March 31, 2010
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It’s been a while since I’ve been so busy that I’ve lost track of time, but today was one of those days. I’ve made a lot of progress on some things and I am hoping that this positive momentum continues until launch!
PURSE ORGANIZERS: The purse organizers will be finished on Monday, and I will need to pick them up on Tuesday! So I will definitely have these purse organizers in time for launch.
NETBOOK SLEEVES: The sleeves fit a laptop that has a 10-11″ screen, in case you’re shopping for an eco-friendly laptop sleeve As soon as the purse organizers are done, I’ll get this pre-production sample made and then we’ll be ready for manufacturing. These might actually make the launch date too.
LAPTOP BAGS: I went into today’s status meeting with an incentive scheme. I told the manufacturer that if he can meet the ship date I would give him a small bonus. And as predicted, he really responded well to this dangling carrot. I want these bags in my hands as soon as possible, and rather than trying the same thing over and over with this guy, with no results, I decided to mix things up by incentivizing him. If this works I’ll definitely let you know!
WEBSITE: Lately there seems to have been a lot of miscommunication or confusion about the changes to the website, and the last few days have been pretty frustrating. I won’t go into detail about the problems we’ve had, but let’s just say that all of the arguments I’ve had with web designers in the past (i.e. the classic debate of pretty pictures vs. website functionality and SEO) when I worked at Microsoft have resurfaced again, and it wasn’t really that pleasant. Luckily I got some things cleared up today with the development team, so I think we’re over the hump and can get this site up and running soon.
I’m feeling pretty good about the countdown to launch. Let’s just hope that nothing crazy happens in the next couple of weeks (knock on wood!)
March 29, 2010
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So I’ve decided to set a concrete date for launch: April 22, aka Earth Day. It’s a realistic goal, and it’s far out enough for me to finish the website and get more inventory in my possession. There is a possibility that there will be a backorder on the tote bags, but I think setting a launch date will help me focus my efforts and steer my vendors toward delivering within a realistic time frame.
I’ll be picking up the purse organizers this week, and then I’ll get started on the netbook sleeve production. I also have a lower-end messenger bag design that the sample maker is working on now. Unfortunately it will take a while before this can go into production because the domestic mills that I order fabric from take 2-3 months to turn around an order. A few people have asked me whether I’d be designing diaper bags and ipad sleeves in the near future– I don’t think I’ll get to working on any new designs before the baby pops out, but I do have some ideas swimming in my head that I can’t wait to work on when I come back from maternity hiatus.
My bookkeeper is coming over tomorrow so we can discuss Quickbooks features, such as invoice and sales receipt generation, and logging in revenue. I’m actually pretty excited about this because I am just getting closer and closer until my line of bags and accessories debut to the public. Let’s hope I can get all of the backend stuff sorted out before then!
April 22. Earth Day. Save the date!
March 25, 2010
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I’ve had a few people tell me lately that they’ve been feeling a lot of angst from reading the last few weeks of entries in my blog. I haven’t hidden the fact that this process has been very stressful at times, but I hope that other fashion designers or others interested in learning more about the behind-the-scenes of entrepreneurship are learning from my experiences the last 18 months. I hope I’m not causing anyone to chug Mylanta while they read my blog!
So in an effort to ease the angst today, I will instead share with you a headline ripped from Women’s Wear Daily newspaper this week (WWD is the fashion industry’s top trade publication):
PLAID GIRL: “New York– Plaid was everywhere for fall. The runways were filled with all manner of plaids, from blanket coats to miniskirts and everything in between…”
So it’s all good news for me…assuming I can get my bags launched before fall, it looks like I’ll still be very much on-trend this upcoming fall season. I am very happy about this!
I am probably going to take Friday off, so if you don’t hear from me tomorrow, have a great weekend!
March 24, 2010
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I have a status meeting with my manufacturer every week, and today he let me know that his cutting machines had broken down last week, coincidentally right after last week’s status meeting. This meant that my bag pieces didn’t get cut as planned. I completely understand that machinery can go haywire and those things can be out of someone’s control, but when I asked him, “But why didn’t you just let me know earlier?”, he couldn’t give me a good answer. It’s pretty evident that the stars are not aligned with the manufacturer and myself, and it’s almost laughable how many things keep going wrong. Luckily the machines are working again now because he fixed it today with some parts he ordered from Italy. I’m really hoping I’m in the home stretch now.
