My friend is starting a small business, I'm working for her but I don't think she's ready. Looking for opinions.

by Geira_Cosplay. Posted on Sep 09, 2020    2    8

An ex-schoolmate (fashion school) wants to launch her brand and has started a business, asking me to work for her as a dressmaker. It's only me and her. She looks super hyped and told me she's investing a lot of money in this business.

Everything started on July and she told me she wanted to start the shop/atelier in September. I started working at the end of August, knowing and telling her we wouldn't have made it in time for September. She denied. Now, we don't have a place where to work (we're using the lab at my grandparents' home but it can't be forever ofc) cause she doesn't look like she's actively looking for one; she told me she already had a communication agency from early August but she didn't and she contacted one few days ago; we don't have sewing machines and stuff, we're using mine; she's pretty much copying clothing from fast fashion stores but is pressuring me because she wants her clothing to be perfect, original and unique (it's her who design, my job is to only make patterns and see); she didn't make me a contract yet, despite what she told me in July; we're obvious not selling yet and we don't even have a FB page or whatever. My hourly pay is very low too (4€ per hour) since she's just starting the biz.

I'm working, but I'm kinda apathetic. These last fours days I've got a bad flu with high fever and I haven't been able to work. She often texts me or calls me asking for help and tips and stuff, but during these days I was pretty dead and didn't answer much. She said that she doesn't like that because it looks like I'm losing interest. I didn't want to talk about it in that moment so I just said it was not true, when it's obviously true for the said reasons.

Since she's a "friend", and I know the importance of dreams, I gave her my word to work for her long term in July, but she's very disorganized and I don't think she's respecting me enough.

Should I walk away from her project (she can't go on without me, she said, because she doesn't know other trained dressmakers), after having explained my reasons, even if I gave her my word?


brandontrefonas 1

Do you work with male apparel at all, or just dresses? I have a fashion brand that's getting started (potential to be a customer).

Just a tip; don't work with friends or family.

onedough 1

Since you have no stake in the company I completely understand your view.

If you were a business partner you would come off as a half in and half out type. That’s the worst kind of friend, employee, partner, anything really (no offense). It’s better you either figure out if you believe in the business and make a decision to be completely in or be completely out. No one wants to work with people who don’t have faith in the process.

That said, just a friendly reminder that it’s just business and you have no part of the company besides being an employee. Seems to me that you are more trying to help her as a friend with all that you are doing.

Make the lines clear, or get out, it’s just that simple.

NeverIdleHands 4

To a degree, it sounds more like your business: you are providing the space, equipment, skillset to produce and make patterns, etc. They are attempting to coordinate logistics, ideas, and potentially sales?
In other words, your providing them the business infrastructure with very little return. I would get to a mutual understanding asap.
You may be more comfortable letting them work in your space but you aren't working for them. Starting a small business, especially with custom products, can be hell and time consuming; even with a plan.
If you stick around don't expect much for atleast 6 months of hard work. And after that could you see yourself going for another 5 years?

  Geira_Cosplay 2

Yup she's drawing and she's done the bureaucracy stuff, but there are so many other things that are supposed to be done and that's not my part of the job... I'm also sending mails and getting in touch for price quotes with international sellers since she can't speak English, but that's not paid. I definitely need to have a talk with her. Thank you!

gerardv-anz 9

I’ve started/run a few small, enterprises and three of those with friends. It’s a good way to lose friends. The only safe way is to start out by negotiating your exit strategy or when the time comes you’ll likely part on bad terms. And there’s the rub. The picture you paint is not a rosy one. Fashion and retail are brutal and prone to failure even for those with experience. You’re working almost unpaid and there’s an infinite amount of work to do. You’ll never be finished or have done enough. Your friend has a business model that relies on her having someone working nearly for free, it seems. That is also doomed. It’s hard to see where this suddenly turns around and you get well paid for your efforts. $4ph is basically free.

So (just my opinion, you need to choose you own). You should start getting out now. Set a limit on the hours you’ll work, and a limit on how much longer you’ll do that for. For example say you’ll give her 10 hours per week, for the next two months. And then it’s either paying its way properly or you’re out. I’d do that but limit it to two weeks or less.

If she’s already started with the BS and misled you about what’s happening I suspect it’s likely to turn nasty. The BS is a very bad sign. She’ll end up telling people that the business failed because you pulled out (leaving out the part where you’re basically slave labor or her other problems). If it’s going to get to that, better sooner than later.

Go have a chat with her, tell her you’re in over your head, you cannot keep working like this, and not for almost nothing, draw a line (X hours, Y weeks), and see how it goes. And start looking for something that pays better.

  Geira_Cosplay 3

I drew the line at 24 hours per week at the very beginning, because I'm doing other things too (social media marketing course and a collab with a costume maker). But yep it sounds wise to draw one at the number of weeks to, so that I can give her the chance to fix those problems. I'm pretty anxious about how this is going to turn out... Thank you for you help!

gerardv-anz 5

You’re right to be a bit anxious. It’s likely to be awkward. But I’m sure you know that delay won’t make it better. Sometimes people are inclined to put off the reckoning because they wish to avoid that potential unpleasantness, but that just prolongs their current unhappiness and they still have to face the problem. The main thing I have learned from working with friends is to make all the rules of engagement clear upfront, to set limits before you start, and to agree on how either of you can get out if your circumstances change. When a problem arises to get onto it early so that there are no assumptions about it. Keep that in mind for next time. Good luck!

  Geira_Cosplay 1

Thank you, I'll keep you updated!