Since I last blogged about Launching a Fashion Brand, so much has happened. If you haven’t read my first diary entry, read it here.
I’m on a flight (again) so I decided to take this time and update you guys. A lot of the women that follow me are moms with children who relate to my day to day life, struggle, moments, milestones, etc. But a good portion of my followers are career driven women who are eager to get ahead in life and make something of themselves, who may not necessarily be moms yet. This diary series is for you (and of course to the moms who are entrepreneurial too).
Last time we spoke, I was on my way to the Magic show in Vegas. It was a quick 2-day trip. The first day of the show was called SOURCING and the second and third day was MAGIC show. It was my first time attending and it was such a last minute thing. A week prior to that we thought we had found the right factories to manufacture our clothes with, so it never crossed our mind to attend any shows or keep looking for more. But once the samples finally came in (that we had been working on for 6 months) they were absolutely horrible. I documented everything on my Youtube channel, including the Vegas Trip and my reaction to the samples we received. So we were back to ground zero immediately.
There’s no words to describe the anxiety I felt once I received these samples. Imagine spending 6 months on something you think is so close to getting done, only to find out that you now have to start from the beginning. It was disappointing, heartbreaking, and demoralizing to say the least. But I always joke with my husband and whomever is close to me that nothing I have in my life came easily. NOTHING. So this was no different. I had to put in the extra time and work to figure it out. This is what lead me to look for tradeshows to find factories to work with, so we found the Magic Show In Vegas. We consulted with one of their sales people, booked our tickets and we were on a flight within 7 days.
So first day was Sourcing. We go in, super excited, met some nice companies inside at different booths, got to see some of their work and quality, got some contacts etc. We were told that the next day, the Magic show was going to have a LOT more options and a lot more booths to walk around and talk to. But for a first day and first time being there, we found it productive. If not for anything else, it showed us kind of how the process goes.
The next day I had to fly to LA for a meeting, so I left Krystol, our By Egreis head designer, to attend the Magic Show. I figured out of all people she would be better than me at figuring this out. She has a fashion degree and knows what she’s doing. So I put it all in good hands. So 6 am, I fly to LA. As soon as I land, Krystol texts me with a “UMMMMM I can’t get in to magic.” So of course I’m like “What do you mean?” Turns out, the sales lady who booked everything for us, only got us booked for the Sourcing show – not the Magic Show. Our tickets didn’t qualify to get entrance to the Magic Show. So I told Krystol to call the lady and get it resolved. Of course, it’s the morning of the show so no one is answering. I asked her to try to get a ticket to get in, but now the prices had gone up to $2500 a ticket. $2500! WTF. So I told her screw it. Do not do it. It wasn’t meant to be. I believe in signs. Everything that happens around me is a sign. I told her to just head to the airport and go back to Kansas City, and just start communicating with the ones we had met at the Sourcing Show. At least we had some leads to start with.
In the meantime, in LA, after my meetings, I got online and started digging. I’m a professional stalker when it comes to online search. I can find the needle in the online hay. Swear to God. But it took practice (years of digging dirt on my exes when I could smell they were cheating lol. Oh the good ol’ young days. Thanking the Lord daily I have never ever had to ever look with my husband). So I’m here to tell you that you can literally find any resources you need ONLINE. But you have to put in the work. So if you are like me, looking for manufacturers, don’t just search “clothing manufacturers” on google. Get deep. Get creative. Search for long tail keywords instead. And when you look, don’t just look at page 1. That’s going to be the most general information: from pages with a lot of traction and traffic. But they’re not going to really give you any information. Dig deep. Search directories of factories. Figure out where you want to manufacture first (what country) then look inside FORUMS! Forums are the best place. This is where people like you and I share their experiences, they give information (youll be amazed at how much information people share. I know I always give it all out, but it was refreshing to see that there are others like me who are forth coming with information and willing to help others out so we can all make it). You can also participate in these forums, ask questions, get connected. A lot of these factories will have employees of theirs get active and respond to questions on these forums and they even list their contact information. Not going to lie, it took me a good 5 days of non stop searching to find what I needed. But I made a list of a good 10 factories. Reached out to all. And I sat back and watched as the responses came in.
