Monday, August 12, 2019

Meet Canada's first legal small-scale cannabis growers - The Globe and Mail

Meet Canada's first legal small-scale cannabis growers - The Globe and Mail


Meet Canada's first legal small-scale cannabis growers - The Globe and Mail

Posted: 12 Aug 2019 03:00 AM PDT

Part of cannabis and small business and retail

Nearly nine months after applications were submitted, Canada's first legal small-scale recreational cannabis growers are finally open for business – but so far, there are just three of them.

Health Canada's regulatory framework for cannabis producers includes provisions for microcultivators, which grow cannabis, and microprocessors, which develop and package the product for final sale and may create items such as oils.

Unlike larger licensed producers, microcultivators are limited to 200 square metres of growing space, while microprocessors are generally capped at handling 600 kilograms of product a year. These sites also are subject to less stringent security requirements than their larger counterparts.

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The licensing categories are meant to allow small businesses and black-market growers to join the legal market, but the number of companies getting approval so far has fallen short of expectations. Tens of thousands of unlicensed growers still supply the lion's share of the recreational product to Canadian consumers, and large licensed producers control the legal supply. Meanwhile, microlicence candidates face many challenges securing financing and some grapple with complex municipal land-use issues, making it difficult to transition to the regulated market.

According to Health Canada, as of July 31, there were 192 applications for such sites in the queue at various stages of review, of which 15 are in the final stage. Three microcultivation sites have been approved; one of those companies also holds a microprocessing licence.

That dual-licensed site is owned by Gord Nichol, who operates North 40 Cannabis with his family in Nipawin, Sask. North 40, licensed in late July, cultivates cannabis through a method called aeroponics – without the use of soil or rocks – and is Canada's only licensed microprocessor so far.

Gord Nichol, owner of North 40 Cannabis, stands for a photograph with some grow pods in his new building near Nipawin, SK, Aug. 9, 2019.

Liam Richards/The Globe and Mail

Mr. Nichol says he has a background in the cannabis "grey market," and is also licensed as a medical grower. North 40 plans to use seven grow rooms on a perpetual harvest cycle, meaning that the various rooms are all in different stages of the growing cycle. Mr. Nichol planted his first batch of seedlings in a growing room in early August and he expects his products to hit shelves in December.

North 40 signed a four-year, price-a-gram supply agreement with Pasha Brands and its subsidiary, BC Craft Supply in early August. Pasha Brands, which owns licensed producer Medcann, is focusing on selling craft cannabis, a term used to describe cannabis grown in small batches.

Mr. Nichol says that as a processor, he had many options when it came to selling North 40's product; for example, Saskatchewan allows licensed processors to sell directly to retailers. Mr. Nichol won't reveal the detailed terms of the agreement, but said Pasha Brands "made us an offer we couldn't refuse." The fact that Pasha Brands plans to promote North 40's unique brand was an important factor in his decision, he said.

North 40 began construction on its facility in October, 2018, before submitting its application the following month. Mr. Nichol's team includes people with experience in project management and regulated industries, which factored into his decision to undertake the application process without the help of consultants – saving the company potential costs $50,000 or more.

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Mr. Nichol tapped $1.25-million of his own money and built his operation on a 160-acre property that he already owned. He is in the final process of securing financing for an additional $600,000 to fund continuing operating costs and additional capital expenses. That is proving harder than expected: While he says Farm Credit Canada, the country's biggest farm lender, has committed to financing North 40, it's been a difficult process.

Prospective licensees face a chicken-and-egg problem with financing: Big banks will only provide credit to micros that already have a licence, but most of these businesses need that very financing to build the facilities required to be approved by Health Canada.

One method for microcultivators to secure financing is through signing multiyear supply agreements with large cannabis processors or brokers, guaranteeing the sale of product at a fixed cost. However, Ian Dawkins, the co-founder and principal consultant at Althing Consulting, a cannabis consulting firm with a focus on craft growers, says that there can be downsides to these partnerships if cultivators aren't careful.

Some brokers, Mr. Dawkins says, charge 15-per-cent interest a year on loans and include finders' fees for every gram sold. "There are some extremely predatory contracts being promoted by these people," he said.

