This journal entry will be boring because today was the most boring work day ever. All I did today was cold call sales reps for fabric samples. So starting next week my mailbox will be overrun with swatches, Capital One credit card applications, Bed Bath & Beyond 20% discount coupons, and Pottery Barn Christmas catalogs. I anticipate getting hundreds of swatches next week. There will probably be no air left in the mailbox, as if it was vacuum-sealed.
I’m making some good progress on fabric research so I should be able to close on this decision in a few days.
But then I need to think about sourcing other things like leather, zippers, lining, foam, shoulder straps, labels, metal fasteners and clasps.
If you are a 55-year old male looking to score with a domesticated and homely woman, there are 2 places I recommend that you go to during the weekday:
Seattle Design Center: The place is full of showrooms with very dated, boring decor. Sadly, most of the women milling around dress like the upholstery fabric they are looking for. The 2 fabric showrooms I entered were full of well-to-do older society ladies who probably drink afternoon tea after they peruse furniture and fabrics for fun. If you want to meet a high-falutin’ lady who likes to furnish rooms with expensive things of questionable taste, you’ve found your place.
Pacific Fabrics: For some strange reason everyone in the store at 2:45pm was looking for material to make aprons. Maybe there was a apron-making competition or something. The women here look like they stay at home and make pineapple upside down cake and tea cozies, and of course make aprons. I might need to make friends with these folks because I love pineapple upside down cake, and I could use an apron.
In addition to rubbing elbows with women 2.5 times my age, I bought a great resource book called The Crafts Business Answer Book– which was extremely helpful at explaining things you must know when starting a design or art business from scratch. It’s practical and realistic, and doesn’t assume the reader is just a hobbyist. Me gusta mi libro mucho.
Tomorrow I’ll be talking to fabric suppliers and dye sublimation printers. I guess tomorrow’s journal update should be chock full of excitement.
I had a pretty busy day today, trying to make up for my slacking last week.
I spent the morning combing through the trademark website again because I had a sinking feeling that I completed the form incorrectly. I was not sure if my general business name “Jones Market” would also get trademarked if I submitted a logo design. I finally found something in the FAQ that suggests that I would not need to submit the business name as a separate filing if I submitted a logo. Whew.
I also read the fine print more carefully and it looks like it will take 4-6 months before anyone even reviews my file, and it would be another year after that before my trademark gets registered. By then I could already be bankrupt! Or super famous! Or both. Or neither
The rest of the day was used to cold call and cold email textile companies that do recycled polyester fabrics. I’m amazed to see the range in costs: so far I’ve seen $32 to $96 per yd! I’m going to the Seattle Design Center tomorrow to meet with some fabrics sales reps. This process is boring and tedious as hell, and sometimes discouraging, but it needs to be done. My goal is to finish my textiles search within a week so I can actually start manufacturing some real sh*t soon. I’m excited.
See you tomorrow!
I lied, I didn’t end up going to Portland. Instead I’ve spent part of my day reviewing logos and business cards, and filing my business name and logo for trademarks. I’ve heard different opinions on whether you need a lawyer to help you do this. I decided I would be a “maverick” and try to file it my own darn self. If you ever want to file for a trademark, here are some things to note about the application process:
1) The government website USPTO.GOV is the ugliest site I’ve ever seen. Once you click on the left navigation to get deeper information, the explanations they provide on how to begin the filing process is horrible. In some ways it seems like a wikipedia article: people seem to have added verbiage here and there, but they’ve also added many intermittent warnings in red type.
2) The first big decision you need to make is choosing between 2 forms: the TEAS (Trademark Electronic Application System) PLUS FORM for $275, and the regular TEAS FORM for $325. What’s the difference between the forms? Well, I am not quite sure. If you read the descriptions of the 2 forms, it is not very clear under which conditions you’d file for the plus or regular form. The plus form disclaimer indicated that if if you filled out that form and you should have filled out the other one, you’d need to pay the additional $50. I decided to proceed with the cheaper “plus” form because the application seemed similar, and there wasn’t a fee or penalty for filing for the wrong form.
3) Choosing industry codes and categories is tedious. And back to the website usability, the categorization of information is not organized on the site, and the search engine doesn’t work well. I ended up looking up “bags”, and got 274 hits. One of them was “body bags”. Maybe I could extend my product line into ecofriendly body bags.
According to the autogenerated email I received upon submitting payment, it could take 4-5 months before they review my application. But it seems that I could still operate my business while things are pending.
I’m crossing my fingers that I got the paperwork right. If I did, I saved myself some steep lawyer fees.
I neglected to update my blog yesterday because I was too wrapped up in the election. My bad.
So I’ve been taking it easy since I came back from Nashville. My friend is here from NYC and we are sightseeing and visiting boutiques. Tomorrow we may go to Portland for the day to check out some stores.
I spoke to someone who owns an organic clothing line and he gave me some interesting advice to think about:
Advice tidbit #1: Think big. Boutique sales take up time and energy, and you make a few dollars here and there, but overall boutiques are a waste of time and money. Ultimately you are a business, and the main goal in business is to make money. The only way to do that is to land large accounts and use your resources wisely.
Contrary advice: If you grow too big too quickly, you may end up with a lot of inventory and no cash flow. Big accounts are risky because the store could cancel the order and leave you with large quantities of inventory. And there are plenty of stories where retailers forego payments.
Advice tidbit #2: Make sure your logo isn’t the only thing on the bag that identifies your brand. Your design should include details that differentiate your brand, and these branding elements should be consistent across your product lines.
Contrary advice: For a start-up company, you may not have the money to do all the things you envisioned because it would cost too much. The more bells and whistles you add to the design, the more complicated it becomes, and then the more expensive it becomes.
Advice tidbit #3: Outsource as much as you can so you can focus on what you do well. If you are good at marketing and sales, then focus on that. Regarding production, vertical manufacturing starts with just a sketch and a budget, and you can hire an “all-in-one” vendor overseas to handle everything production/manufacturing-related.
Contrary advice: As a start-up, you will be cash constrained. As such you may need to learn how to be a jack of all trades. In addition it’s good to learn about production so you know whether you are spending your money wisely.
In addition, the places that do vertical integration are overseas and they require high minimums.
He gave me a lot to think about. I think many of his points make sense, but my main limitation is cost. I agree with him about the branding of the bags, and I plan to revisit my designs to see if I need more brand differentiation. As for my operations, I will need to start out small, test the waters, and then aggressively grow my sales. I’ll probably invest my time in small, medium and large venues to see which ones offer the best ROI. At least that’s my rough game plan. And only after I have more cash available and grow my volume will I be able to entertain vertical manufacturing.
Well, that’s it from me. Off to Portland tomorrow. Adios!