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Wednesday, May 18, 2022



Staff Reporter

The manufacturing industry has them. So does high tech. But there isn’t a business incubator to help fledgling fashion businesses grow and develop in Los Angeles.

Sandy Bleifer, principal of real estate consulting firm DownTown Enterprises, intends to change that with her Fashion Business Incubator.

“I am starting it because I was trying to find a way to attract young designer-manufacturers to the historic core downtown to the properties around the garment district,” said Bleifer, who has friends in the apparel industry she has seen struggle to succeed. “One of the major goals of the incubator is to reinforce downtown as the center of the industry.”

The idea, she said, is to get a group of young, talented fashion designers together, teach them business skills through USC’s Business Expansion Network, encourage them to work with one another and keep them in downtown L.A.

Still in its early stages, the Fashion Business Incubator is little more than a Web site (www.FashionBizInc.com) that Bleifer expects will help designers get in contact with one another, as well as sewing contractors, fabric suppliers and clients. The Web site, she said, will act as something of a virtual incubator.

And by mid-year, Bleifer hopes to have completed negotiations with USC to have up to 50 designers a year move through the university’s Business Expansion Network, which trains entrepreneurs and small-business owners in areas like business planning, marketing, financial management and securing capital.

Crucial to making that program work, she says, is finding businesses and charitable groups that will help pay for the designers to join the USC program. “There may be entities, organizations and agencies within the garment district that may work with us,” she said.

Robin Cornwall, a business analyst at the Business Expansion Network who has been working with Bleifer, said the cost of the 12-week program could run well over $1,000 for a single student.

In addition to the Web site and the USC classes, Bleifer said she would like to have studio space downtown, where designers could work together and share equipment and ideas similar to what has been done with incubators in other industries.

“We’re not going to start by investing in real estate,” she said. “At some point we would like to have a head office someplace where we can hang our shingle. But we’ll have to build that as we go.”

Hanna Hartnell, a Santa Monica-based women’s wear designer who has advised Bleifer on the incubator, said that when she was starting out, it would have saved her time and money if she had had access to such an incubator.

“I could have probably saved $15,000 in consulting fees, etc.,” she said. “It’s real money. That’s a lot of money and a lot of money for a youngster starting out.”

Bleifer said she is talking to potential financial partners and hopes to have the Fashion Business Incubator more fully formed before the Sewn Products Expo is held April 22-26 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

“This is particularly targeted to emerging designer-manufacturers who have reached a certain level in their business that they just can’t seem to get beyond,” she said.

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