October 29, 2008
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I’ve gone back and forth with my designer about the materials we should use for the bags. We are now being creative and looking into office and commercial fabric suppliers, namely companies that do hotel or cruise ship upholstery. These vendors have more interesting patterns to choose from, and carry some eco-friendly lines. The problem is that really cheesy designs seem to dominate in this market, and therefore many of the patterns look very “80s Vegas”, if you catch my drift. If anyone thinks I should have bags with a palm tree pattern, speak now or forever hold your peace.
I will be off the next few days (visiting Nashvegas), so I may not have access to the world wide web, and therefore may not be able to update my blog till Tuesday. I’ll be meeting with my consultant and visiting my mom, dad, and sister. I asked my parents if I could borrow their car for the meeting, and they suggested that as an alternative they could drop me off and pick me up when the meeting was over. I feel like I am in junior high again.
Happy early Halloween!
October 28, 2008
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My consultant called me with some bad news.
It looks like recycled polyester is really expensive per yard, and on top of that if I want a pattern vs a solid color it would cost a lot more. This could explain why all of the laptop bags you see always come in the same colors.
After speaking with the manufacturer yesterday I have a good idea of what the production cost will be per unit. So if you add up the expensive materials (recycled fabric, veg dyed leather, fasteners, zippers, thread, foam, loops, and hooks), and factor in the overhead (marketing, website maintenance, business fees, my measly salary, etc), each bag is costing nearly double what I was hoping it would be.
If I can’t get the costs down I may need to look at compromising my wish list. I was hoping not to resort to that.
I also spoke with the director of a trade show I was interested in participating in early next year. She called me 30 minutes after the agreed upon meeting time, and she didn’t even apologize. I’d almost expect this attitude from someone in the fashion business, but she is in the travel goods trade industry! Maybe rubbing elbows with Travelpro has made her too big for her britches.
Tomorrow I choose my logo direction (yay), and then my designer will go gangbusters on finishing the branding project (business cards, letterhead, hang tags). Then we move on to web design.
October 27, 2008
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I got my personal credit card statement today, and this month’s bill is 80% less than my bill last month. It’s good to know that I can dial down the spending when I have no income. I think 3 things can explain my conservative purchasing behavior:
1) The economy has me thinking twice about every single purchase: is this a necessity or a nice to have?
2) I have no income and that makes me feel a little guilty when I go shopping
3) It is possible I bought more things in my Microsoft days as a consolation prize for selling my soul to Corporate America…I bought nice stuff to make up for the long, countless hours of indentured servitude
This afternoon I spoke with a chatty manufacturer for 1.5 hours. More than half of the things he said went over my head. I think many of my replies went over his head too, but not in a good way. I was trying to frantically take notes but I couldn’t keep up. I prefer to take notes by hand instead of on the computer because I am a loud typer and the person on the phone can always hear me pecking away at the keyboard. I noticed that when I take notes in a hurry my letters get bigger and bigger and soon I end up writing only like 2 words to a page. In this case I had usually written “manufacturing cont’d” before I ran out of room, and then it was off to the next page.
One thing I discussed with the manufacturer was the timing of production, and it looks like the earliest I could get a product in market would be January, and that means I would miss the holiday season . So I guess it’s time to start thinking of some compelling Martin Luther King Jr. Day promotions. And Valentine’s Day is hot on the heels of MLK day. Nothing says “I love you” like a laptop bag. Am I right?
October 24, 2008
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It seems that most of my contacts are in the central or eastern time zones, and many of them seem to be MIA on Friday afternoons. So today, and probably next few Fridays, I am going to only work half-day. Milking the downtime while I have it.
My day today was pretty low key. I sent a few emails and got zero replies, and met with a friend for lunch. I also had a good conversation with my consultant this morning at 7:45am about using vegetable-tanned leather instead of regular chromium-dyed leather. I actually tossed and turned last night because the issue of what type of leather to use is a big decision to make. I’m going to try to use the more environmentally-friendly veg-dyed leather for my bags, but it will cost more, will be more susceptible to minor scratching, and will likely be less weather resistant. He thinks there are some treatment options using fat liquors (gross!) that might help with the scratching and the weather resistance. He seems to know his leather trivia so I’ll see what he ends up recommending for me.
Ending the day early. Have a good weekend!
October 23, 2008
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I had a discussion today with someone who has been in the luggage/handbag industry for many years. We talked about how there are three main constraints in the business of manufacturing - quality (good), time to market (fast), and cost (cheap), and that a business must usually just choose 2 because it’s usually impossible to get all 3. Given the state of the economy, and given that I’m not being forced by market conditions to get into the market ASAP, I might be able to acheive all 3 because I have financial stability and time on my side. At least for now. She recommended that I continue to take my time with research and meeting with industry experts. I think she’s right.
Several books I’ve read about the fashion manufacturing business recommend that you not produce anything until you have a solid quantity of sales orders. This is to avoid having too much inventory. But the expert I spoke with today said that I may be forced to produce certain quantities based on the factory order minimum quantities. So if the factory minimum is 100 units, I have to produce at least that amount. It’s interesting to compare what you read vs. what people who have actually gone through this process tell you.
And finally, I am looking into 2 trade shows next year: one is a fashion accessories show (featuring handbags and such, the buyers are boutiques and retailers), the other is a travel goods trade show (the buyers are luggage and travel stores). I can only afford to go to one of them, and not sure which would be better for exposure and sales leads. The cost of attending each show is about the same. I guess this will be one of many difficult decisions I will need to make soon.
My consultant received my check and will be working on my sourcing and manufacturing research tomorrow. I can’t wait to get his final recommendations. Once I have those contacts and leads I can officially start the production process.