The Northern Ontario town of Hearst is home to another of the newly licensed microcultivation sites. Joël Lacelle runs Hearst Organic Cannabis Products with a partner and the company received its microcultivation licence in mid-July. A former diamond driller and trucker, Mr. Lacelle worked overtime and spent extended periods working away from home last year to save money to launch the business. Last week, he transferred clones from two mother plants into 340 pots to start his first batches of cannabis.

Mr. Lacelle has always had a passion for growing and as speculation about cannabis legalization increased, decided he would do something with those skills. "I'm living the dream right now," he said.

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He began building his site in June, 2018, and applied for his licence on Oct. 19 – two days after federal cannabis legalization. He also worked without a consultant and said the process had some complications. Mr. Lacelle read the lengthy Cannabis Act a number of times. While dense and complex, he is confident that his knowledge of the material will aid him maintaining compliance requirements.

It was a risk to build the site before it was certain his business would get a licence, but Mr. Lacelle says that at some point, "you just have to commit." The licensing process took nine months and cost Hearst Organic approximately $350,000, aside from the value of existing property and buildings on the site. Hearst Organic, like North 40, has signed a supply partnership with Pasha Brands.

Prospective microgrowers in other parts of the country have been slowed by land-use issues. According to James Walsh, president of the B.C. Micro Licence Association, initial resistance from many B.C. municipalities prevented a first wave of growers from securing the permits necessary to build sites. While it is now easier for cultivators to secure municipal variances or building permits, it's still an expensive process that has many unlicensed growers balking, Mr. Walsh said.

While it hasn't been easy for small-scale producers to get up and running, the few that have made it through so far believe their status as craft growers will help them stand out in an increasingly crowded marketplace.

"Our cannabis is grown under ideal conditions, with lots of care and attention to individual plants," said Mr. Nichol of North 40. "The cannabis market is going to mature, and our goal is to put out a superior product. If the craft growers can deliver a real, high-end, top-shelf product, they'll be okay. If they can't, they'll be wiped out."

Importance of small-scale philanthropy - BusinessLine

Posted: 11 Aug 2019 08:53 PM PDT

Does it really matter from society's viewpoint as to who gives for charitable purposes, and for what, and how? Yes, it does.

It is not only the total quantity of charitable giving in a society which determines what kind of impact it has on society, but also the nature of giving. Contributions by high net worth individuals (HNIs) and by a large numbers of small donors have different implications for societal development.

Typically, donations by HNIs go for mega projects of some kind, such as building new institutions; large scale conservation of heritage, or the natural environment; scientific research; or starting social enterprises.

Though concerned with finding solutions to complex global problems, the philanthropy of HNIs is more self-seeking — acquiring name and fame for the giver. Though there are instances of collaboration, the rich givers generally prefer to be the sole players, thus possibly limiting the impact of their projects. More significantly, high-end philanthropists are less interested in giving for issues of social justice such as gender parity, affirmative action for the marginalised, reform of the legal system in favour of the poor, democratic reforms or tribal rights. Anything controversial is generally avoided by most.

Anand Giridharadas, author of a highly critical study of philanthropy, Winners Take All, suggests that we will never achieve social justice through "a system that perpetuates vast differences in privilege and then tasks the privileged with improving the system." The problem, as he sees it, is not just that those with privilege cannot truly understand the needs of those without, but rather that the mechanisms inherent in creating economic inequality cannot be used to reverse the imbalance.

According to him and other scholars, high-end philanthropy works on manifestations of poverty and on an incremental developmental agenda which does not engage with fundamental and systemic causes of exclusion and injustice to which they or the system to which they belong have contributed.

Moreover, according to Bain and Co., which tracks Indian philanthropy trends annually, if Azim Premji's humongous contributions are left out individual giving by HNIs has actually seen a 4 per cent decrease in recent years.

On the other hand, according to a recent report by Sattva, giving by large numbers of small givers is dynamically growing. In 2017 alone, ordinary citizens contributed ₹34,242 crore for the local community, religion, disaster relief, and non-profits. This kind of giving has the advantage of giving people a say in solutions to local problems.

The small giver is unconcerned with promoting himself, aware that his contribution to a cause or organisation is but a drop in the ocean. Small givers contribute because of an interest in solving local problems. In giving they buy into the cause and become engaged in doing something about it. Giving at this end is likely to be more activist in nature and more likely to back dissent than high-end philanthropy. Aggregated, it can have a significant impact.

