For Shope Delano, the path to fashion entrepreneurship began in her teens, when she started a blog to document her interest in clothes and style. But it was only through studying at Cranfield that she was able to unlock her true potential as a fashion influencer.
The fashion industry has long been considered a glamourous but exclusive enclave controlled by established gatekeepers, difficult for newcomers to penetrate. But a rise in influencer marketing fuelled by technological advances and the advent of social media has empowered a new wave of ambitious entrepreneurs for whom e-commerce – rather than traditional dressmaking – is the business of choice.
As an economics and philosophy undergraduate, Shope started her own e-commerce brand, selling clothes she made herself. She also edited the style section of her university magazine, working with big fashion brands like Depop, Nike, Puma and Missguided.
Speaking to Business Because, she said: “I almost had a bit of a double life at university. But, as my undergrad drew to a close, I knew that I wanted to formalise my interest in being in start-ups. I thought the best way to do that was to study entrepreneurship.”
Shope chose to enrol on Cranfield’s Master’s in Management and Entrepreneurship, gaining a partial scholarship thanks to her good grades at undergraduate level. Upon joining the course, she was struck by the variety of student perspectives present in the classroom.
“There were students from all around the world,” she said. “From Europe, Asia, Africa. There were diverse contributions and viewpoints that really enhanced my understanding of business, and of communication more generally.”
“You naturally learn how to become a better communicator when you’re talking to people who have different customs and values to you.”
As preparation for entry into a global industry like fashion, this exposure to new perspectives was invaluable, as were the opportunities the course gave her to network with existing start-ups.
Thanks to these opportunities, Shope was able to secure an internship with an incubator called Immense Simulations, which focuses on AI travel simulation software. Her main role was market research, for which she was able to draw upon her experience gained as a blogger and marketer in her teens.
Post-graduation, she began working in marketing at Common Objective – a start-up that connects professionals with the tools they need to do sustainable business – and her sights are firmly set on a career in start-ups, whether as a CMO for a fashion tech company or through pursuing her own business ideas.
Shope credits her Cranfield studies with giving her the platform she needed to succeed.
“If you want to work in a start-up, it’s a great way to get a foot in the door,” she said. “And, if you go in with an idea and determination, you come out of it with so many opportunities to talk to investors to pitch to.”
Shope particularly praised the practical information she learned around start-up funding and evolution.
“I would not have learned that had I not been at Cranfield,” she says.
The business plan that Shope developed during her course, detailing her idea for a sustainable e-commerce venture, won her a university award as well as earning her a place in a competition where she had the opportunity to pitch to investors at Cranfield.
“There are lots of industry and consumer trends that are all moving towards this huge fashion economy,” she said. “I’d love to create an e-commerce brand that capitalises on all of that.”
Article originally published by Business Because.