what is the playbook for capital then? Like where do you go as a fashion founder to be like, ok, I need funding to like, are you going to like Shopify Capital or paypal Capital or are you going and finding investors? Um or are you personally getting investment or credit cards or bank loans or like, what is it? Very good question. So as a rule, people will fund an invoice but they're not gonna fund maybe there's the losses and you, you're trying to say that's different when you just need money to produce because people want your product. It's a lot, it's, it's great. Like Shopify capital is a no, I think when you really dive deep into the term. Not good. I think it's an emergency but what's not good about it? I think it's like short term parachute vibe. I just think the terms are not good at all. And if you went under Shopify is never gonna lose because they'll be the first person that, that money goes to. I don't know. I think it's, it's not, not at all. It's not cutting the, basically, the terms are crap. So you're paying too much interest. So like any margin that you have, is, is it really gonna be any cream left on top? I don't know, I wouldn't think you'd even want to run your business on that. But then again, if you're being offered quite good money on your capital, if it pops up, when you look at your store, there's $100,000 for you to take if you want it, that means you're doing all right. That means the sales are coming in so surely there's another avenue to get funding. So what we did was make a five year model which is very detailed with an actuary who's a data nerd and a genius really? Because he would think so logically. And that's also also planning, that's not my forte. Um And we budgeted every little bit and obviously a model is not real life. You're creating this kind of playbook, a fantasy of how the next five years are going to play out. But we, we're hoping that, yeah, once we get this amount of money, sustain us through the fashion seasons and these two months, you know, net 30 you know, all the production cycles, even if our orders go up to this point. Yeah, we'll still have enough money with the capital that we've got now. So we, we are predicting a long time ahead and if things go better than the model, that's fine. You can always find a way to fund that and there's a lot of different ways you could have a direct investor or you could even do um factoring where they'll help you pay an invoice. Still tricky. I mean, is bootstrapping even possible. I don't know, it comes to a certain point in fashion, it'd be pretty hard. Yeah. Right. Right. And so for you, you guys have an investors or an investor that helps you kind of like keep going over this five year plan we have. Yeah. But then you've got to be planned. You can't go to, they're not like a money bag like, oh, hey, we need a bit more. It's like no, well, why it needs to be all laid out and then you're responsible for sticking to your budget and um performing. Where did you find your act actuary? I haven't heard that word before that your data guru, if you google it, it will say like a someone who analyzes numbers to blah, blah, blah, he's extremely analytical. Like it's so awesome to have that Yin and Yang thing just to have brains that work differently to your, like, even my business partner. I feel like we work so complimentary to each other. And did you find him on Google or like, through a recommendation or something? No, used to live in South Africa where Louis partner lived and he was just known in her network recommended from a friend. Right. Right. Right. Ok. And so he works with you as, like a consultant whenever you need kind of thing. Yeah. But he's quite involved in the business. He really believes in us and goes above and beyond and helps us, not just with the numbers but with like, uh, logistics and stock system, all sorts. Whenever we're stuck, we can go to him for knowledge and say, can you draw up a comparison of this and this or, um, can you really unpack the numbers behind this? Like, I know I'm getting these statistics but when you factor in, like, fees, interest this or when we put money into that, like, what actually comes out? It's interesting and we're very lucky that he genuinely cares about, like, he wants us to succeed. Oh, I love that. Yeah, he's good. He shares our meetings. He's the mediator sometimes is like the voice of reason or the voice of unreason a lot of the time actually because he's so methodical. Yeah, I guess our minds just think so differently. So, I have to keep him in check sometimes. Oh my gosh. You recently launched a store in Bali. I was lucky enough to go there and do some shopping. And you also launched the D Maria pop up store, which I drove past and was like, holy shit. That's so cool. How's it going? What's the impact been since you kind of launched these physical representations of your brand? Well, there's been a lot of buzz. I think it's just amazing to have a space that represents who you