Growing a brand and business requires a few things: A dream, determination and the right team backing you up.

For fashion entrepreneurs, Mary Vallarta is someone you want to have in your corner if you hope to find success.

We sat down with Vallarta, the founder of FAB Counsel — a fashion and business consulting company that offers tools and support needed for the the modern fashion entrepreneur — to talk all things retail, merchandising and how to get your line into stores

Click play to listen above. Scroll down for a deep dive into show notes.

Key Takeaways:

  • “The fastest way (to get in to stores) is to have proven sales” Mary at 6:44
  • “Buyers are always looking for some type of reassurance that what you’re going to them will sell at their stores” Mary at 8:17
  • “If you’re going to invest money in a trade show make sure you have a plan to make that money back if you’re going to miss it” Mary at 11:15
  • “Listen to your customers and the way customers speak is through sales” Mary at 15:39
  • “As a fashion brand you’re not just selling a piece of clothing or a piece of jewelry you’re selling a feeling” Mary at 16:45

Who is Mary Vallarta?

Vallarta got her start in fashion at a young age, only 22 to be exact. Since then, she’s grown her knowledge in retail so much that she now runs her own fashion consulting firm to help designers grow their empires.

“I started being an assistant buyer at Macy’s and that’s where I gained a lot of my knowledge in the retail space. They have a really great training program and the buyers that I worked with at the time were such great teachers. I wouldn’t be who I am today without that program in terms of my career. So that’s where I started,” Vallarta said in the podcast.

After her start, she continued on to work for designers like BCBG, Metropark and Bebe, where her love for fashion went from passion to expertise.

“I got a really great sense of the way apparel merchandise is bought. And, I was able to also make a lot of different connections with so many different vendors and brands and that I think was one of my favorite things because I just really enjoyed the process of buying and creating an assortment with them and figuring out the right cost, figuring out the right types of colors and and assortments that we wanted to create for each season that we bought from,” she said.

What is FAB Counsel?

These jobs gave Vallarta the wisdom she needed to then go out on her own in the world of fashion.

“I started doing part time, free consulting for different independent brands just because I really liked that part of it and I saw the big gap or the void in the industry where a lot of the new designers or new fashion entrepreneurs coming in have a creative side to them and that’s usually not the problem.

"The problem usually comes in when they don’t realize or understand how to take things to market, how to make it sellable, how to package it correctly, what goes through a buyer’s mind or a retailer’s mind. So, that’s what I would sort of talk to them about,” Vallarta said.

That’s when FAB Counsel was born and Vallarta took her services full time in January 2012.

“It’s a support and resource for fashion entrepreneurs. I don’t focus too much on the creative side. I focus on the business aspect of fashion because I realized that that’s where most of the fashion entrepreneurs need support.

"They need support in how to launch their business, how to create a fashion brand or a retail shop that’s going to be profitable, but also sustainable for what they want to do. Figuring out the type of prices they should have, the assortment they should have, who their customers are. So, basically a lot of the business and retail principles that I have learned from my past experience working in retail I applied to fab counsel,” she said.

Advice for New Brands: The Value of Sales

Through all of this, Vallarta now has some concrete evidence on what it takes to get brands into stores.

First and foremost, she says the most important of them all is to have proven sales.

“It’s so important for you not to rely just on wholesale, but try to sell your brand directly to customers. You can at least tell the buyer or the retailer information about how much sales you’ve accumulated thus far and then you can tell them information about what really are your best sellers. You know, what are some of the most popular styles that people like.

"Buyers want proof that your products are going to sell,” she explained.

Advice for New Brands: Social Media

Outside of making sales, turning to the power of social media has also helped brands get noticed by buyers.

“If you have a thriving Instagram account that’s something that can also prove that there’s a demand for your brand and for what you’re selling, even if your sales aren’t that big yet, because you’re still new,” she said.

Advice for New Brands: Trade Shows

With trade shows starting to become a thing of the past, Vallarta advises brands to be as strategic as possible when it comes to attending any shows.

“I always tell my clients before they commit to any trade show to walk it, because it will allow you to see if that trade show is even good for your brand and it also allow you to see the different areas of the trade show so that you can determine where you want to be placed,” Vallarta said.

She also recommends locking down appointments with buyers way in advance to make sure a trade show is worth the pretty penny you’ll spend to attend it.

“Don’t just go there thinking that traffic is going to send people to your booth. Make appointments just like anybody else in the industry… If you don’t have any appointments think about other ways that you can get people there. Nowadays a lot of bloggers a lot of influencers come to the trade show. So, look up who’s going to be there” she advised.

Once a buyer is locked down, Vallarta stresses the importance of maintaining the relationship.

“If you do a good job nurturing that relationship and delivering what you said you would deliver, that trade show could end up making you a lot of money in the future,” she said.

Advice for New Brands: Pay Attention to Customers

And of course, Vallarta reminds designers to always listen to their customers.

“The way customers speak is through sales. Your sales will tell you what you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong. And, if you pay attention to that, you’ll always know the new type of styles that you should create, the next colors that you should come up with, the silhouette that you should keep, the updates that you should make,” she said.

At the end of the day, Vallarta says that if you come up with something new and fresh while also listening to the needs of your customers, then you’re well on your way to getting your designs into stores.