Through determination and self-belief, Adelaide-based graphic designer Lauren Crago evolved her activewear brand Solomon Street business from an idea to a small business success story. Here, we gain an insight into this entrepreneur’s reflections on everything from taking on new skills to balancing a full-time job and a new business, plus advice for others wanting to start a business of their own.

The Seed of an Idea

Discover how activewear brand Solomon Street became a small business success story.

I finished my graphic design degree in 2016 and I thought “What now?”. I didn’t know what to do; I was working in cafes but I always loved drawing. I knew I didn’t want to spend my life building the wealth of a big business. When I get to 80 years old, I want to be proud of the job that I did and to have made a difference in the world.

I came across a South Australian surface designer and a lightbulb went off in my head – someone actually designs the prints you see on fabric. It was an eye-opening moment. I was playing around with putting my illustrations on fabrics and then the natural progression was to make it into clothing. I started by sewing my own products, which was a unique challenge; I don’t have a background in fashion!

Find a Gap in the Market and Fill It

Most ethical activewear you find is beautiful earthy colours, the gap in the market I found was making activewear from bright, fun prints out of a unique fabric.

Upskill in Every Area You Can

Adelaide-based graphic designer Lauren Crago built Solomon Street from scratch.

I haven’t outsourced a lot. At the startup stage, you don’t have the capital. There’s a lot of learning, a lot of Googling, a lot of trial and error and figuring out new skills for yourself. I’ve had to learn how to sew. How to create websites. How to take photos. How to manage a production timeline. How garments are assembled. How to manage business finances and cost products. About fabrics. I taught myself how to create prints and design the prints, and how to manage dispatch. Even if you’re not sure you have the skills, anyone can learn simply by giving it a go.

SEE ALSO: How to Grow Your Business: Upskill, Outsource or Hire?

Businesses Evolve as They Grow

I’ve had lots of different business models through the years – at one point I would manufacture on order, which worked well but it was a very slow way of manufacturing and not very scalable. My thought process was that I wanted to create something sustainable and ethical.

The business has changed a huge amount. I like to call it the “new iterations” of the business; there’s probably been about three or four. I think it’s the nature of being an entrepreneur, having an idea and figuring out what works and what doesn’t.

Lean on the Expertise of Others

Solomon Street uses stretch fabrics, sustainable hemp and organic cotton in its products.

The product development has been really interesting and has taken the last three to four years. One of the manufacturers I work with specialises in stretch fabrics, so that’s one of the reasons I’ve gone down that path. Stretch fabrics are great because I don’t have to sew any shaping as they stretch over people’s bodies, which means they fit more body types, for example smaller or bigger busted women.

Activewear products need the biggest revolution in fashion. They are often made using the highest amount of synthetic materials, so this is why I decided to use sustainable hemp and organic cotton to create leggings, shorts and crop tops that are durable and slightly compressing.

Outsource What You Find the Most Challenging

Save money everywhere you can, but find your biggest challenge and spend the money there. For example, I pay an accountant to do my books. It’s not that I can’t do it, but it brings me a lot of stress and anxiety. That is one thing that I’m happy to spend money on, because I save money everywhere else.

SEE ALSO: How Your Small Business Can Reap the Benefits of Outsourcing

Have a Good Support System

I think, [when it comes to setbacks], what entrepreneurs do best is come up with different alternatives. I usually have a bit of a panic attack, a cry and then get on with it. I lean on my family and my partner a lot. They’re amazing and supportive.

Believe in Yourself First, Then Believe in the Business

Believe in your own values. There’s a market for it and anybody that tells you differently is wrong. Have faith in your view of the world, but take on board what other people say about how you’re going to achieve it. It’s probably a cliché, but believe in yourself, not the business that you’ve built, because that is a product of you. While they’re two separate entities, you’re the one who has built and you can always re-build.

SEE ALSO: Rebranding a Business? This Is How to Get It Right

Your Personal Values Are Your Biggest Asset

We’re honest and very real and I think people connect with that in a business. They love the products, love the vibe of the prints and the designs, but I think more than anything, it’s connecting on a human level that they love. We don’t claim to be perfect. Our values are of compassion and understanding, and our high-quality product and design definitely helps.