I received an email today from a sweet lady by the name of Kristina, who referred to herself as a "mompreneur wannabe". I chuckled to myself as I read her email, knowing that we all start at the "wannabe" stage at some point, but today, Kristina, I am giving you a new title..."mompreneur in-the-making"! I completely understand where she is coming from and her fun sense of humor, but I don't warmly recall the feeling of being a "wannabe" in the beginning. None of us really like being the freshman, especially coming into an industry that can be a bit old-school. I recall early on, getting unsolicited advice from "experts" in the industry, and darn it, if they weren't wrong on almost every piece of advice I decided to follow!! I specifically recall a Buyer reviewing my first sample line giving me all of her input on what people would buy, what they would "hate", and what would be my best sellers. The fabric that I was considering cancelling from the line, of course, she said would be the number #1. It become a joke in the "office" when that was the absolute worst selling fabric print from the first season! It was then that I vowed to followed my gut, to run this company using my best sense of right and my gut creativity.
This is much easier said than done, not only when you are the "freshman", but even three years in. People often told me that doing business this way won't work in this traditional world of apparel sales. DON'T LISTEN!! Do your research, be sure you have something to base your decisions on, then stick to what you know is right. Sometimes you'll succeed, sometimes you'll fall on your face, but you'll know that you followed your heart and weren't swayed by others.
Ok, so back to Kristina...she was asking what my suggestion would be to her. She is trying to get her children's clothing item off the ground, and is in the start-up phase. Her question, specifically, which comes first, the orders or the production? This is a very good question and one that has conflicting arguments for both sides. Obviously to a financial benefit, it is always great to have orders before you have the commitment of cash out of your pocket. On the other hand, I can't imagine having gone to Vegas when I launched RuffleButts without a production currently in place to fill the orders that were coming in. I'm honestly not sure how most companies do it, but from what I understand, many companies take orders for the season coming prior to placing their production orders. We don't do it this way. We almost always have stock for our customers and ship immediately, unless of course something is a huge seller and we sell out faster than we can produce. This is a risky situation for a company, but for us, it works.
I don't want to tell you to take the leap, but being completely transparent, that is exactly what I did. Kristina wrote in her email, "I'm wondering if this is risky, getting orders when I don't have product in stock, but to order all the product will probably cost around $*****, and what if nobody buys/likes it?" For me, this is exactly what I did. I dug deep, did a ton of research, a lot of prayer, got a lot of feedback from friends and family, and placed my first production order without a single customer order. Talk about some serious motivation...your family savings in little ruffled form, I knew that I had no choice but to sell it, to make it work. For me, this option paid off.
Kristina also wrote, "Any suggestions you have about starting your own business, I would greatly appreciate. It is very hard to get people to help you, everyones trying to protect their "sources"." Yes, in the beginning I found this super frustrating, but now three years in, I somewhat understand why. In this business, you must stay ahead. People will copy your products, even your business, as soon as they see that it is leading to success. Not everybody works in the most ethical of manners, so those of us that have paid the dues, cried the tears, put in the time, are hesitant to share our sources. With that said, it has always been important to me, from day one, to pay it forward and share as much as I possibly can...hence this blog!
I don't have the big answer, but I will tell you that in the beginning, you have a very life-changing decision to make. You can start small, making a few pieces here and there, trying to get orders to sell them...consider this the "mompreneur in-the-making". The other option, go for it, dive in, commit everything, and start out day one as an official "mompreneur". Don't worry, with this roller coaster of a ride, you will certainly earn the title! I don't think one is better than the other. It purely depends on what you are setting out to accomplish.