are as a brand and to be able to have people in and it almost be like a showroom because it's just the best possible way and the most beautiful space to display our wears in and we've designed it ourselves. So, yeah, I think it's um aesthetically punchy. Yeah. And I think the impact is very good for brand building, building credibility hype aside from it being really fun, like a, a project that we were just dying to do for a while. And I think the position is really good and as Bali grows, I know that will become quite a hub because already there's some of the best restaurants on that street. But hm, I think it'll be a home for a while. Shelters on that street. Right. It is and bar, bar is really cool and there's also um a new one opening soon. So, yeah, it's all happening and the, the sole rooftop is also on that street isn't it? Yes, it is. Yeah. Yeah. Very cool. Do you think you will open more stores? Like, is your goal to be, like, have a boutique in, you know, Australia or the US or something? We talk about that as being a goal down the track. I'd love to have maybe a Miami or L A store. Oh, no, let's do it. Oh, my God. That would be so sick. Oh, wait, that's what I was gonna ask you. Do you guys do like Miami Swim Week and these kind of big fashion, you know, trade show events or is that not part of the strategy we did? We've done it once, we did it last market. So just two months ago, we were at Cabana, which is one of the main, there's Cabana and Swim show, I think at Miami and we did Cabana. So it's Yeah, trade show. We have our main line displayed next to our collaboration with there and it's just really good because people can experience the samples and that's key being positioned next to someone like that. Yeah. Well, we're represented by our agency. So it's all the other brands in the agency in our boot. It's good. I know they represent us really well and I just love the thought of people stumbling on us more, more than usual. So a lot of independent boutique buyers are there. Also, we didn't show, we didn't do a show like there's no models on the runway. I'm not even sure if that's the best part for a long term. What's been the impact so far? I mean, it's two months so I feel like it's still early days. But what's, what's been the impact, the impact? It wasn't too huge, to be honest. I wonder about the relevancy of that compared to just our regular show because it is quite specific. It's in Miami. Right. So, I know it's Indie boutique focus, indie boutique buyers are the people that are gonna be there mainly. But um, do you know what it might be like an impact that you can't quantifies because it might be buyers that have done a couple of buys from you. But seeing you at Cabana instills your credibility and they build hype and they can talk to the agent about our collection and it just really builds your brand like you're there. Your presence alone is important. Hm. Totally. But it's not like we acquired all these new stuff because we already were showing in showrooms in L A, New York, Paris London and two in Australia. So that was just an added one. It's so cool. Yeah, it's a lot, it's a lot of samples. Du It's nearly 1000 samples a season that we have to get out and get shipped back to my mom in Australia. Sorry mom. Oh, I love that. Shout out to your mom being part of the business. Hey, mom, do you ever travel to like all these places for, to be part of the showings or are you gonna start, to be honest, I don't think buyers want to talk to you. They want to get their buy done and they want to be a bit brutal and talk to the agent and be like, oh, no, don't like the red. I think it, they'd have to pussy foot around us a bit. Yeah. Just be really upfront and honest. But then again I'd love to have a relationship with the buyers more. That's something I've wondered if, is it detrimental that I'm not getting to talk to these buyers. But I think there is a definite, um, expiry date for when lou and I can get away with not being over there at certain market period. Like, maybe we could do an event or something, but next year we'll definitely be heading to, um, L A. Yeah, forge some relationships and just be on the ground. But, I mean, it's not essential zoom calls and just the product speaks for itself. Really. We're also not a brand, it's not called Geo and right. It's not dependent on us. Yeah. I think as well. Like the pandemic changed the way that everything works and maybe before it put more pressure on people to travel and be part of these things, but now in today's world everyone's like, no, let's do it, let's do it on, on a Zoom call. But I do think I completely agree with you. I just know Lou and I could sell our collection better than anybody else. I know that like, you know, this, we know the product inside out. We've been through the process of making it from start to finish. And I think the way we wear it and the, the way that we have extra insight, it's a shame that we can't do that. I think