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FASHION IS FREEDOM How Tala Raassi ï¬&#x201A;ed persecution in Tehran to tailor a success in fashion
WHAT IS THE BEST RECIPE FOR MARKETING SUCCESS?
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A WORD FROM THE EDITOR
e are back for another Business Show, once again to meet the incredible, innovative entrepreneurs that make this country tick.
We also return with a special edition of the magazine where we highlight our favourite articles over the past few months. Our cover star is, frankly, an amazing woman. Tala Raassi, fashion designer and founder of Dar Be Dar Swimwear. Born in the USA, Tala moved to Iran as a young child yet always had an interest in fashion. This can be a dangerous passion in Iran, and at her 16th birthday party was arrested for the ‘crime’ of wearing a mini skirt. For which she was sentenced to time in prison and 40 lashes. After her punishment, Tala moved back to the USA to pursue her fashion dream. Turn to page 4 to ﬁnd out how Tala has overcome these challenges and, against all odds, and still dreams of making inroads into the Iran fashion industry. Our other two articles look at how to help you get the best out of your business, how to push your business to the next level for new clients and customers with the recipe for marketing success. And the Strategy Surgeon is back! Bobby Lane has advised thousands of SMEs about how to improve their businesses; here he gives his top ten tips of how SMEs can gain investment. So head over to www.talk-business.co.uk to get the best advice and information from business experts, or get in contact today and share your success with Talk Business!
www.talk-business.co.uk Dominic Lill, online editor email@example.com Sid White, sales manager firstname.lastname@example.org 0203 617 4698
Dominic Lill Online Editor
Fashion is freedom Tala Raassi has faced conventional challenges and, as she tells Adam Aiken, one that few others have had to endure
t’s an entrepreneur’s lot to face struggles and hardship. Take even the highest achiever and the chances are you’ll be able to find a challenge or two faced along the way. They are likely to be nothing, though, compared with the experiences faced by Tala Raassi. The American-Iranian has now made her mark in the world of fashion design - but only after she was jailed in Tehran and sentenced to 40 lashes for, ironically, a breach of the hardline country’s fashion code. Tala was born to Iranian parents in the United States in 1983 but moved with her family from Maryland to Iran when she was two. She spent her formative years in the Middle East country, but by the time she returned to the US when she was 17, she had spent time inside for the “crime” of wearing a miniskirt - and in private, too. As she describes in her recently-published autobiography, Fashion is Freedom, she was arrested while attending her own 16th birthday party at a friend’s house. “Many people asked me why I would be around people of the opposite sex, or listen to Western music, or wear a miniskirt when there are people there other than your brother or father if it is illegal. It was because I didn’t believe in that law, and nor do many other people in Iran. “That is why the young generation has created this underground party scene so they can do what they want in the privacy of their homes. But it is still illegal. You can’t be around people of the opposite sex uncovered. “We all knew there was a chance this could happen, but you never think it’s going to happen to you. “We used to joke about it, but most of the time [the authorities] just close down the party and then leave. “It’s very rare you get to the point of going to jail. Only a small number of people get arrested like that.” Once released from prison, Tala’s parents were understandably keen for her to try to fulfil her
dreams elsewhere, which is why she ended up back in America, via a brief stint in Dubai. “They could see that I was seeking a lot of freedom, so they sent me overseas to do what I wanted to do without the risk of being punished,” she says. Becoming an entrepreneur was something that came later, but it should have been no surprise that it happened. Tala’s mother and father were entrepreneurs, as were her grandparents and aunts and uncles. “I’d always wanted to be my own boss,” says the owner of Dar Be Dar Swimwear, which has branches across the US and Dubai. “But growing up in Iran, there were no mainstream boutiques and the women were all covered, so I did not even knew what a fashion designer was. “But I’d always liked fashion, and I was also interested in business, having grown up watching my mother and father as entrepreneurs.” On arrival back in America in 2000, the challenges no longer included facing jail time for breaking the dress code, but Tala did face a number of new obstacles. The first was the language barrier. She didn’t speak a word of English, and had to learn it from scratch. Now aged 33, you wouldn’t believe it’s only her second language, such is her fluency, but at the time it was a major hurdle for her to jump. And then began a number of trial-and-error mistakes and lessons that many an entrepreneur will recognise. She says: “The first mistake I made was to jump into things too quickly without making a plan. Having a plan is the most important thing you need when starting a business. “I started my first company and I was so excited about these T-shirts, but I had no idea where I was going to manufacture them or how much it was going to cost me or where I was going to sell them. “The importance of planning wasn’t something I realised until my second business.” Taking care when choosing a business partner www.talk-business.co.uk
