The last few months I’ve been working on launching my own Women’s Clothing Brand, By Egreis. I had planned on launching one for a few years, but once I started Itty Bitty Toes, I found it hard to find time to start the second company. Three years and three kids later, I found the courage to just DO IT. I am learning that there is no such thing as perfect timing. If you wait around for it, you’ll never end up doing it. Things come up all the time, every single day. You know…like my kids. None of them were planned (smh). But here we are, happier than ever, and I couldn’t imagine my life without them. Same goes for my work line too. Don’t know what life would be like without my company and all that we do everyday.
Starting a women’s line however, is so much different than the Children’s Couture Line. What I have this time around, that I didn’t three years ago, is experience and connections. I now have a team that can make shit happen. When I was working on launching Itty Bitty Toes, I knew absolutely nothing about e-commerce. I had dabbled with html code here and there, but not nearly enough to code my own website. So I had to figure it all out. Today I am well equipped. I have a graphic designer, Chung from Hong Kong on board, who has designed the entire site. I have Harry, our tech guy from India who codes it all and keeps my day to day site running. Then there’s my photographers Isabel and Colleen who can shoot all of my products on models and styled shoots. And Kendu, our videographer just joined the team full time to take it to the next level and truly show our customers how each product fits. So in terms of operations, we got it figured out. We’re ready. Where we are facing challenges is the production aspect of it.
With Itty Bitty Toes, every product is hand made. The process goes like this: we create mood/vision boards of inspirational images (colors/venues/anything to draw inspiration from), then we get to sketching, we finalize which styles make the cut for the collection, we make samples of each, try it on the children models we work with, then we narrow it down to the exact styles we end up loving, then BAM we shoot the collection. Tessie and Chinar work on the product descriptions, blog posts, press releases and all written content around it. Isabel and Colleen shoot it. Our graphic designer, Ricki from Australia designs all the emails/newsletters, and Harry puts it all on the site live.
With By Egreis, there’s Krystol and I who are responsible for coming up with all designs. Krystol has far more experience than I do in the technical aspect of designing. She sketches, she creates techpacks and she makes it come to life. Me? I just have a vision. I’m creative in my head and I work with her to bring it out of me because my drawing skills are LIMITED to say the least. But I’m working on it and getting better. I’m dwelling on By Egreis the same way as I did when I started Itty Bitty Toes. At first I was a one woman show. I did it all. Three years later I built a team that can handle it all, while I focus on the other brand. Don’t get me wrong…I’m VERY much involved in Itty Bitty Toes still (It will always be my baby). But I have allocated a lot of my time to the growth and expansion of the business, rather than the daily operations.
With By Egreis we’ve gotten around 70 designs created so far. My goal is to start with about 15 or so. When you’re a new company, unless you’re rolling in DOUGH, which I never think is wise (whether you have it or not) to just go all in in the beginning, it’s always best to start small so you can first learn what it is that you’re working with.
Due to my Instagram and overall social media following, I am fortunate and thankful that I have eyeballs on the company already: people that are looking forward to me launching and buying my product. It took years of me blogging and sharing my daily life to get women to learn who I am, what my style is like, and based on that they decide if they share a similar taste with me. But a lot of up and coming brands do not have that luxury. They have to truly start from ground zero and find a way to their customers’ eyes and appeal to them. So if you are new, start small. My goal is to get a feel for my audience – who my customers are, demographics, what the average size is, what the demand for each size is, what kind of styles of clothing they’re attracted to the most, and ultimate what sells in the end. The only way I can do that is by coming up with a decent variety of styles so I can run an analysis on it all and find out what worked and what didn’t work for them, after my launch. So my focus is more styles, low quantity.
Which brings me to my first real challenge in the business. Where am I going to find a manufacturer that can produce my designs, following my techpack, for low quantities? Most factories only work with brands that are “serious” – in their definition, serious as in buying thousands of each style. And I get it! Why would they invest all that time to perfect samples and make it exactly how we wish, when we are only buying a small quantity. So simply because my MOQ (minimum order quantity) is low, most factories are already not interested. They won’t even entertain the conversation. So then I have to hit them through another angle. I start talking to them about my own brand: Stiletto Me Up, so they can see that I have a following and therefore potential of truly selling. More sales, more orders for them. Something they want to see. Then I present to them Itty Bitty Toes and how that has grown the last three years. Seeing what we’ve done there, may make them see that this is something I do. I build a brand from scratch and turn it into something. Using this technique I’ve been able to grab the attention of some factories (though not all).
There are factories that work with low MOQ. But it comes with its own sets of challenges (Hey! Can’t win or have it all). The price is high to make each piece, which I figured anyway!
