As if running a small business isn’t a juggling act in itself, spare a thought for those who run a business that relies on a certain season or event.
The fro-yo and ice-cream shops; the ski rental huts; the pool cleaning guys -- and the milliners.
Sure, people buy hats all year round, but it’s the spring racing reason that gives milliners the majority of their business and keeps them afloat for another year.
Melbourne milliner Serena Lindeman told The Huffington Post Australia that seasonal businesses face a lot of challenges, not the least of which is managing cash flow to cope with quiet periods.
Here’s how the award-winning milliner has kept her business of more than 15 years at the front of the field.
MANAGE THAT CASH FLOW
If you are in a seasonal business, managing cash flow must be a priority.
“I’m a bit independent, I grew up on the land and my family has an agribusiness background, so I think the ability to withstand low cash flow times is important in millinery -- simply because it is so seasonal,” Lindeman said.
“I did NEIS (New Enterprise Incentive Scheme) and that gave me a bit of structure -- I got my business plan organised, and defined ways I could manage cash flow during less busy times.
“You’ve got to make sure you have enough diversity in your cash flow to tide you over the off season because you will not sell a Melbourne Cup hat in April -- you’ve got to look after yourself in a year-round cash flow cycle and that might mean doing something that’s not exactly your trade, but something that’s affiliated or related.”
Lindeman also makes bridal headpieces and men’s hats and caps to tide her over during quiet times.
KNOW THAT CHALLENGES WILL ARISE
All small business owners will come up against roadblocks -- having a good attitude and realising you can’t control everything will help you in these tough times.
“In my industry, we’ve had so many challenges,” Lindeman said.
“The horse flu really impacted on the racing season a few years ago, and the economic situation of the country as a whole even plays a really important part -- if you’re in a recession, people don’t need a hat.
“But you have to have a good attitude in tough times; I remember after 9/11 there was a woman who walked in and she said ‘they’re not going to frighten me!’ and banged down $500 for a hat -- I loved that act of defiance, I thought it was marvellous.”
Running a small business means you need to be super organised and across every element of your business at all times.
Lindeman says planning backwards is a good way to get organised.
“I know my life is going to be easier in October and November if I’m busy in July -- even though I don’t feel any sense of urgency in July!
“That’s when I need to start organising myself so I’m ready. Being busy in October or November is easy.”
Being organised helps keep your business goals on track.
EMBRACE SOCIAL MEDIA
Build up an online presence and use social media to spread the word about your business.
“I was a bit of an early adopter of social media as I really do respect the power of word of mouth,” Lindeman said.
“Instagram is fantastic for me because it’s visual; and people like that reassurance of your work being liked by others. That’s really quite powerful in my world.”
Lindeman also uses social media to spread the word about her business outside Melbourne to capitalise on racing events held in other states at different times.
WORK THAT NETWORK
It’s important to get out there and network and grab opportunities when they arise.
“For me, runway shows have been a good way to have my name remembered,” Lindeman said.
“The media loves the next big thing -- the craving for novelty -- so you have to keep reinventing and re-emerging and remodelling so people know you’re still around and still doing really interesting stuff.
“I go to a lot of events -- mainly fashion events, and I have accessorised some really great designers which is really great for someone like me as you get a bit of reflected glory.
“If you can affiliate yourself with good designers, that’s half the battle right there.” Lindeman said she is also a member of some millinery associations to meet other people and keep up-to-date with trends in the industry.
Serena Lindeman's 2015 Spring Racing range.