March 31, 2009
Back to top
I just placed a sample zipper order this afternoon. This was the last item I needed to order for my samples to be constructed. It took a while for me to place an order because the zipper information gathering process was difficult. In fact, I am still a little confused, but I figured I should go ahead and get the samples moving while I sort out the rest of the zipper procurement.
Here are 2 reasons why zippers were confusing to me:
1) YKK and Riri use different nomenclature, and the zipper features are surprisingly different.
2) The codes the zipper companies use to identify their products should not be used in the outside world. For example, one of the standard size zipper samples I requested from YKK was identified with this code on the shipping receipt: 0027714 CNFC-56/6 DALHD N /DALHD N 5/8 HHB2. I had to use a key to decrypt their product descriptions. “A” stands for ”autolock”, did you know that? Well, you do now!
The zipper samples can’t come in the finish that I want (because of the high minimum order), so for my samples I am stuck with a zipper color that’s not my first color choice. I don’t think it will look bad, but I wish I didn’t have to compromise any of my design. I’m seeing more and more evidence that laptop bags are black and boring because those materials are cheaper and easier to get. Damn me and my non-conformity!
March 30, 2009
Back to top
I’ve looked through dozens of reputable fashion start-up and entrepreneur books that I’ve collected over the past few months, and none of them mention the dire need to establish business credit. There are several chapters about the importance of checking the credit of retailers, but there is ZERO mention about suppliers and vendors needing to check your own business credit. They also don’t mention that it can take several months to years to build your score.
Many of the suppliers I am working with have asked for a D-U-N-S number, which is a unique number issued by D&B that helps identify your organization, and it allows your vendors to check your credit worthiness. I found out that you can get a number from D&B issued for free, but to establish a credit file so other business can check your business credit is not free. The fee for this credit service is approx. $300. I asked the D&B sales rep how a business can establish business credit without having any business history, and he suggested that I look into the following businesses to open credit accounts:
- Office supply companies
- Home improvement companies
- Shipping companies
- Computer companies
- Fuel credit cards
- Cell phone bills
- Utility companies
- Printing companies
I thought I’d start out with something easy, like Staples (I was swayed by their “IT’S EASY!” marketing campaign). I filled out their credit application online, and once I submitted it, I received a message that Staples needed additional information. I called the number they gave me and the sales rep let me know that they couldn’t issue me any credit because I didn’t have any credit history. I asked if I’d be able to give her my social security number so she could check my absurdly high personal credit score, and she said “Sure, but you’ll need to fill out another credit form for a personal guarantee”. She asked for my fax number, and I replied by asking her if the form was available online, or it could be emailed, and she said no. I can’t believe I’ve found yet another vendor who only uses fax machines. And I can’t believe it’s Staples. IT’S EASY my ass!
I have a strong feeling that this credit problem may be worse than my zipper woes. Argh.
March 27, 2009
Back to top
I met with my graphic designer today and officially briefed him on my new branding needs. He had been involved with the whole re-naming process (his wife was my copywriter) and he told me that the name we landed on happened to be his favorite. My husband said the name was his favorite, too. I’m excited to see what logo designs and branding elements my graphic designer comes up with. It’s a darn shame I have to spend more money on the branding again, but I’ll be honest– I think the new name is much more compelling and interesting than “Jones Market”. Unfortunately my graphic designer will be out on vacation for 2 weeks starting Monday, so he won’t have anything to show me for at least 3 weeks. Once the logo design is approved I’ll work with the lawyer on the trademark application, and unveil the new name to y’all as soon as I can. I can’t wait to share it with everyone.
Today I was able to set up an appointment with the Portland-based Riri zipper sales rep for Tuesday. She’ll be in town to visit Nordstrom so she offered to meet me for lunch at the Nordstrom Cafe. What’s weird is I happen to have eaten at the Nordstrom cafe two times in the past week, and now the sales rep would like me to meet her there for lunch. I’m glad I’m not sick of that place. Last time I was there I got a delectable grilled cheese kid’s meal for 5 bucks. I guess I better not order that next time, the sales rep might find that a little unprofessional.
I’m going to start the weekend a little early. See you Monday!
March 26, 2009
Back to top
I had a very manageable to-do list today and I only got through 75% of it. The main holdup was that I didn’t mail the package of hardware to my manufacturers. I realized that I needed to take detailed inventory of each item I will be sending so I have no trouble re-ordering items for my first real production run.
