Denisha-Dlang Ferguson is a creative catalyst, event producer and fashion designer. She is the CEO of the Indiana Fashion Foundation and produces Indiana Fashion Week, along with numerous events, projects and programs. She combines research and creativity to show the power of creative` individuals and how they can use their GOD given creativity to make impact, income and create legacy. She co-authored 2 books that reached #1 AMAZON Bestseller, You Can and Prayers for the Boss Babes.
Her work has been featured in tv, magazines and websites like WWD, Forbes, Sheen Magazine, Indy Style, Hope for Women, Inside Indiana Business, IBJ, Pattern Magazine Online, Indianapolis Monthly, Nuvo, Ridiculousness, Indy Star, Houston Style Magazine. She has been a guest on podcasts such as Made in Indy, Do Boss and Motor City Woman. You can find out more at www.yearofthecreator.com.
Where did the idea for Indiana Fashion Foundation come from?
The Indiana Fashion Foundation came from literally 20 plus years of being in Indiana, designing clothes, producing shows and wanting more fashion opportunities for the talent here. Our mission is to help those interested in the fashion industry to find resources, networking opportunities, access skill development and actually be able to learn their craft so that they can create or start their business(es). Prior to this, that infrastructure didn’t exist in Indiana in the same way that it does in LA or New York, for example. We strive to fill that gap.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I tend to plan out what I want to do and then write it down each week. I then do my best to check off things as needed every day. With the pandemic and my son, though, these plans can evolve; so I have to be flexible while also ensuring that I carry out the non-negotiables on my list. For example (at the time of writing this), I have a grant that is due on Sunday so I have to work on it a few hours of each day this week to make sure I’m not scrambling to get it done the day before. I will also design and sew things a few times a week. This is one of my favorite things to do as it allows me to get my creative side out.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I’m a creative; so I can easily jump from one idea to another. To avoid this, I evaluate all new ideas against my goals, vision, dreams and core values. If they pass that test, I then consider what it would take to bring them to life on a practical level. For example, I may say to myself: “This is actually going to take an additional 30 hours a month and you already have your son’s wrestling and all these other things going on, can you really commit to this new venture and do it with excellence?” If the answer is no, I don’t do it. If the answer is yes then I include it in my weekly planning and scheduling session to ensure that I implement and work on it every day or delegate it to an expert in the area.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Some fashion trends that excite me at the moment are bright colors, especially on power suits and blazers. If you’ve been paying attention to recent runways, e.g. last year’s fall collections, you may have seen a lot of bright colors and neon will soon be on-trend too.
Within the business world, I love the trend towards true authenticity and vulnerability. I think that’s the best way to connect to your audience or ideal client as it’s makes you/your brand more endearing, inspiring and relatable. It’s something that I personally strive towards and would like to see more of in other company’s marketing and so on.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I just never give up. This personal quality and mantra actually inspired my fashion brand name- Dlang Designs. “Dlang” is an amalgamation of my first initial and maiden name. It’s also been my nickname forever. As a brand name it stands for:
• Be the difference
• Live life
• Take action
• Never give up
What advice would you give your younger self?
The advice I would give my younger self is to hire a coach early on because for about 15 years I bumped my head just because I didn’t know what I didn’t know. If I could do it all again, I would have definitely got a coach- making sure it was somebody reputable that already did exactly what I wanted to do so they can give me the blueprint and accelerate my journey.
On the other hand, I would tell the me of 4 years ago not to invest in certain types of coaching! I would tell myself: “you’re going to get to a cross roads where you think that you need additional knowledge but remember you have your MBA, you already went through Business School and produced all these shows; so you do not need to spend that money. All you need to do is work on your confidence because, although you’re scared of the next level, you’ve already been doing everything that they’re about to teach you anyway!”
