April 30, 2009
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I received a note from a fabric vendor that there would be another delay in sending me fabric swatches. This company was my backup option: I loved his fabric patterns but was waiting to see if he could weave it on recycled polyester. Apparently they don’t have enough yarn in the colors that I want to make sample fabric, so we are waiting for the yarn to be dyed. Worst case scenario is I go ahead with the vendors I already have been working with, although I am more partial to the patterns from the fabric vendor who can’t seem to deliver anything on time.
I decided today that I will definitely be splitting my production into different workstreams. The bags will be produced together, and the sleeves and purse organizers will be produced with a local cut-and-sew operation. There may be a little more time and money that go into the nominal upfront fees and cut-and-sew setup. But the good news is I will be able to get the product samples made at the same time the bag samples are being constructed. September is when many of the media publications and bloggers start putting together their 2009 holiday shopping recommendations, so I want to get my product in-market by then.
The most exciting thing that happened to me today: I was able to customize my invoice and purchase order templates in Quickbooks. I was very pleased with myself. Yes, I am a nerd.
OK, time to power down. See you manana.
April 29, 2009
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I’m blogging a little earlier than usual because I wanted to do brain-numbing Quickbooks data entry later today, and I didn’t want to be too tired to blog afterward. Is it “afterward” or “afterwards”? Oh well. Anyway, I’m a little freaked out about my finances because my accountant informed me that Washington State has a 15.3% self-employment tax. Seriously? Why didn’t I know this before?! And to amplify my freaking out, I am also seeing that the costs of raw materials and production are higher than I thought they’d be, so I am going to need to reduce costs in other areas to help balance this out.
I’ll need to buy insurance soon, and I am choosing between State Farm and Safeco. These companies offered the least expensive plans. I had a few questions for the State Farm insurance people, so I called the sales rep and was put on hold by the receptionist. The “on-hold” music was the State Farm theme song, “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there!” I should have asked the receptionist whether their life insurance policies cover suicide because I was pretty close to slitting my wrists after about 5 minutes.
I got the black-and-white version of my logo yesterday and it looks great. On Friday the designer will be showing me color versions. I can’t wait till I submit everything to the US trademark office.
OK, off to do Quickbooks now. I know you are jealous.
April 28, 2009
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A lot’s been going on the last few days. This past Saturday I attended a costing and production class at Fashion Business Inc (FBI). The instructor was overly verbose, and asked annoying questions that you couldn’t possibly answer on the first guess, i.e. “What’s the most important thing to know about the design business?” (Answer: how to negotiate). WTF, what a waste of time. I’m not sure I got $90 worth of knowledge from this class. So far it seems that books have better ROI for me than classes, so I may stick with books unless more free seminars come along.
I met with a PR consultant this weekend who specializes in small businesses, and it seemed like his services could be really useful for my brand launch. He’s worked with other bag companies in the past so he knows a lot about the industry. I could actually learn a thing or two from this guy. He’s based in LA, so I am not sure if his rates would be higher than someone I’d find locally. If you have any PR leads, feel free to pass along the contact info!
I spent 3 hours with my accountant this afternoon, it was our first in-person meeting and since it counted as an initial consultation, she didn’t charge me for it! I am trying to ramp up on Quickbooks, and maybe it’s because I hated accounting in school and I have a mental block against debits and credits, but to me this software program isn’t terribly easy for me to grasp. It’s definitely going to take me a long time to input all of my business activity and expenses over the past few months. My future blog entries might be really boring, with updates like “I manually added a line item in accounts receivables today.”
My brain is a little fried from the accounting marathon, so I’m going to log off now. See you later!
April 24, 2009
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So far today I’ve gone to the gym, gone grocery shopping, and met a friend for lunch. I also ordered a Quickbooks guidebook and tried to sort out my expenses this year. I’m taking it pretty easy today because I know that I’ll be heading to the airport later today, and tomorrow I’ll be attending a fashion production class from 9am-3pm. A 9am class on a Saturday?! I must be frackin’ crazy.
One of my friends asked me to speak to her pal who is facing a trademark legal encounter similar to mine. I spent some time with him on the phone today and I gave him some “been there, done that” advice. I am finding that I really like sharing information with other small business owners. Maybe one day I could go into small business consulting when I’m done being a bag lady.
I’ll be looking at boutiques in LA on Monday, so I may not blog again until Tuesday when I am back in Seattle. I can’t wait till next Tuesday because I’ll get my finished logo from my graphic designer AND I’ll receive some new fabric designs from the place that screwed up my order last week.
Have a good weekend, and see you Tuesday!
April 23, 2009
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Last night I downloaded Quickbooks onto my computer and generated my first purchase order. It was actually pretty easy to do. I high fived my husband after I printed it. Then this morning after emailing my accountant I realized that would need to reconcile all of my expenses beginning this calendar year, and this would be much more complicated than creating a P.O. I haven’t been great at keeping detailed records, so I know I’ll be suffering for many, many days while I look through old receipts and invoices. It’s like I’ve been banished to one of Dante’s circles of hell, where the punishment is to fill out and submit expense reports for all of eternity.
On a positive note, I had a chance to review a second round of logo designs today and there is one that I REALLY like. I am pretty sure I’ll pick this one, but my graphic designer suggested that I sleep on it just in case. I’ll try to get the logo finished next week so my lawyer can submit the trademark application as soon as possible.
I think I’m going to end the day early again. Hasta manana.
