June 30, 2009
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I started out the morning with a 2-hour golf lesson (an indulgence, I know…but it’s my new hobby!), then briefly joined the working class world: two back-to-back agency conference calls while scarfing down lunch. Afterwards I walked a mile-and-a-half to the body shop where I got my husband’s car’s bumper repaired, and then drove that car to Whitecenter to meet with a potential manufacturer.
When I first looked into manufacturers for my bags, I classified them into 2 main camps: 1) people who can make leather handbags, and 2) people who can make luggage. I met someone today who falls into a new 3rd camp: people who know how to make really good laptop bags. The guy I met this afternoon can crank out laptop bags like nobody’s business. He and his wife have a 6-person shop, and that is perfect for the size of my company. He had a whole wall full of samples he’s made for other well-known laptop bag companies. I don’t know why– maybe it’s my charm, strapping good looks, or just simply because I’m a fellow Asian– but I seem to hit it off really well with him. Even though he’s not as experienced with using the type of leather I want, he said he’d give it a try and see if he can make a sample bag. If he can, and I do my production with him, then that means I can do all of my manufacturing in Seattle! And that would be 110% awesome.
I’m feeling pretty good right now, so I think I’ll log off and enjoy this lovely evening. Thanks for stopping by!
June 29, 2009
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I’ll start by apologizing for not blogging on Friday. My parents were in town, a surprisingly good distraction from all of my manufacturing woes.
The good news is that I’m done sulking now, and have started following up on several manufacturing leads, many of which are on the east coast. Two of the places admitted that their business was slow and they’d be willing to take on new customers even if they don’t meet the minimum quantities they are used to. I am happy that things are getting back on track, and luckily I didn’t get too discouraged. I just hope that I can still make an October launch date.
I was just about to jump for joy about ending my contracting job tomorrow, and then my team let me know that they wanted to extend my contract. At first I was thinking “Uh, hell no!”, but then I realized that I actually had some room to negotiate. The truth is I’d love to have extra money for the sample do-overs, and there’s also that pesky lack-of-air-conditioning problem in my apartment. I told my team that I could work 15 hours a week for one more month, and they agreed to this.
My husband and I discussed the mysterious call I got last week, and now I think it might have been Jones Apparel checking on me. I think this because he made a reference to “cosmetic and travel bags” which was listed in my original trademark application, and nowhere else. So if you’re reading this Jones Apparel, I’m on to you. No hard feelings though. Please buy my bags in the fall.
June 25, 2009
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I am still reeling from today’s events. I spoke to the TN manufacturer today, and after we talked on the phone for an hour about the changes to the bag, he informed me that he had no bandwidth at his factory, and the type of sewing work that was needed to construct the bags was outside of his comfort zone and he recommended that I find another manufacturer. I was pretty shocked, especially since he had already made the sample and we’d spent so much time discussing the bag alterations in great detail. I couldn’t believe it. I’m actually still in shock.
I spent a huge chunk of the day calling up old manufacturing leads and emailing experienced people who had helped me out along my journey. Tomorrow morning I’ll be following up on a few new leads. The crummy thing is that I will need to start over again with the sample making process. Another problem is that I have fabric and leather that will be delivered mid to late July so I need to get the manufacturer finalized soon otherwise they’ll be sending all of these materials to my teeny tiny apartment. I’m also worried that this will push out my launch date to November.
Remember when I though the trademark debacle was my biggest setback? Well, this manufacturing dilemma sure does dwarf that! It is pretty hard to stay optimistic when I keep hitting these manufacturing obstacles. Things would be so much easier if I just made my bags overseas.
I’m pretty determined, so I have no doubt I’ll get through this. It might be 10 years before these bags hit the market, but they’ll get there.
P.S. I think the guy who called me yesterday put a hex on me.
June 24, 2009
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Maybe to counterbalance the great day I had yesterday, God made this day as weird as possible. First of all I started the day with a phone call from the manufacturer in California letting me know his business has been hit hard from the economy and he was closing down his business. I know I shouldn’t be too shocked seeing as how I already had one local contract sewing company fold right before my very eyes. I guess I was surprised that I made a good business call to have the samples made in CA and in TN. I guess the TN guy will be the manufacturer of my bags by default.
Then in the afternoon I got a call marked “private” and thought it might be my doctor. Instead, it was a guy with a thick east coast accent asking me if he could order cosmetic bags. His story was that a friend of his cousin had heard about my business and thought he should contact me. First of all, I have no idea how he got my number. Sure, I’ve given out my business cards to a ton of people, but none of these people were sales leads. Second, he kept asking me a lot of questions about Jones Market. He seemed very interested in the company name and website. What’s odd is he didn’t seem to care much about the brand name Plaid Doctrine. Since this was a random, somewhat fishy cold call, I was careful not to disclose any information that wasn’t already in my blog.
Mystery caller, if you are reading this, my bags should be ready in October. Please tell your friends to buy my bags, especially your “cousin”.
June 23, 2009
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I came home a little early from my Microsoft contracting gig (only 30 more hours left!) and lo and behold, I had a package sent from the TN manufacturer. When I saw the box my heart sank: I thought it looked too small to be my prototype. Then when I lifted the package I thought for sure it wasn’t the bag because the box was too light.
I tore it open, removed the crumpled paper, and then I saw my prototype nestled snuggly in the box. I lifted it up and couldn’t believe how light it was. I thought that maybe some parts might be missing so I checked the inside and outside for missing components. Everything seemed to be in place. Then it hit me…OMG this is it! This is my first real prototype! Over the last few hours I’ve been throwing water on the bag, tugging on the handles, and yanking the zipper pulls. When my husband came home I put his gargantuan 17″ laptop in the computer compartment and was surprised it fit. All in all I am really happy with the prototype. There are a handful of issues with the construction (one of which is a dealbreaker), but I think the problems are all fixable.