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I’ve been getting pushback recently on the idea that we’re creating even when we’re not creating. In other words, not going towards your dreams and producing what you want to see in the world is still a form of creation. It may not be the creation you want but every action (or inaction) has a consequence or something that it creates; so we must be cognizant of that when thinking about the kind of life that we want to manifest.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Pray! I believe people can come help you and they can guide you but they’ve also got their own lives and things that they need to do. So a lot of the time when it comes down to it, it’s just you and God. There’s been so many times where I’ve prayed a real simple prayer, like “God I need you now” or “Please help me” and He’s come through; so I would definitely recommend prayer.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
I realized that in order for me to grow I have to hire people; so it’s just a matter of figuring out how I can do that and what’s comfortable with my budget. Hiring other people to operate in a genius that may not necessarily be mine is one strategy that has significantly helped me, especially because of my schedule.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I’ve had several, which is where my “never give up” mantra really comes into play. The one that immediately comes to mind is the Kickstarter that I did a few years ago. I did that campaign and did all the necessary steps that I was advised to take (e.g. building an email list, funnel etc. for approximately 6 months prior to launching) but it still did not get funded. My ego was bruised, I felt embarrassed and deflated because all of the people who said they were going to buy my product just didn’t buy it. About 20 women did, though; so I still fulfilled those orders and made sure to get testimonials.
Even though the Kickstarter didn’t get funded and I didn’t get to put “fully funding Kickstarter” on my byline, looking back, it gave me the blueprint to know how to do a launch in terms of preparation, having 30 days of marketing leading up to it and then having a fulfilment system in place. The knowledge gained from this “failed” Kickstarter is actually what gave me the complete blueprint on how to launch my recently self-published book, Year of the Creator, which actually became a #1 Amazon Bestseller. So, I guess I overcame by refusing to give up, allowing myself to learn the lessons from that experience and not being afraid to try again.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Add clothing to your product suite. For example, if you’re a motivational speaker and you wear a lot of hats, why not go ahead and produce a branded hat line for your followers? Or have a specific branded handkerchief? I always recommend, if you can, getting some people in your state or using people from your nearest American sewing guild where there’s a lot of people that can sew for you. You can also find other organizations in your state that actually are just women who are retired seamstresses or alteration shops that may do custom work to get those pieces made. First, do a small batch order to test those in the market before you do a mass production. This way you can test to make sure people like them, how long the manufacturing process takes and how people can best care for it once they buy it. Then you can actually start doing more pre orders to go into production. That way you either get all your money up front or, at least, a big portion of what you’ll need to put towards the manufacturing cost, deposits and ultimately profits. I would give myself at least 6-8 months for that whole process.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
When I got laid off from my job last March, my aunt gave me $100 and I was almost in tears. Despite this, I didn’t spend it as I wanted it to go towards something special. I kept that money and I didn’t spend it until November when I put it towards the cost of hiring Nina Dafe, my PR specialist, so that she could help me with the publicity surrounding the release of my book (Year of the Creator).
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Google drive is really great. I use that to organize all my organization’s documents. I like it because I can easily assess the things I need whether it’s at home or on the go. I’ve also started using Trello with Nina (my PR specialist) to organize my pitches; so those are the two tools that I’m using the most for productivity at the moment.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
My favorite book is Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. Someone lent it to me when I was about 16 years old and in high school and I just never gave it back! I love that book because it gave me representation of black leaders and showed me how they overcame and strategies for success. Literally while producing shows and so on, I would just read that book so now it’s well worn. Being that good, I would definitely recommend it to anyone in the community who hasn’t already read it.
What is your favorite quote?
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts” (Winston Churchill)
• To avoid jumping from one idea to another, evaluate all new ideas against your goals, vision, dreams and core values. If they pass that test, consider what it would take to bring them to life on a practical level.
• Be the difference, live life, take action and never give up
• Hire a coach as soon as you can, making sure it’s somebody reputable that’s already done exactly what you want to do so they can give you the blueprint and accelerate your journey. The same goes for delegation, hire someone who is reputable and whose genius is in an area that yours isn’t necessarily in.
• Add clothing to your product suite
• “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts” (Winston Churchill)
Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.