Interview Can be found below, or follow the link HERE to the FIDM website for the full interview & more.
Hailing from Long Island, New York, Merchandise Product Development Graduate Nikki Becker always wanted to pursue a career in the fashion industry but was discouraged to do so by her traditional family. After her father passed away during her junior year of college, Nikki realized life was short and shouldn’t be spent trying to please others. Once she completed a bachelor’s degree in Foreign Languages & Art History from University of Delaware, she enrolled at FIDM, moved to California, and took her first step to entering the industry she'd been drawn to for so long. We caught up with Nikki to talk about her company With the Brand, entrepreneurship, and the challenges of working during COVID-19.
How did you select your major?
I was really lucky to have connected with a great Admissions Advisor at FIDM who took the time to talk to me and ask the right questions. She was the one who suggested the major to me. I actually remember telling her I didn't think I would get accepted to the major because I couldn't draw and so I should probably pick something more in line of becoming a buyer. That's when she told me all about Illustrator and Photoshop. Once I heard I could do computer-aided designs and follow a more creative path with no hand-sketching abilities, I was sold!
How did FIDM help prepare you for entrepreneurship?
FIDM did a great job at exposing students to all aspects of the industry. I remember taking classes in everything from Merchandise Math to Industrial Sewing. That is some of the most valuable groundwork you can lay for someone who wants to become an entrepreneur. Individuals who want to start their own businesses need to be able to wear multiple hats. Even if your budget allows you to hire people to handle certain aspects of your business, in my opinion, it is still essential for you to know what each aspect of your business entails.
After graduating, you worked for brands such as Sue Wong and Emperia Handbags. How did your past experience help shape the work you do now?
I was very lucky to have worked for several companies that gave me the chance to wear multiple hats and take advantage of opportunities that didn't necessarily fall within my job description or trajectory. One of the best pieces of advice I can give is do not be the "it's not my job" person. Firstly, you will miss out on amazing opportunities to learn and network and potentially even transform your position into one that has never existed before and possibly never again. Lastly, nobody wants to work with that person, and relationships are a huge part of building a business. To this day, I still call co-workers from years ago for favors and advice and vice versa.
Tell us what a typical day may be like.
With the Brand is a full package design and manufacturing agency. We help new and existing brands launch new product lines within the fashion, beauty, and lifestyle sectors. We work with our clients on every stage of the product development lifecycle, from designing their products, to finding the right manufacturing partners, to setting up meetings with wholesale buyers, and more. No two clients have the same needs, so no two days are alike.
What are the most rewarding parts of running your own company?
Having the ability to shape my business into exactly what I want it to be. The most rewarding part of the work I do is helping new brands launch their lines. There are so many talented individuals with great ideas who just don't have the resources or the knowledge of how to bring their products to market. I love being able to work with other small businesses to help bring their ideas to life.
What are the challenges of working during COVID-19 and how are you adapting to them? The biggest challenge of all has been the decrease of sales across the board. I've seen large retailers close hundreds of doors for an unknown period of time, causing them to cancel POs that are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars or take massive discounts. I've seen brands having trouble paying vendors due to decreased sales. Brands who go direct-to-consumer are even having a hard time because of all the fear and uncertainty among their customers.
That being said, it has also yielded some unexpected advantages for brands in the development stages. We have seen better costing and lead times from a lot of our factories due to decreased production work on their end. Many companies have stopped producing or developing new product and are focusing on moving the product they are currently sitting on. Those brands that have the ability to start or continue developing can secure some great deals on getting their products made in time for Q4, and before larger brands start going back to business as usual and knocking them to the end of the production line.
For these reasons, I have begun offering free 30-minute consultations for brands looking to get their business back on track due to complications from the COVID-19 crisis and or who are looking to pursue new developments during this time.
Sign Up For Your Consultation HERE.