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How a young fashion designer hit $1 Million in revenue as a solo entrepreneur

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A Summer 2018 design by Sid Neigum (Photos: Instagram/@SidNeigum)

by Elaine Pofeldt
Growing up in a Drayton Valley—a town of 7,200 people in Alberta, Canada—Sid Neigum wasn’t exposed to many fashionistas. One of the biggest industries in the area is oil and gas.
Neigum discovered how much he loved fashion serendipitously, while working in a clothing store. That led him to take sewing classes and enroll in a tiny 12-month, post-secondary fashion program with only eight students. Eventually, he got into Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) and moved to New York City to immerse himself in his field.
Inspired to try running his own business by observing his father, who ran an excavation firm, Neigum, now 29, set up shop as a women’s fashion designer six years ago, after his graduation from FIT.
“He was a huge advocate of being an entrepreneur,” Neigum says of his father. “He sort of rubbed off on me in a way that I want to have my own business, but it had to be a creative twist on what he is doing.”
Nonetheless, he knew there were no guarantees of success when entering the highly competitive fashion industry, where small design shops like Sid Neigum compete against global brands with multi-million-dollar marketing budgets. Nonetheless, he says, “I was 100% committed and hoped it would work out.”
Sid Neigum
Sid Neigum’s designs have won him critical accolades and helped him build a fast-growing, ultra-lean business based in Toronto.
Neigum’s approach, which reflects his mathematical bent, soon won many fans. As Vogue put it recently, “Neigum’s essential passion, as a designer, is for geometry; he’s an innovative patternmaker, and his work is premised on a near-religious belief in the beauty and power of the golden ratio, a proportion he diligently works through his clothes.”
With fashion lovers eager to buy his designs, Neigum broke $1 million in revenue as a solo entrepreneur. This year he expects annual revenue of $1.3 million in the profitable business.
While being highly talented no doubt contributes to Neigum’s success, there are plenty of people with artistic gifts who struggle to make a living and have to give up on their dreams to pay the bills. He beat the odds, and it’s possible for other creative entrepreneurs to do so, too, by applying some of his strategies. Here’s how:
Find a creative refuge. Many designers leave Toronto for fashion meccas like New York or Paris, but Neigum opted to stay put. He found that no matter where he happened to be working, he ended up flying frequently to do business anyway.
Ultimately, locating his business in Toronto meant fewer distractions. “I’m hibernating when I’m making the clothes,” he says. Staying focused allows him time for pursuits that renew him, like marathon running. He just completed a marathon in Rome.
Sid Neigum picked up a passion for entrepreneurship from his father–but put his own spin on it as a fashion designer.
Doing business in Toronto—while not cheap—is lower than in the major fashion capitals, reducing financial pressures that might drain his creativity. He runs his firm out of a government-subsidized business incubator, where his rent is $1,900 Canadian dollars a month (about $1,475 USD at the time of this writing). He initially won space there in a contest five years ago, which prompted him to relocate it from New York.
Choose the right niche. It’s very hard for designers to build a sustainable business at the highest price points, because the number of consumers who can afford couture fashions is limited. Neigum opted for the “high contemporary” market, which is still very high quality—and gets attention from fashion reviewers—but affordable to a wider range of people. Retail prices for his fashions on the online store Net-a-Porter currently range from $165 for a ruched, cotton-blend blouse to $610 for a wrap-effect satin jacquard jacket.
Focus on essentials. Runway shows were once the only way for fashion designers to attract coverage of their collections but today there are a wider variety of avenues. Rather than stage a show, Neigum opted to shoot a “look book” that he could share with fashion editors and buyers instead. “Shooting a look book is fairly inexpensive in comparison,” he says. However, he has invested in very high-quality images, so fashion editors take his label seriously. When the timing is appropriate, he says, he’ll consider a show. “We have to wait until the right moment,” he says.
Make the most of LinkedIn. As he grew his business, Neigum reached out to retail buyers on LinkedIn. Some told him they would meet with him in a year or 18 months. Neigum patiently kept in touch. “It was a little bit of chasing, and sending a lot of emails,” he recalls.
Many of those meetings eventually came to fruition, and he found is patience paid off. He was surprised by the magnitude of some of the orders. “You have no idea you are about to get a quarter-million-dollar order,” he says. “It’s shocking opening that first purchase order. It’s like there’s a zero added.”
In case you’re wondering how he had the cash flow to fill these large orders while still in his twenties, Neigum went to his bank with the purchase orders and used them as the basis to get a line of credit. Having purchases orders from clients with a high likelihood of paying him had an impact on his bankers. “They helped me, surprisingly,” he says.
Still, Neigrum says that even with the bank’s help, he has to stay on top of cash flow. “Cash flow is one of the bigger challenges,” he says. “As we’re getting paid for the last season, we’re having to produce the next one. So much of that money is going right back into fabrics and the factory.”
Secure the right partners. One thing that allowed Neigum to scale his business was building a strong relationship with Net-a-Porter, which has a big following among fashion lovers.


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