In the red and doing the business

Carly Crossley holding laptop leans against wall
Business is looking up for Carly Crossley since her decision to concentrate on her online designer fashion enterprise.

Enterprising Carly Crossley had her online business up and running just 12 months after completing a double degree at Griffith University. With her online fashion store going from strength to strength less than a year later, the 23-year-old decided to leave a good job in the tourism sector to concentrate on selling designer dresses through Lady in Red, her own business.

“It was with a mixture of excitement and fear that I left my day job,” she says. “I contemplated the idea for two months before taking the plunge. I could have run Lady in Red while working full time but that would have left me very time-poor. It would also have meant sacrificing the marketing side of my business for a while.”

After majoring in marketing and public relations at Griffith, this was not originally part of the business plan for Carly, a Gold Coast native. Marketing has been a key element of her business strategy, right down to the catchy name that has worked a treat with internet search engines.

“It was crucial that the look and feel of the website would set my business apart. So the name was also very important. It needed to represent both the customers who shop with us and the style of garments we have on sale.

“The symbolism of red is important. If you’re wearing red and you walk into a room, everyone’s eyes are on you. An existing symbol like that is easy to remember for online shoppers. This is the feeling that we want our customers to have when wearing a dress from Lady in Red.”

She worked with a website designer for six months, developing that specific feel and look for the website. She applied the same focus when researching the brands she would stock.

The age range of her target market reaches from 15 to 35, but the average age of her typical customer is 19 or 20. She is now stocking 16 brands, and aims to double that as the business grows. “I have selected brands that have a strong media presence. You will find their styles in magazines, on runways and being worn by celebrities.”

It has been a whirlwind journey from the moment the idea was spawned while working part-time at a discount fashion outlet on the Gold Coast.

“I became aware of people coming into the shop and buying in bulk cut-price brands to sell on Ebay. I realised I can do that! I already had hands-on industry knowledge and training through my studies at Griffith.”

Right brands

After leaving that job, Carly carefully selected and approached a number of brands who referred her to local wholesalers. “Part of the early days was about proving myself to the suppliers. I had to pay for all stock up front, so I had to make it work.

“I watched which brands had a lot of interest on Ebay and started with just one or two listings. It quickly rose to 10 and then 20-plus.”

Ebay’s auction process, however, proved a drawback in terms of turning business over and securing prompt payment. Carly’s thoughts turned to alternatives and the idea of her own online business shone brightest.

Ironically, her preferred career path had taken a turn while at university. She had always been keen to pursue a marketing and advertising career in the fashion industry, but feared she might have to leave her beloved Gold Coast to make this happen.

An industry mentoring program run through her business degree at Griffith introduced her to the head of international marketing at a local theme park. She came away believing the tourism sector offered her the best chance of securing long-term employment on the Coast.

This would lead her to a marketing assistant role with a holiday company after her graduation, a job she enjoyed, learned from and was reluctant to leave behind.

“I managed the company website, promotions and email campaigns. I learned a lot while I was there and it reinforced much of what I had learned at Griffith, especially in the area of online marketing.”

Her passion for fashion was unrelenting and she would find and follow her dream without having to leave for Melbourne or Sydney. The late nights, the business plan, the brand research all brought their reward.

“Lady in Red started as a huge leap of faith but has come a long way in just one year. As a relatively young store I still have big plans for the future: introducing more brands, expanding our social media presence and, in the long term, revolutionising how people shop online.”

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