I keep staring at the bag. I can’t help it. It’s not a vain thing, it’s more that this is tangible proof that for the last 9 months I was actually doing something real. I imagine this is kind of what being a new mom feels like: 9 months of waiting and then holy crap! This thing is mine!
OK, I need to wind down after a very exciting evening. See you tomorrow!
June 22, 2009
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I found out today that the little old lady making my purse organizers is not done with my sample yet. Grrr. I gave her a full 2 weeks to deliver. I keep getting reassured that she’s one of the best contract seamstresses in town so I’ve been pretty patient so far. If she can’t get the sample done by end of week though, the gloves come off. A couple of bitchslaps should do the trick.
I also got an email from one of the textile sales reps letting me know that some of my fabric is ready. Holy crap! I haven’t picked my final manufacturers, and therefore I have no shipment addresses yet. I asked her if I could wait until the end of the week to get back to her with the address, and she said her company was taking a “summer break” for 3 weeks starting Friday, and they would resume operations mid-July. She said I could get back to her then. Phew! That should give me enough time to finalize my production details.
And now some good news. I have less than 40 hours left with my contracting job. Hooray! I can’t wait to get back to the bag thing full-time. I’ve been letting deadlines slip and have been terrible about keeping up with finances on Quickbooks. I sent my graphic designer some hangtag copy over the weekend riddled with spelling mistakes. I’m a hot mess, and I need to get focused again. The cash infusion will be nice, but I’ve learned now that taking a second job less than 4 months before launch is not a good idea.
Now I know. And as a wise miltary man once said, “Knowing is half the battle.”
June 19, 2009
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Sadly, I came to the realization today that I am neglecting my business and I’ll need to work over the weekend. I also need a haircut but that will have to wait. I have hangtag copy to review, packages to mail, and materials to order. Luckily I frontloaded the number of hours for Microsoft so now till the end of June I can work fewer hours for the contract job each day.
I can’t wait to get the prototype in the mail next week. A few people have asked if they can see the prototype, and I’ll be honest and say that it’s not good enough for public viewing. I think it’s true what everyone is telling me, it takes about 3-4 tries before you get a sample you’re happy with. Trust me, the minute the prototype is ready for public viewing you all will be alerted right away. I *just* opened a twitter account as an experiment– @plaiddoctrine. The first follower I got (within 1 minute of opening the account) was a porn spam account. Maybe I’ll create a spinoff brand called Porn Doctrine.
Have a great weekend!
June 17, 2009
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I’m 1-week into my 3-week contracting gig at Microsoft. I spent half the day trying to log into the Microsoft network. MS help desk sent me a temporary login password that apparently did not work (how temporary was it?!). I thought this might be a network access problem, and the network access technician told me that the password should work on a network-enabled computer and suggested that I try out a MS public terminal in the library.
I was able to finally log in to my email account on the library terminal, but I received an error message that said to speak to my building’s tech support. I went to the tech support office, and after about 45 minutes they said that this was all a new account problem, and I would need to speak to the MS help desk again. Once I finally got through to the help desk (after being put on hold due to a large volume of calls), the help desk guy said they would escalate my service request, and I would get a series of emails to let me know my status. When I reminded him that I couldn’t get access to email, and that was the very reason I needed help from the help desk in the first place, he said, “Yes, well unfortunately this system is automated and we are unable to send any emails to an non-Microsoft account.”
Please shoot me now.
At least I get paid by the hour to deal with this nonsense. Then I go back to being a bag lady. Hallelujah!
June 16, 2009
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One of the biggest challenges that my manufacturer had with making the prototype was that the leather hide I sent him had many parts that were unusable because they were too soft and supple. The problem was that the leather would stretch a lot when he tried to sew it onto the bag. I spoke to the leather supplier and she let me know that if I order 35 hides, then she could dry mill the batch of leather for less time, which would make the leather more firm. If the leather can still be waterproof and crock-resistant, then I might go ahead and place this larger order, and just store any leftover material for the next production run. 35 hides? That’s 35 cows. That’s crazy!
The Microsoft short-term contract job I took is moderately stressful–I even worked over the weekend! I’m feeling a little ancy about not being fully engaged on my business. I already have a few UPS slips piling up on my mailbox. Luckily it’s only for a short time, and once I’m done with the contract work I can focus on my v2 prototypes (yahoo!), and life will be back to normal.
Another long day. Time to wind down and then hit the sack.
June 15, 2009
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As usual, I began the day by checking my email, and surprise! The manufacturer in TN sent me pictures of the prototype he just completed. What’s interesting is his artistic interpretation of the bag was actually much different from the other prototype design from the California manufacturer. Lookswise, the TN one was much better. I had a chance to chat with the TN guy and he told me that there were a few challenges with my bag construction. I am now contemplating getting rid of the “checkpoint-friendly” feature of the bag, because to do this construction properly I would add a great deal of width to the bag, and I don’t want my bags to be too thick and clunky. But I don’t want to be too hasty, I’m going to wait till I see both samples in front of me before I make that call.
I’ve spent about 32.75 hours contracting for Microsoft so far (but hey, who’s counting?). It’s so crazy that just as my projects at Microsoft are heating up that my business is hitting some major milestones. But I keep looking at the bright side, I can use some of the cash to perfect the samples!
I’m pooped. See you tomorrow.
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