Should this budding fashion maven skip the tweets?
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.”