Working in the fashion industry, I’ve noticed one thing over the years: it can be tricky finding fellow professionals. Especially in Texas, where we don’t have a Garment District like New York or LA, finding high quality people to collaborate with often means trusting word of mouth references. And while that’s usually an amazing way to connect, it limits those who are just starting out or are looking to get in touch with someone outside their personal circles. That’s why I’m so excited about a new community called Fashion Mingle that’s launching in January. It’s goal is to create a site where fashion industry professionals can connect across specialties (think photographers, web designers, PR pros and more), expertise levels, and locations. I recently had the chance to sit down with Fashion Mingle’s CEO, Melissa Shea, to find out more about this revolutionary new site!
Haute in Texas: Hi Melissa, thanks so much for talking with Haute in Texas! Tell us, what was the inspiration behind Fashion Mingle?
Melissa Shea: I live in New York now, but I’m originally from Austin, TX and in 2009 I was introduced to the Austin fashion industry where I met so many passionate people who are driven to work in fashion and strengthen the fashion community as a whole, but they face an uphill battle. Fashion is like many creative industries, it runs on volunteer labor, with few people actually making a living to support themselves.
As someone with a background in web development and internet marketing, I started thinking about how we could use technology to help fashion businesses maximize their marketing and PR efforts. Many niche industries started long ago but with limited funds and technical skills, and fashion businesses lag behind other industries in using technology to manage their brands.
HIT: How is the community different from other networking opportunities?
MS: Our goal is to create thriving local fashion communities by providing a private social network and local fashion directory for over 100 metro areas. Our platform will allow fashion professionals to network within their own city but also reach out to the professionals they need in other cities as they expand their business.
HIT: Where do you see the site in 5 years?
MS: Our goal is to continually identify barriers to success that fashion professionals are facing and use technology to design solutions. We have a variety of concepts in development and will be rolling out online tools such as a PR platform, mobile shopping app, digital lookbook, freelance marketplace and more.
HIT: What is the number one challenge facing fashion industry professionals today?
MS: In our surveys, fashion professionals consistently said that their biggest challenge is marketing their business. They are creatives and they want to focus on creating. We want to provide them with one central location where they can find easy to use tools to help them maximize their marketing efforts.
HIT: Do you have any advice for young professionals just starting out?
MS: If you want to start your own business, understand that it takes a lot of money and you must find the financial resources to make it a success. Plan to wear a lot of hats and educate yourself in every area where you are weak. Reach out in your community to find mentors who will tell you the truth and help you chart a course that will give you the best chance for success. Fear is your friend. Always be learning.
HIT: Finally, an Haute in Texas tradition: pancakes or waffles?
MS: That is a tough one, I think I’ll have pancakes please.
Sign up for FashionMingle.net NOW before January 1st and your membership will be FREE! Just click here to complete an application. You can be at any point in your career, from any area of the industry, and there are already over 100 markets included! I’m a member and I’m looking forward to connecting with other like-minded professionals in 2016. See you there!
P.S. I received compensation for this post. Don’t worry though, all opinions are my own!