April 22, 2009
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Remember the racist encounter I had at one of the sewing facilities in Seattle? Well, it looks like that sewing contractor will be closing their doors at the end of this month. The owner of the company sent a mass email to let everyone know that they would be closing their operations at the end of April, and then they’ll auction off their assets to pay their bills and pay the IRS. As awkward as that racist encounter was, I still feel bad for the owner and all of those seamstresses. I really hope my 2 manufacturers can stay afloat during this downturn. I think I might freak out if they both shutter their doors and I get an impersonal email telling me they are liquidating their assets. I hope I didn’t just jinx myself.
All of my time today was spent researching credit card payment web solutions. To enable a website to accept credit cards seems complicated. Here are some things that happen behind the scenes once you fill out the order form and type in your credit card details:
1) The site sends the credit card info to a payment gateway, which is a virtual gate between your site and a credit card processing site. It communicates information from the store to the CC company.
2) A payment processor ensures the card is valid and has enough credit to cover the purchase.
3) The processor sends the credit decision back to the gateway (approved or declined).
4) The gateway passes the approval decision to the shopping cart and finalizes the transaction.
5) The processor makes sure the money is sent to the bank.
So it seems that I’ll need to find a credit card merchant, a payment gateway provider, and a shopping cart application. I’ve gotten a few referrals from other small business owners. If you have any recommendations, I’d love to hear them.
My head is spinning from credit card processing research. Time to shut down and start anew tomorrow. Bye!
April 21, 2009
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I had a reasonably productive day today. I modified one of my bag designs, and decided today that I would use my downtime to work on researching business services: e.g. shopping carts, credit card merchant services, and shipping and postage vendors. A surprisingly helpful resource has been the “Starting an Online Business for Dummies” book, which has been very embarrassing to read in public places because it’s so yellow and enormous. Overall the book is very informative, and they include vendor referrals within most of the key sections, so you can kickstart your research by looking into these recommended companies first.
I received some fabric samples I had been waiting on for a while. The pattern was something I had gotten really excited about, and this fabric mill I just started working with had left me with the impression that they could easily weave this design using recycled polyester yarn. Sadly, the fabric didn’t turn out as nice as I had hoped. I’m not giving up yet though, I am speaking with the sales rep tomorrow, and I hope there are other design options for me.
I’m also checking out an accountant referral tomorrow. I think it’s time to get some professional advice before I start ordering huge volumes of raw materials. Wish me luck.
April 20, 2009
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So the zipper procurement is what is holding up my samplemaking, and YKK let me know today that the zippers will not be ready until the week of May 11. So it won’t be until mid-May that my manufacturers can even get started on making the samples. I’m a little bummed about how long everything is taking but at least this sample material procurement process has shown where the bottlenecks are with pre-production, and I’ll be able to better plan for the next production run. On the bright side it looks like my zippers will be made in Canada (yay Canucks!) and not from a place far away like Japan or Switzerland, so my lead time for zippers will be only about a month.
I went to Best Buy today and measured about 25 laptops. Seven different sales reps came by to ask me if I needed help. I guess when a crazy woman walks around with a hot pink tape measurer and spiral notebook in the computer section, people notice.
It seems like the laptop screen sizes are not as standardized as they used to be. This will make my laptop sleeve development a little tricky. I also measured a bunch of netbooks and I think there may be a good opportunity to create a sleeve for those too.
It’s a beautiful day outside, so I’m going to call it quits a little early today. Adios!
April 17, 2009
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I received a shipment of lining fabric for my samples today. Although the quantity of fabric wasn’t that much, they shipped the material on a dense cardboard roll that was 7 foot tall. I’m not sure why they wouldn’t just fold it up and mail it in a normal sized box instead of shipping this monstrosity that surely pissed off the UPS guy. I’m glad they sent it UPS ground instead of overnight. No telling how much that sucker would have cost me if they sent it high priority.
I’ll be heading to LA next weekend for a quick visit, and instead of taking it easy and soaking in the sunshine, I signed up for an all-day weekend fashion production workshop. They don’t offer classes like these in Seattle, so I figured I’d jump on this opportunity while I happen to be in town. I don’t mind working on the weekends as long as I am doing something I enjoy. So I really hope I enjoy “Cost Sheets and Production Processes.”
The sun is out and beckoning me to go outside, so I’m ending the day early. Have a great weekend!
April 16, 2009
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This will be a relatively short blog entry because my day was cut short b/c of a doctor’s visit and party planning for my husband’s birthday.
Right now there is a little downtime while the sample materials are being delivered, so I’ve been re-reading some of the fashion design books that I first picked up over 7 months ago. Here are the books I’d recommend reviewing if you want to do anything in the design business:
- “Fashion for Profit” by Frances Harder
- ”The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Sewn Product Manufacturing” by Kathleen Fasanella (out of print so you need to buy directly from the author) **ADDENDUM 9/1/09: Kathleen’s book is NOT out of print, but you do need to buy directly from the author
- “How to Open & Operate a Financially Successful Fashion Design Business” by Janet Engle
- The Fashion Designer Survival Guide” by Mary Gehlhar
When I first read these books I thought the book by Gehlhar was the most useful because it gave you a pretty broad overview of the business, but now that I am re-reading everything, I’d say the Fasanella and Harder books are more useful because the books are more specific and cover practical material with “real world” scenarios. Sadly, there are no Cliff’s Notes for any of this reading material. I would’ve been all over that.
Tomorrow I’m visiting Best Buy and an Apple Store so I can measure some laptops. I hope I don’t draw too much attention when I bust out my hot pink tape measurer and lame-ass notebook.
Going to bed now. Sorry about the boring, late blog entry!
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