Informal giving

However, the problem here is that though, prima facie, the total individual giving looks big in absolute numbers, analysis shows that 90 per cent of this (₹30,700 crore), is informal giving, predominantly in cash, either to religious organisations, or to help dependants, staff, employees or the homeless. Formal giving which is directed to transformative change, accounts for a mere 10 per cent, and that too is split primarily between giving to non-profits, and giving towards disaster-relief. While informal giving for distress relief of any kind is no doubt needed, it is the more formal giving which, collectively used, addresses the basic developmental issues of society and brings change. Unfortunately, because of the smallness of size and the fact that it can be sporadic, it is not able to sustain large projects which need committed and sustained funding to produce results.

So clearly different goals need different kinds of philanthropic funding. High-end philanthropy is important for large scale disruptive change. Philanthropy at this end is wasted on charity in the narrow sense of distress-relieving charity, or even in supporting grassroots causes which are best funded through aggregating small giving for collective action. Social justice issues are best funded through collective philanthropy. Different measures are required to stimulate the two kinds of giving.

The writer is author of 'Giving With A Thousand Hands: The Changing Face of Indian Philanthropy'.

Small US banks are joining forces for growth - Business Insider - Business Insider

Posted: 12 Aug 2019 09:05 AM PDT

A sizable group of community banks are in various stages of consolidation, highlighting how the industry-wide merger and acquisition (M&A) trend is extending down market, as community and regional banks pursue greater scale and cost efficiencies.

Business Insider Intelligence

M&A fever has already gripped the nation's super-regionals and top banks. BB&T announced in February that it was acquiring SunTrust for $66 billion to form Truist, marking the largest bank merger since the 2008 financial crisis. Meanwhile, major banks like JPMorgan Chase are also looking to make more acquisitions, CEO Jamie Dimon noted.

But it's not only larger banks tying up, as evidenced by several recently announced or rumored local bank mergers.

  • New Jersey-based regional bank OceanFirst announced two separate community bank acquisitions. OceanFirst, which counts $8 billion in assets, will acquire New Jersey-based Two River Bank and New York-based Country Bank, for $182.2 million and $102.2 million, respectively. OceanFirst, which has acquired five banks since 2014, would merge with Two River, which has $1.2 billion in assets and 14 branches. And Country Bank, which counts $783.4 million in assets, will extend OceanFirst's branch network into New York City for the first time.
  • Michigan-based Chemical Bank merged with Minnesota-based bank TCF Financial, per Times Herald. The move, which comes following Chemical Bank's 2016 merger with Trust and Talmer Bank, will create a combined company holding over $47 billion in assets and operating 500 branches across nine Midwestern states. The banks plan to combine their IT platforms in 2020.
  • Chicago-based Byline Bank is rumored to be merging with Parkway Bank & Trust, per Crain's Chicago Business. The deal would boost Byline's assets to about $8 billion — an increase of 50% — and continue its string of acquisitions, including First Bank & Trust of Evanston in 2018 and Community Bank of Oak Park River Forest in 2019. This reported merger continues a trend of consolidation in local Chicago banks: There have been over 20 mergers since 2016, six of which are priced at over $100 million.

Smaller banks are consolidating as a means to drive up deposits, which are heavily concentrated among major banks.

  • Declines in smaller banks' assets combined with the digital threat from industry giants are fueling consolidation. Banks with under $1 billion in assets hold 6% of US assets — down from 25% in 1994 — while the 9 largest US banks control 49.2%. At the same time, major banks have astronomical tech budgets — Chase, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo had tech budgets of $11.4 billion, $10 billion, and $9 billion, respectively — that allow them to roll out advanced digital features that help attract customers. Merging is becoming increasingly necessary for smaller firms to get the resources to effectively compete.
  • More M&A activity is anticipated, particularly among smaller banks which aren't subject to the same regulations. Former Wells Fargo CEO Richard Kovacevich told CNBC that depressed bank valuations make now an opportune time for M&A. He predicted that M&A activity will be focused on smaller firms because of regulatory restrictions that larger banks are subject to — which could benefit community and regional banks that are struggling.

