I have 2 sons who are in the fashion industry and have built a successful street wear label. Our youngest son had been designing and making bespoke suits for himself and his friends and I suggested to him that he should look at starting a business providing suits and shirts to the lgbti community. He rightfully advised me that whilst the business model was sound and had merit, it would need someone in the community that the people could relate to and feel understood and valued. He felt a 22 yr old straight guy probably wasn’t the right person, and the idea was put to bed. I have owned small businesses since I was 20yrs old. When I sold my last business, I took on a corporate role. It scared me that I now had a “job” and my destiny was in someone else’s hands and I often thought about new business ideas. Fast forward 4 years, I knew the corporate role was going to become redundant and I was looking for a business venture. Around this time a friend asked me if our son could make her a suit, and that got the passion burning. I thought to myself “I can make you a suit.” And so Shane Ave was born. Shane Ave was born out of a need to provide Androgynous formal fashion that blurs traditional lines of gender divisions. There has been a very big hole in the market in Australia for too long. Women and trans who identify as androgynous are left out in the market place when it comes to formal fashion. The only alternative available was Menswear stores, which would often leave women feeling uncomfortable and misunderstood not to mention men’s suits are not designed to fit women, so a lot of alterations would often need to be done for the suit to fit. I recognised the hole in the market and set out to fill it with a brand and company that allows women to feel confident, validated and understood.
What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?
The biggest hurdle was finding tailors and pattern makers that understood what we were looking for. We wasted an enormous amount of money on samples that didn’t meet our needs. We eventually engaged the services of a company that sources and works directly with the tailors and pattern makers and through our consultant we were able to find the perfect craftsmen for our business.
Did you ever deal with contention from your family and friends concerning your entrepreneurial pursuits? How did you handle it? What would you do differently in hindsight?
We are blessed with an incredible family and support network. Family and friends were and continue, to be extremely supportive. They all share in my passion and encourage me every day. Their belief and support has been instrumental in driving my passion.
What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business success?
The people we serve. I feel very strongly about giving people the opportunity to express themselves and feel confident in their chosen attire. Their stories and testimonies inspire and drive me every day to succeed and serve to be my biggest influencers.
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?
I have owned and run small businesses for over 30 years. The “job” I left to start Shane Ave was the first full time job I have had since I was 20yrs old. It filled a gap between selling my last business and starting a new one.
When I started out as an entrepreneur I was young and raw and had no business acumen. I know now the importance of a business plan and knowing your numbers in the business. I wish I knew how important these were 30 years ago when I started my first business.
What advice would you give to an upcoming entrepreneur locally and internationally?
Have a business plan!. Stay focused on your goals and don’t let your business consume you. Have fun with it and take time for yourself to refresh, even if its just one day a week that you do nothing for your business.