Grow your fashion business with Echo++

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We’d love to hear more about your role and programme at Echo/Fashion ++ - please tell us more and how can emerging designers apply?

Sure! So, I’m Nneka Chukwurah the Programme Manager for Echo++, a business accelerator programme designed to give East London startups, micro businesses and sole traders the knowledge, resources, and networks needed to grow and scale in a sustainable way. It’s my role to craft programming that meets the needs of local, burgeoning businesses unsure of how best to strengthen their offer and grow their customer and client base. People are always surprised when they discover there’s no financial cost or equity slice to participate. Instead, all programmes are paid for by the sharing of skills and knowledge, and powered by the connections and collaborations created among our members.

With fashion being such an important industry for innovation and job creation in East London, bringing the Echo++ learning methodology together with the industry insight and expertise of London College of Fashion was a great opportunity to offer something fresh to emerging fashion brands. The pilot Fashion++ programme was so well received, we’re doing it all over again this November! Founders can find out more and apply here:

What’s the next 12 months got in store? 

We’re always scoping out new industries to support as well as continually refining the courses we offer. In addition to Fashion++ and our recent Weekender for pre-startup founders, we’ll be supporting upto 20 creative businesses through our Creative++ programme, as well as collaborating with other organisations to upskill their audiences with the entrepreneurial skills necessary to launch and sustain a local business - this could include health & wellness entrepreneurs, young people, sustainability-focused businesses, foodpreneurs etc. There are still a large number of founders in East London who have never accessed business support and / or lack the support of a peer network - we’re on a mission to change that!

Image credit - Fred at Candid & Bright Photography

Image credit - Fred at Candid & Bright Photography

What’s the best thing about working for Fashion ++? 

The best thing about Fashion++, and all the other programmes, is connecting talented, emerging businesses to the skills they need to firm up their business’ foundation now and plot what comes next, and the contacts to explore new opportunities - whether that’s new revenue streams, brand partnerships, supply chains, or bigger contracts.

Are there any key trends that are jumping out from all the previous talent on the programmes? Do many of the brands have a focus on sustainable design or social impact?

Something I’m seeing more of is founders teaming up to test things out (ie. a joint event, co-created campaigns) and to bid for bigger commissions or contracts where working together creates the resource and/or the combined skillset required to deliver a contract they would not be able to win on their own.

With the pilot Fashion++ programme we deliberately targeted brands with a focus on sustainable design or some other area of social impact within the industry (ie. workforce, textile waste) and we were astounded by the number of fashion businesses out there who are disrupting fashion for ‘good’. We’re really excited to see which brands come through the second programme!

Image credit - Fred at Candid & Bright Photography

Image credit - Fred at Candid & Bright Photography

I’m sure they are all brilliant but are there any particular designers/brands we should look out for?

There’s so much talent here in East London, and each application phase uncovers even more! From the Fashion++ alumni so far, I’d say to keep your eye on AfterworkBar Jewellery, and Urban Gilt who are doing amazing things in upcycled accessories, ethical jewellery, and womens day-to-night wear. Afterwork have already won a Sublime Magazine Award 2018 since completing their programme for their innovative spin on re-using high-vis workwear.

Do you see a lot of diversity on the program and with emerging talent, and do you focus on a range of outreach to recruit for the programmes? 

Typically, our programmes attract a lot of women and BAME entrepreneurs who have never accessed business support before, which we’re really proud of. We have strong relationships with various local initiatives and organisations who are committed to connecting their communities - whether young people, residents, small business, or career-changers - to relevant opportunities and support packages like ours. They help join the dots between the needs of their members and the value we have to offer.

Image credit - Fred at Candid & Bright Photography

Image credit - Fred at Candid & Bright Photography

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