As you can probably guess by now, my shipment has been delayed again due to the machinery mishap. At least this delay is somewhat explainable. Given that these bags are not likely to get to be until April, I’ll probably not be able to launch until mid-April. By then I will definitely have the purse organizers manufactured, and I may even have some laptop sleeves too. So in trying to see the silver lining in all of this, at least I will have more variety in products for launch.
As I mentioned before, my manufacturer is operationally-challenged. I sent him a swatchbook of the recycled nylon fabric options 2 weeks ago, which included a checklist of all of the fabrics. I asked him to look through the swatches and check-off the fabric options on the list that could work for the bag lining, and then mail the swatchbook and the list back to me. I received the swatchbook today, and there were no markings on the list. He said he lost the notes he had written down that indicated which were his top fabric preferences. So now I have to mail the swatchbook back to him. Seriously? At a minimum, there will have been a total of 2 weeks lost on the fabric order because of this mistake!
I’m trying to take all of this in stride and not get too stressed out. If the bag shipment creeps into late April, I’m probably just going to have a “soft launch” where I sell bags without a huge PR push. I do have a small inventory available for pre-sale if any of you are desperate for a laptop bag Unfortunately it’s not enough inventory to actually go widely public.
Time to wind down. Have a good night!
March 22, 2010
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Well, it looks like my purse organizers may actually be shipped to me before the briefcases and totebags are delivered! Who wudda thunk?
The sewing contractor called me this morning to let me know the pre-production sample was ready for review, so in the afternoon I headed down to Tukwila to see the finished product. There was a clone of the purse organizer sitting next to the original on the sewing contractor’s desk when I arrived. As I got a closer look I could see that he ripped apart the insides of the original purse organizer sample to see how it was put together. So sadly, my original purse organizer is now disembowled. Luckily the new one looks just like the older one!
There was only one minor change, but it was an easy fix. I asked him when the purse organizer shipment would be ready, and he said early next week! I’m glad that these purse organizers will be ready for launch, which will hopefully be in 2 weeks.
I thought I’d end on a high note this evening. Good night!
March 18, 2010
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My manufacturer received the leather today. Hooray! Production should get back on track next week. You know, I actually think that the purse organizers might get finished before the laptop bags now. Sad.
My website developer went MIA this week, so all of the steady progress we had made came to a halt. I finally got in touch with him and he said he got sidetracked by other projects. Ugh, the story of my life! Now I am back on his radar, and he’ll be working on the next round of changes. My web designer is away until next Wednesday, so I am hoping that these changes are implemented soon so we can wrap up the website stuff within 2 weeks.
Between the website delays and the production fiascos, I feel like I’m playing the “red light, green light” game. Except someone else keeps calling “red light!” all of the time. Green light, damn it, GREEN LIGHT!
I’ve managed to find lower-cost vendors for my vegetable-tanned leather, lining fabric, and my metal hardware, which is great! These other suppliers are high-quality too. I’ll have to brush up on my negotiation skills to see if my current vendors would be willing to drop their prices, otherwise I might go with my back-up suppliers. Unfortunately, although I’ve managed to find some potential cost-savings in some areas, I am still looking for a good manufacturer who can make bags at a competitive cost. If I end up dropping my current manufacturer (or he drops me), I may have to count on lowering my materials costs just to offset prices of other high-quality manufacturers who are a bit more expensive. In the end the cost savings may be a wash.
Time to shut down. See you tomorrow.
March 16, 2010
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I had 2 key conversations with my 2 manufacturers today.
BAG MANUFACTURER: Given that the leather shipment will arrive to my manufacturer in 2 batches– one tomorrow and one in a week– we will need to add another week to the production schedule. I’ve tried not to get stressed out by this situation, per my doctor’s orders, so I will use that extra week to work on perfecting my website and outbound marketing plan. This probably means an early April launch, which is unfortunate but not the end of the world.
PURSE ORGANIZER MANUFACTURER: Had a face-to-face meeting with the contract sewing guy today, and he now has all the parts for the purse organizer. He’s going to work on the sample this week and should have it ready for me early next week. If all goes well, we’ll get started on production within 2 weeks. It looks like these purse organizers will be ready for the new launch date!
But my highlight of the day was this: I received a really nice email from my friend who bought my first bag. Here’s what she said as she headed to Europe…
“Great job in designing it to this level of detail It’s become my mini-suitcase: I’ve managed to put in my big camera, an extra-large telephoto lens, my chargers for phone and laptop, my jewelry, my paperwork, my laptop, and now the best – chocolates and other snacks too :) It still feels very light and totally easy to take through several security checks.”
