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ACC’s Fashion Incubator is Building Fashion Entrepreneurs

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Nina Means, the director of ACC’s Fashion Incubator, offers her tips for starting a fashion brand.

Story by Sabrina LeBoeuf, Illustration by Madison Weakley

Nina Means - ACC's Fashion Incubator

When it comes to fashion, Nina Means knows more than just what to wear. As the director of Austin Community College’s newly launched Fashion Incubator, Means is an expert when it comes to entrepreneurship in the fashion world. 

After interning with brands like Rebecca Taylor and Kohl’s and designing for American Eagle Outfitters and H by Halston, Means moved to Austin and began her own Nina Means apparel label.

With experience in multiple facets of the fashion industry, Means is hoping to use her expertise to help new designers build their skills and start their own businesses. Even though she’s sacrificing part of her own brand to lead the ACC Fashion Incubator, she sees this as part of building the future of the fashion industry.

Following the launch of the Fashion Incubator April 30, Means shares her advice for up-and-coming fashion entrepreneurs. 

YOU’RE IN THE RIGHT PLACE TO START YOUR BUSINESS.

“One of the things regarding fashion is that we have an appetite. Our consumer behavior has an appetite for special, niche product. I think just that culture of Austin [makes it] a really great place for an emerging designer to start. Whether it’s participating in CraftHer Market or the [Junior League] or getting incubated at [an] incubator like ours, [when] really learning how to grow a business, the local community can really support this.”

WORK WITH ANOTHER BRAND BEFORE STARTING YOURS.

“I think the network and collaboration you get from working with other businesses is really important for a young designer. You don’t have to make all the costly mistakes yourself. You can learn from the businesses of others. The fashion industry is very expensive, and it’s easy to make a costly mistake.” 

WHEN SEEKING FUNDING, HAVE A DEFINED BUSINESS PLAN.

“Some people go the route of looking at a lender once they’ve created a [concept]…but for a lender, they’re going to want to know how they’re going to get their money back. Having a clearly identified business model is going to help you be able to do that.”

QUALITATIVE FEEDBACK IS JUST AS IMPORTANT AS QUANTITATIVE FEEDBACK.

“I’ve literally seen a customer put on a jacket and then walk around the store and keep shopping, like she’s taking it home. … [With] those qualitative assessments, sometimes you’re able to get both sides of the equation just by being present.” 

MINIMIZE YOUR HEAD-TO-HEAD COMPETITION.

“In fashion, we call it ‘white space.’ We encourage businesses to find the white space. What that means is, ‘Where is the hole? Where is the opportunity in the market and where do you fit in to that?’ ”


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