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The Ad Industry's Focus on Scale Has Ignored Small Businesses - MarTech Series

Posted: 09 Aug 2019 12:30 AM PDT

viantinc logo Today's Advertising and Marketing industry model is focused on serving large enterprises. But with small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) making up 99% of all private sector businesses in the US, this model neglects companies that need support the most. This is where a SaaS (software as a service) business model really shines: with a subscription model, SMBs can access enterprise-grade solutions in a very cost-effective manner. The subscription model provides much more transparency into the fees associated with programmatic ad buying and allows SMBs to scale spend without incurring additional fees.

A recent survey revealed 42% of SMBs do not use technology to its full capacity. This shouldn't come as a surprise considering they might not have the same needs as large organizations, and often don't receive the same amount of attention as their larger competitors. But SMBs are big contributors to the US economy and are at the front lines of innovation – visit any coworking space or incubator to see this first-hand. As the Advertising industry puts SMBs on the back burner, focusing solely on servicing large enterprises, it misses out on an opportunity to build relationships that have considerable lifetime value as these companies grow and expand.

For example, Programmatic technology should have leveled the playing field for advertisers of all sizes, giving any brand an equal chance to purchase the same inventory. There will always be an expertise gap that needs to be bridged, but programmatic creates an equal chance to compete. Whoever is going to pay the highest cost per impression is going to win.

But the model today is geared towards serving bigger customers, and that isn't due to a lack of interest from the smaller ones. The Advertising industry has grown so large with a focus on the scale that SMB's suffered in the race for greater margins. And this makes sense, right? If the current business model only supports providing live customer support and training to its biggest paying customers, that's going to happen. The irony is that as SMB's grow, they suffer from operational issues and manual processes that could have been solved by the very businesses that neglect their needs.

One of the biggest challenges an SMB has when it comes to any technology investment, but especially Advertising and Marketing, is the number of choices its leaders must make. Making the decision to invest in search, social, video, audio, DOOH, CTV or all of the above can be intimidating for someone that is not an expert. Where to get started and what is going to get the biggest return on investment can require some hand-holding for an SMB. Thinking about this from the perspective of lifetime value and customer retention, it's important for the industry to consider a better way to approach customers beyond the large enterprise or agency. The SaaS model ensures SMBs have access to specific tools that positively impact their efforts.

It goes back to their Marketing plan and budget, their goals and objectives. For most SMBs, their primary objective is lead generation and creating demand for the business and the Sales team. They often have a social media presence and have invested in paid search, but want to go the next step. They just need a pathway to get there.

A major roadblock to creating an entry point for SMBs into the Digital Advertising and Marketing ecosystem comes down to pricing structure. Current fees are based on a percentage of media spend, in other words, the more an advertiser scales, the more they pay in tech taxes. Right now, if an advertiser invests $100,000 per month on programmatic spend, they might pay around a 10 percent fee or roughly $10,000 on technology taxes alone. And this is cumulative the more they spend. This approach does not reward scale and efficiency of spending over time.

A simplified pricing model, that takes out the inherent complexity in media buying, makes the most sense for SMBs. You don't need to look any further than the SaaS model, which better serves the small- and medium-sized business community, while also proving beneficial to larger enterprises as well – it's a win-win. A predictable, fixed platform fee is a more cost-efficient way to advertise, by removing the variability of fees as an SMB scales spending, increasing their return as more dollars are going towards working media.

Nearly 91% of SMBs plan to invest more in Digital Advertising in 2019, making them a valuable part of the ecosystem that should not be neglected. With a SaaS model, the advertiser benefits are clear, including consistency and transparency with how much spend is going towards media. From a business perspective, we've seen the rise of subscription companies in every industry from entertainment to MarTech to fitness because it works for the business as well as the customer. It's time advertising moves in that direction to help the SMB market.

Read more: Event Metrics That Will Impress Your Executive Team

How to start a clothing business: 9 easy steps - Simply Business knowledge

Posted: 12 Aug 2019 04:56 AM PDT

How to start a clothing business. It can be an all-consuming process but with that first sample run and customer sale comes great satisfaction. Use our nine-step plan to starting a clothing business.

When starting a clothing line, the to-do's can seem overwhelming. Here are our top nine bases to cover.

