December 6, 2008
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Today I paid $90 for my 2009 WA State business license, which to me seems like a lot because I just paid for my 2008 licenses a few weeks ago. I also received a notice that I need to file my business taxes for 2008 by January 31, even though I didn’t make any money this year. Right now my bookkeeping consists of a manila envelope (labeled: receipts) and an unopened box of Quickbooks, which already has dust settling on it. Maybe I will wrap it up and put it in my husband’s stocking, with a note that says, “Just a friendly reminder from Santa to get your taxes done within 37 days! Ho Ho Ho!”
I also returned fabric swatches to some of the textile mills. I am not sure if this due to recycling programs or trade secrecy issues, but nearly all of the fabric distributors ask for their samples back. The notice enclosed in the last package said: PLEASE RETURN WITHIN 30 DAYS. ITEMS PAST DUE WILL BE BILLED TO YOUR ACCOUNT. Unfortunately this turnaround time does not allow me to send the samples to the manufacturers to see if they can sew this type of textile. Frightened by the notice, I returned some cool fabric today that I really liked. On Monday I plan to ask the sales rep if they can send me some small swatches I can actually keep. I may need to pay for it, but I think it would be worth having fabric I could test out (i.e. soak, tear, cut, set on fire, etc.). Fun!
And now the business week has come to an end. See you Monday!
December 4, 2008
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This morning I received several emails from a leather vendor in Florida who wrote in all caps. And his email was riddled with typos. Most people know by now that writing in all caps is rude (even my mom knows this, but she writes in caps because she is usually actually yelling at me in email). I may not do business with this leather vendor because of his email decorum. And his prices were worse than other vendors that don’t have an all caps problem with their email.
A few people have recently asked me what I do in my downtime. I won’t lie, there is plenty of downtime these days, especially since my vendors seem to go in slo-mo around the holiday season (you’d think they’d be working extra hard to get sales to meet their year-end deadline, but no). I occasionally to the gym, read trade publications, and take notes on the 5-6 books in my collection that give advice on starting a business in the fashion industry. It has become hard to reference the various books– they each have a million post-it tags, and have yellow highlighter on almost every other line. Taking notes in one place is helpful because the summary of information easier to access, and I have an easier time retaining information as I transcribe it. Unfortunately, this notetaking is very tedious. This might explain why I hated school so much.
My mom asked me if I was still confident about my business venture, and I assured her that I was still very positive about my bag business. Then I read an article in Women’s Wear Daily that discussed a “designer shakeout” in 2009. One pundit said, “I can’t imagine a young designer successfully starting his or her own business independently in this climate and finding money.” Yikes! I re-read that statement several times and then remembered that I still have enough capital to keep me afloat a while. If this recession means that my competition won’t be able to grow or sustain themselves, then the “designer shakeout” could mean that I have less competition to worry about next year.
AND NOW I WOUDL LIKE TO END MY BLOG POST WIHT ALL CAPS AND VARIUOS TYPOS.
December 3, 2008
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This morning I spoke with a fellow classmate from business school who manufactures leather handbags. I was referred to her by another classmate who said I should talk to her because she was a year ahead of me in terms of business planning and would be able to answer questions about leather sourcing and manufacturing.
Although she had a 1-year head start, I came to find out that she wasn’t that much ahead of me in the product development cycle! In fact, she hadn’t even developed her final prototypes yet. It sounds like she had some leather quality issues, and since her leathers came from Italy, the lead time was much longer than it would have been if she sourced here. She explained that she chose Italian leathers because people perceive that leather made in Italy is higher quality, and the Italian leathers came in more fashionable colors and textures, unlike leathers you would find in the US. She was also mainly interested in lambskin, which Italy is known for.
She warned me that production would take much longer than I would expect, and said that she made some costly mistakes that she hopes I will not repeat. She also cautioned me that a good deal on leather may mean it is almost out of stock, and if you choose a leather that eventually runs out of inventory, you have to pay astronomical costs and high minimums to run a new batch of leather. At the end of our call she provided me with some pretty good leather and hardware leads.
I <heart> supply leads.
It will be interesting to see if our businesses launch around the same time. I hope I don’t encounter the same problems she did. My fingers are crossed that I can still launch in Spring. Maybe I will cross my toes too.
December 2, 2008
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Today I went into a boutique to browse their merchandise and I overheard the store owner say to a customer who had just purchased holiday decorations that their margins were so low that they could barely pay rent. She literally begged the customer to tell their friends to shop at the store, saying that “a few more months like this and we’ll be out of business.” She went on to say that she could not compete against the large retail stores because they could afford to give deep discounts, and she couldn’t.
The poor customer didn’t know what to say.
This situation is sad, and very real. It has also made me think a little more about my own business’ distribution strategy. Some fashion books and local designers recommend that I start distributing in small boutiques, but now that the economy has turned really ugly, this risk seems much higher than what it used to be. Once the holiday season is over it will be interesting to see what retailers are left standing. Maybe then it will be a little easier to assess the feasibility of various online and storefront distribution channels.
Then again, at the rate that my fabric suppliers seem to be moving, I may not even begin production until 2015. And then who knows– the US may have already been bought and colonized by China by then.
December 1, 2008
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Happy belated Thanksgiving!
I finally received samples and swatches from many vendors, so no harm came to anyone (thank goodness). Right before Thanksgiving I spoke to another textile mill who is willing to weave to order. That makes 2 companies who have offered to build the fabric from scratch! One offers recycled polyester, the other offers organic cotton and bamboo. I have some great options– woohoo! I am happy that fabric procurement is working out well. Too bad this process takes so damn long.
One minor problem about the fabric procurement stage is finding room to store the boxes of samples. Right now I have a tall, leaning tower of fabric and leather squares that just need someone to mildly huff and puff to make it topple down. I knew space would be a concern once my manufacturing began, but I didn’t realize I’d have a space crunch so early.
I caught up on my industry reading today. As expected, the retail sector is nosediving, and companies are cutting costs left and right just to stay afloat. It seems that this situation could work to my advantage as companies are becoming more risk averse and only spending on necessities. Hopefully my competition will not have the luxury to experiment with ecofriendly fabrics and/or manufacturing in the US. And hopefully this means I can wedge my big foot in the slowly widening door.
Another interesting thing I’ve learned from reading the trade pubs is that the prices for cotton, wool, and polyester are way lower that they were a year ago. With fiber prices falling and demand lowering, it’s no wonder that these textiles mills are actually wanting to work with me.
I’m feeling pretty good about things. I think a lot of things are working out in my favor and I am happy about that.
Thanks for stopping by!
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