Are you daydreaming of launching your own biz but not really sure how to take the leap? You’re not alone. There’s so much to consider when you’re starting out that it can feel overwhelming to juggle everything. Business licenses, taxes, and production alone can seem like jobs within themselves without even considering how to market your product. Luckily, in our modern world, we have Instagram to thank for increased visibility. Social media not only provides us with ample daily cuteness (like tiny pups and cute kittens) and design inspo for our physical spaces (like our dream home office), but it also increasingly serves as a shopping platform which can *really* help launch businesses. Just ask Rachel Nilsson, founder of Rags to Raches, an oh-so-fashionable kid’s clothing line. Before Nilsson officially launched her line, she used Instagram to sell her handmade clothing for extra moolah while her husband was in grad school. We caught up with Nilsson — who calls Instagram a “two-second billboard for your company” — to get her tips on launching a successful small business.
1. Strong images are key. On Instagram, it’s important to catch someone’s attention instantly, so great photos are tantamount to success. “When I launched, I had to make do with what I had; there was no photographer or editor, it was just me with an iPhone, a white backboard from Home Depot, and good sunlight,” says Nilsson. To strengthen your photog skills, take online classes like Photo Styling, Phone Photography Basics, or Get Started on Instagram.
2. Cut out the middle man. Before launching Rags to Raches, Nilsson sold her handmade clothing through a local boutique. She loved designing clothing but hated that the retailer took half of her profit. “Once I realized that people were willing to buy directly from me through Instagram, it was a no-brainer. I had to give it a shot. I could make clothing again and keep 100 percent of my profits,” says Nilsson.
3. Swim with the sharks. On Shark Tank, that is. Nilsson took her brand to the big league when she pitched it on Shark Tank, the ultimate entrepreneur show. “I was walking into something where I could get totally shredded by four Sharks in front of nine million viewers. Talk about pressure,” says Nilsson. “My advice to any entrepreneur who has that opportunity would be DO IT! Even if you get shredded (luckily, mine did really well) — it is a once in a lifetime opportunity.” Before you plan on auditioning, do your research, and practice your pitch.
4. Welcome inspiration (no matter when it comes). Each week, Rags to Raches launches a limited edition design that often sells out in minutes online. Nilsson creates fun patterns, designs, and phrases that adorn her Rags, and she finds creative inspo when she least expects it. “A lot of things inspire me, but that inspiration always seems to come at 2am, while mowing the lawn, or doing laundry. My phone is full of notes and lists so I don’t forget my ideas,” says Nilsson.
5. Understand supply and demand. As a mom, Nilsson (like most parents) hated dealing with snaps on clothing when she changed diapers. “I realized there was nothing in the market that was functional and fashionable. I was so sick of dealing with snaps, but I loved the simplicity of a one piece. Thus, the Rag was born. It made my life 10 times easier and my little dude was stoked because he was so comfy, not to mention, super cute,” says Nilsson. These pieces always sold the quickest because parents wanted the same, easy function of her romper design.
6. Take the leap. Nilsson feels like she’s always taking risks and jumping off cliffs. “My advice to any creative women would be to jump! You will never know what could have been had you not at least tried,” says Nilsson. She strongly urges fellow #girlbosses to hustle and never give up. “You will figure it out as you go, and if you can’t, there is always someone who can.” While it may seem scary to jump, Nilsson thinks it’s better to at least try and see what happens. You never know!
7. Bank on what you love. Nilsson didn’t love the baby clothes that were available when she had kids so she decided to make her own. By making onesies that were cool, functional, and comfy, she tapped into a business that allows her to be creative every day. “I figured out a marketing strategy that worked for me and my brand. I figured out a manufacturer who could make the Rags, and after sewing my butt off, I took the plunge and went for it.” Now, running Rags to Raches is Nilsson’s dream job and she couldn’t love her day-to-day life anymore. “This is a total dream come true!”
What dream business do you dream of launching? Tell us @BritandCo!
(Shark Tank photo via ABC/Michael Desmond; Additional photos via Rags to Raches)