October 22, 2008
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The good news is that I reviewed the latest logo iterations today, and they look really great. Unfortunately, I am torn between 2 of them. Both have their merits, and both look like they “go” with my company strategy. The graphic designer gave me till next Tuesday to think it through, so I will use that time to mull things over. I may need to flip a (devalued) coin to decide my logo fate.
And on to the bad news. I sketched a hard case bag design, and according to my consultant this will be complicated and expensive to produce. Or at least that’s what I think he said. I’ll cut and paste his email so you can see what my life is like now. Enjoy!
Looking at your sketch I understand the case as two molded parts put together. To do this type of case in the US is very expensive, if it is done as it was done originally, it would have been two injection molded parts (high cost…..many thousands of dollars for the mold and a high min order). It could be compression molded of hard EVA foam with fabric lamination in Asia but the tooling for production will still be fairly steep.
October 21, 2008
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I mailed a check today to my consultant. He should be getting it in 2-3 days. And then the manufacturing and sourcing of my bags will begin! I booked a plane ticket to meet with him, and I will also have time to hang out with my parents. My parents are pressuring me to use my old bedroom as a bag storage room. And although my mom says she is kidding, I am pretty sure she wants to charge me for it.
I met with my logo designer for round 2 of concept reviews, and I was really pleased with his presentation. My designer’s concepts aren’t just pretty pictures– there is a high degree of strategic thoughtfulness that he puts into every design element, and as a result it will make it hard to pick just one final idea. I see a final round of ideas tomorrow (he had some revisions to make), and then I will have until Monday to pick a final logo. How exciting!
My goal this week is to churn out some additional laptop case ideas while I have some downtime. The problem is I’ve found it hard to just set aside time to sit down and draw, and I am not sure why I have a mental block because I have the designs in my head and I actually like sketching. Relatively speaking, here is where drawing falls in my grand scheme of task preferences:
blogging > laundry > drawing > shopping at Wholefoods > parking at Wholefoods> going to gym > fasting for blood tests > uploading pictures > going to church > getting a carwash > moving
Thanks for tuning in!
October 20, 2008
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I am back from my anniversary celebration, and enjoyed my stay at the Alderbrook Resort. It was overall very nice. Unfortunately though, there was a blackout at midnight on Friday, and when the alarm clock rebooted, a flash of blue light filled the room and woke me up. I thought it was aliens.
It’s also been 1 month since I left Microsoft, and I am positive I made the right decision to leave when I did. I like setting my own hours, like learning about a new industry, and love having time to be creative. I am sure my work-life balance will change in the next few months, but I will take advantage of this freedom while it lasts!
I went to my first fashion trade shows on Saturday. I posed as a buyer and I registered toward the end of the day so I would have an easier time getting in without too many 3rd degree questions. While walking the floor, I bumped into a Seattle boutique owner I had met several weeks ago, and she remembered me! What a small world.
My first impression of the trade shows was positive. I was scared it would be like UGLY BETTY where everyone is snobby, overly styled, and annoying, but it was actually more laid back and welcoming than I thought. I also noticed that there were a wide range of vendors there: like eyeglasses, organic lingerie, and shoe inserts. Surprisingly there weren’t that many handbag vendors, and I saw only 2 styles of laptop bags. I’m going to look into applying for a booth in the spring, but one thing I noticed is that for even the smallest booths there is actually quite a lot of space, and I would need to have at least 15+ bag-like objects to fill the space, otherwise it would look really sparse, like someone’s mediocre high school science fair project. I was glad to see that the booths were all simple and unadorned, so it looks like I wouldn’t have to invest a ton of money in building my own fancy trade show backdrop. I am still not sure what the ROI is like on a trade show. I plan to ask other designers what their experience has been.
And final news, I hired a consultant who will help me find materials and a manufacturer. He is based in Nashville, so I will be able to meet with him and stay my parents on the cheap.
This week is starting off pretty strong. I’m as happy as an unshucked clam.
October 16, 2008
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Today was a relatively quiet day. Went to my new primary care physician, made a few follow-up calls for work, and made lunch.
I am taking the rest of today and tomorrow off– celebrating my 4 years of marriage! Marriage is the second longest thing I’ve stuck with, next to drugs, I mean STAND UP COMEDY. I’ve done stand up for 9 years, but I only perform once a blue moon. In comparison, this marriage thing doesn’t ever really let up.
We’ll be going to Alderbrook Resort tonight for our first attempt at doing a staycation. Then we are off to LA and I will try to gain admission to 2 fashion trade shows this weekend. I’ll try to get in through legitimate means, letting them know I am a fledgling designer who would like to walk the floor. If that doesn’t work I will move on to plan B, which is when my well-connected friend will let me wear a pre-registered badge under the name of one of her assistant buyers. So if anyone is planning to attend the LA trade shows this weekend, I may be answering to the name “Annie Park”– so don’t get spooked.
I’ll be back and blogging again on Monday. Have a good weekend!
October 15, 2008
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Today might have been one of my most productive days ever.
Here’s what transpired:
- Spoke to 2 manufacturers, and both were willing to produce my goods because business had been kinda slow. Sucky for them, good opportunity for me
- Had conference calls with the 2 production consultants. I think I might be able to use them for things like sourcing and materials procurement, and not necessarily use them in areas that the manufacturer could handle directly (i.e. sample making and pattern making)
- Met with my logo designer and the rough design ideas so far are COOOOOOOL
- Met with an intern candidate and I think she could handle the job
- Ended the evening with dinner with some good ol’ work pals from Microsoft
A darn good day, I must say. Maybe tonight I’ll have dreams about sunshine, puppies, and rainbows.
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