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How Second-Time Founders Can Come Back Stronger

Entrepreneurship is often about following your dreams. Kimberley Gordon followed her own into the imaginative world of Selkie, a size-inclusive ready-to-wear brand created around dreamy designs and low-waste production. 

Kimberley built Selkie while mourning the loss of her first success, Wildfox, a fashion label known for its edgy graphic tees. Forced out of the company due to an unsuccessful partnership with an investor, the experience, while painful, taught her invaluable lessons that shaped her approach to starting her next business. 

Ahead, Kimberley shares what she learned while building her second label—as well as universal advice for any aspiring fashion entrepreneur.

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4 tips for turning your dream business into a commercial success

selkie models pose walking down a green staircase in front of a multicolored green house.
Selkie’s models represent a fantasy world of Kimberley’s imagination, and she uses her creative dreams to bring the clothing to life. Selkie

1. Be malleable 

Having lost her first company, Kimberley understands the importance of navigating change and being open to the new opportunities that loss can bring. “I lost a company that I built into a multimillion-dollar business [over] nine years,” she says. “I felt horrible grief that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.” 

What saved Kimerbley was her ability to adapt to change and to find new opportunities within the fashion industry. 

When it came time to take Selkie to the next level, Kimberley had to make a major manufacturing move to China. “I gave up production in America, to gain this sort of freedom to make whatever I wanted,” she says. “It meant that I could really also be catering to different sizes, like in a real way, going up to 6XL.”

two selkie models in hair and makeup at a photoshoot
Selkie moved its production facility to China in order to bring Kimberley’s dream to life and offer whimsical and girly clothing options to a larger size range. Selkie

2. Find partners you can trust 

The people you get into business with will have a large impact on day-to-day operations, as well as the overall success of your business. Kimberley had to learn the hard way just how impactful a partnership could be on her dreams.

Leaving Wildfox due to a toxic environment made it even more clear to Kimberley that she would choose her partners carefully for her venture. “It was an extremely toxic and frightening environment,” Kimberley says. Not wanting to repeat this mistake with Selkie, she made sure any partners she went into business with had intentions that aligned with hers.

3. Hold yourself accountable

When she started spreading the word about Selkie, she noticed it held her accountable in a way nothing else did. All of a sudden other people were waiting on her ideas to come to life, motivating her to find new potential partners, team members, and inspiration. Her friends and network connected her with mentors and advisers, giving her a sense of obligation to bring her designs to life.

“You’ve got to get yourself up off the hardest place, which is when your idea exists in [your brain], because in order for it to exist for everyone else, you have to tell everyone it will, so it becomes part of everyone else’s consciousness,” Kimberley says. 

4. Work freelance jobs on the side 

Launching your dream business may still require struggle to make ends meet. While building Selkie, Kimberley worked a number of side gigs to help supplement her income. 

“I’m so grateful to those brands that hired me as a photographer so I could [launch Selkie] in the meantime,” Kimberley says. 

It’s important to have money coming in when you’re launching your dream business, so you don’t have to stress about basic necessities. Working freelance jobs can also allow you to build up your network and connections while in the beginning phases of starting a business. The freelance photography gigs also helped Kimberley develop a photography style she now can use for her own brand.

a rack of selkie clothing and accessories hanging on a rolling rack in the middle of the street.
Kimberley’s experience shooting different fashion labels as a freelance photographer helped her put together creative photoshoots for her own brand, Selkie. Selkie

While launching a fashion brand can feel overwhelming, learning from the successes and failures of those who did it before you will help make your dream business a lasting success. 

To hear more from Kimberley about her fashion launch strategy and get her tips for low-waste production, tune in to the full Shopify Masters episode. 

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This originally appeared on Shopify and is available here for wider discovery.
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