The number of professionals who wear uniforms at work is very large and growths with both the economy in general and with each new profession increasing its professionalism. Uniforms are not just present in the military and police but among hospital staff, shop attendants, restaurant staff, school kids and even construction workers and other labourers– whose safety clothing is typically uniform.
Even though most employers of staff wearing uniforms want to make their staff proud to wear their uniform and therefore include fashion ideas even in uniforms that are foremost used for safety or practical reasons the purchasing process is usually a top-down one and the people who actually wears the uniforms have a limited say in its design.
New uniforms are usually produced continuously on order after an initial design and production tender. Smaller modifications and alternative versions might be added but the base version can stay in place for a long time.
The challenge for the customer is to stay modern and keep staff motivated, the business opportunity is to address that urge for modernity from the side of the staff that wear the uniforms and include them in the purchasing decision to increase the replacement frequency and capital intensity in the actual uniforms.
To be able to increase demand for new uniforms it is necessary to communicate directly with the people who wear them and to combine their wishes with new ideas for design and practical use. This can include anything from winter wear, new pockets, knee pads or anything else that improve working life and self esteem among the users.
By studying the uniforms in use and opening a conversation with the people who wear them a lot of knowledge can be gained, this knowledge can be put into practise when the knowledge is presented to the designers, and then be brought back to the users. The bottom up pressure accumulated can be used to address the decision makers and speed up the time until a new tender, a request for modifications or new accessories are placed. Some of the clients will be gigantic but some will be very small which will have an impact on the lobbying process.
A question is whether to focus on design only or also on production? Where can you be competitive?
This business idea is one of those that can be launched with limited capital as a trial collection of uniforms can be produced at a very limited cost. But on the other hand a huge investment can do equally good once the concept is tested and it’s clear that the idea has a global bearing.
The capital challenge occurs when a huge order has been received and large number of uniforms needs to be produced. How to get around this investment dilemma, a dilemma faced by a huge number of start-ups by the way? One solution might be to divide the order in smaller parts and try to get the client to pay up front. Another solution might be to negotiate a credit line with the producer and pay only on delivery or even later. We absolutely advice against producing the uniforms in-house as there are so many producers in low cost countries better suited for such a job, and they have production facilities for huge quantities in place.
To conclude, this business can be started with limited capital and that is a very good thing for the first time entrepreneur without access to the credit market.
The uniform market is huge, global and has a great growth potential which are all essential for value creation, attractive to investors and limits competition, as there is room for many market actors.
For you the turnaround time from order to delivery, contacts with the end users and production sourcing are crucial elements for success. If you can get them right you are set for success and keep in mind that even a smaller success can create significant wealth.
So, just get out there and try to get a pilot customer who is willing to pay you for your work and you are on your way. Not taking action is, as with all business ventures, your biggest enemy.
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