Building a DTC Brand through COVID: Wk 8

Week 8: End-of-Year Reflections Amid COVID

“Building a DTC Brand During COVID” is a series written by Farah Azmi to serve as a discussion for starting a company amid a pandemic. The stories are meant to share personal experiences and is not in any way meant to promote a “correct” methodology. We hope readers find this informative and amusing and we welcome informed advice and active discussion.

In 20 years, when we all reflect in 2020, I know that we will look at 2020 as one of the worst years in our past. We lost many lives across the country who were family and friends. We lost key moments such as graduations and birthdays. It’s enough things that were lost to make 2020 feel like the “lost” year. However, I wanted to wrap up this year thinking about the opposite. I wanted to think about what I’ve been able to gain.

If I look back to January 2019, IXORA was just called “Project Suit” and I had nothing but my sketches and initial survey results to show. Fast-forward to March 2020, I had more survey and focus group conversations. I had dozens of research interviews with tailors and seamstresses. Now in December 2020, I have a capsule collection, a manufacturer, and a sales date. I had come further than I ever imagined. As I reflect on this year, my three entrepreneurial lessons are:

  1. Take Your Time

  2. Explore New Things

  3. Get Help

Take your Time: In March, I was racing across the clock to get things done. I worked tirelessly to find a manufacturer and designer and to figure out how to get past minimum orders. I was aiming for deadlines that were honestly quite arbitrary. I completed my first set of samples in August. Then after that I spent the fall semester making our manufacturer create their set of samples. I had hoped I could do pre-orders this fall. I was rushing to get things done and at times, I was annoyed at myself and the manufacturer in order to accomplish this goal. However, as COVID numbers continued to rise, retail sales continue to be challenging, I had to remind myself, “What is the rush?” Instead of hitting these deadlines, I decided to take my time to pick logical paths and focus on depth rather than breadth. While there is certainly a time and place for speed, in this COVID world, I cared about thoroughness.

Explore New Things: When I first launched, I tossed around different ideas on a weekly basis around how to get measurements. My ideas went from me measuring these women to utilizing a network of tailors. I’m fortunate enough to have incredible resources at business school to be able to explore this a bit more. One of which is a class called Product Management 101. The class allows me to explore the tech component and then have the opportunity to build it – whether it be an app or web page. Over the course of the semester, my team did lots of research and tests in understanding consumer behavior. Before you know it, we were building wireframes of our tool. In March, I never thought I would be building a tech tool. I’m the least tech-y person, but today, I’m excited to learn about the tech side and how it works..

Get Help: Entrepreneurship is just as much a mental game as it is about your technical skillsets. In the past 9 months alone, I’ve gone from incredible highs to incredible lows. I constantly worry if this is going to work and constantly worry if enough people will care. The number of days where I want to give up continue to rise. However, I’m incredibly thankful for my friends that have been by my side the past few months. I’ve used my friends to practice my pitch almost daily. I’ve recruited them for my class projects to explore my marketing strategy and my measurement tool. Then my designer Nora has been a true partner helping me understand the in’s and out’s of the design world. All these people have helped me not only bring my vision to life, but also given me such valuable advice and insights. I would have not made it this far without these people pushing me and challenging me along the way.

In a year filled with “I can’ts,” whether it be I can’t travel or I can’t eat out, I wanted to focus on what I can do. Therefore, in 2021, I’m only hoping for more things that I will do. So *drumroll* I’m excited to announce and put on paper that in January we’re FINALLY revealing our final looks AND we will start taking orders shortly thereafter. It’s been more than a year in the works, so I hope you love what you see. See you in 2021!

<3 Farah

 IXORA Apparel is an early stage start-up fashion brand founded by a Harvard Business School student. Our mission is to support women in their lives through the way she dresses while providing resources to support her in the workplace.  We aim to provide made-to-measure trend-driven apparel for women, where everything is made-for-her and not made-to-stock.


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