Should this bud­ding fash­ion maven skip the tweets?

The Washington Post Sunday - - BUSINESS - Look­ing for some ad­vice on a new busi­ness, or need help fix­ing an ex­ist­ing one? Con­tact us at cap­biznews@wash­

A stylist seeks ad­vice on how to line up cus­tomers.

— Dan Bey­ers

The en­trepreneur: When Jes­sica Grabler moved to Mary­land, she left be­hind a ca­reer as a re­tail buyer for top brands in New York. She was try­ing to fig­ure out what to do next that would use her skills and in­dulge her pas­sion for style. Urged by friends and fam­ily, Grabler de­cided to start a per­sonal shop­ping/styling busi­ness. She launched her Web site last spring.

The pitch, Grabler: “I of­fer a va­ri­ety of ser­vices for clients: per­sonal shop­ping, pre-pulling items for clients at stores, work­ing with clients to edit their clos­ets and in­cor­po­rate new items, on­line shop­ping guid­ance and cre­at­ing style guides with out­fits laid out for clients. I charge an hourly fee for my ser­vices to keep the busi­ness stream­lined.

“I am still pretty new to the re­gion (I’m in Bethesda). How do I get my name out there and grow my busi­ness or­gan­i­cally in a cost­con­scious man­ner? I have the back­ground in fash­ion and style, but not in mar­ket­ing. How do I main­tain a so­cial me­dia pres­ence with­out feel­ing over­whelmed? How do I choose where to fo­cus my ef­forts?”

The ad­vice, Elana Fine, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of the Ding­man Cen­ter for En­trepreneur­ship at the Univer­sity of Mary­land: “First, very clearly de­fine your tar­get cus­tomer. Be as spe­cific as pos­si­ble — maybe you are tar­get­ing work­ing moms with two kids in ele­men­tary school or preschool. Or new moms who just had a baby and need a new wardrobe that fits. Then re­ally think about the habits of your tar­get cus­tomer. What do they read? Where do they buy their cof­fee? Where do they go in the com­mu­nity? You need to fig­ure out how you will meet this cus­tomer. The even­tual goal is to get your tar­get to buy your ser­vices, but first treat meet­ing them like net­work­ing.

“Of­fer to be a free speaker for events for work­ing women to es­tab­lish your­self as a lo­cal ex­pert on fash­ion and shop­ping.

“Think about part­ners, like re­tail­ers in the com­mu­nity where you could of­fer events and show peo­ple what you do with some­one’s closet us­ing that re­tailer’s of­fer­ings.

“Fig­ure out how wide to cast your net by build­ing back­ward from a clear tar­get goal num­ber of clients for the year. So if your goal is 25 clients for the first year, then you may not need to in­vest time in so­cial me­dia be­cause you might just need to talk to 50 in­ter­ested peo­ple to get to your goal.

“So­cial me­dia builds a mass­mar­ket pres­ence. It’s re­ally hard to tar­get ex­actly who you want to on so­cial me­dia plat­forms. So­cial me­dia can be re­ally time-con­sum­ing and stress­ful for a lot of start-ups. A bet­ter strat­egy would be to build an au­di­ence by cre­at­ing a blog with a lo­cal fash­ion fo­cus. Then you can use so­cial me­dia to drive fol­low­ers back to your blog and even­tu­ally your ser­vices.”

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