Get Your Face Out of Your Cell Phone! – Network Fashion Like a Pro from Network Insider Stephen Cuomo

Executive Producer Stephen Cuomo of Santa Fe Fashion Week
Stephen Cuomo at a networking event – a video premiere and cd release party – photo credit Shawn Darling

People that know me, know I am a big believer in networking. As a former insurance agent with Met Life and later a VP with Smith Barney I understand its value. Often at networking events I would meet people with a sphere of influence that could help me grow both my business as well as theirs. In the financial industry, we call these people “connectors” – the ones that know when money is in motion. This blog will help fashion professionals navigate the networking playing field.

It’s Like Playing “Connect the Dots”
CPAs are usually one of the first people that know when one of their clients have just come into a large sum of money be it the sale of a business, or their Real Estate holdings. I, in turn, might have a client that is in need of tax advise. I’ve seen divorce attorneys that have had clients whom, due to circumstance, did not want to stay with their current Financial adviser because that person was handling their ex’s portfolio! Perhaps I have a client that is seeking a divorce and needs an attorney. If I meet an HR person that I am able to develop a relationship with, they may have an employee in need of rolling over their 401k program. This may be someone that the HR person was handling an exit interview with, and that employee may want to roll over their 401k once employment is severed. Another scenario can involve a new hire from another company that may want to move a retirement account and rollover funds to an IRA. If I can meet a trust attorney at one of these networking events, it could lead to gold if they happen to have had a client that passed away, and the beneficiaries are coming into a lot of money. It is not always a pretty business, though I may have a client that needs to establish a trust account.
What’s Next
When joining a networking group,do not set your self up for failure by being too aggressive or expecting to make your next mortgage payment by your new found flood of leads. These relationships usually take time to develop. You may be thinking, “This sounds great if I was selling Real Estate or (God forbid) Life Insurance, but I am a fashion professional, how can networking help me?”
What’s Fashion Got To Do With It?
I’ve built Santa Fe Fashion Week from the ground up, and its roots are in fashion shows I have hosted and produced at
Stephen Cuomo of Santa Fe Fashion Week at Longmire Event
Photo Credit Bruno Quintana Stephen Cuomo Pictured with friend Jackamoe Buzzeo (right)

night clubs, art galleries and museums. A lot of the relationships I’ve developed came about through the networking that happened at those events. One designer introduced me to another, and my good friend  Aaron Fust CEO/Fashion Designer of Syrup Swimwear explained to me that in order to meet some of the players in fashion, I needed to attend MAGIC in Las Vegas. Aaron pointed me in the right direction that day during a much-needed vacation I happened to be taking in Las Vegas, after the completion of Santa Fe Fashion Weeks’ second year.  The following year, Amanda and I attended MAGIC.

You, as a fashion designer, might meet a commercial Realtor that has their ear to the ground and know when a new Boutique is coming to town, and about to sign a major lease. Want to learn more about crowd sourcing to launch your latest line? You can meet someone with expertise in this endeavor that can help make connections for you. In New Mexico, I’ve heard stories of a fashion designer getting the purse she designed into the hands of the costume department when she found out that a friend of hers got a role on the Netflix Original Series Long Mire. This happened after a number of failed attempts to get in front of the director on her own.  When it comes to networking, patience is key.
Open Your Sphere of Influence
Often networking leads to more business which, of course, is everyone’s hopes and dreams. However, it can also help you meet mentors, or possibly mentor others, as well as give you the opportunity to learn more about what is happening in the market place from other business leaders. A good friend of mine whom I’ve known from the age of four and living in Hauppauge, Long Island is now a very successful Realtor with Studley in Manhattan. Marc Shapses described to me how once,  when he was cold calling business owners, he was having a difficult time getting past the gate keeper – only to later find out that one of his friends from a networking group happened to be a good friend of the person he had been trying to get a meeting with! There are as many ways to network as there are networking events, and numerous books on networking. Great networking events range from Toast Master and Chamber of Commerce events to hard-core networking groups like BNI International where you are expected to give out warm leads each week at breakfast or lunch meetings.
One of my favorite books on networking is “Never Eat Lunch Alone” written by Keith Ferrazzi, Keith mentions in his book
 
“Identify the people in your industries who always seem to be out in front, and use all the relationship skills you’ve acquired to connect with them. Take them to lunch. Read their newsletters. In fact, read everything you can. Online, there are hundreds of individuals distilling information, analyzing it, and making prognos-tications. These armchair analysts are the eyes and ears of innovation. Now get online and read, read, read. Subscribe to magazines, buy books, and talk to the smartest people you can find. Eventually, all this knowledge will build on itself, and you’ll start making connections others aren’t.” 
It Still Works For Me

Most recently Amanda and I were invited to Portales NM to be involved in a 1/2 PBS show about fashion in NM. This all came about organically, Amanda and I were at an event at Kouture Konsignment, a local consignment store in trendy Nob Hill, Albuquerque. We were introduced to Kat Moore, a Graduate Student at Eastern New Mexico University in Portales studying communications. Eastern University happens to house one of the best PBS Studios in NM. Over time Amanda and I developed a relationship with Kat – she actually slept on our coach when she came out to cover the Balloon Fiesta. Over cocktails at the Albuquerque Brew Pub, Kat was kicking around the idea of producing a program around fashion. When she returned to school she pitched the idea to the professor. From that original random introduction came about a friendship and us producing a TV show about Fashion in New Mexico. I find it very important to connect the dots. Unfortunately some people feel like networking events should yield immediate results. True relationships take time. It is often said “It is not what you know but who you know” This is most certainly true in Business. Keith goes on to say,


 
“I’ve come to believe that connecting is one of the most important business—and life—skill sets you’ll ever learn. Why? Because, flat out, people do business with people they know and like. Careers—in every imaginable field—work the same” 

So step away from Facebook, shake some hands, and please do not stand in a room full of other business people and have your face glued to your smart phone.

Related Posts

Comments (2)

Hey Stephen! Thanks for the shout out!
“Never Eat Lunch Alone” by Keith Ferrazzi is one of my favorite books on networking too!

Thank you for your Blog and for the wealth of great information about many topics in life, Stephen!

Truly, a great Blog for anyone to read and digest for their own areas of interest and improvement.
I learn something from everything, but this goes way beyond the norm of what people have to say and suggest.

Brilliant,
Richard

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.