Free Enterprise Staff  | September 9, 2015

DIY Fashion: How to Build a Brand from Scratch

As anyone who works in fashion will tell you—probably many times over—September 10th marks the beginning of New York Fashion Week. While we might not be able to predict what everyone will be wearing in six months, we do know a thing or two about the business behind fashion. As we await the runway walks and influx of paparazzi, we thought we would feed your fashion hunger with this list of businesses that help aspiring fashion entrepreneurs build their own brands.



Photo credit: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg

Whether you’re a chief executive looking to print shirts emblazoned with your logo, or a designer trying to find a cost-effective way to produce a new line of t-shirts, Teespring takes much of the risk out of starting an apparel line. The service works like this: You simply upload your design to the startup’s website, then set your price and a sales goal. Your shirts will be manufactured only if you hit the goal you’ve set, meaning you won’t be on the hook for the added costs that come when a full line doesn’t sell out. The best part: Teespring users take home all profits from the sale of their products.

With $35 million in venture funding, Teespring is quickly expanding—and making people wealthy in the process. According to the company 20 people sold more than $1 million in products in 2014 using the platform.

Equity Net

Where do you go if you want to finance your fashion company? Unless you’re miraculously good friends with a major designer or Anna Wintour, your choices are pretty limited. At least they were until EquityNet came around.

Launched way back in 2005—a full five years before Kickstarter—EquityNet remains one of the first crowdfunding platforms to gain traction. The Arkansas-based business enables companies seeking funding to create an individual page on its website; interested investors can then search through these profiles before settling on a business, or businesses, they’d like to back.

The results speak for themselves: Over the past ten years, EquityNet has connected 22,000 entrepreneurs with some 20,000 investors.

To learn more about EquityNet, check out our full profile of the company here: Founded 5 Years Before Kickstarter, EquityNet Remains a Crowdfunding Powerhouse

General Assembly 

If you’re starting a company, then you’re going to be wearing many hats. There’s no getting around it. Because you can’t be an expert on everything, General Assembly is there to teach you the kinds of skills you’ll need to succeed.

Founded by a group of friends in 2011, General Assembly has evolved from a co-working space into something completely different.

Today, General Assembly offers a range of classes—including seminars and short- and long-form courses—at its campuses across the globe. Unlike a traditional college or university, however, General Assembly focuses on what co-founder Jake Schwartz describes as “relevant 21st century skills.”

From web programming and user experience (UX) design to data science and digital marketing, General Assembly has quickly become the go-to location for entrepreneurs and employees of large companies like American Express, with whom it partners.

Find out more about the company here: General Assembly Reimagines Learning for the 21st Century


By offering people across the world the chance to learn new skills, Skillshare is, in many ways, a lot like General Assembly. Yet its offerings are available online and include an even broader array of classes.

Skillshare offers the kind of quick, inexpensive lessons that fit perfectly into the schedules of busy entrepreneurs. While the company provides lessons on topics like digital publishing and social media marketing—an increasingly important tool, especially in the fashion world—it also offers atypical tutorials on things like beading. There’s really no limit to what you can learn using Skillshare.

“Skillshare is … teaching the building blocks of creativity through collaboration and action. That’s why every one of our classes has a hands-on project so students can learn by doing. Collaboration is built in throughout the platform,” chief executive and founder Michael Karnjanaprakorn told Free Enterprise in an interview earlier this year.

Check out our full Q&A with Karnjanaprakorn here: An Entrepreneur Is Democratizing Online Education, One Class at a Time