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This spring, 26-year-old Portland native Brittany Sierra, who already ran a one-woman marketing firm called Arreis, launched a side project with a tighter mission. Under the name Laptops & Smalltalk, Sierra helps new local fashion businesses get off the ground with networking events, business coaching, and an e-book and workshops on brand-building.

The insight can range from broad strategies to specific checklists of small-biz essentials, like how to zoom in on the ideal customer. So far, she’s held a free rooftop soirée with a panel of fashion industry professionals doling out advice, given a packed “Fashion to Profit” workshop at Division Street’s Tea Bar, and consulted with on-the-rise designers like Marcela Dyer.

What drew the daughter of two business-owning parents to become, essentially, a coach for fashion entrepreneurs? In part, she wants to put some rigor into the local scene’s creative spirit.

ON PORTLAND Portland is very casual. A lot of designers bring that casualness into their business. They don’t necessarily take the time to create strategies. People just jump in. A lot of people think that posting pictures on Instagram is a strategy.

COMMON START-UP MISTAKES People design things because they like them. They don’t think about, “Can someone buy this? Will someone buy this? Who is the customer?” And then they end up sitting on product, or a collection that no one bought. It just needs thought.

HOW IT WORKS We look at where they are, and where they want to go. Not just “I want to be successful,” but what is it specifically that you’re trying to achieve. So far, a lot of it has been creating strategies based on what clients are currently doing, and then for moving forward.

ON WHY SHE DIDN’T PUT HER PICTURE ON HER WEBSITE AT FIRST When I was brainstorming my businesses, it was right around [the shooting in Ferguson of] Mike Brown. The racial stuff was very active. And I felt really worried people wouldn’t take me seriously. I was just very worried that was going to play a part in people’s perception of the business.

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