Whether your a startup or thinking of setting up a business, it is absolutely vital that you are legally equipped to ensure that you don't run into any legal trouble. Having a solid legal foundation will ultimately shape your fashion business, with the end result being a success. We had the the pleasure of talking to Annette Stepanian, who is an attorney and creative business owner and helps creative professionals and entrepreneurs lay a legal foundation for their business.
TFLC: Tell us a a bit about yourself
Annette: After graduating with a business degree from university, I went on to attend law school. Law has always intrigued me – especially the way it is involved in every single thing we do. After law school, I practiced litigation for over five years at a national law firm in San Francisco. Although I love the intellectual challenges of the law, I longed for more art and color in my life. So I took a leap of faith and started my own jewelry line. As I grew the jewelry line, other small business owners and peers sought out my legal advice about starting and running their own business. I saw a need for practical legal advice geared towards creative business owners. So today, through one-on-one consulting, speaking, and easily understandable online trainings (www.annettestepanian.com/training/) and templates (www.annettestepanian.com/contracts-all), I help equip other creative professionals and entrepreneurs with the legal knowledge they to confidently grow their businesses.
TFLC: How would you summarise your job role and title?
Annette: As a lawyer for entrepreneurs, I work with businesses to make sure they are protecting their most important assets and minimizing the potential risks. A large portion of my work involves educating clients to become aware of the legal implications of the work they do.
TFLC: Although you are based in the US, are there any aspects of your work that has a cross-jurisdictional significance?
Annette: Without a doubt, the internet has removed most geographic boundaries when it comes to doing business. We can now log onto a website in California and order products from China, for example. As business owners expand their reach beyond their local communities, state, and country, they’ll need to be aware that their actions may implicate both local and international laws.
TFLC: Whilst attempting to start your own jewellery line, would you say you faced more challenges from the creative or legal aspect of things? Tell us more about those challenges.
Annette: The biggest challenge for me wasn’t the legal or creative aspects. Rather, when I started my jewellery line, the steep learning curve that comes with entering an industry you know nothing about was quite a challenge. Without contacts or training in the industry, I was starting from scratch when it came to learning about manufacturing, production and sales. Then on top of that, I had never run my own business before. So, in addition to learning the craft itself, I had to educate myself on how to operate a business.
TFLC: What advice would you give those starting a fashion business in the UK, with aims of one day establishing a global brand?
Annette: Fashion is part art, part business. Figure out what which side of the equation you’re the best at and then find partners or collaborators you trust to complete the other half of the equation. Your time is better spent honing in on your strengths, than trying to improve those skills that don’t come easily to you.
TFLC: How important and at what time would you say start-up fashion businesses should start thinking about trademarking their brand?
Annette: In the United States, trademark ownership is actually determined by who first uses the mark in a commercial context. By registering a trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office you have additional benefits and enforcement rights as the trademark owner. Fashion businesses (and any business, really) should consider trademarks at two points. The first is before you start. The reason is that you want to confirm that your proposed mark isn’t infringing on someone else’s mark. The second point is when you’re about to make a significant investment in your brand. So for example, if you’re about to invest a lot of money into product with your brand name on it – you want to make sure that mark is available to be used and protected. You can learn more about filing trademarks in the United States by clicking here http://www.annettestepanian.com/the-blog-legally-speaking/introduction-to-t .
To grab your free contract review checklist and learn more, visit www.annettestepanian.com.