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  • Eloise Barclay

Accountability is key in the fashion industry — as learnt by Birds on Bikes founder Barbara Spooner

Starting a fashion label without the right connections and industry insights is not an easy feat. Something Barbara Spooner soon discovered when launching her label, Birds on Bikes, in 2017.

Barbara Spooner, Founder of Birds on Bikes

Barbara was a recent convert to cycling when she came across a problem — she couldn’t find cycling gear to fit her curves! Inspired and spurred on by similar tales from others, Barb made the decision to launch her own cycling clothing brand.

After going through two pattern makers in Brisbane and coming to dead ends with multiple manufacturers, Barb decided to take the cloth into her own hands and completed a pattern making and production course with the Sample Room in Melbourne. This allowed her to create a small production run for her new label. From this, Barb realised that if she wanted to get her business on the fast track to success, she was going to need some help.

In 2018 Barb joined CEA’sFashion360 Accelerator Program. The Accelerator helps transform founders of emerging fashion labels into commercial, sustainable enterprises, with support from leading minds in the business of fashion. “This really took Birds on Bikes to the next level and gave me a whole new insight into the fashion industry.” On completion of the program, Barb had created a new collection with a broader range of products, developed a whole new awareness of the industry and business in general, and gained credibility as a designer and founder. Barb’s calls are now returned she laughs, “I now feel I have credibility within the industry and am taken seriously as a businesswoman in fashion.”

Barbara at the 2018 Fashion360 Accelerator Showcase

After the Accelerator Program Barb realised how important it was to surround herself with like-minded people and to have continued access to industry insights from mentors on topics such as marketing, range planning, production and ecommerce. “I have been in business for most of my working life in various capacities and know the value of surrounding yourself with like-minded people that keep you motivated and inspired. Starting a business and being self-employed can be a very lonely road and you need the support of others whether it be an encouraging word or the honest truth.”

As a result, Barb became an official Fashion360 Resident and joined the succeeding program of the accelerator, the Fashion360 Grow Program. “The Grow Program offers that support and honest truth and facts to keep me on track and accountable. Whilst the Fashion360 Accelerator Program covered a lot of the design and business aspects, the Grow Program allowed me to continue focusing on the business side of things because let’s face it, we’ve all got to make money.” It is this support, motivation and accountability that comes from participating in a program like Fashion360 Grow that has enabled Barb to double her sales since joining the program.

Fashion360 Grow is a scale-up program that support brands who have either completed the Fashion360 Accelerator Program or fashion businesses looking to advance to the next stage. The Program deep dives into the many facets of the fashion business with analysis of the business’ sales, marketing and supply chain strategies and tactics led by a team of industry experts. “The mentors are first class and have been in the industry for a long time so can offer lots of advice and knowledge. The one thing I have found with this industry is that until you gain the trust and belief from people that you are going to remain committed to the business, then it is very hard to be taken seriously and people in the industry don’t really offer advice and help. The Fashion360 Grow Program jumps through all of that and you sidestep all of those parts saving you an incredible amount of time and effort.”

At the end of the day, accountability is key. In Barb’s case, holding herself accountable and seeking solutions resulted in growth for Birds on Bikes and has allowed her to form valuable and supportive working relationships in the industry which have turned into long-lasting friendships.

Find out more about the Fashion360 Grow Program.

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