that's true for every founder. Yeah, it's the same for every founder. You're always gonna be the best seller and the best representative for your brand because no one cares as much as you do. That's for sure. The truth in that show, I don't think I'm a very good sales person really. But for my, the sincerity and of the um excitement that I have about my own with. Yeah, I would disagree. I would say maybe in the typical sense of a a sales person. Sure. But because you're, you live and breathe your brand, you're the best person to be the seller of your brand. If you were starting a fashion business or a fashion brand rather tomorrow, what would you do the same or differently if you had to kind of pass on some advice for anyone listening, who wants to start a brand or is in the fashion industry or is interested about fashion. So I know it's really boring and it's probably not what anyone wants to hear, but I would budget everything and plan exactly where every dollar is going to go initially. So one day you don't go. Oh, shit, I want to do that now, but I did that. So now I don't have any funds for that. Um I would plan everything and what would I do differently from what we did? I would have a much stronger aesthetic and vibe for Instagram as, as basic as that sounds. I think having a super strong and defined identity is so important in the beginning and um you're never gonna do everything perfectly in the beginning. The mistakes are the most valuable thing. Any mistakes you want to share. Ah, that's what business is. It's mistakes and problem solving and then doing things better the next time. But what would I not do? I wouldn't use silk. It's so expensive. Do you use silk now or you've switched away from silk? No, we've switched away from it. There's so many um things that just don't work. So our customers jet set, they're on holiday, they're going silk is a crumple mess. When you take it out of your suitcase and we do prints, it's gotta be vibrant, it's gotta last silk fades and yellows. Whereas um yeah, semi synthetic or a blend is gonna hold that color so much better. And silk pools easily also where you're wearing our clothing in hot environments that might be sweaty or even near a pool, you need something quick dry. That is not gonna look like a rag after a few wears, it can't be that special. It's not evening where you're not wearing it to a ball, some pieces of ours. You are. Um, but definitely as we were very swimming to wrong focus then cover up silk is not the way to go. I love that. So I OK, let me funnel that into a be realistic with your product. Think it, it's not just you're not just being an artist. You, this is gonna be a viable commercial product. Take steps in any way possible just to reduce the cost because I can see you're probably doing your figures wrong and you're not making as much money as you think in the beginning. So get that cost down. Great advice. I love that.

Question number one is, what's your, why? Why do you wake up every day and work on Chinn? Hm. Ok. So I think my wife is the adventure. So think about what's an adventure? It's like chartering unknown territory or like the feeling of exhilaration or risk taking that like pays off. That's the adventure. And to me that's the adventure of building a brand or building a business. And I know of course, the root of that is building an incredible product, um excites my customer. But the reason why I'm driven to do that is the adventure. It's actually um a stereotype to that me as a female fashion brand owner, just everyone's like, oh, but you must just love designing and they think that I've got my water colors out and I'm just like playing the fabric and colors. That's actually a like 5% of what I spend my time doing. But b it's not the most exciting part I love like maybe you've had a hard week making decisions or things have been a bit monotonous and then you have a win like this buy that may come through tonight. That, that's, that's a, and that's definitely the best thing about it makes all the sacrifices worth it. Cos there's, without a doubt you make a lot of sacrifices, building a company, I think. Yeah. Love that question. Number two is what's been your favorite marketing moment so far? Oh God. Well, it would have to be the vogue, um, inclusion. Any of them. That's it. That's a pretty good one. You can't beat that. What is your go to resource for business? If you have to think about like a podcast or a newsletter or a book that you've read that you can recommend? OK. So it would definitely be this podcast for inspiration. Love it. And also ah the classics. How we built this by Guy Raz Business. Business of Fashion is awesome. Oh WGSN as well. Um Which is a trend forecasting website. But yeah, good old Bo really is great. Diet Prada keeps you in the loop too. Love diet Prada. So good question. Number four. How do you win the day? What are your AM or PM? Rituals and habits that keep you feeling happy and motivated and successful? OK. Wish