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Don't Let Business Kill Your Creativity

Don't Let Business Kill Your Creativity

Fade was started from the backbone of creative spirit, from a curious hands-on session at my university screen printing lab. In my last year of study, I think I spent more time there than attending class, making anything I wanted with my friends. It was from that creative curiosity that Fade came about.

Like many enterprises and businesses, the logistical, daily needs of your business need to be met. Like a newborn baby, your business needs tending to, it needs to be fed (money), it needs attention (your time) and it needs to be in a safe environment to grow. Being in the fashion clothing industry SHOULD mean that you’re creating, making and being innovative, but when you're a small business owner, you’re doing everything that large companies would have departments for. So for me, the creative spirit we built and started Fade from, hasn’t been nurtured as well as it used to. There were (and are) times I felt so burnt out from tasks like making tech packs for our whole collection, crunching numbers and understanding a financial forecast, filling in lending applications, business meetings (the list goes on) that there was no more space or capacity left to do the fun things. Things I was actually passionate about like designing, creating, making content, planning collections were unattended to. By being unable to fulfil our obligation to create, be inspired and to inspire, I felt like I had betrayed my personal ethos, and even the brands.

In the past couple of years, there are definitely things that have helped and improved this situation and things that I intend to do from now on. Some things are eventual and some things will require more intention.

As we’ve been able to scale, expanding our collection, 3PL has been the next step of our logistical process. We now outsource order fulfilment which has saved us time physically spent on packing orders that we now use elsewhere. In saying this, it's not necessarily a viable option for every clothing business, certainly wasn’t for us in the beginning. This leads into my next tip. Make a 3, 6 or 12 month plan of when you want to outsource parts of your business. These can be things that give you pain, or take up a lot of your time. In every early stage of a small business, it’s good to know the basics, you often learn it anyway because you don’t have a choice but to do everything yourself. The things that gave us most pain were our accounting, our order fulfilment and our paid marketing. Write a list, make a plan and expand your network to find someone who can work with you, within whatever capacity you can afford.

Something I recently learnt from TikTok (big surprise) was separating my “business owner” tasks from my “employee/business-as-usual” tasks. I’d further define this by working “on” the business rather than working “in” the business. It’s like things you do on the regular to get your business by and then things you do to move the needle. These tasks often require different levels of focus and energy, so it’s best to plan around when you have the most energy vs when you have the least and then execute accordingly. Instead of looking at everything on your to-do list as this huge never ending monster, this might make your tasks more manageable.

Fade still consists of me and Jarrod. You might be a lone wolf freelancer or a bigger team. In the beginning, we did everything together, because we were essentially lanky twin newborn giraffe calves finding our feet together. Now that we’re a bit more experienced and our entrepreneurial strengths and weaknesses are more apparent, we have defined our roles. This helps empower and give responsibility to one another, makes workloads more transparent and helps delegate who can do what. To put it straight, I stay in my lane and you stay in yours, until we communicate otherwise. It’s still a WIP, because I find it hard to mind my own business, but it just means we need to trust each other. Jarrod loves his financial planning and forecasting and liaising with our vendors, which means I have a lot more creative responsibility and creative license. It’s still very much a collaborative process though, but at least I know that I’m accountable for this part of the business.

In conjunction with defining roles and responsibilities in the company, I’ve also been realigning myself with the things that fill my cup and bring me the most joy. There are things that I have to do, and there are things that I have to do that I enjoy. My favourite part of the business is building the concepts for each collection and shoot. I know I get the most creative freedom here so Jarrod trusts me to take ownership of this part. I get to be real hands on in executing an idea and overseeing the finished product, in collaboration with Jarrod, our photographer(s), talent and other helping hands. I’ve helped direct and plan around 4 shoots now for Fade, and it truly fills my cup. 

I haven’t yet quite found the sweet middle ground between operating and growing a business while delivering the creative outcomes I want Fade to achieve. It’s a continuous work in progress but we understand it’s part of the growing pains of being in business. Now that we’ve gained a bit of experience running Fade, I know I can take more intentional measures to prioritise our creativity. The focus is now on honing in on my creative thinking to maximise and propel our business forward.

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