was another lesson learnt by Tala, who is wouldn’t have been able to make a name based in Washington, DC. for myself. “My father once told me, if partners were “Things have changed over the past good, God would have one,” she says. 15 or 16 years. But being a fashion “If you don’t get along with your partner designer in Iran is like being a drug and don’t have the same vision, it can be dealer because everything has to be very, very complicated. word of mouth and you have to hide the “My second business failed because of fashion shows.” a lack of communication. My partner The ultimate fairytale would be for and I couldn’t see eye to eye, and so Tala’s lines to available openly in cities we didn’t communicate much, and such as Tehran. ultimately the business failed because we “People ask me if I hate Iran,” she says. couldn’t come to agreement on anything. “But I love Iran, and what happened “Having a great partner is amazing to me has nothing to do with but having a bad partner is not a good the people there or the beautiful experience.” culture. It would be my dream to The other key lesson the fashion open my business over there.” The ultimate designer has learnt is to make sure Graduating from not speaking fairytale would you remember why you started in the English to writing and publishing be for Tala’s first place. her own book is another “Being an entrepreneur is hard and lines to available achievement Tala is rightly proud there’s a lot of competition,” Tala says. of, and she is already planning openly in cities “I got a lot of negative feedback and her next project - a documentary such as Tehran rejection over the years, but the most looking at how fashion can mean important thing for an entrepreneur freedom in so many different ways is to believe in what you are doing. around the world. There are going to be millions of people who hate She says: “For a Muslim woman in the Middle what you are doing but there are also going to be a East, it may just be the freedom of wearing what she lot who like what you are doing. wants to wear and not having to think about being “To have a passion is what will keep you going. judged or punished. There are many days when I ask myself why I am “For Colombian women who helped me doing this, and why this is so hard. manufacture my bathing suits, it means money to “It can take a while and if you are not passionate support their entire village. about what you do you are not going to be able to “What fashion means to them is different push forward the way you need to.” from what fashion means to someone who’s on the The passion that has driven Tala has resulted in red carpet. her becoming a successful swimwear designer - a “It’s not just about glamour and what’s on the huge irony given her earlier experiences at the hands cover of Vogue. It’s just as much about financial or of the fashion police. emotional freedom, and I want to raise awareness “I could never start a swimwear line in Iran in the of that.” same way,” she says. Given the obstacles she’s already conquered, “I could probably do it underground, but I you’d be brave to bet against Tala achieving her aim. 6
Fashion is Freedom, by Blink Publishing, is out now
What is the best recipe for marketing success? Jamie Barlow, managing director of Stop and Stare Marketing, tells us his ingredients for a successful marketing recipe
veryone wants a magic formula for marketing success – that special recipe that delivers results time and time again. Essentially your marketing recipe is your marketing plan, incorporating all the various activities you do successfully (the ingredients), in the right quantities, to deliver the results you want Unfortunately, this recipe is going to be unique to your business, so you won’t find it in any cookbooks or marketing manuals. However, for many local businesses the ingredients are the same, it’s just knowing how much of each marketing activity you need, and tweaking the recipe to suit your business. So here’s my ingredient list! Treat it a bit like the skills round on the Great British Bake Off – you’ll have to guess the quantities and adjust them depending on your experience and knowledge so far. If you have a clear idea of your customer avatar and know what their tastes are like, already have some metrics that will help inform what you do, and have realistic expectations and objectives, you’ll find it much easier to get the right consistency and an effective result.
THE METHOD The method is all about understanding the chemistry needed to create great results; how one ingredient works with another, how a little bit more of something may mean adjusting marketing activities in other areas, and how they all ﬁt together to create a coherent and successful marketing plan. As well as tweaking what you do so that your marketing activities are aligned with your target audience, your brand and your business objectives, you’ll also want to reﬁne your recipe over time. Trends and developments in technology may change what your audience want, or a new competitor mat shake up your sector and force you to try something new. Finally, remember to measure your ingredients while you’re working on your marketing recipe. Try split testing different activities to ﬁnd out what quantities you need, and make sure you have an effective way to report your results. Then, if you ﬁnd something is working really well you’ll know how to replicate it, and you’ll have a marketing plan that really delivers for your business.
INGREDIENTS SOCIAL MEDIA Choose the social media platforms that are relevant to your target audience (i.e. where your customers hang out). The major ones are a given – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc. – but also consider others as well. For example, if you produce a lot of video content, YouTube is a must, if you want to reach a younger audience, Instagram is a good bet, if you have a very visual product Pinterest could be the best place for you. GET A BLOG Cooking is like chemistry; certain ingredients need others to create something new. Marketing is similar – you sometimes need a catalyst to get everything else going. A blog is a great marketing catalyst for providing content to share on social media or email marketing, but also effective at tapping into PR opportunities, using as a sales tool and more. NEWSLETTER Regular communication with your contacts keeps your organisation at the forefront of their minds, and allows you to target them with highly relevant content, offers and other information. Remember it’s easier to sell to existing customers than to gain new ones so don’t neglect them. EMAIL CAMPAIGN Prospects need a different approach so targeted emails designed to get them to take the next step need to go into the marketing mix. PR opportunities: Getting your brand and message in front of people who don’t know who you are, or don’t remember you, is difﬁcult. That’s why getting visibility away from your own channels is so important. PR opportunities, such as an interview in an industry publication, can help you reach those prospects that aren’t currently engaged with your brand. 10
DIRECT MAIL Print still has a place in your marketing recipe, and in many cases a well-designed and personalised mail out can have more impact that hundreds of social media updates or other digital communications. However, it does need to really offer something of interest to your targets; just saying “We’re still here!” is not going to cut it.