I prepared this one. So I think it's really easy when you're in a start up or a business, you're working your ass off like there's not many rest periods, right? And I know it can weigh you down and I think being present or taking moments in the day to be present, maybe without a device is how I win my day. So, in resisting the urge to pick up the phone in the morning and just be with my dogs, I think my dogs are how I win my day because they are like this mechanism to pull me into the present and when you just sit and be with them and they, oh, just the best even watching the sunset with them and my phones on the bat 100%. They just keep you in the real world and then other things like hot showers and I don't know, really. It's just, I mean, I, 100% agree with you and you know how, I don't win my day when you wake up and you're in bed and you pull the laptop onto your lap. That's the first thing. And when you've gone to sleep the night before that was the last thing you did in a way. It's a sad little existence. You know, the other day I was like, I've got to enrich my life. I can't just work. That can't be all there is. So winning my day, dog enriching, like, trying to do something else other than work. Yeah, dogs are winning the day. I agree. What's been your worst money? Mistake in the business? And how much did it cost you? Hm. Ok. I would have reiterated what I said before that. I actually think mistakes are inevitable and if not your greatest teacher without a doubt. And that's probably how you build an amazing business because if you're not making any mistakes, then what the hell are you doing? You're not putting yourself out there. You're probably not challenging yourself, but get down to the nitty gritty. But the nitty gritty, it's a bit boring. It's just a photo shoot. I know we didn't use any of the images. So we paid for the photographer, the studio, the makeup artist, the model and it was like a five hour shoot. And nowadays that would have been much more costly to us. But back then the cost of our suits are so much lower. But yeah, those shots never saw the light of day. So that's a waste, waste of everyone's energy, everyone's time and money, of course. But um yeah, so that cost us $4000. Did you know like on the shoot? Yeah, this isn't a vibe. We're not gonna use it or was it when you got the pictures back? You were like, oh shit, this isn't what I thought it was gonna be. I it wasn't an aesthetic reason that we didn't use the shots, but the model was actually so rude. I nearly said look, it's really clear that you don't want to be here. So let's just call it a day. Let's not bother with this. I'm going home, see you, but we needed the shots and lou wasn't in Bali at the time and I was like, no, I need to get these shots. So I've just got to work with this girl because she wanted to cancel the suit and uh go to the Grand Prix and we said no, you can't, you have to do the shoe that you've been booked in to do because that's your job and you can't let us down and she was pissed. She was really angry. And um, that is so weird. I tried my best to stop in this situation. You know, I was like, oh, so how was your weekend? And she looked at me and went well, how do you think? I'm not going to the Grand Prix now I'm doing this to you and it's awkward. But anyway, you gotta do what you gotta do. I had to get the pic. So I thought um and anyway, um it was our um it was the best decision not to use those books. Anyway, cos we do wholesale. It's all about this. It's not like as fluid as it is as doing retail. So, yeah, Jesus. Wow. Crazy question number six. Last question. What is just a crazy story good or bad that you've had from building Chin Chin. Crazy story to me. The crazy moments are just what's crazy at the time. It was crazy for us to get us to be in the motor trunk show back in the day. And I remember being in an internet cafe, not even a thing just like a cafe and lou and I was so overwhelmed and I just look back on that memory was such fondness. Like that was so cute. Like we were so, oh yeah, I cried when it went live on. I was like, yeah, it's so amazing. That is so amazing. It is pinch me and then the other, the vogues, I mean, they're the milestones that especially if you love that and, and um grow up with vogue plated on your walls. Like I grew up in the age of magazines. Right. Yeah. Yeah, I was, my wall was a collage and I'd even rent Vogues from the library and use my Stanley knife to like still like cut some good pages out when we got home. I was like, oh my God, this is happening. That's crazy to me. It seriously is. That's what keeps you going. Oh, absolutely. I do. Why have I not done that? Too busy? Too busy? Oh my God. Yeah, this was so, so cool. Thank you so much for coming on the show and sharing like the whole bloody playbook for building a successful Thanks for listening to my babble. It was a pleasure. I mean, I love a bubble.


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