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Kerry Bannigan

Co-Founder and CEO, Nolcha

After a six-month stint in marketing and communications in New York City, British born Kerry Bannigan was so inspired by the buzz of NYC that she left her corporate job to establish her own business in the independent fashion industry. In 2006, she co-founded Nolcha, a company that shares business know-how with designers to help them market and expand their brands.

Through Nolcha, Kerry integrates independent fashion into renowned enterprises via event, media and retail partnerships including Lucky Magazine, Vogue Bambini, Yelp, NY Post, Macy's, Mandee and Ask.co.uk. Kerry has also created landmark events in New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia and London including Nolcha Fashion Week: New York, which includes The Ethical Fashion Preview; and Independent Retailer Month, currently held in the United States and the United Kingdom. Nolcha has been featured by a range of media outlets, including: ABC, CBS, MTV, Guardian.co.uk, Forbes.com, Time Out New York, and Seventeen Magazine, to name a few.

Kerry serves on the board of New York Entrepreneur Week and helps facilitate the weeklong event and manage media placement.
Kerry Bannigan
Expat Women's Interview with Kerry

Expat Women: Kerry, what originally took you to the United States, and why New York City in particular?

Kerry: Immediately after graduation from university in England my family in the U.S. offered to sponsor me for a green card. It was an amazing opportunity for a small town girl and I had already fallen in love with New York when I first visited as a teenager. It made sense and although New York City remains my base, I travel regularly and enjoy visiting several cities in the United States. I am especially in love with Chicago.
Expat Women: Why did you focus your business on the independent fashion industry?

When I first moved to NYC, I worked in marketing for corporate America. As I built my social life, I met a lot of people in the independent fashion scene. I quickly learned that these designers had wonderful creative talent but lacked business know-how, which is critical for entrepreneurs. After speaking to lots of people in this field I definitely saw a niche that needed to be addressed.
Expat Women: Would you share more with us about Nolcha's platform and how it helps independent designers?
Kerry: Nolcha is an award-winning leading global platform advancing the business of independent fashion designers and retailers via social e-commerce, fashion week events and an educational video portal.

Nolcha debuted in 2007 and since has expanded to five cities and three countries (USA, UK, and Turkey). The company has a strong brand presence with its unique platform and receives positive recognition from world-renowned media outlets such as CBS, Forbes, NBC, ABC, Fox News, Smart money TV, and BBC.

Key resources that we offer to independent designers include:

Nolcha Fashion Week: New York – a 4 day fashion week event held simultaneously with New York Fashion Week annually in February and September, (which reaches +10 million media impressions) which includes runway shows, accessory exhibition and Ethical Fashion Preview.

Global Fashion Brands – a social, online marketplace connecting consumers to independent fashion designers and retailers.

Fashion Entrepreneur Report – A video portal delivering daily practical advice from experts on how to run a fashion business, as well as weekly segments highlighting independent fashion designers and discussing life behind the scenes with industry leaders.

Nolcha | London Fashion Week – Presentations, exhibitions and networking events held simultaneously with London Fashion Week.

Independent Retailer Month – A campaign held in the United States and the United Kingdom in July, to celebrate the importance of independent retailers in the community, the economy and the overall retail sector mix.
Expat Women: What is Nolcha Fashion Week all about? What are some similarities and differences between it and New York Fashion week?
Kerry: Nolcha Fashion Week is a reputable, cost-effective platform for independent fashion designers to showcase their brand to media, retailers, stylists and industry decision makers. It is a hub for the industry to discover up-and-coming talent from around the globe. It is held at the same time as New York Fashion Week and attended by many top tier editors, bloggers and retailers. In addition, we provide a high-level resource for design talent. We focus primarily on independent and emerging fashion designers, which is in contrast to the mainstream fashion labels at New York Fashion Week.
Expat Women: What challenges did you experience in starting and growing your business in the competitive fashion field?
Kerry: Moving to a new country with limited contacts was definitely a challenge, as was knowing where and how to grow these contacts. Additionally, as I have a non-fashion background I had to learn a lot, such as the places to go and events to attend. Due to the industry being full of ideas people, it was a challenge at the start to prove to the industry that we are here to stay as a reputable business that provides results season after season.
Expat Women: What top five tips do you have for women considering starting a business in the fashion industry?
1. Research how business might be different in your new location – research laws, definitions, and so on. Depending on where you are going, the basics may be the same.
2. Source local guidance – find local experts that can provide advice.
3. Connect with your home country's embassy or consulate. They can often provide a wealth of knowledge to help you get started in a new market and sometimes even provide contacts or referrals.
4. Visit and network. Check out the local scene. Go to a variety of networking events and see how people interact. Visit the local chambers of commerce websites and look up the events calendar as a good way to find out what is happening in the business-networking world.
5. Find things that you enjoy doing. Playing hard is just as important as working hard. You need to be able to relax and enjoy yourself as well.
Expat Women:  Finally, would you tell us about your involvement with New York Entrepreneur Week and any other projects you are currently working on?

I have been involved with Entrepreneur Week from the start and am thrilled to share that this year we are taking it global to offer the connecting, educating and inspiring platform to early-stage business owners around the world. To stay up to date visit http://www.nyew.org as news will be announced shortly.
Expat Women: Kerry, thank you very much for sharing with us. We wish you and Nolcha all the very best success!
October 2011
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