Thursday, October 21, 2010

Bum day

Have you ever noticed as women, that we aren't allowed to have a bum day. This is not that others don't allow it, but we are too hard on ourselves to actually admit a plain old yucky day. Rough morning, husband pushing your buttons, kids making you crazy?? Yes, but we put on a happy face and answer with "I'm doing great!". Don't get me wrong here, I'm not saying we should all pout around when things get tough, but I do think we should be allowed to wallow in a bum day every now and then. Well, today is my day! My life is good, I love my job, but today is just my day. I kinda want to curl up and watch recorded Oprah all day. I want to get in my car and drive back to Kentucky (my home state), and have my mom be a momma for the day. I want warm soup, a pedicure, and to lay on the couch. Oh, I know, I sound so spoiled...don't read me wrong here, I'm not actually doing any of those things, but a girl can dream, right?!

So, today, if it is your day or not, I am here to tell you that we are not perfect, and today, I am not pretending to be. I'm not the CEO mom who has it all together. I'm not wonder woman, the strong leader, the super mom, the creative designer...I'm just a regular gal, a little worn down, having a little bit of a bum day.

I will tell you this though...I know how lucky I am, when I am feeling just a little down, all I have to do it go to our RuffleButts facebook page. We have the BEST customers in the world and they bring me so much joy!!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Manufacturing challenges

Have you ever noticed in life, how when one door closes (and feels like it is slamming you shut on the outside), that somehow one almost always opens? Now, three plus years in dealing with issue after issue in manufacturing, I am just now starting to get a handle on things. No, this is not the first time I have said this, and I am definitely still not completely there, but it has truly taken me this long to START to get a handle on things. Manufacturing is by far the most challenging aspect of running this business. It affects everything. And, it is the one factor that I can't directly do myself. If we have issues in the office or someone else let's me down, often I will just work longer and harder to get the job done. Manufacturing is different because it is MUCH too much for me to do. We need long-term partners that I can count on. Seems simple, right? Somehow, so many of them have let me down in so many ways.

Yesterday, I was about at my end. I found out that yet another item from our fall line has issues. Yes, I will admit that my standards are high, but my customers deserve this. So, we are facing yet another delay on one of our items. At least our factory understands my standards and is willing to remake garments that do not meet them, but all of this takes more time. I don't have any more time to give!!! Why, oh why, can't a factory just deliver our products on time??

Then, today I realized that yet again, I left my faith somewhere in the dust. Amber get yourself together! Remember, sometimes God's plan is not easy...if we didn't face challenges with one manufacturer, we may not have ever found the right manufacturer. I am a very forgiving and sometimes an easily taken advantage of kind of person. I want to give everyone a 2nd, 3rd and sometimes 4th chance. This is a BIG mistake in business, especially in manufacturing. If they do it more than once, they will do it again. Don't get me wrong, I think everyone deserves a 2nd chance, but that's it. Habits are habits and evidence to me that things will only get worse down the road.

So, today was a nice reminder that often when one door closes, there is another just waiting to be opened. Sometimes change is part of the journey, part of progress. And, delays are disappointing, mostly because I always hate to let down our customers, but sometimes they are needed as part of that progress.

I'm learning and growing, also part of the journey. It never stops.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Getting into stores

In response to this blog, I receive numerous emails from other entrepreneurs looking for input and/or guidance regarding specific situations. I would say that manufacturing seems to be the biggest challenge across the board, but once you finally have something made, the next most popular question is how to get it into stores. Yes, this is the million dollar question! Over the past few years our company has grown organically, but I have often thought, it sure would be nice if all of the stores that are just now learning about us had heard of our brand even just a year earlier! They often feel the same way, once they find that our products are typically a pretty consistent seller for them. So, how do you get your products into stores?

1. Word of mouth
Yes, the is obviously the easiest and least time-consuming, but is the non-aggresive approach of letting stores learn about your products through other avenues. I always love to hear that a store is applying to carry our products after numerous customers have requested that they carry our brand! This obviously shows us that we are on the right track, but it also shows me that we have not done a great job of letting these stores know that we exist.

2. Advertising
This is obviously the most expensive form of spreading the word. The great thing is that it most often pays for itself in the long-run, but in the start-up phase, we all know that cash is not always the easiest thing to come by.

3. Editorial
This is definitely my recommendation for those of you in the beginning phases. Truly it is wonderful at any stage, but the great thing about editorial is that it doesn't cost a thing. Okay, maybe a sample or two, but that is certainly well worth it! Editorial was a large factor in our initial growth. We were very fortunate to receive buzz from some fabulous publications that really helped to earn us credibility as we were gaining momentum. My advice don't get what you don't ask for you. Get out there, you have nothing to lose!

4. Selling directly to stores
This can be a bit discouraging at first, but if you have proof and therefore confidence that your products will sell, that will relay to your wholesale customers. Don't waste their time, know who they are and why your products are a good fit. Also know that you will receive more "I don't have time" than "sure, let's take a look at that", but for every "sure" your brand is building and the ratio works itself out as stores realize that there really is something in it for them. Put yourself in their shoes...there are truly a ton of great products out there, but there are also quite a few that aren't so great. They need to know that this is going to help their business.

When selling to stores, what do you need (this was a question that I just received this week, specifically inquiring about the items below)? Hope this is helpful Kristi!
1. Brochures / line sheets
We started out with basic line sheets, but have found them to be a bit old school in some ways. Obviously they are neccessary, but my advice is to keep them simple. Let stores know what you are offering and at what price. We now use a simple brochure for our basic products to convey the line in general and then we assist them in selecting the items best for their store.
2. Swatches / samples
If you are meeting with a store in-person, they will likely want to see some samples and swatches. They are just like any shopper, and if possible, would like to see what they are purchasing. I wouldn't advise taking in your entire apparel line on the first appointment, but be prepared to give them a good feel for your product. This is also where websites can be super helpful. If you have great lifestyle pictures on your website, this can often eliminate the need for samples, saving everyone the hassle.
3. Sales order form
Yes, once they give you their order, you will need to write it on something (unless you have an online ordering system). Honestly, I ordered a ton of carbon copies of a RuffleButts order form when we first started, and I still have them sitting in our office today. We RARELY use these since most of our ordering is through our website, but you better have something that looks professional to take orders in the beginning. Here is a link to a sale order that I found online. It is pretty basic, but a good guideline for getting started.

So, this is all just my personal opinion, but I hope it helps =)