Being your own boss is a dream for many people but making it as an entrepreneur often takes trial and error. High school dropout Ebony Swank held a variety of jobs before she met someone in a hair salon who was selling clothes door-to-door. She tracked down the production source and tried opening her own shop. It failed. She started again with a store called Swank A Posh, this time with a focus on jeans for trendy girls, and grew it from one store in Detroit to a $40 million business.
Throughout her journey, Ebony Swank learned the hard way what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur. Now she is teaching her daughters those valuable lessons and making it her mission to show others that if she can do it, anyone can. These are her top tips for new entrepreneurs.
1. Cash management is crucial
New entrepreneurs need to have a clear understanding of their finances. A budget is essential to manage expectations and avoid pitfalls in the future. It’s also important to understand where your capital is coming from and having a well-defined game plan for how you plan to increase profits. “I’ve always viewed my inventory like money in the bank,” says Swank. “With it being an asset, we need to turn it into cash. So every strategy I use is to market and move products, that’s my sole focus. My advice to other entrepreneurs is to set goals that will result in revenue.”
2. Know your customer
There is no one-size-fits-all blueprint for how to run a business. The key is to truly understand your target market. Who are you selling and what are their unique needs?
Get inside the minds of your customers, and once you have a comprehensive idea of who they are, you will understand what they want to buy. “When I opened my second store, I saw that young black girls were spending the most at my competitors, but there was a huge demographic being overlooked,” says Swank. “Big girls were lacking the confidence to buy from companies that marketed to thin consumers. I broke the barrier by marketing to the everyday girl regardless of their size.”
3. Play up your creativity
By studying what her competitors were doing, Swank was able to identify a hole in the market and create new products that fit her specific market. She also came up with unique ways to promote her products and keep her customers engaged. “When collaborating with influencers, we don’t look for a certain image,” she says. “We search for all kinds of girls of different sizes. Not only is it more relatable and real but it also shows it’s okay to be confident with who you are and we love that.” Swank firmly believes that success hinges on a willingness to embrace creativity.
4. Learn from your mistakes
No matter how much business experience you have, you’re always going to encounter problems and even some failures on your entrepreneurial journey. Failure is part of the learning curve and can contribute to your success if you take the time to learn from your mistakes. “When I opened my first store, I was more into the excitement of owning a store and the presentation than marketing to customers,” says Swank. “After it failed, I knew that if I wanted to make my next store work, I needed to focus on inventory and marketing. Don’t be afraid to fail because it can actually make you stronger.”
5. It’s not just about the money
Money is a great motivator, but at the end of the day, entrepreneurs need to understand what it is that drives them. This is what keeps you going on hard days and gives you something to strive for that is larger than yourself.
For Swank, this was the realization that she was helping thousands of people change their lives for the better. “Giving back is extremely important to me because I need people to know it’s obtainable. I want people to know that no one is going to hand you anything, but that your dreams are reachable. Part of my mission is to give someone a chance at making it, because I know I did it.”
Becoming an entrepreneur in fashion retail is not as easy as you think. You need experience, to be business savvy, and intimate knowledge of your customer base in order to start your journey to financial freedom. Ebony Swank shows she learned how to do it and how you can do it too.