People often ask me if By Egreis will be affordable. Yes, that’s my goal. But let me get there. These brands that are affordable like H&M, Zara, Forever 21, Hot Miami Styles, Fashionova etc. are able to get those prices through large, and I mean MASS production numbers per each style. If enough of you support and order, then yes that price will go down because I’ll be able to make more, therefore driving the cost of manufacturing down per each piece. I am sharing this information to give insight to those who are not familiar with how fashion companies are built and what all it takes to create one. Perhaps next time you see a product on a shelf or online somewhere, depending on how big that brand is, maybe you’ll find new respect for them knowing what it takes to create a brand. It isn’t easy.
So 6 months later, I am still trying to figure out which manufacturing company to use for which styles. Most Fashion Brands have a plethora of factories they use. Not every factory can make every design well. Kind of like hair stylists for example. Some are really good at cutting hair, and some are really good at dying hair ombre style. We all excel at one particular thing the best. So same concept applies to manufacturers too. And since I plan on having multiple different styles, my goal is to find the right factories to produce for me the right style that they excel at. But in the beginning, I’m finding it hard to find manufacturers PERIOD. Let alone dissecting who’s going to be good at what.
So Krystol and I have been banging our heads on the wall for a few months now. We’ve made God knows how many samples with different factories. If you know anything about me, you know that I’m a perfectionist. It’s what makes me successful but it’s also my biggest downfall too. Because I am hardly pleased or satisfied with anything I put my hands on. I have to keep on trying and making it right. To the point where sometimes I fail to actually make the damn thing. But that’s something I am constantly working on and having a team around me who’s not as psycho and anal as me keeps me from overdoing it and actually releasing something. This is the only way Itty Bitty Toes has been able to release all of the products that we do have.
We are now on round 13 of samples, I kid you not. And every single sample costs an arm and a leg. But I’m not giving up. I need it to be right, and I need the price to be right too. That means I am going to have to eat all the costs because there is NO factory that will make it right and affordable. But my hope is that while I fund it all in the beginning and give you prices that are reasonable, my followers will love the product so much that they will keep buying and spreading the word, driving my sales up, and therefore my order number goes up with the factories, then prices go lower, and in the end the cost of the product on the website will be priced lower too. So EVERYONE WINS. But in order to get there, I have to lose first.
This brings us to the MAGIC SHOW. It came out of nowhere. Krystol and I were working with a factory in Australia and we were just really fired up to see their samples. It’s important to my whole team that the product is ethically made. So add that on to the list of challenges of finding factories that can produce low numbers, provide high quality, and make them in an ethical work environment. Recipe for FAILURE lol. Cuz it’s essentially impossible to find. But they do exist. My job is to FIND THEM!!!!!! So back to the whole samples thing…we were just really excited. We had been hyped up by the factory and they seemed to understand what we were looking for etc. We waited 3 months for the fucking samples to come. 3 months! But I was always told, good things take time. So it built the hype even more. Then the samples came. We waited all day for DHL to deliver them. We were like two little puppies about to get a yummy bone. And we opened it, with hands shaking from excitement.
LAWDDD! Do I need to say more?
Fucking disaster. I mean truly – the most hideous things we had ever seen. The fabric was wrong. Cut was wrong, style was wrong, sizing was wrong. ALL OF IT was wrong. And it crushed us. It killed me especially to see Krystol down because that was her hard work. She was excited to see her stuff come to life. And she moved from NY to Kansas City to make this dream of mine come true. We felt like we failed. And I realized then that this wasn’t time for me to lose hope or get down. It was time for me to boss up and lift her spirits up. So I got on the computer, researched up and down, and landed on the MAGIC TRADESHOW website. Booked us tickets right there and then and I told her WE GOT THIS!
I’m on a plane as a write this. Krystol’s first time to Vegas. We are pumped as fuck. We are going to meet people that know people and know people that can get us to the right factories. We are going to find the right partners to work with so we can make these designs come true.
The rest of my team is working on the little details of the business. My goal is to make it come to life. And I will make it happen. I owe it to the people around me, who show up to work every day, dolled up and with a smile; I owe it to my husband who’s been a mom and a dad to our kids all the late nights I’ve been at the office working or even when I travel; I owe it to my followers who have been patiently waiting and hyping By Egreis and me all the way up; I owe it to other young entrepreneur women who look at me for inspiration; I owe it to my children who rarely see me and miss me; and I owe it to myself. I work harder than anyone I have met before.
I am vlogging this entire trip to Las Vegas. I just launched my Youtube Channel! Show us some love and subscribe to keep up with us and what we are working on! All the vlogs will be available there: raw and real. Just like you like me!
And I will also keep blogging as I go. Times like these – when sitting on a plane, or at night when my kids are down, are the only times I get to write. I enjoy it a lot. But bear with me as a find time to do this more often. But I will certainly keep you updated.
Oh, and wish us LUCK!