I’m also working with some vendors to apply for lines of credit. I’ve never had trouble getting credit before. Ever. But I have no business credit history, and as such there is just some information that I don’t have yet because I am a brand-spankin’ new start-up company. Here is the information that these companies are requesting in the application that I don’t have:
- Numerous trade references
- Accounting firm information
- Past and present financial statements
- D & B number (I just applied for this today)
- Company controller information
- Accounts Payable contact information
- Purchasing contact information
I filled out the paperwork as well as I could, but there are a lot of blanks. I am not sure if not having this information means I’m automatically ruled out for a credit line. For most of my vendors I can get by with payment by credit cards, unfortunately one of my main vendors doesn’t accept them. I’ve offered to pay by check (numerous times), but they don’t seem open to this option. What, my money’s no good here?!
I kind of feel like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman (well, except that I am not a prostitute carrying around dirty cash): I have fistfuls of dollars and no one wants anything to do with me. I miss the days of greedy American capitalism.
March 25, 2009
Back to top
I received the last batch of hardware samples (the buckles, hooks, etc), so now I’ll mail these to the 2 manufacturers tomorrow. I’m very happy with the service of the hardware, leather, and foam companies: these sales reps are very efficient, and they really care about customer service. Despite some of the trouble I’ve had with zipper and fabric procurement, I’d say that everyone I’ve met has been knowledgable and helpful. I’ll even go so far to say that the worst person I’ve met in this business has been way more useful than some of the knuckleheads I worked with at Microsoft.
Speaking of Microsoft, I’ve had the chance to catch up with a few friends who work there and it sounds like the old group I was in may be facing some turbulent times ahead. I am so glad I don’t have to worry about oppressing corporate politics anymore. At least, not until I grow my own business into a giant, multinational corporation. But then politics won’t really matter to me because I plan to rule by tyranny.
Ok, I clearly need to log off my computer now. Goodbye!
March 24, 2009
Back to top
I met with my lawyer today and it looks like my top choice for new brand names is in the clear for trademarking! She did a preliminary search and found no issues with the new name. Woohoo! I have decided to not disclose the name yet until my trademark application is submitted. I’m a little paranoid that some weirdo could come across this blog and plot evil things to prevent me from registering my new name. Hopefully you, my dear blog reader, are not said weirdo.
I finally ordered closed cell foam for my sample bag padding (exciting, I know). Choosing padding for laptop cases is slightly complicated: the foam comes in different thickness and density, and many of the laptop bag manufacturers seem to use cheap and flimsy foam instead of something that is shock absorbent. Also, understanding foam costs is not as straightforward as it should be: some foam comes in flat sheets, others in rolls, and I actually had to do a lot of pre-algebra-level math conversions to get an accurate apples-to-apples cost comparison.
I’ve noticed that I get a bump in traffic every time I mention YKK, so here’s my gratuitous YKK mention: The YKK people are sending me sample YKK zippers and pulls so I can determine which kind of YKK zippers I would need for my bags. Thanks YKK!
I had a fantastic day today. Thank you lawyer, foam people, and YKK!
March 23, 2009
Back to top
So I’ve now had the opportunity to speak to sales reps at both YKK and Riri. Here are some pros and cons I’ve noticed about the 2 zipper companies:
- Price: YKK is much cheaper than Riri
- Quality: Both are high quality, but Riri metal zippers are not as rough to the touch. You could probably grate soft cheese on the YKK ones.
- Production: YKK has higher minimums than Riri, YKK does have some production domestically, not sure about Riri’s domestic presence
- Company structure: I had to throw this one in because of YKK’s Japanese heritage: I’ve worked for a Japanese company before, and it was really hard to get things done quickly. YKK brochures are direct translations from Japanese to English. The descriptions are very detailed, complicated, and very confusing.
- Zipper pull design: I prefer the aesthetics of Riri design more. They have more options that align to my bag designs
- Branding: YKK puts their name all over everything. Riri does a fair amount of branding, but they do have some zipper pulls without the Riri name plastered all over it
- Zipper selection: In addition to metal zippers, YKK offers nylon coil zippers, which are supposedly better for going around luggage corners. Riri only offers metal and plastic zippers, not optimal for luggage
For my nylon zippers I’ll likely go with YKK. To be honest, I’m still not sure which way to go for my metal zippers. YKK is cheaper, they can be a one-stop shop for all my zippers, but they have fewer zipper pull designs that would work with my bag design. Riri is really pricey (but high quality), they only offer metal zippers, and their pull designs are better.
