Business plans need to measure up too

DESIGN entrepreneurs have come from across the globe to London Fashion Week, starting today, to show off their creations. The industry oozes exclusivity, appearing the preserve of the wealthy and connected. It begs the question of how difficult it is for somebody to set up and grow a business in this world. Do creative geniuses have enough business know-how? Coutts doesn’t seem to think so. Last week the luxury bank unveiled a dress at its headquarters to promote business expertise for designers (see picture).

The dress, made from sustainable-sourced paper, was created by Louise Goldin. Echoing the style of items from Goldin’s spring-summer 2010 collection, its dramatic pleats and intricate folds took hours of design and careful cutting, pasting and gluing. She is the winner of the Fashion Forward Award that Coutts have sponsored to raise awareness of the equal importance of business planning as well as creativity to ensure success in the fashion industry. Award winners receive business mentoring from the bank as a prize.

Andrew Haigh, head of entrepreneurs at Coutts, says that: “Our clients typically have a stake in a business worth a minimum of £5m.” By sponsoring this award, Coutts is doing its bit to help smaller businesses get off the ground.

Rachel Galley, a winner of a similar Coutts jewellery award last year says she found the
mentoring helped her sharpen her business acumen: “It helped me think about the long-term goals of my business, making me think about business from a non-design perspective.” Galley’s business turnover has subsequently doubled; she jokes that it might grow enough for her to qualify to bank with Coutts in the next few years.

Networking is another advantage. Galley says she picked up commissions from Coutts
staff during her mentoring sessions. The exclusivity of this world is acknowledged by
Coutts’ own chief executive, Michael Morely, who lists networking as an important feature of success. These awards and the angel investor schemes that the bank offers are one effort to remedy this.

Budding designers should not lose heart even if they don’t win Coutts backing. Successful 23-year-old jewellery designer Daisy Knight forged her own financial awareness and made the connections that got her business started by working in a jewellery shop while she was at university. She made five samples paid for with her student loan. The shop took a chance on her and now her business is booming.