PEOPLE: Pivoting during the pandemic – Carley Johnson

After over a decade for working for large fashion brands, Carley Johnson took the leap into the starting her own business, Unzipped in February, 2019. While the early days of any business has challenges, noone could have predicted the added complications of COVID-19 on the business world. Carley shares why she started Unzipped, and how she’s pivoted the business during the pandemic.

  • How did you come up with the idea for Unzipped? 

Upon moving to Australia in 2017, I realised how far behind their ecommerce was vs the rest of the western world. This presented an opportunity for myself coming from the UK with vast global ecommerce experience, I knew I had the skills and knowledge above local talent. Therefore after a 2.5-year career setting up Forever New wholesale division, I took the leap to help SMBs across Australia through Unzipped consultancy. 

  • How do you expect the pandemic to impact the demand for your services and your business model over the next few years? 

Our most popular service was Unzipped Connections, a service that was based around first-time connections where Unzipped worked to connect X brand to global eCommerce accounts, conducting the most important face to face meetings. 

Face to face meetings, especially the traditional tactile buying appointments are no longer possible and that’s for the foreseeable future in fashion. Ways we’re overcoming this is by helping fashion brands to digitalise this experience, still investing in our extensive contact list. We are encouraging brands to use tools like Flip Snack for their lookbook, whilst still creating easy to post swatch cards. All of this alongside a strong video and imagery photoshoot. We know this method works as it’s already been tried and tested with current clients. 

Demand for B2B accounts (wholesale/marketplace) will return. For those fashion brands that have openly evolved to being a digital brand, they will find global growth a lot more feasible than others. 

  • What have been the main changes you’ve had to adjust to after jumping from the corporate world into running your own business?

Not having a team which has affected me in more ways than one. The huge benefit of working in corporate business is numbers. Creating groups of peers, creating a delegation flow between managers to assistants to admins. 

Since launching in 2019 Unzipped has mainly operated as a 1 man band, keeping all work in-house with the support of Ooze Studios owner, Jesse Mullins. This has meant I have had to readjust to covering all levels of work, from data entry through to creating global strategises and selling collections to accounts.

I have learnt to create personal forums with friends and family, to bounce business ideas around with, as we all need sounding boards to keep us on track and relevant. 

  • What have been the biggest hurdles you’ve had to overcome in the first year of being in business? How did you overcome them?

This may be a predictable answer but COVID. COVID taught me how you always need a contingency plan both for cash flow and idea/service. Consulting relies heavily on your chosen subject matter being in demand. As soon as COVID hit in March, that demand stopped, instantly meaning Unzipped had to pivot on our teaching method, therefore choosing to sell online fashion courses alongside our consulting services.

Our first-year hurdles have taught us the importance of diversifying our services whilst still remaining focused on your core business purpose. This has given Unzipped fuel for future business developments, hopefully that are COVID-proof!

  • What’s your advice to others considering starting their own business in 2020?

Still pursue it, as long as you can wholeheartedly answer that your business has a niche in the market and that there is a demand for your product/service. If you had previously completed market and competitor analysis pre-COVID you need to re-run it. You need to adapt to a very different market in 2020 vs 2019 and ensure you’re still relevant and wanted now, as well as future-proofing your product/service. 

Furthermore, launch with healthy cash flow, and agile business operations just in case you are caught with further quarantine disruptions. This is exactly what we teach in our online course of 6-steps to launch a fashion brand online. 


About the expert

Unzipped’s goal is to help fashion brands and entrepreneurs to launch and grow to a global audience. Established in 2019 by Managing Director Carley Johnson after a successful career in fashion eCommerce working for well-known fashion brands across the UK, US and Australia, her efforts now lie with helping SMB establish and grow within the fashion industry. No matter what stage your at on your fashion journey we will be able to advise; either through our consulting business or through our online fashion courses. 


Image description: Photos of Fashion Wholesale and Brand Launch Expert, Carley Johnson, wearing black sunglasses and a blue blouse, holding a cup of coffee. White text over the photo says “Hi! I’m Carley!”.