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How to start your own clothing line

1. Decide on your niche

Starting a clothing business is a very personal journey. You're probably a creative person, with something different to offer in a fast-moving industry. It's likely that you've spotted a gap in the market, or have a unique design in mind for a specific customer group.

Whatever your inspiration for starting up, it's important to define your niche from the out-set. Are you planning to build a fanbase for one specific item, like the world-famous Fred Perry shirt? Or it could be a particular style that you have in mind for your clothing line – for example the pared back, design-focused children's products sold by lifestyle brand Scandiborn, or menswear that nods to your own unique heritage?

It could also be a clothing business that's born out of a particular need or ethos, from cruelty-free clothing to premature baby accessories.

Know your niche, and bear it in mind. Even if you branch out and introduce lots of other designs as time goes by, your original idea gives you heritage, a guiding principle, and a reason to be remembered.

2. Build your budget (or business plan)

If this is really just a shoestring idea, and you're testing your designs on a small scale, you might not need a full-on business plan to get started. Watch out though, if your idea takes off you'll want to scale pretty quickly, so it makes sense to keep even a rough plan in the background.

Bear in mind, the fashion industry is notoriously difficult to predict. Plans will need to be flexible and there are no guarantees, so you'll need to be up for the challenge.

Creating a budget …

For the first few months at least, it pays to keep things simple. Starting with one design which you love, know how to manufacture (or buy) and have had great feedback on may be much easier than launching with a lengthy product catalogue.

It helps to have a fixed figure in mind, and decide how you're going to spend your funding, along with what you want to achieve. Try to allow room for flexibility – you may not know the price of specific materials yet, for example, or manufacturing costs – but having that original budget in mind will help you make the decisions that drive your first sales.

Your budget will also depend on whether you plan to design and make the clothes yourself (or with a manufacturer), or buy clothes from designers at wholesale price. Either way, start small. Invest in smaller designers and/or basic equipment to start off with and as demand grows, you can review your key outgoings.

… and/or a clothing line business plan

If you need a business plan – perhaps to secure funding or other support – start off by nailing the basics. You'll need to give an overview of your business, including an executive summary, and a clear outline of how your clothing line is going to start, grow and prepare to scale.

You'll also need to include the analysis you've done, to understand your target market and any competitors. Remember, this does need to be data-oriented, concrete and preferably something you've done with external sources. It can't just be your personal view of what's wrong with the current market options (although there's a place for this too!)

Your plan should also outline who's involved in your business and what they do, whether it's just you, or you're working with anyone else. You'll need to leave room for the product(s), of course, and talk about any plans you have for branding, sales and marketing, as well as operations.

Finally, whoever's reading your plan will be most concerned with one thing, and that's the money. You'll need to finish off with a solid section clearly outlining your business' current financial position (even if this is very initial), priorities for growth, and how their investment will help things to fly.

3. Organise your business

Even if you're not writing a full-on business plan, the same principles apply when organising your startup. You may be planning just to buy a sewing machine and get straight to work, but even this is a time and resource commitment.

If you're investing effort and have goals for the future, put down in writing how your business will take shape, including plans and ideas for:

  • Your location(s). Are you working from your bedroom but aiming to move into a small studio? Remember, certain rules apply for online businesses, or market stall traders.

  • How it works. Is it going to be you selling pieces on a stall for now? Or are you going to be an online retailer? Could Facebook Marketplace be a good place to start? If so, check out our guide on how to sell on Facebook Marketplace before you get started. Maybe you're even planning to open a bricks and mortar shop. Whatever option you go for, most businesses will need to get set up with HMRC for tax purposes, and factor in time to sort out any licenses or permits (especially if you're planning to trade on the street or at a market). You'll also need to research the rules you must follow before selling clothes online, buying from or selling abroad, or storing personal details from your customers, fanbase or even your suppliers.

  • Who's running things? Even if it's just you managing the business, are there any other key people involved who you're going to rely on? For example, a designer, accountant, people to help you with setting up a stall, storage etc?

  • Your product catalogue. This might just be one hero product, or you could have a long list of items. Be aware of your product list and think about how you plan to manufacture, stock and store pieces, along with particular packaging needs.

  • Sales and marketing. We'll cover this in more detail below, but it's a good idea to think through your marketing plans and how you're going to create some buzz around your clothes and designs.