It’s so wonderful to hear this feedback. She’s going to send me pictures from the road of the bag traveling around Europe!
I had a ton of back-to-back meetings and calls today with manufacturers and sales reps, so I think I’ll wind down a little early.
Thanks for reading!
March 15, 2010
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This was the first work day under the “no physical activity” rule, so I tried to fill my day with lots of “sit on my a$$” administrative activities. I spent nearly half of the day trying to download Office 2007 (which had some problems), Quickbooks, and Adobe Photoshop on my downgraded laptop. I’m bummed that my Vaio didn’t play well with Windows7– I think my machine was built with only Vista in mind. I got the bluescreen of death about every 3 days after I upgraded my PC, so I decided I’d rather deal with Vista’s slowness than work on a faster computer that crashed at random times. It’s pretty funny that I did some consulting for the Windows Marketing communications team this summer on the Windows 7 “Windows 7 was my idea” advertising campaign, and I couldn’t even get Windows7 to work on my machine.
I had a courier pick up 5 humungous rolls of fabric today to deliver to Tukwila. The courier ended up costing a lot less than FedEx ground, and I had same day pick-up and drop-off. I’m meeting with the sewing contractor tomorrow morning– hopefully we can get these purse organizers started right away so I can have some of them ready for launch.
And here’s my favorite bit of news: I sold my first bag this weekend! A former co-worker friend was headed to Europe for 7 weeks and would miss the launch, so she asked if she could order a bag early. At the suggestion of another friend of mine, with her payment I asked that she sign a 1 dollar bill so I could eventually frame it :) Being German, my very first customer was a little confused by this request, and probably thinks I am mentally unstable.
Thanks for tuning in– have a great night.
March 12, 2010
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Things were looking up today:
- A huge batch of leather got sent to my manufacturer this afternoon, so hopefully production will continue as planned
- The website is making good progress– there are some back-end kinks that require some tinkering, and there are some layout changes, but so far the website looks pretty good
- I scheduled a meeting with the contract sewing manager in Tukwila on Tuesday, and I now have all materials and patterns for the purse organizer. I can also get started on a netbook sleeve production soon!
- I have a friend who is headed to Europe for a month and she really wanted to be an early customer of the laptop briefcases. She is stopping by on Sunday to purchase one. She will be my first customer!
So just as I thought things were going swimmingly this week, I found out from my obstetrician today that I have a developed a medical condition during my pregnancy that will require me to significantly restrict my physical activities. I can basically work on my computer but I need to stay off my feet. I am also not allowed to exercise (which is good news, I think). He specifically said I couldn’t move or lift any boxes– which will be a problem when it comes to receiving and sending shipments. I’m still trying to figure out if there’s a way I can launch my business in a few weeks without lifting a finger. Maybe I’ll get some starving students to help me with the shipments. I’m sure I’ll figure something out.
Well, this week ended on a surprising note…I didn’t think anything could top the manufacturer’s drama, but this late breaking news sure is a doozy. I’ll manage through it though. Onward ho.
March 10, 2010
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I use FedEx for my everyday shipping needs, which was why I was really surprised to get an invoice from UPS for $188.68. I had signed up for a UPS account a few weeks ago, but I hadn’t yet shipped anything using that account number. So I called UPS to find out if anyone had hijacked my account information and made fradulent shipments using my good name.
It turns out that they sent me a bill for a company in Spokane WA that had an account number ending in “W”, whereas my account number ended in “V”. I am still not sure how they keyed in my address on another account number. In any case, it took over 15 minutes to sort out because the customer service guy couldn’t wrap his head around how I wasn’t located in Spokane WA. That’s 15 minutes of my life I won’t be able to ever get back!
I’ve been spending a lot of my time the last few days working on the website: reviewing photography images, revising copy, and working out kinks in the usability. I am hoping to get everything cleaned up within a few days so I can have some people test out the site next week. As frustrating as the web reviews can be at times, I enjoy working on this aspect of marketing.
And finally some good news to end the day: the shipment for the purse organizer missing parts has been sent to my contract sewing vendor in Tukwila! So I will meet with the production supervisor at the sewing facility on Tuesday and hopefully I’ll get these purse organizers started. Who knows, they might actually make the launch timeframe!
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