Fashion startup attempts to bridge gap between failure, success

Designers develop an idea. They grab their fabric, take their designs to the drawing board and sit in front of their sewing machines, pondering over their projects for hours.

And once they’ve completed their masterpiece, they want to share it with the world. And despite the strides social networking has taken in developing larger networking strategies within small businesses, sometimes it isn’t enough.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, 50 percent of businesses fail within the first year and 95 percent fail within the first five years.

Scott Latham, CEO of CoLabination, is attempting to bridge that gap between failure and success.

Based in Philadelphia, CoLabination works to help independent brands get the exposure they need and work with them to build their business.

About three years ago, Latham started his own company called Flight Crew Clothing, a men’s street-wear line. And from that experience, Latham said he learned how difficult it is to expand and expose a brand to the world, and he found that he wasn’t the only one facing this problem.

“I noticed that when I was going to events and I would be out on the beach talking to some other founders, whether it was a watch company or a shoe company, they were all dealing with the same problems as myself,” Latham said.

It was in this moment where he realized there had to be a better way for small businesses with original products to gain exposure.

This led Latham to start his own magazine, Mainline Lifestyle, in order to make more money – but out of this idea, CoLabination was brewing.

After meeting his now business partner Ryan Erfer, Latham said that Erfer opened him up to the idea of getting venture funding as opposed to opening the business on his own.

Fast-forward six months, and Latham now has a team of six working to further develop CoLabination. The startup is now raising $2 million to fund its project. At its seed fundraising stage, CoLabination is developing its beta and raising money to develop its website.

“We began this because we were looking for a way to help emerging designers have a better way to scale their business,” Latham said.

Latham said there are three reoccurring problems new brands face: exposure, engagement and retention. Those same problems have become solutions on how CoLabination should help designers.

Alexis Canary, who works as the marketing coordinator for CoLabination, said these emerging brands don’t have the money to grow or the business knowledge to build a website.

“How do you expose your brand past a couple of zip codes, how do you engage with your followers and how do you get these shoppers to come back?” Canary said.

Those solutions come in the form of three strategies named the “Rolodex,” the “Showroom” and the “xCollection.”

The Rolodex allows brands designers to get the exposure they need by having their designs and collections displayed. The Showroom allows these brands to share their stories by telling the shoppers the details of their brand. Finally, the xCollection allows the customer to handpick and collect the brands they are interested in and stay up to date with all the latest information. The xCollection also lets users to see what other people have added to theirs, making it easier to get a sense of their style.

CoLabination is offering a brand signup for $15, where brands can sign up and build their own showroom while CoLabination puts the physical aspect of the design together.

One requirement for working with CoLabination is that these brands must have the means necessary to maintain their business in the future. The whole process, however, is still being developed, but overall, Latham said he believes CoLabination is different from most online shopping websites.

“We’re doing all of this in one, and it’s really going to be revolutionary for small businesses looking to scale and share their story,” Canary said. “There are just so many cool and innovative people that are dying to get their word out. Imagine you have this website where everything is connected and everything is in one place and its organized and neat – imagine the potential collaborations you can have with all these different kinds of brands and industries.”

Caitlin O’Connell can be reached at caitlin.oconnell@temple.edu.

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