  • Insurance. You might just be planning to sell items online, straight from your sewing machine, but if you're investing time and funds, it's worth protecting your small business from the outset, ideally with a tailored business insurance or clothing/fashion shop insurance policy which can include things like online retailer insurance and product liability insurance, too.

  • Funding. You'll need some idea of what money you already have, to get your business up and running, and where you can look for additional support. From government-backed Start Up Loans to crowdfunding, our small business finance guide is a great place to start.

4. Create your designs

For any clothing business, one of the most exciting stages is product development. Even if you only have a design concept for one product in these early days, start getting it on paper or screen, as a sketch. Once you're ready, turn rough ideas into nailed down digital sketches. Programmes like Adobe Illustrator can do a lot of the hard work for you.

Sketches done, you'll need to think about your 'tech pack', which is the essential information you'll give to your manufacturer. It'll need to include your product's details and technical specifications, from design and measurements to materials and any extra accessories or features.

From there, you'll need to get started on pattern making and grading, ahead of sourcing your manufacturer.

5. Create your brand

As a fashion or clothing pro, you're likely to be creative. And this will stand you in good stead for developing a brand for your startup clothing company. Read our essential tips to create a brand that works for your business.

6. Start manufacturing

Go back to your design work and get everything together. It's time to take your product to the manufacturers. This is the point where you'll be sourcing the person (or team) that's going to take your designs and make them a reality.

Of course, if you're intending to make everything yourself for now, or with your own hand-picked team, you can skip this step! This also applies if you're simply looking to buy ready-made products wholesale, and sell them on.

To start your search for the right manufacturer, ask around amongst any contacts you have and get a feel for your priorities. Is it an artisan, craftmanship you're looking to source, or a commercial company with an emphasis on speed and dependability? The manufacturing is a crucial part of any clothing business, no matter the size, so spend time finding, speaking to and vetting a good list of potentials.

Once you've decided, it's time to have a sample made. Get your chosen manufacturer to run a small batch of your designs and maybe test them against those from another manufacturer. Factor in time to discuss adjustments and improvements, before you pull the trigger on a full product run.

Along with your own aims and reasons for starting a clothing company, think about your potential customer. Who are you looking to sell to? Are they likely to prefer a certain look and feel? Are you designing for people who care a lot about the overall experience of buying from your brand (from website or shop floor to label, packaging and email newsletter), or is there a risk of alienating people with fancy packaging or a millenial look and feel?

Whatever you decide, base your brand on your instincts and a bit of research. As far as your budget allows, factor in cash for packaging and your customer communications, and above all, try to be consistent. It's no good using beautiful packaging one month and a battered jiffy bag the next.

7. Test your product

Looking to use up those sample run designs? Taking them to market can be a great way to test your product without committing to the full product run. Market trading spaces, school fairs and online platforms like Facebook Marketplace can be great places to start, taking notes and asking your customers all the time for their feedback on the product, and anything else they're looking for.

You'll find that the test stage never quite ends, as you'll forever be adding new products to your line, and working out what sells and what's less popular.

Feedback is an important form of business currency and a way to fast-track your growth, so take it on board and refine your fantastic products.

8. Take it to market

You've tested out your product, it's selling and you're ready to order your first full product run. It's time to get serious about selling your product, and you'll have a few decisions to make before boxing up that first garment.

Take the time to consider how you'll:

  • Price your products
  • Market your brand  
  • Create an online clothing store, if this is your plan
  • Organise any deals or promotions
  • Package up your products
  • Ship your products (if working on an order basis)
  • Deal with any returns or customer issues
  • Plan ahead with your manufacturer for new seasons and busy periods

This may all be in your business plan, but it's a good idea to refine the details before you go into full-scale production.

9. Scale up

You've done it. Your clothing company is launched, you've made your first sales and you're ironing out the creases. Scaling may well be on your mind as an ambitious business owner, with plans for new products or bigger orders.

Take some time to reflect on how your business is going, before committing to any big next steps. In fact, it pays to keep things small and simple for your first couple of seasons, getting to know the reality of production and fulfilment before taking on the next challenge. Your business plan may reflect your growth timeline, but again, be flexible.

Your first job may well be to hire your first employee, to help you with all of the above, giving you some much-needed breathing room to take stock of the clothing business you've created.

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