When you reach out, or before you do, figure out what are the important questions you need answers to. For me it was:
- What’s your MOQ (minimum order quantity)
- Can you follow the techpack directly or do you just make it based on just a sketch
- What sizes can you make? (most of them only go up to L and for me it was extremely important to go all the way up to XXL)
- What’s your working environment like? Is it ethical?
- What is your quality like? Price point?
- How soon can you make a sample?
- How many orders are you capable of finishing in a month? What can you handle?
- What machinery do you have? (not every factory can make every piece of clothing. Sweaters for example require a specific machine. Or bandage products need a special one too)
- Do you speak good English? This sounds crazy but it’s actually very important. If they are not able to fully understand you, they wont be able to make the product exactly how you want it.
So when I drafted that first email, I made sure to enlist those questions. I also made sure to give a little bit of background on myself, and what I’ve done in the past (business wise. Duh). This is typically what I led the email with so that I could get their attention. Someone wise once told me that your subject and first two sentences of an email are the only chance you get to grab their attention.
Based on my questions alone, I think all factories I reached out to could see that I wasn’t so new to this anymore. I had experience having dealt with the other manufacturers. So I saw the silver lining in it all. Even though it didn’t work, I did learn A LOT! So I felt better equipped.
Out of the 10 factories, we ended up selecting 3 that we felt were great matches for us. We started submitting our designs, made samples, and ended up loving them. A few of the samples we had make revisions (1 or 2 rounds) but that’s ok. When you first start working with any factory, the beginning is always hard. It’s like dating. They are getting to know you and you are getting to know them. They are learning what your style is like, what your fit is like, what the body shape you are appealing to is like, how you want the clothes to fit, etc. So we have noticed that every new sample we make now, keeps getting better and better cuz they are finally understanding our vision and what look we are going for.
If you are wondering if the Magic show was worth it…well I can’t say. We weren’t able to get in. But the Sourcing show was great in my opinion. We ended up picking one factory out of the ones we met to work with. So now we have a total of 4 that we are working with simultaneously. We picked them based on their specialty. So now we know based on the product, the material and the style who to delegate that design to.
Once the samples were finished and we approved them, after all the revisions, it is time to submit the purchase order (PO). That’s another thing you will learn as you go through this….they have acronyms for everything. Fuck my life. I barely speak English now I gotta learn all of this. The PO order will list all the styles you want, the sizes you want for each, composition of fabric for each, price for each (the most important part) and typically it’s 50% deposit and then 50% when the order is completed.
The next step is figuring out the small details such as clothing label, care instruction label, fabric composition, size label, the placement of each, how many of each, the design of each. What you want to do is work with a graphic designer who designed your logo usually, to create all of this and you can then submit these files to the factory. What we ended up doing, to make it easier and keep it consistent, is that we made them all ourselves and then distributed them to each factory. This way the labels are the same for every single piece of clothing, no matter which factory made it.
After the order is made, deposit has been made, and the labels are sent, each factory makes a PPS (Pre production sample). I was confused at first. Why are we making YET another sample?! Jesus. Can we just move on to production? But here’s why. And it’s a huge important part of the process. The factories typically have a design/sample team and then the rest of the factory that mass produces. When we were making all of the samples, it was one particular team that made them. For the main order, it will be the factory that makes them, so different people. The PPS is a sample now made by the factory who will be the same people that are making the full order. So the PPS is made and sent to us to ensure that it is exactly like the other sample their design team made. This is a very important step. Because PPS is made by different people who made the sample you approved, you want to make sure that everything Is the same: the fabric, the cut, the sewing, the measurements etc.
Once the PPS are approved, you then mail these back to the factories and they then start making the rest of the order.
So we have now approved the PPS and have mailed them back. We are just waiting on the order to be all finished.
In the meantime, I have ordered our clothing hang tags, our packaging, etc so that we are fully ready to go live and fulfill all orders.
So three months later, tons of samples later, we have finally gotten it all done, and RIGHT! I can finally breathe. It has been 9 months now since we first started. Our followers have been so patient, bless their heart. But we want to do it right so I am hoping that they are able to see this when we launch.
The launch date is not set in stone yet, but I am shooting for December 7th 2018. Fingers crossed.
p.s. I get a lot of questions, emails, DMs from women wanting me to offer one on one guidance and help. I would honestly LOVE to be able to do that. But I truly can’t. I just don’t have enough time. But I do read them all and I take your questions into consideration as I write these blog posts so that hopefully I can assist all of you at the same time. Hugs.