WEBSITE Having a website for your business is integral to the marketing mix – imagine delivering a beautifully crafted cake without a box or container; it would be fairly difﬁcult and inconvenient. Your website is an extremely convenient container for everything that your business has to offer, as well as being a way to showcase previous work, testimonials and to raise awareness for upcoming events and current news! Your website is most likely the ﬁrst thing prospective clients will ﬁnd out about you, so make sure it is always kept up to date! SEO Ensuring that prospects searching online can ﬁnd your website easily creates the opportunity for conversion. Local businesses that don’t get found in search engines results are really missing out, as many people would prefer to do business with a company based nearby. PPC Alongside organic SEO, Google and social media pay-per-click campaigns can deliver great value, especially when promoting an offer, event, new products or services, and lead generating content DESIGN Good design acts like a binding agent to ensure all the other ingredients work together. Just as you can’t bake a cake without eggs, your marketing messages are likely to fall ﬂat if they don’t look good.
We have a passion for making small businesses thrive. With creative design and inspired marketing solutions Symbian Create will help your business grow. If you are looking to refresh your brand or design a stunning new website call 01279 810 740 or email email@example.com today. *Visit symbiancreate.co.uk/pricing for more information BRANDING • DESIGN • MARKETING • DIGITAL • PRINT
The 10 best ways to ﬁnd investment
FRIENDS & FAMILY
Approaching your friends and family for finance isn’t always easy, but if you have a good sound business model they could be a good source and the best starting point.
Raising money against your own property can be one of the cheapest routes to debt finance. But beware, if the business was to fail do make sure that you will be able to survive the loss and still be able to make your mortgage payments. Only put at risk what you would be able to survive if it was gone.
You could go via the more traditional route and apply for a bank loan. If you can get through the banks credit committee then you will more than likely need to offer the bank security for the loan. If you do not have security available then you may be able to use the Enterprise Guarantee Finance scheme (see no 6).
ANGEL INVESTORS & CROWD-FUNDING
You may be able to find a third party investor with a different skill-set who could add value and the right connections to help you run the business. Make sure you pick your investor carefully. There are some new routes to help you find the investment that you need through crowd-funding sites.
The seed enterprise investment scheme is a fantastic incentive for investors of up to 100k (the company can raise 150k). They will receive 50% income tax relief on their investment. If the business is sold after three years there would be no capital gains tax on the sale of the shares if the business is successful. There would be additional loss relief if the business were to fail in the future and the shares were disposed of at a loss. For a larger investment there is the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) which works in a similar way but the initial income tax relief is only 30%.
ENTERPRISE FINANCE GUARANTEE SCHEME (EFG)
If you approach the bank for a loan, you may well fall down at the last hurdle which is the availability of security to offer such as a house for the bank to secure your loan. The Enterprise Finance Guarantee Scheme involves the Government guaranteeing 75% of the loan with the bank taking the other 25% of the risk. However you will have to give a personal guarantee for the amount. Your business will need to be: • UK Based • Turnover of less than £41m • Looking for finance of between £1k and £1.2m • Repayment between 3m and 10 years.
Banks do not like offering overdrafts nowadays. In addition it may not be the best solution for a growing business. If the business is growing rapidly, then an overdraft may be nothing more than a temporary fix. In a short space of time it may need to be increased - but given the time to increase a limit and the security required this may not be quick enough to support the growth.
ASSET BASED LENDING
START UP LOAN SCHEME
The Start Up Loan Scheme (www.startuploans. co.uk) was created by the Government to help people that are starting and growing their businesses. If you have been trading for less than 12 months you can access up to £25,000. On top of the funding the borrower is also matched with a business mentor free of charge appropriate to the business who can provide a sounding board and support at the initial stages of your business.
This can often be the best source of finance for a growing business. Lower security requirements and more flexibility make this type of finance a good option for businesses that are looking to expand. In addition banks and finance providers are much more comfortable offering these types of facilities. However this will not be appropriate for businesses that do not offer credit to their customers.
If the business needs to address working capital issues and paying suppliers, then a further option is trade finance. Facilities such as letters of credit work well when purchasing from Asia and there are now some excellent stock financing products on the market which will all assist companies with their growth.
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