I’m going to have to make a decision soon, likely by end of week. I can’t wait till this part is over. I hate zippers.
March 20, 2009
Back to top
While I’m waiting for my sample fabric and leather to be processed and delivered, I’ve tried to fill my spare time by reading business books. I just finished “How to Start a Business in Washington”, and pulled out useful nuggets of information that were pertinent to bag manufacturing. Below are some tidbits that any Washington fashion business owner should know:
Forms to fill out:
· Get EIN number
· Fill out Master Business Application (UBI# will be issued)
· Fill out city license with dept of revenue
· File federal trademark
Taxes to know about:
· B&O tax (Business and Occupancy Tax):
City of Seattle: go to mrsc.org/subjects/finance/b-otax.aspx
State of WA: dor.wa.gov/content/taxes/busoccupation
· Need to get certificate of registration from the WA dept of Revenue (must register firm as retail business that is authorized to collect sales tax)
If I decide to change my trade name, I’ll need to fill out all of these forms again.
In the trade publication Women’s Wear Daily, there was an ad placed by Henri Bendel for a designer open call. For those who aren’t familiar with that store, it’s where all of the cool kids on “Gossip Girl” shop. I’m hoping this is a sign that setting up appointments with buyers in the next few months will not be too difficult.
We have a guest staying over this weekend and I need to make room in my home office for a queen-size air mattress. And I don’t have much time to prep the room. This means I’ll have to wrap my arms around huge piles of remnant fabric, webbing, foam, zippers, and velcro and either move things to another location in the apartment, or sweep it all up into one huge-ass pile in the corner of the room. Option #2 it is!
Have a good weekend!
March 19, 2009
Back to top
After 6 months of working on my new business, I’d say that about 50% of my time is spent on project management, 25% on materials and competitive research, 15% doing something creative (branding, marketing, and designing) and 10% on relationship building. Once my business launches, I wonder whether this percentage breakdown will stay the same. I really hope that my time spent on project management doesn’t increase to more than 50% of my time. I’m pretty good at project management, but I didn’t leave Microsoft just so I can master Microsoft Project and Gantt chart development.
I knocked a few things off my to-do list today: I followed up with the fabric people to make sure the sample materials are being woven, I confirmed with the leather tannery that the sample leather would be shipped soon, and I emailed the list of potential company names to my attorney. She’s going to do a preliminary trademark search to see if any conflicts arise from any of the names. There is one brand name in particular that I really like, I just hope everything is clear from a legal perspective. Once I get the attorney’s feedback I’ll meet with her about whether I need to file a new trade name, or if I can still operate as Jones Market within the state of Washington.
I’ve also put together a dummy-proof checklist of all of the materials the manufacturers will be receiving. I am hoping this inventory list will make things easier for the manufacturers, and hopefully they won’t get confused when the bag components start arriving from various vendors.
It’s 5pm. Quittin’ time. See you tomorrow.
March 18, 2009
Back to top
I finally received my packages full of metal hardware samples, and I had fun rummaging through everything. I ordered a few styles of each piece just so I could get an idea of what aesthetic look I wanted. I discovered that I am much pickier than I thought. It’s really hard to tell from a 2-D catalog what these pieces will actually look like in 3-D. For example, some of the metal buckles were REALLY heavy (made of solid brass!) and others with a similar design made of steel were half the weight. I ordered a few more sample pieces today, and when I receive them next week and make my final hardware selection, I’ll be able to ship them to my manufacturer.
I also met with a YKK sales rep today, and he gave me a crash course on zipper terminology. He also gave me 3 comprehensive booklets about fasteners, sliders, and tape colors. Go ahead, quiz me! I dare you! After our lengthy meeting, I have a much better grasp of what zipper parts I need for my bags. The order minimums are really high with YKK, so I’m a little worried about that. But the sales rep seemed to think we could figure out a solution, so I’ll see what he can do for me when he gets back to the office.
Time to retire for the evening. See you tomorrow.
Next Page »