“Who are your competitors?”
It’s a question many entrepreneurs are asked by consumers, collaborators, and especially potential investors. When you are in a small and emerging field, competitors are often just as easily collaborators. Instead of framing my business from a place of scarcity, I choose to focus on abundance.
Yes, I can certainly name for you dozens of other ethical fashion stores and retailers, or blogs and influencers talking about intentional living. To me, those stores and business owners show potential: potential for us to work together to change an industry. That’s why I founded the Ethical Fashion Retailers Network— to turn “competitors” into allies.
By working together, we are able to succeed together. Instead of fighting for attention, we can raise awareness as a group for ethical fashion, increasing all of our visibility at once. We learn from each other, refer people to one another, and sometimes collaborate on projects.
For example, our group collaborated on an ethical fashion fall shopping spree giveaway. By each contributing a $75 store credit to our respective shops, we were able to increase our reach by sharing our customers with one another. We also collaborated on a blog post in which we discussed how we each approach Black Friday. By posting it to each of our blogs we were able to have interesting content and increase our reach.
I think this lesson holds true to beyond just working with your competitors to allowing yourself to see things in business as opportunities instead of threats. If as entrepreneurs we can build communities that support each other, that help each other thrive and grow, we will all rise together. If we create environments of cut-throat competition, we will quickly get burnt out. Yes, sometimes friendly competition helps you succeed. The keyword there is friendly.
Even if you aren’t in business or an entrepreneur (yet!), let’s think about how we can use these lessons beyond business. How can we create opportunities to learn from each other? Perhaps your friend in class scores better on math tests than you, but you do better in English. Instead of jealousy, can you help each other succeed?
When we start seeing the world as a place with many opportunities, as a place to learn from each other and build community versus try to make it to the top at any cost, that’s when we will succeed. That’s when we can start truly making a difference.
Sara Weinreb is the Founder and CEO of IMBY which provides conscious shoppers with mindfully made clothing designed and produced in the U.S. The company is focused on the ideals of a lean, capsule wardrobe of only items that are versatile, span seasons, and are your most beloved items. Sara is a self-described necessary troublemaker, who has spent her life and career respectfully challenging the status quo. With a background in supporting hundreds of entrepreneurs in building businesses that make a positive impact, she launched IMBY as a frustrated consumer struggling to find versatile, fun, and affordable clothing that was made ethically. With one foot in the tech scene and other in the ethical fashion space, Sara also consults to social entrepreneurs, facilitates design thinking workshops, is a member of the Ethical Writers Coalition, and serves as the entrepreneur in residence at AlleyWatch, the pulse of NYC’s startup and tech.