Self-financed and turning a profit within three years, I spoke to Sylvie Morton, founder and owner of In One Clothing, a bespoke online dress and accessory business about going it alone, what it takes to succeed in business and her top tips for budding entrepreneurs.
Sylvie’s idea for In One Clothing came about after years of having a fascination with items and products that are multiuse and clothing that can be worn multiway. She spotted a gap in the wedding and fashion industry for affordable multiway bridesmaid and occasion dresses and when her husband was made redundant, it was the catalyst that Sylvie needed to start thinking of launching her own company.
In her previous life, Sylvie had worked in a high level marketing role in a swimwear company based in the UK. She decided to leave her job and took the risk to completely change her career direction. Sylvie and her husband spent six months in his native New Zealand where she took the opportunity to upskill and start the building blocks needed for In One Clothing. “I compare the journey of starting your own business as similar to when people begin to plan for a baby. First, you think about it for a long time, then you do it and you wonder, why did I wait so long? In the early days there’s a lot of sleepless nights, worry and running around for what seems like little in return but there is such joy in it too. Owning your own business will continuously surprise you, drive you insane at times and make you so happy all at once!”
In One Clothing
While the idea for multiway dresses existed on competitor sites, it often meant that once a customer bought a dress, it couldn’t then be altered or customised. In 2011, In One Clothing was born and it stands out from the crowd in the highly competitive wedding and fashion online marketplace as the dresses are made piece by piece from raw fabric and then individually stitched together by Sylvie’s team. “The dresses are made right here in London and we can tailor every style for the customer. We can shorten or cut it to an extra-long length, we can add a sash, we can adapt for a maternity style – the whole ethos of my brand is that you are getting a dress that is tailored to you.” There are 30 colours to choose from on the website and each dress style can be worn 14 different ways. The idea is to give customers as much choice as possible. Colour swatches and a sample dress service is also offered where a style is sent by post and returned. A gift voucher is then supplied which can be passed on to another friend or to offset against the price of an order. Sylvie puts the customer first to get the dress they want. “I work with a customer in advance to get the measurements and design nuances needed.”
I asked Sylvie for her key advice for budding online entrepreneurs, “A really valuable piece of advice that I would pass on is not to try and do everything. You will discover what you’re really good at and what you are really rubbish at. Don’t spend hours, days or months trying to figure things out. There are so many talented freelance workers and experts that will help you to make your vision a reality. This will help your business and free up so much of your time for what you’re really good at.” Sylvie also spoke about staying true to your goals and to have faith in your idea, “Be flexible and know what you want. Sometimes people won’t like your product or what you are offering and that can be quite personal but you need to be confident in your product. There’s no point in trying to please everyone.”
All or nothing
A very real challenge for entrepreneurs and business owners is work/life balance and juggling personal life with the responsibility of being the boss. I asked Sylvie how she deals with this. “You do what it takes. It’s there all of the time. One of the areas that can be difficult to manage with an online business is how easy it is to check emails outside of normal working hours and to balance the hours that you give to your business. It can be hard to switch off. You have to create boundaries like no emails after 6pm or making an effort to not let the business issues bleed into the weekend.” In her spare time she enjoys yoga to relax. “I have a real passion for Bikrim Yoga, it gives me focus and discipline and it’s time to myself to completely unwind.”
For Sylvie, the feedback from customers and the interaction with people who have bought her product is something that she never tires of. “My favourite part of my job is when I get pictures from brides, always. Another thing that I’m really proud of is that I’ve always paid myself. From the start, I had no outside investment. I started the business five years ago. In year one I put money in and by year three, I was in profit. It was such a great achievement to have come from having an idea for a business, to see it running successfully.”
The internet has revolutionised the small business industry according to Sylvie, “It has given everyone a chance. I don’t think the challenges of an online business are any different to an offline one. You need to be organised, you need a business plan and you need to work hard. Problems will always happen, fabric might get delayed, suppliers might have problems or a customer might have a very short time frame but once you are adaptable, you can find a solution. When it comes to the wedding industry, I have a very motivated customer. Brides know what they want and they are focused. This definitely helps my business.”
The importance of reinvention and keeping things fresh is something that Sylvie is focused on. There will be new additions to styles and her business is continuously evolving as trends, fashion and colours change. “I think that a personal challenge of mine will be to let go of In One Clothing in the future. I’ve started one successful business so it’s a goal of mine to start another. The buzz that you get from starting a new venture is brilliant. I know I’d love to do it again.” Sylvie has carved out a niche in a highly competitive industry and the passion that she brings to her work every day is inspiring.
To view the full range of dresses and accessories, or to contact Sylvie, visit her website In One Clothing.
All images courtesy of In One Clothing.